Cleaning & caring for your vinyl records

Posted by U-Turn Audio on

We love easy and inexpensive ways to make your music sound better. Properly caring for your records is just about the easiest thing you can do to ensure superb sound quality for years to come.

It's not exactly rocket science. There are a few key rules, which we've summed up in this handy table:

 Do
 

Don't
 

  • Store your records upright - like books on a shelf
  • Stack your records flat on top of each other. This causes warping!
  • Keep your record collection in a climate-controlled indoor space
  • Expose your records to very high or low temperature or humidity levels
  • Use an anti-static record brush before and after each play
  • Play dusty or dirty records. This is bad for sound quality and your records
  • Handle your records by the edges or the label
  • Use a dusty or dirty stylus 


Following these guidelines will save you from the headaches of surface noise, warped vinyl, and damaged grooves. Let's dive a little deeper:

Storing your records

Always store your records upright - like books on a shelf. Stacking records on top of each other will put pressure on them, which can cause warping over time. Properly storing your records upright will prevent warping and will better protect your record jackets from damage and premature wear.

Not all inner sleeves are created equal. Many records come with paper sleeves. These are fine for keeping dust out, but paper is abrasive and can wear down the surface of your records over time. We recommend investing in some sleeves with plastic lining, like these.

One last sleeve tip - when you put a record back in its sleeve, leave the sleeve opening facing up in the jacket. This will keep dust out of your sleeves, and it will prevent your records from accidentally falling out when you're flipping through your collection.

Controlling temperature & humidity

Records warp when exposed to high heat. Frequent and/or extreme temperature variations can also contribute to warping. We recommend storing your records between 60-75°F to prevent this. Colder temperatures are OK for records in long-term storage, but anything below freezing will cause vinyl to become brittle and prone to damage during handling.

High humidity can lead to mold growth on record sleeves. When possible, store your records in a room with 30-50% relative humidity. Lower humidity won't warp your records, but can lead to excessive static during play.

We also recommend keeping your records away from direct sunlight, which can fade artwork and contribute to heat-related warping.

Bottom line - store your records indoors where you have some level of climate control. Storing your records outside of the recommended temperature and humidity ranges (within reason) probably won't do significant harm in the short-term. Just get your records out of your garage, attic, pool shed, etc. They deserve better!

Record cleaning

An anti-static record brush is an essential part of any record collection. In the 20-odd minutes it takes to play one side of an album, your record can pick up plenty of dust. That's why we recommend using an anti-static brush to clean your records before and after (yes, we're a bit obsessive) each play.

The more dust that comes between your stylus and your records, the more you'll hear surface noise (those pesky pops and hisses). Playing dirty or dusty records can also prematurely wear down or even damage your grooves.

If you don’t have an anti-static record brush, you can use a clean microfiber cloth instead. Avoid using anything dirty, abrasive, or prone to shedding such as paper towels, dish rags, or clothing. 

Record handling

We'll keep this simple -  when you handle your records, be sure to only touch the outer edges and label. Unless you’re a DJ, there’s no reason to ever touch the grooves of your records. You might think your hands are clean, but touching your grooves will inevitably leave oil behind. Dust will stick to the oil residue, causing stubborn surface noise. Plus, there's no reason to risk accidentally scratching your records with your fingernails.

Cleaning your stylus

Even with diligent record cleaning, dust and debris can accumulate on your stylus. This might not seem like a big deal, but a dirty stylus will cause surface noise and can even lead to tracking problems like skipping. We recommend regularly cleaning your stylus using one of the methods described in our stylus cleaning guide

Extra points: deep cleaning

Do you have dirty old records? You're not alone. Consider trying a wet cleaner that will remove the dust, dirt, and gunk trapped deep in your grooves (the stuff that your anti-static record brush can't reach). The Spin Clean Record Washer is a simple and popular cleaning system for more heavy-duty jobs.

When you finish cleaning, make sure that the record is completely dry before playing it. Leftover cleaning solution can coat the stylus and leave behind a residue that’s tough to remove. Plus, any leftover solution or gunk can make your records sound absolutely terrible. For these reasons, we only recommend wet cleaning systems when dry cleaning methods have failed.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!


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