Keep It Clean! Record Care 101
If you keep your vinyl and stylus clean, you’ll be able to enjoy your records for many, many playings.
Keep the dust, dirt, oil, and sweat from your fingerprints, along with other contaminants, away from the record surface. Always handle records by the edges—never grab them by the surface! Whenever I see somebody do that in a TV show or movie, I cringe. (Guess the producers didn’t do their homework.)
After you put records back in their sleeves, put the sleeve into the album cover with the sleeve’s opening facing up, not with it facing to the right, aligned with the opening of the cover. I realize it’s easier to pull the record out if you don’t have to remove the sleeve from the cover, but doing it right will protect your LPs from dust and other schmutz. And storing records “sleeve up” keeps them from accidentally falling out.
Store your albums vertically, never laying one on top of another, which makes them susceptible to warping. And never pile bare records on top of each other. They’ll scratch and go from mint to mauled in no time.
Keep records away from extreme heat and humidity. I can’t tell you how many moldy records I’ve found in basements. Never store them in direct sunlight.
Before you play a record, clean it off with a record brush. This will remove dust that can cause ticks, pops, and record and stylus wear. (You can brush the record while it’s spinning on the turntable.)
Clean your stylus. The dust and contaminants that can accumulate there can cause distortion and even damage the stylus. But don’t use your fingertip! Use a brush specifically designed for stylus cleaning, and use a back-to-front motion to avoid damaging the stylus assembly.
If you like to buy used records, and if your budget allows, get a record-cleaning machine. They can be miraculous in transforming dirty click-and-pop-laden LPs into noise-free specimens. If money is tight, buy a record-cleaning kit. You can clean records by hand using various methods, including dishwashing liquid and soft cloths—you have to be careful but it can be done.
This post just scratches the surface. (Sorry—bad analogy!) Other aspects of record care include replacing worn paper inner sleeves with high-quality sleeves, using anti-static guns and cloths, and investing in electronic stylus cleaners and even ultrasonic record cleaners. More to come!
Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s a professional guitarist and a vinyl enthusiast with
multiple turntables and thousands of records.