Picture of Cleaning Vinyl Records
To ensure the best sound and least amount of wear on your records, it is essential that they are kept clean. My rule of thumb is to never play an album until it has been sufficiently cleaned.

Here is my tried and true method for liberating a record from all the dirt, dust, mold and fingerprints it may have acquired over the years - all without special fluid. I’ll show you my method that utilizes soap, water and a record brush.

I’ve tried a few different methods over the years, including the traditional fluid and bush method and vacuuming the surface (with a gentle brush), but that would still leave dirt behind.

Then I tried the soap and water method. I finally got ALL the dirt and grime of every record I tried, on the first cleaning too. One record was completely which with mold/mildew. After cleaning, the record is visually perfect and plays well with barely any pops/clicks!

For records with only light amounts of dust, I would recommend just brushing them off with a carbon fiber brush before playback. As any record collector knows, only about 10% of used records actually come in that condition. For the other 90%, wash them off.

Remember, the best cleaning in the world just removes all the dust and dirt. Some records will have scratches and groove wear. No amount of cleaning will fix this. So after cleaning, some record may sound “perfect” and others maybe not so much.
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Step 1: Gather the items

Picture of Gather the items
You'll need the following:
-A Basin of some kind
-Dish soap (any kind will work)
-A record cleaning brush/pad (Discwasher style)
-A few washcloths
-A source of warm water
-A sink with faucet
-Records to wash
-A clean surface to put the records on (their cardboard sleeves)
-Two hands
-Rubber gloves (if your going to be doing a number of records at a time)
-Towels to dry off the records

Step 2: Prepare the water

Picture of Prepare the water
Put an extremely small about of soap in the basin, and then fill it with about 3-4" of warm water. To active the soap, stir it around with your hand while filling up the basin. Now place the basin on a counter top or other comfortable surface where cleaning your records.

Step 3: Washing the records

Picture of Washing the records
Put a record in the basin, and turn it around by moving the edge with the palms of your hands (as to not touch the grooves).
Once the whole surface of the record is wet, grab the record brush and get it wet. With one hand, hold the record (with your palm) and with the other, move the brush in a circular motion about 10 times. I like to do 5 counter-clockwise and 5 clockwise. If you've got heavy grime, you might want to do more. just make sure not to touch the label. After one side is clean, flip it over and repeat.

Step 4: Rinsing

Picture of Rinsing
After you've gotten the record clean, put it in a sink and run some cold water over it, and turn the record with the palms of your hand. After one side is clean, flip it over and do the other.

After it's clean, turn off the tap and let the water run off.

Step 5: Drying

Picture of Drying
Now that most of the water has run off, put a wash cloth in your hand, and grab the record with it. Now put another washcloth in the other hand, and grab the record.

With one had, hold the record, and with the other, dry it off. Once it's dry, flip it over and do the other side (which should be most dry by now).

Once the record surface is dry, put the washcloths on the labels and press against them with your hand. This should get the labels dry.

After the record is mostly dry, set it on top of it's cardboard sleeve, then place it somewhere and let it dry for several hours.

Step 6: Storage and Playback

I'd recommend that the record is stored in a sleeve (the paper jacket inside the cover). Paper is fine, but does shed over time, so your records might have a little bit of stuff on the surface. Later records (late 70s and 80s) have glossy paper and even plastic sleeves to prevent this.

Either make sleeves out of wax paper (this will be a future Instructible) or buy some paper or plastic ones (they can be found online).

When handling records, make sure to only touch the label and edge, because finger oil acts like glue and dirt will stick to it (I've seen many a used record with blotches of dirt in the shape of finger prints).

Unless you seriously mistreat them, you'll probably never have to wash your records again or even use cleaning fluid. Just get the stray dust off with a carbon fiber brush before playback, clean the stylus (with a stylus cleaning brush or a lint free cloth and a drop of alcohol), keep the turntable clean and close the dust cover during playback.

Additionally: You may encounter a record with a sticky substance or something which doesn't come off via soap and warm water. In this case, I would try a cloth and Goo Gone and/or rubbing alcohol.When you are done, rise that area off with water to remove the chemicals.
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doug.enochs2 months ago

Dish soap, alcohol, WD40 and other chemicals are not good to use on Vinyl. Do yourself a favor and go buy a spin clean.

All my records are clean and nice. I do not have any garage kept stuff . Why should i wash my records this way? There is no need if you do not have badly cared for records. All of my records and some of them I have for 40 years, are still as shiny and clean and sound as good as they sounded when I first got them.

ru.meister4 months ago

Would a saline solution for contact lenses be damaging to the lps? Was reading these and multiple other threads and curiosity got me wondering.

Yes, it will leave salt behind.

Thank you. Good thing i didn't try it on my own. I did end up buying a lp carbon cleaning brush and using that alone has done wonders.
robcha653 months ago
Is there anything I can use instead of a record cleaning brush?

Tap water is a bad idea. It can and will leave minerals behind in the grooves, especially if your water is relatively hard. Ever seen mineral deposits on the door of your shower? That's minerals in the water, and that will be left in your grooves. Sure, dish soap does make it less, but there will always be some of it left, enough to make pops that can not be removed. Distilled water is the only way to go. Also, label protection is vital, as I have had vinyls that didn't like getting the label wet, all post-1975. I also heavily recommend getting some kind of record to test your method on. Any cheapo thrift shop/flea market/given record will suffice, as it's only to see if it damages the vinyl or not. Better safe than sorry!

fmoser5 months ago

does anyone know how to remove lenco clean?

kriddell11 year ago

To those not sure or who are even bagging this idea, I've done this many many times. I do a couple of extra things though... I put a dowel rod through the middle of the record so that it can freely spin it in the bucket of water. I only put the water up high enough so that it covers the actual vinyl. I then use an old record brush to wash the grooves while spinning through the soapy water. try to avoid using just any old dish washing liquid... pure soap is best but comes down to how well you rinse. I also use 2 scrap CDs to water seal the label! So, get some blu tak or other reusable putty adhesive, roll out to a long 'snake', stick around the very edge of the CD then stick to the vinyl .. NOT on the grooves OR on the label but on the blank space between.. do it on both sides. Rinse THOROUGHLY in DISTILLED WATER - see I also use a very soft paint brush in the rinse to ensure I have removed all the soap (can also use distilled water in with the soapy water if you're worried about tap water). Dry with microfiber towels. Finish off with your fave cleaner. I use Buggtussell Vinyl-Zyme Gold for records that were heavily soiled, covered in mold etc and for most initial clean of records I haven't played for a long time that don't need the above wash. I try to avoid alcohol based cleaners but of course have a bottle of AM for very quick once over cleans.

me cleaning records.jpg


underground resistance hey, nice one.

will take up your record cleaning advice

... further to the above

Hudmaster5 years ago
Well, I love the instructable, and reading all the conflict that was going on in the comment section provided me something to do, but I have a question. It's not really about cleaning records, more about a record I found the other day at a garage sale. It was the original Star Wars soundtrack which I got for a dollar. My buddies said I could sell it for a lot more than that. I probably won't but I was just wondering how much it could possibly be worth?

It's worth in general about 5 bucks. So they are 'kind' of right -it's worth 5 times what you paid. Pretty good return. Now a still sealed copy with signatures from the cast on it from 1978 - could fetch around $120 bucks - but the chances of anyone finding that would be very slim.

mattdp (author)  Hudmaster5 years ago
I have no idea. There are record collectors guides and stuff that will give you all that information, though. Do a little googleing and hit up your local library (mine has a few record collectors guides.
pcastle-14 years ago
Vinyl records are very special to my family. We have an extensive collection of vinyl records in our home, and my father is basically a Nazi about keeping them clean.

What does 'basically a nazi' infer? Are you perpetuating the jewish mythos?

kstlfido6 years ago
Good info and worth a try. But if you find you need deeper cleaning abilities, using nonionic, ethylene oxide condensate surfactants such as Tergitol 15‑S‑3 and 15‑S‑9 with distilled water would be better. Also, these will leave virtually no residue.

More info at-
What about acetone, 70%? or 50%? to clean records.

I know this was a long time ago, but for anyone else pondering this idea:

Select PVC for the material, and acetone (or whatever else is of interest) for the chemical. I'd only use this to rule out ideas, anything not rated "A" or at least "B" gets rejected.

TL;DR: acetone *will* destroy your vinyl.

I would be cautious putting something as harsh as acetone- it might very well dissolve the vinyl... But I am not a chemist.
morrisonbrad17 months ago

Dish Soap (any kind!) washcloths and tap water. This is precisely why I do not buy used vinyl. Ever.

MikeO18 months ago

I would stay away from the dish soap. I use Genesis 950 to clean my records - both the wax and to remove stickers off the label.

emuñoz61 year ago
OMG! Terrible idea! I highly recommend not to do this!!!
Bricology2 years ago
It's definitely a bad idea to get the labels wet! They are, after all, just paper and paper + water = mess. So, be careful to only immerse or run water over the vinyl, *not* the labels!

Also, under "Drying", you wrote "With one had, hold the record, and with the other, dry it off." It's a good idea to hold the cloth so that it moves along the grooves, tracking with them, rather than scrubbing against them. The cloths should definitely be either all-cotton or microfiber; many other synthetic fibers can abrade the record surface.

Finally, it's a good idea to use rubbing alcohol and cotton pads to wipe down the record after you've washed, rinsed and dried it. Alcohol mixes with any water that remains and helps it evaporate away, and it breaks down any remaining oils. Again -- always move anything over the surface of the record *with* the grooves, not against them.
Any tips to getting sellotape off vinyl, my husband had a record that was framed, has take it out, but it was secured by double sided tape, any good advice???
One of the most overlooked items that every household has, is PERFECT for removing sticky adhesives from tape, labels, dirt from dust, fingerprints, drink spills etc. It is a cleaner for nearly anything you want removed, it is made from fish oils and is really inexpensive. What is it you might ask? WD-40.

I have cleaned many, many, many records with WD-40 (I have thousands), I've removed the little sticky "dots" that some DJ's use on the vinyl prior to my getting them, it works like a charm.

To remove most kinds of dirt from a non-porous surface, simply spray enough WD-40 onto the offending matter to saturate it, then let it soak for 10 minutes or more. Wipe it off and the gunk will come with it. For stubborn material like double-sided (foam) tape, several applications will be needed to get it all off. Don't forget, it will work best if you remove as much of the material you can before you soak it. Labels that have a shiny surface are tough, you need to peel off as much of the label as you can, otherwise the WD will not penetrate into the sticky part.

If you are worried about the oily residue left behind, you can clean this with Windex or rubbing alcohol, otherwise it will tend to evaporate by itself. I have found that simply wiping the vinyl record with a soft dry cloth will remove most of the WD-40, but I've never had any problems by leaving it dry by itself.

WD-40 is my first choice for cleaning almost anything. Hope this helps!
While WD-40 is certainly popular with people, I have used both this and lighter fluid and I think lighter fluid is superior. Lighter fluid seems to work faster in many cases and doesn't leave that nasty residue behind.
You have a tough one and Goo Gone might work but has pretty powerful solvents in it (xylene if I remember correctly). I would try vegetable oil or oil squeezed from an orange or lemon peel, but just on the sticky and try to roll/peel up the residue with a Q-Tip then carefully clean the remainder with Goo Gone and a soft cloth. I admit this is a guess, I have never needed to attempt what you are trying to do. I would not let vinyl soak in Goo Gone.
Has anyone tried LOC? It is great for getting sticky things off and is very gentle.
I used lighter fluid, the kind used for zippo lighters to get sticker "dots" off. I can't say I've tried it on the vinyl itself, but if on the label, works perfectly. Used book stores use lighter fluid to clean book covers. Evaporates faster than rubbing alcohol. Highly recommend. When you find the right products, I don't know, you get giddy about cleaning stuff.
Goo Gone and a soft cloth or paper towel.
Mitch Lee4 years ago

I have been cleaning vinyl records for over 30 years and have tried every crazy technique known to audiophiles at one time or another. Most involved lots of money and risk and many do not make a measurable improvement in the surface noise of the vinyl. I have settled on a system much like this article with a few significant differences. First, I begin by washing my hands in a roughly 3% to 10% solution of cheap "lemon" dish detergent. Then I wet the records EVENLY in water that is about at hot as my hands can take under a running faucet; I never immerse the records. Then I clean the records in the same detergent solution WITH MY HANDS. I do this mostly by feel. I rub in both directions. I make sure the detergent makes suds. I feel for irregularities or embedded particles in the grooves. I never use my nails of anything other than my pristine finger tips. I rinse under the faucet when the disc feels done. I NEVER let any detergent dry on the vinyl. I never let the records cool or heat unevenly. I never rub the label at all but only press it dry with a new clean towel. I never let any detergent remain on the disc or let any water dry on the disc. I always dry with a newly cleaned towel dried without fabric softeners! I try to keep any loosened dyes from the label off of the vinyl by rinsing the detergent off away from the center, etc etc etc I never buy detergent with hand softeners or pumice or other miracle additives. BUY CHEAP. Dish detergent is not made to clean records and there is always a risk of damage. I have cleaned several thousand records this way and have measured and heard increased surface noise on less than half a dozen. Most sound marginally better. A few sound spectacular, but no heavily played disc will ever sound great again unless one switches to a stylus that rides the groove differently than the one that did the damage! Keep this one thing in mind: There are risks to cleaning records, but there is no risk at all to playing them dirty; playing a dirty record WILL DAMAGE IT FULL STOP!

If you try this use a few records you do not care about first. Give them a good listen afterward. I sometimes even use the statistics function in Sound Forge on a silent section of the disc to measure surface noise before and after cleaning. Also, if you are leaving any oil from your body on the vinyl then you are not cleaning carefully enough. The tissue in your finger tips must be very clean for this to work right. I MEAN CLEAN DOWN INTO THE SKIN! Finally, the discs are yours and so is the risk. Be careful.
Hello Mitch, you said in your article you have used many methods of cleaning records, have you used a spin clean and if so, did you like it. Also, have you ever used Shaklee Basic H cleaner, it's a concentrate that I mix with distilled water. Thank you for your advise. Arvid
Ok, I use this method myself & there is some good advice here but a precautionary word of advice. A lot of washing up liquids contain salt which is corrosive as do normal hair & body shampoos & other detergents. A far better cleaning medium which does not contain salt is either Eufora or Pureology, a hair shampoo which is used in salons for ladies who go in for Brazilian waxing. These shampoos are nearly completely petro-chemical free & are of course PH neutral. If its good enough for a lady's sensitive bits it should be fine on records! Also for the macho types who can't bring themselves to buy pum pum wash, the stuff that is used to shampoo cars & motorbikes also does not contain salt. Mer is a good one & its chemical make up is listed on their website.
bmatthews33 years ago
Don't use tap water... that's just dumb when distilled water is so cheap and readily available. And the posters who want to clean a record just to digitalize it I have to ask why you would want to ruin a perfectly good analog recording by reducing it to 0 and 1s?
Prometheus7 years ago
I disapprove of this method.....the simple method is to wipe with a rubbing-alcohol soaked cotton rag once every 5 years when stored properly. Protecting the label that is "burned into" the surface is with a brush-on lacquer, but do not get this in the grooves under any circumstances. Brush a generous bath of rubbing alcohol backwards from the normal rotation with a cosmetic brush of human hair or softer, air-dry in a vertical position, and then place into an approved packaging, such as a paper envelope or paperboard sleeve. Once dried, it is recommended that the LP be placed in a sleeve of HDPE or PETE plastic wrap to avoid fibers from a paper sleeve that may become electrostatically-attracted to the clean vinyl surface, as well as the abrasion from removing it from the sleeve. Always play LP's under the dust-shield provided by most players. Anytime you clean an LP, you reduce it's quality, so be sure you have to clean it as least as possible.
mattdp (author)  Prometheus7 years ago
With all due respect, I honestly think your method is a little extreme. I've heard other places that alcohol is bad for your records (wears off the "antistick" coating on top of the vinyl). I put plastic wrap on a 45 one time, and now the surface looks all weird. The way I do it, soap and water cleaning is a once in a lifetime, "get all the grime off" cleaning. After that, just brush things off with a carbon fiber brush. It works great for me. As for sleeves, I'm more a fan of plastic or wax paper. Any time you clean an LP, you reduce it's quality: Um...a carbon fiber brush is going to ruin the sound on my LP??? The question is, does it make an audible difference? Can you measure the results (eg, digitize a record, wash it 20 times, then compare the results (look at the waveforms side by side). Btw, any time you play an LP, you reduce it's quality. That's a fact.
I have measured LP noise before and after cleaning. Honestly, in most cases there is no measurable difference in the background noise except the one time I let alcohol dry on the vinyl. That increased the background noise with a kind of crackling in a plateau from about 8K to 12K according to DC7's continuous noise filter. Using a washing method with dish detergent and tap water the surface noise has never changed unless the record was very dirty without groove damage. Then it improves, but that is an unlikely combination-- What DOES change is that the number of pops and clicks decreases, sometimes dramatically! I cannot speak to "long term" damage except to say that I have records I contaminated with cheap lemon detergent and tap water 20 years ago that still sound fine to me. (I had no test equipment then other than my ears.) I used Sony Sound Forge and Diamond-Cut's DC7 and DC8 to measure the noise. Shure V15III, Acutex 315 and Ortofon OM30-- Technics SL-Q3-- The bottom line is that most surface noise seems to be groove wall damage that can't be cleaned by any method and, perhaps, very small deposits that increase the irregularity of the groove wall's surface. Perhaps I am replacing one set of small deposits with another when I wash records, but I really do not think that is the case. It seems more reasonable that in most cases such small deposits are negligible and the real issue is the big chunks of trash that roll around in the grooves until they get caught, pressed or bonded into the groove by the stylus heat. Then one has big pops and clicks and even skips that get worse with each play as well as a worn stylus. Wash, baby, wash! Of course, if anyone without a vested interest in their own Magic Groove Cleaner has graphics of the noise profile of long term damage to vinyl from brief exposure to cheap lemon detergent and tap water, then my records and I will be very grateful.
mattdp (author)  Mitch Lee4 years ago
Thank you so much for this information!

Some surface noise has been "worn" onto the record, but it is mostly a product of the stylus playing the record (relates to friction between the two). I had and Audio Technica AT-3600 elliptical stylus which yielded noticeable surface noise on most every record. I upgraded to an Audio Technica AT-440MLa micro-line contact model. Surface noise went down to nearly inaudible levels. I've heard air-bearing linear tracking tonearms and such will further reduce surface noise levels. Some records have surface noise, while others have essentially none.

With the alcohol, I think you messed with this thin layer of "non-stick" coating on top of the vinyl and may be peeling/deforming it by playing it. Just a guess...

One must also realize that not all pressings are perfect. Recycled vinyl used in the 70s has some degree of impurities in the record already, which often lead to high surface noise levels and pops/clicks even on the first play. (Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs countered the trend by introducing original master, half-speed mastered virgin vinyl pressings)

Every once in a great while, the cutting head isn't hot enough, resulting in friction noise on the original lacquer.

Another side note: you were talking about stuff getting bonded into the groove wall: I've never tried this, but I've heard tale that coating a record with PVC-based wood glue (like Elmer's), then removing the wood glue skin works wonders. I have to wonder it that doesn't remove that partially bonded stuff.
That all makes practical sense to me. I'll just add a brief not and then a music sermon. The first is that I have never encountered any audio disc 78, 45 or 33 without noticeable groove noise. Not even the various "superdiscs" from Decca and Nautilus, et al-- Not even with players that cost thousands of dollars-- The only exceptions to this that I can think of are the dbx encoded vinyl discs. Playing them through a dbx decoder pushes the surface noise is so far down in the mix that one is more likely to hear tape and mixer artifacts, instead. Here's the sermon: But, you know, over the years I have changed my expectations when listening to recordings. What matters to me is the performance and the beauty of the entire experience of listening to the LP. Fidelity, as such, is no longer an end in itself. As an example, I have 3 copies of George Szell conducting Dvorak's New World Symphony. Two original EPIC discs from the early 1960, one stereo and one mono. I also have a CBS Great Performances reissue on LP and another on CD. The LP reissue has much less surface noise, IM distortion and far fewer vinyl artifacts, but I almost never listen to it.. The CD is even cleaner, but sadly it sits neglected, as well. The old EPIC stereo LP is simply more enjoyable because the tonal balance and dynamics, especially in the basses and low brass, brings out the power and drama of the music. I even prefer the CD I made from the LP to the CD CBS made from the master tapes. The original engineers had it right. The point of my sermon is that this is why I fuss around with cleaning with old LPs. It is not primarily because of their "fidelity" or lack of it. It is because so much really great music is still best served by them and the goal of all the fussing is a beautiful listening experience. Personally, I really dislike big pops and clicks, so for me the risks of carefully washing vinyl are overshadowed by the more beautiful listening it has provided me.
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