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How to Clean Vinyl Records – The Ultimate Guide

vinyl record collection next to a record player

Do you have a vinyl record collection that you love? If so, you need to know how to clean them and keep them in good condition!

Cleaning your vinyl records is important because it helps preserve their sound quality and extends their life.

In this blog post, we will teach you the best ways to clean your vinyl records so that they stay in great condition for years to come!

Cleaning Vinyl Records - The Different Methods

There are a few different ways that you can clean vinyl records, and each method has its own benefits and drawbacks. In this post, we will be discussing the three most common methods for cleaning dirty records.

Manual Vinyl Record Cleaning

Using a Microfiber Cloth

This is probably the most popular way to clean vinyl records, and it is also one of the easiest. With manual cleaning, you simply use a soft cloth to wipe the dust and dirt off of the record.

It is recommended to lightly dampen the cloth with distilled water or a good vinyl record cleaning solution. This is a great method for cleaning light dust or smudges, but it is not very effective at removing scratches or other heavy debris.

Using An Anti Static Brush

Static electricity can damage vinyl records, so it's important to clean them regularly. The best method to quickly clean and maintain the sound quality of your vinyl records is to use an anti-static record cleaning brush.

A good vinyl record cleaning kit is an inexpensive must-have for any vinyl enthusiast. These kits usually will come with a record brush, (the Collector Protector Kit comes with 2), record cleaning fluid, a microfiber cloth and some even come with a stylus cleaner and a record label protector.

vinyl record cleaning kit from collector protector contains carbon fiber brush, velvet brush, label protector, stylus gel cleaner, liquid cleaner and a microfiber cloth, tin metal storage container

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Get This Kit On Amazon

There are 2 types of cleaning brushes used on vinyl records. A carbon fiber brush and a velvet brush. These brushes work by scraping the dirt and dust off of the record surface, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit any type of record.

Using a Carbon Fiber Brush

To use a carbon fiber brush, start by either placing the record on a clean microfiber cloth on a flat surface or directly on the record player platter.

Dust off the record with a soft cloth. Then, lightly dampen the brush with distilled water or record cleaning solution.

Be sure to avoid using too much water or cleaning liquid, as this could damage the vinyl, (only a squirt or 2 directly on the brush). Also, be sure to not use too much pressure with these brushes as the carbon fiber bristles will collapse and the metal housing could scratch your record.

If you're doing this on a countertop, lightly place the brush on the record and move the brush in a circular motion over the surface of the record in the direction of the grooves.

If the record is on a turntable, turn it on and then lightly place the carbon fiber brush onto the record. Let the record rotate a few times while keeping the brush in place then pull the brush towards you and off the record.

Rotate the handle back and forth through the brush bristles to remove any debris that has collected on them.

After you’ve finished brushing, use a clean microfiber cloth to remove any leftover moisture.

Using a Velvet Pad Brush

If you're using a velvet pad brush, follow the same process as the carbon fiber brush using the same light circular motions.

It is best to find a brush with a flat bottom vs one with a rounded bottom. This way the entire surface of the record can be covered more effectively.

Again, if you're on a turntable, let the record rotate and then place the brush onto the record. Let it rotate a few times while keeping the brush in place then pull the brush towards you and off of the record.

Be sure to clean off the dust collected on the velvet pad with a small bristle brush, a stiff bristle toothbrush, or even a lint roller will do the trick.

Another popular method is the Spin-Clean Record Cleaner

The Spin-Clean* Record Cleaner is a reservoir that contains brush pads that clean both sides of the record at the same time. This would be considered a deep clean method.

To use it, start by adding distilled water to the reservoir. Add the required cleaning solution and then insert a vinyl record into the unit. Give the record a few spins forward and then a few spins backward. The brushes will clean the grooves of the entire record as it spins.

When you're done, lift the record out of the cleaner and give it a quick shake to remove any excess water or cleaning solution. Then, set it aside to dry or wipe dry with a soft microfiber towel.

The only drawback to using the Spin Clean or other products similar to it is the time factor. Rather than a one-off cleaning, you should aim to clean many records during one setting once you've mixed the cleaning solution. So make sure you have a decent amount of time if you choose this cleaning method.

A Third Method is Using A Deep Cleaning Record Machine

When it comes to record cleaning machines you have a couple of options. One is a vacuum-style cleaning machine while the other is an ultrasonic machine. While they are the most effective ways to clean a vinyl collection, they are definitely the most expensive with costs starting over $200.

Deep Clean Records With An Ultrasonic Machine

Ultra-sound cleaning (called cavitation) is considered the most effective method to deep clean records. This method uses a large number of tiny cavitation bubbles inside the unit. These bubbles form and collapse releasing energy as heat and pressure. Ultrasonic cleaning helps remove debris without any friction thereby making it incredibly safe for your vinyl.

Most units have a clean mode followed by a dry mode which will take 7-10 minutes to clean a record. The machine in the picture is the iSonic P4875II+MVR10 Motorized Ultrasonic Vinyl Record Cleaner*.

Deep Clean Records with a Vacuum Machine

Vacuum cleaning machines are turntables with a vacuum arm attached. To use one, you simply place your record on the platter and turn the machine on. It's a good idea to cover your record label before spraying down your record.

Liberally spray the record with a cleaning solution and use a flat bottom velvet record brush to spread the liquid into the record grooves.

Then turn on the vacuum and move the arm over the vinyl to collect the liquid and dry the record. When done, flip the record over and repeat on the other side.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Vinyl Records

What's the difference between wet and dry record cleaning methods?

Wet cleaning involves spraying your record with a cleaning fluid and using a brush to spread it around the record surface before vacuuming it up. Dry cleaning uses a carbon fiber or velvet pad brush to remove dirt and dust from the record's grooves without getting the record wet.

Which is better - wet cleaning or dry?

It depends on your preference and what works best for you. Some people find that they get better results with wet cleaning, while others prefer the convenience of dry cleaning. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide which method works best to keep your records clean.

What are some common record cleaning mistakes?

One of the most common mistakes people make when cleaning their records is using the wrong type of brush. You should never use a metal or stiff-bristled brush on your records, as this can damage the surface. Always use a soft, anti-static, carbon fiber, or velvet brush designed specifically for record cleaning.

Another mistake is using too much pressure when cleaning, which can also damage the surface of your records. Be sure to use gentle pressure and let the brush do the work for you.

Finally, be sure to clean your records in a dust-free environment. Dust can easily scratch and damage your records if you’re not careful.

How Often Should You Clean Your Records?

Vinyl records are a popular way to listen to music, but they are also a labor of love. If you want your records to last, you need to clean them regularly.

But how often do you really need to clean vinyl records? There is no definitive answer, as the frequency with which you should clean your records depends on a couple of factors:

(1) How often you listen to them.

(2) The type of environment they’re in.

As a general rule, at the very least you should run a brush over them before and after every playback.

If you don’t clean your records often enough, they can become scratched and unplayable. Not only will this ruin your listening experience, but it will also damage your records. So, if you want to keep your records in pristine condition, make sure to clean them regularly!

Bonus Tips

How To Properly Store Your Records

To keep your records in good condition, it’s important to store them properly. First of all, you should keep them in a cool, dry place. If possible, avoid storing them in direct sunlight, as this can cause the vinyl to warp.

You should also invest in some good record inner sleeves as well as outer sleeves. These will protect your records as well as your album cover art from dust and other contaminants.

Finally, make sure to store your records upright and not flat. This will prevent them from warping over time.

Proper Record Handling

Now that you know how to store your records, let’s talk about how to handle vinyl records.

(1) Always hold a record by the edges. Avoid touching the playing surface with your hands as this can cause fingerprints and other contaminants to accumulate on the vinyl.

(2) When you’re ready to play a record, carefully remove it from its sleeve. Hold it by the edges and place it on the turntable.

(3) You can also use a handy little accessory called The Record Butler to help you safely handle your vinyl.

The Record Butler vinyl record cleaner and handler effectively helps remove dust from record surface and keeps dirty fingers off vinyl

(4) Gently lower the tonearm onto the record and then lift it back up when you’re finished.

(5) Remove the record by its edges or with the Record Butler and place it back into its sleeve.

Get The Record Butler on Amazon

Use A Stylus Brush

One of the best ways to protect your vinyl records is to keep your stylus clean by using a stylus brush. A stylus brush is a small, soft-bristled brush that you can use to clean the needle on your turntable.

To use a stylus brush, simply remove the dust cover from your turntable and lightly brush the stylus from back to front a few times.

This brush is not intended to touch the vinyl – just focus on the stylus itself. If desired, you can use a drop of record cleaning solution on the brush to help with the cleaning process.

stylus cleaning gel clean record needle

An alternate to the stylus brush is stylus gel. This is a sticky gel-like substance that you simply dip your needle in and back out. The stickiness will pull away any dust that has collected on the stylus.

In Conclusion

Now that you know all of the different ways how to clean vinyl records and keep them in good condition, it’s time for you to choose which one is best for you.

It's a good idea to incorporate a couple of methods for the best results. Keep in mind that each method has its own set of pros and cons, so make sure to weigh them carefully before making a decision. And don’t forget – no matter which cleaning method you choose, always remember to dust off your records before playing them!

What are your favorite ways of cleaning records? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time, happy listening!

*Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.