What Are You Cleaning Your Records With?

Clean RecordWhen I first started collecting records as a teen, one of my uncles gave me a vinyl cleaning brush. It had a spot on top where you put cleaning fluid on it, which cleaned the record when you brushed it across the dirty record. However, since he just gave me the brush, I thought that’s all you needed. Here I was brushing my records with the dirt that was stuck in the grooves. The joke was on me. As I got older, I trusted some other vinyl heads to pass on their knowledge of how to clean a record. Some of these have to be total bullshit, or maybe just file them under weird record collector stuff. These are actual suggestions from a variety of vinyl people, and while I am writing this, I still can’t believe people were doing this.

There was a dude I became friendly with in the 90’s who owned a record store. He was the usual record store guy, always buying collections, wheeling and dealing etc. He was constantly cleaning his records in the store. When he told me what he was cleaning his records with, I took his word as bond and followed suit. I trusted him, and as I think back to it, what a dope I was. He cleaned his records with a mixture of Windex and water, and used a soft toothbrush to help clean the grooves. Put the record on your turntable, spin the record and put the brush with the mixture on it. Voila! Clean record, right? Well it looked clean. Who knows how much damage I did to my records in the time I listened to him. Instead of cleaning them, I was just getting more gunk and chemicals in the grooves. Not a good move on my part. I lived and learned. In other instances, I have heard a suggestion of butter. Yes butter. Um..a bit greasy/ oily no? I never tried that, and would stay far away from that advice. Some record dealer at the market suggested I use kerosene, lighter fluid, or even gasoline. What what what??? Good luck not blowing up your house. I’ve never had the balls to try to the wood glue method, but that just seems to risky/ time consuming. “Man, my Stark Reality could use a deep cleaning, I think I will just put some wood glue on it.” Not on my watch pal. I finally managed to get a Spin Clean a few years ago that worked out for the most part. They have their own cleaning solution, and the moveable rollers worked on LPs and 45s. Still a bit of a pain, but it does clean records proper. I’d like to get a fancy vacuum machine at some point because they are proven to be the best. However, they are expensive. That will be on my want list for sure. Recently, I met up with a digger/ dealer who has a simple solution and method that I’ve been using. With only a few ingredients and a soft cloth, I’ve seen a lot of records in my collection and ones I have recently acquired go from shotty to looking brand new. I can’t believe I didn’t discover it earlier, but besides always diggin’, we’re always learning. I’m sure I’m not the only one with an effective, personal way to clean my digs, so here is my question to you: What methods have you tried in the past that failed, and what has worked for you? Have you ever destroyed a record completely trying to clean it? I know you guys have some stories out there, so let’s hear them! A clean record is a happy record, so tell us some of your war stories.

Keep Diggin’

9 responses to “What Are You Cleaning Your Records With?

  1. …Knosti Disco Antistat….German design/engineering at it’s best and way cheaper than those vacuum monsters…(these guys… http://www.analogueseduction.net/knosti-record-cleaning-machines-accessories.html …will sell you bits individually so you can get extra racks)… …but make your own juice – 10ml isopropyl alcohol + 1 lt. of distilled (not demineralised) water + 10ml of a general household cleaner with a surfactant in it…I use an extra bath to rinse the plates off in straight distilled water…leave ’em to air dry for 24hrs…getting such good results Ive got customers getting me to clean stuff they’ve bought elsewhere!!….

  2. I saved up and bought a VPI. Best thing I’ve ever done. Before that, I used that stuff called Gruv Glide. It’ll get you high if you’re not careful. I was never careful. Sometimes when a piece of something get’s stuck in the groove, you can baby scratch it out with your needle. Or you can try a toothpick. I did that once. Widened the hell out of my groove and damaged a $200 record. DOH!!!

  3. If it’s just a little dust, having one of those record brushes will work until the brush wears down or gets too grimy. Most of the time I just fold a paper towel with 70% isopropyl alcohol on it, one firm circular wipe around the record, then fold over the paper towel to a clean side and wipe the remaining grooves. If it’s a batch of dirty 45’s then the sponge and water technique mentioned above is best. If you live near a record store that has a VPI, as i do (big ups Steady Sounds: RVA) they’ll clean your record for a small fee. Wood glue isn’t really hard to do, in fact you can also use Elmer’s all purpose glue, it just takes a few tries to develop a technique for getting an even amount of glue on the record and not letting it get too close to the edge.
    but what I want to know is what do you do when your sleeves have signs of mold. Is it as bad when the paper is browning as opposed to black from dampness. If it’s black I usually pass or cut that part of the sleeve away.

  4. I have three ways. First off is the Hunt EDA carbon fiber brush for dry cleaning. All audiophiles say that liquid will alter the sound so it is a good first try. Second is for the dirtiest records or ones I want to save from the garbage; lint free paper towels, distilled or filtered water, and a clear dish soap (no perfumes no anything (you can even make your own). This is a four step process. Moisten the paper towel and get the surface of the record wet, just like doing a water color, the water and soap will then not leave this area and ruin the label. Use as much soap and water on a paper towel to clean the grooves. After you are satisfied that the record is clean take another paper towel with just clean water and flood the surface to remove soap and dirt. Finally dry the surface with a very dry / damp paper towel and I usually wave it quickly in the air to completely dry it. This process is lengthy but works incredibly well. The third method is one that I never would have considered until I saw a friend using it, and it works great; Spin Clean Record Cleaner. It really does work.

  5. I use two of these http://www.homedepot.com/p/Shur-Line-6-in-Handi-Painter-Paint-Pad-01500H/100186429 much like the Disc Doctor wet cleaning system. These things have a great micro-knapp that gets down in the grooves really well. The first round is distilled H2O and a surfactant (Dawn) and second round distilled H20 and isopropyal. Cheap and effective. I’ll add a home brewed vacuum wand (also using Shur Line replacement pads) as soon as I get my lazy self to the workbench.

  6. Laughing my ass off at the person who told you about kerosene. I never heard of this before in my life. Talk about spinning fire.

    I use the Spin Clean Record Cleaner and have been pretty satisfied with it.

  7. “Recently, I met up with a digger/ dealer who has a simple solution and method that I’ve been using…”

    …and that simple solution is?

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