A Wordy and Ridiculous How-to Clean Vinyl Record Albums
including video demonstration. Wicked.
Cleaning your record albums isn’t hard and it doesn’t take very long. In fact, it’s very satisfying in a lot of ways. In fact, I find it increases my enjoyment of my collection, both in the listening as well as in the collecting. The longest part of the chore is waiting for your records to dry, and you can hasten that. Of course, it goes without saying, but I’m gonna – if you decide to wash your albums on a very humid day you may have a bad time. It’s a bad idea to wash records on a humid day.
It’s probably a good idea to use fresh sleeve when you return your album to its storage spot. It’s OK to buy acid-free paper sleeves but you probably want to go with some fancy mofi sleeves for your treasures. The HDPE and anti-static properties are more than worth it and the mofi sleeves aren’t much more $
The tools I use
Edger Paint Brush This handy little tool gets right into the grooves and is easy to use.
91% Isopropyl Alcohol Don’t use anything less than 91% on your precious vinyl
Distilled Water Regular water, like from your tap, has too much stuff in it that may settle in the grooves
Dish Soap Dawn is fine, Alax is fine. Whatever you like – it’s to clean the oil and grime. Go with mild.
Plastic Spray Bottle It’s to hold your mix and for applying to record surface in a somewhat controlled manner.
Micro Fiber Cleaning Cloth I use one of these to dry my albums after I clean them. Does a terrific job.
Here’s the magic formula I use to clean my albums (far from original):
- 4:1 distilled water to isopropyl alcohol
- 3-5 drops of dish soap
I mix it all up straight into the spray bottle.
I have recently begun to use less alcohol and more water in my mix. What mix do you use, or, have you tried? What success have you had? Maybe you can and report findings back? I am beginning to modify my mix slightly every other time or so. I make less now just for tweaking. My ‘recipe’ is as good a place to start as any.
I keep my spray bottle, a micro-fiber cloth, and the edger brush in the kitchen for handy retrieval when I need to clean up some dirty records quickly. Also, I keep an extra jug of distilled water in the kitchen, too, for rinsing the albums clean after washing. It’s important to rinse with distilled water unless you know you have relatively mineral-free water. You don’t want that stuff settling into your grooves.
Clear a spot at your sink and have your solution, brush, and drying cloth handy. Also, decide where you may dry your albums now. Use your dish drying rack or something similar. I just tilt mine against wherever there’s room. Those micro-fiber cloths that hold a shit-ton of water are great for drying and if you’re really impatient, blast it with a blow-dryer real quick – but from a distance and quickly.
Bring your album to the sink. Grab your spray bottle and shake that thing up, get the solution mixed throughout. Now, just spray onto your album. I like to hold the album vertically over the sink, at an angle, and spray that way. It’s easy to get only the vinyl and spare the label. If you get the label wet – don’t panic – dab the solution off with a paper towel or something – not your drying rag.
Spray the solution on, spinning the album in your hand. Then, take your brush and spread the soultion evenly around the side; deadwax to outer edge. Mind the label. I let the solution work for a moment before I dig in.
After the solution has been given some time to work, I dunno, 10 seconds or so, start scrubbing at the outside edge of the album. Scrub the distance around the edge, maintaining the ‘arc’ in your scrubbing. You want to get the stuff out of the grooves. After you scrub the outside edge, the width of the brush, move the width of your brush toward the label and repeat. Keep going until you’ve scrubbed the side to just into the deadwax. Just takes a minute or so. After scrubbing the entire side spin the brush perpendicular to the album and scrub again. In this way you get the brush both ways on the album. In my head this means it’s cleaner 😉
There you go, you cleaned a side. Now, flip the album over and clean the other side. Mind the label. PRO TIP: You don’t have to scrub very hard. Use only enough force to get decent friction – that way you’ll maintain the integrity of the bristles so you can reach in the grooves instead of just smearing goop on your albums. You’ll get the feel of it in no time.
Time to rinse
After both sides are scrubbed rinse each side with the tap. Do it on an angle so the label doesn’t get wet. Remember to rinse with distilled water after using tap to rinse all the minerals off, if you need to. Although we have a well I often rinse again with distilled water.
After the rinse I shake the album a little and immediately surround it (edge in) with the drying cloth and commence to drying. I merely grab the album with the cloth and spin it a few times in my hands. Use whatever technique works for you to dry the album with that cloth. After you dry the album off, set it vertically to finish. It doesn’t take very long.
That was easy and you didn’t spend hundreds on a record cleaning machine. Cool, I just saved you money!
More on the Matter
Best case scenario for drying your records is a vacuum and removing static. You’ll get more crap off your album as well as preventing an immediate dust build-up. Many record machines, home-made or otherwise, have built-in vacuums. Some have facility for a vac connection. Machines for cleaning records begin at ~$80 and continue up to the thousands. They range in quality and convenience about as much, too. There are some very good record cleaning machines if you feel like laying out the scratch or you don’t want to get your hands dirty at the sink.
When you goto play your newly cleaned album it’s still important to clean it again with one of those carbon fiber brushes. So, you clean it at the sink, then you clean it again with your fancy brush right before you play it. Clean your albums with a fancy carbon fiber brush before every play.
If you clean and store your record albums properly they will last you forever and maintain that terrific vinyl sound.
\m/ >_< \m/