The 6 Best Ways to Clean Vinyl Records
Collecting vinyl is a beautiful physical experience. Your shelves get stacked full of your interests. You pull those interests off the shelves. You hold them in your hands. You examine the art. You pull that black orb out of its sleeve and gently lay it on the turntable and listen to that beautiful warm sound. Et cetera, et cetera, blah blah blah, other record collecting cliches. But you know you love this stuff, and let’s be real: you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t.
The most important element of a vinyl collection is proper care. It doesn’t matter if you have the best taste in the whole dang world because if you treat what you own poorly or irresponsibly, well, you just look like an idiot. We do not want you to look like an idiot.
It’s a common problem for vinyl records to pick up dirt, grime, dust, grease, and other forms of general yuck through daily usage. This is one of those things that you cannot prevent, even if you have the cleanest house on the planet. Shit’s just gonna get dirty, no way around it. And your records collect this stuff even if it’s not visible to the naked eye. That’s what’s causing all that clicking, hissing, or crackling, ya dingus. You need to actively think about how you’re cleaning your records.
Cleaning vinyl records is an extremely easy process. Many vinyl cleaning guides you’ll find across the internet are filled with tips and tricks — especially involving isopropyl alcohol or other cleaners — that actually might damage your records. Avoid that stuff, because in reality, this isn’t all that complicated.
We’ve outlined some simple and affordable approaches on how to keep your records in tip-top shape.
1. Record Cleaning Solution and Microfiber Cloth
This is your standard, most affordable choice for cleaning vinyl records. It’s pretty easy stuff. Each time you take a record out of its sleeve, you spray a microfiber cloth with solution and then gently rub the record with the cloth. Don’t press too hard because you may cause it to bend or break — and make sure your record dries before you put it back on the turntable.
A number of different cleaning solutions can be used, but we recommend ones that are made specifically for vinyl records. Among the record cleaning solution products we offer include:
Do this every time you play a record. Add it into your routine. Your records will last forever. We mean it.
2. Compressed/Canned Air
As a single method for cleaning vinyl records, canned air is not enough to effectively clean your vinyl records. This method should be viewed as an addition to the cleaning process. It’s like a bonus track, baby. The canned air method works especially well in addition to using a microfiber cloth and cleaning solutions.
After you finish carefully wiping those suckers down, run the canned air over the record’s grooves. This will remove any moisture that is still remaining on the record after cleaning. This helps with the longevity of the record because you’re seeing the cleaning process from start to finish.
3. Vinyl Record Cleaning Machines
Using a record cleaning machine is without a doubt the most effective way to deep clean your records. These machines are essentially record players, except instead of having a stylus that plays music, they have one that will run through the grooves and remove any dust or grime buildup. Moreover, if you’ve done some serious crate digging, these machines can give your records new life.
Something to note is that vinyl record cleaning machines tend to be much more expensive than the other cleaning methods on this list, but the true vinyl connoisseur won’t use anything else. Buy it once for life. It’s worth the investment.
4. Wood Glue (Titebond II)
This one is a little weird, and we recommend using this technique on a record that may not be as important to you as others so you can get a feel for it. But done properly, this is an extremely effective way to remove all the dust and grime from your vinyl records.
The water soluble wood glue, Titebond II, is ideal for cleaning your vinyl records. Spin the record on your player and apply wood glue over all the grooves from the inside out, being sure to avoid the record label in the center. Next, remove the record from your turntable and evenly spread the glue using a business card so that it covers the entire surface. Then, let it sit overnight to dry.
Once the glue has dried, peel it off. Beginning at one side, peel a little edge to grab, and then slowly pull all the wood glue off the record. This is going to feel strange but also very satisfying. Ideally, you should be able to get all the glue off in one piece. Now you’re all clean, and you’ve also got a cool snake skin made out of vinyl that you can use to freak out your friends. Or something like that.
5. Vinyl Vac
To remove dust and grime from your record’s grooves, you can use a Vinyl Vac vacuum vinyl cleaner. Simply hold the nozzle of the vacuum over the record while you spin it, going over all the grooves. One advantage to using a vacuum for cleaning your records is it will minimize pressure on the record. This avoids any risk of bending, damaging, or breaking it.
To be clear, do NOT use a household vacuum cleaner. Using a household vacuum cleaner is sure to damage or destroy your record (when in doubt, remind yourself of that ol’ “don’t be an idiot” thing).
6. Static Gun
The reason dirt and dust, in particular, stick to records in the first place is because the record has built up some static electricity. This attracts tiny particles, and due to the high surface area available in the grooves, the particles can get firmly lodged in. Because of this, to thoroughly clean any record, you really need to de-static it. Many of the methods on this list will do this, but the best way to remove static is to use a static gun.
Point the static gun at the record and shoot. Ions will be sent from the gun that will neutralize static charge, which lets the dust now become free. Then, gently wipe it off with a microfiber cloth or clean it with a vacuum or canned air. It’s extremely effective, and extremely psychedelic. There couldn’t be a better combination.