Record lovers know that vinyl is sensitive. Not only that temperatures like in hot summers can be very dangerous – moisture, dust, and dirt also affect the (mostly) black windows. With careful handling and proper storage (as discussed in this article), you can prevent worse.
Sometimes, however, you can’t avoid giving a few records a decent wash. Especially when it was particularly wild at the last party or in the club or a treasure was salvaged from a junk box – with the right tricks you can get it to shine and sound good again.
How to Clean Vinyl Records Properly Quick Facts
Cleaning records makes a lot of sense because dirty vinyl can greatly affect the sound and is also not good for the needle. However, you can help yourself with just a few utensils.
Lint-free microfiber cloths protect the sound carrier, with a cleaning fluid and a soft carbon brush you can quickly and efficiently remove dirt.
With distilled water and a little isopropanol, you can make your own cleaning fluid inexpensively and thus make the record antistatic. Here you will find our hints and tips on cleaning records.
Records get dirty over time
That can hardly be prevented. With proper handling, you can ensure that the good pieces are preserved for a long time and are protected as well as possible. But the dangers lurk everywhere. With regular use, the disks tend to become statically charged and, like a magnet, attract dust.
When used in nightlife, sensitive vinyl may be exposed to smoke and splashes from beverages. Greasy fingerprints – whether avoidable or not – are also not exactly a pretty sight and glue for dust.
Those who are serious about collecting records will sooner or later buy used vinyl. When you find the item in the junk box, the piece you may have been looking for is not always in the condition you want it to be.
So let’s not kid ourselves, there comes a moment when one or the other window needs a wash. The great thing about it is that “plastering panels” can achieve small miracles.
I’ve seen it myself often enough that a second-hand record, despite careful inspection and a good visual impression, sounded totally “dirty” and sounded almost like new after being washed.
In this feature, we want to take a closer look at the subject of record cleaning. We look at which tools can best be used to do this and focus on simple and inexpensive tricks.
The record washing machine
A very convenient and reasonably priced solution is a simple record washing machine. You can of course buy a Glass Vinyl Cleaner PRO for almost $2500, which may also be a worthwhile investment for dealers of used records – but the average citizen is also satisfied with a Knosti record washer.
For an extra few bucks, there is the deluxe version “Knosti Disco Antistat Generation II “, which got four stars in our test.
How useful is a record washer?
Such a simple washing device contains three useful things. On the one hand, there is the device for washing the sound carrier itself, the bathtub, so to speak, in which one bathes. Then a drip tray is included to allow one or more cleaned record to dry comfortably.
And if you buy such a washing device as a package, you will receive a cleaning fluid in addition to the other necessary accessories. This leaves no residue, dries relatively quickly, and makes the panels – this is special – again antistatic and therefore less prone to new dust.
A fluid with roughly the same properties is no great witchcraft, and we’re about to see how to make something like this cheaply yourself. But let’s stick with the vinyl washing machine just described and the question of who is it worth buying for.
Anyone who primarily owns newly purchased and carefully guarded records can probably do without them. Record diggers with an extensive collection and many used discs actually can’t avoid it.
The purchase and the time invested in such a “cleaning session” are particularly worthwhile for cleaning up a whole pile. But there are also alternatives.
These are definitely attractive for both groups mentioned because it is not always worthwhile to “switch on a washing machine”.
When things have to go fast or there is no other way, you also turn to solutions that don’t look quite so chic but also lead to the goal. How to do that, let’s see now.
Every vinyl collector should have a soft microfiber cloth
Rinse with water – but be careful with lime!
Heavily soiled panels that have been fetched from a cellar, from the attic, or from the bulky waste can easily be rinsed carefully under running tap water. The temperature should of course not be too hot – because as I said, vinyl is absolutely not into heat.
A soft sponge is useful for the washing process. But please do not use the side of the sponge that is usually used to clean the pans!
The fundamental problem with tap water is the degree of hardness. This means that this water can form limescale residue and that is also very unfavorable for the record. You should therefore rinse generously with distilled water or only work with distilled water from the start.
You can get five liters of it in the drugstore for as little as $1.50 – so absolutely no reason to save at the wrong end. For our self-made cleaning fluid (instructions below) we need distilled water anyway, so it’s best to write it on the shopping list!
A few utensils for the record maintenance
If you want to keep your beloved record collection in good condition and be prepared for any eventuality, you need a few little things that make life easier. Most things don’t cost much, and there may even be some of them already flying around the house.
For example a lint-free, soft microfiber cloth. It’s super practical and should always be close at hand near the turntable and vinyl. In combination with the fluid that we are about to produce ourselves, such cloth can be used universally. Moisture or fingerprints can be wiped away in “no time” and without leaving scratches on the vinyl.
A carbon brush is very useful – and in two ways. On the one hand, because you can use it to carefully remove dust or lint before playing the record. On the other hand, because you can misuse this brush for washing records.
We’ll take a closer look at how to do this in a moment, but first, we need another aid and our self-made “washing lotion”.
You can get a small spray bottle for little money in the pharmacy, for example. We can fill these with our cleaning fluid and always put them ready for use next to the equipment.
Even if such a small bottle with a spray button is nothing special, in combination with antistatic cleaning fluid, a soft cloth, and possibly a carbon brush, it becomes the ultimate secret weapon for record care.
Mixed with distilled water, isopropanol works wonders
We make a detergent for records
Now comes the secret recipe – please don’t tell anyone! Ok, it’s not that secret now, anyone who has already dealt with the topic may have read one or two tips on the internet.
The basic ingredients are amazingly simple. All we need for this is distilled water (why did we just clarify it) and isopropanol (this is an alcohol that is part of many disinfectants). There are some experts who are of the opinion that distilled water is not enough and swear by double-distilled water or, alternatively, fully demineralized water.
Both can also be bought relatively cheaply, personally, I have always used distilled water and have never had any bad experiences with it. Isopropanol is available in the pharmacy, it dissolves grease and ensures that the records are antistatic after treatment.
Half a liter is available for around $8. Some experts prefer ethanol (also called ethanol). However, this is also more expensive.
What is important is the approximate ratio of water to alcohol. 75 percent water and 25 percent alcohol are a proven mixing ratio. Finally, you can add a drop of line filter or, alternatively, a drop of detergent (if possible without fragrances and additives).
Wetting agents are used in photochemistry, today it is often called “wetting agent”. A few milliliters are available for just under $4. The addition of a drop of wetting agent or detergent is used to further reduce the surface tension of the water.
You can do without it – that’s my experience. Detergent can leave fine streaks on the vinyl. In principle, these are the basic ingredients for a homemade cleaning fluid.
Cleaning records on the turntable
If you don’t feel like setting up the vinyl washing machine or don’t have one, you can use the above-mentioned utensils and a little cleaning fluid to use the following trick. The carbon brush is a little misused.
First, we put the dirty record on the turntable, sensitive people naturally have a special slipmat for this. While the record is rotating (without putting the needle on!) We carefully spray detergent from our spray bottle on it. About enough to dampen the vinyl enough.
ATTENTION! You should be careful not to get moisture on the electronic parts of the turntable. We assume no liability for any damage caused! But because you do this carefully and nothing breaks, in the next step you take the carbon brush and wipe it over the moistened vinyl record.
You can do that in a few turns. The fine hairs of the brush go into the grooves and thus ensure “deep cleaning”.
In principle, it works in a similar way to a washing device like the one from Knosti, only that the brushes are in the tub and clean from both sides at the same time and that, of course, much more liquid is used.
After this process – the record is still rotating on the turntable – we take our lint-free, soft microfiber cloth and lightly press it onto the vinyl. We keep doing this until the moisture disappears.
This usually goes very quickly, because we don’t use a lot of fluids per se and part of it is alcohol, which also evaporates relatively quickly. With just a few simple steps, dirt has been removed from the vinyl record and made antistatic at the same time.
We carefully spray cleaning fluid onto the rotating record
Hopefully, you can do something with these tips – maybe you have a few tricks up your sleeve and want to share them.