For many, collecting vinyl records is both a passion and a hobby. As such, it is important for those who cherish their collection that they maintain it with the best possible care. But when it comes to vinyl record care, what are the best practices to observe? What tools do you need to care for your records, and how often should you be cleaning them? To dive even deeper into record care, if you’re going to be cleaning your records, what is the best cleaning solution for vinyl records that you should be using? These are just a few of the questions you may be asking yourself if you are taking the first steps in starting your own record collection.
If you need to clean your vinyls but want to do so with extra care and caution, then let’s take a closer look at some great tips for proper vinyl record maintenance!
The Importance of Cleaning Your Vinyl Records
Many argue that vinyl records offer a superior sound experience in comparison to other forms of media, which is something that is a result of their design. But this same design also lends itself to a major disadvantage: if your vinyl is not adequately cleaned, it can result in sound imperfections as well as potential damage. This is why regular cleaning is encouraged as any scratches that result from built-on residue can result in long-lasting damage.
Put simply, if you want your records to sound great and stay in pristine condition so that they have a long life, you need to clean them regularly.
What Tools Do You Need?
We’ve established that regular maintenance is essential, but exactly what do you need in order to maintain your record collection? Some tools you’ll need when first learning how to clean vinyl records include:
- A lint-free cloth: When wiping down your records, it’s important that you use a lint-free cloth that will clean the surface without contributing more dust or damaging the record’s face. You should have plenty of these on hand for dusting your records as well as wiping them down if you need to do a more thorough clean and apply record cleaning solutions.
- Proper cleaning solutions: There is an abundance of cleaning solutions and suggestions out there, but not all of them are beneficial for your LPs. So, what is the best cleaning solution for vinyl records? Most record cleaners are de-ionized water or enzyme-based, not alcohol-based. This is something to pay attention to when you are shopping around for the right products. It’s best to choose products designed specifically for record cleaning as most at-home solutions often do more harm than good!
- A vinyl record brush: To get in-between the grooves of your record without doing any damage, it’s best to have a carbon-fiber brush on hand that allows you to safely sweep out any debris without doing significant harm to the record itself.
- A cleaning mat: Holding your records as you clean them can allow oils and other contaminants from your hands and fingers to stick to the record, undoing all of your hard work. Additionally, placing your record onto just any surface is also unadvisable as you may accidentally get debris on your vinyls or scratch them as you’re cleaning them. The best way to keep your record protected as you clean it is to find a cleaning mat designed specifically for vinyls that allows you to set your record down without causing any damage.
With these points in mind, there are a number of excellent tools out there that are designed specifically for vinyl record cleaning as well (especially those that offer more technological features and faster cleaning times). If you’re planning on shopping beyond essential tools like those listed above, make sure that you do your research and select tools that will really help you maintain your vinyl record collection. Whether you’re looking for budget-friendly options or willing to invest in cleaning solutions, there are plenty of great products for you out there.
Once you have all of the tools you need to care for your records, the next obvious question is, how often do you need to clean them? The general rule for maintenance is to clean them each time you’re taking them out and each time you’re putting them back away. Although this may seem like an extensive process, your vinyl records will only need to be dusted if you’re taking great care of them regularly. If you’re not, it will make cleaning more difficult each time you go to play one of your favorite records!
How Can I Take Better Care of My Collection?
Maintenance is only helpful if you do your best to keep your records safe and protected when they’re not in use. What does this look like? Some simple ways to keep your vinyl in great condition throughout the years include:
- Avoiding direct contact with them: As was stated above, touching your records directly is not a good idea. Try to grab them from the center or the very outer edges to keep them clean as you’re taking them out or putting them back into their sleeves.
- Storing them in a sleeve: Sleeves serve to keep your records protected from dirt and dust while they’re stored away. Make sure to use new sleeves after you’ve cleaned your records to ensure that they don’t pick up any old contaminants from their previous sleeve. Both inner sleeves, outer sleeves, and the record’s jacket are recommended to provide maximum protection.
- Leaving them with plenty of space between other records: It’s best to leave plenty of room between records in their storage container as accidental damage may happen when records are stored too tightly together. Another important tip that will help you protect your records is to store them vertically rather than horizontally. When they are stored on top of each other, those that are further down in the stack can be reshaped under the weight, warping them and causing permanent damage.
- Keeping them in a cool, dark place: Sunlight and heat can warp records, causing extensive damage that can’t be reversed. When you’re looking to store your vinyl records, look for a place that is protected from excessive heat and light.
- Using dust covers on your turntable (and taking care of your turntable as well): Your turntable plays a major role in the quality of your records. Make sure that you’re keeping your turntable protected from dust and other contaminants that could potentially get onto your vinyl.
Keeping Your Collection Protected
Vinyl records can only offer you the exquisite sound experience you’re looking for if they’re properly cared for. Should any dust or dirt be allowed to collect on the record, you risk not only ruining the sound once you play it but also causing irreversible damage along the way. If you want to keep your vinyl record collection protected for years to come, use the guide above to learn about how you can get started and which types of materials are the best to use for record maintenance.