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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.

Step 1: Gather the items

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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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.

In the article he calls out that this is more for used records in rougher shape. Near the end he says that he never has to washed his records twice, he just uses a brush. So from what I read in this instructable, I'd hazzard to guess the OP agrees with you.

Bravo! I just purchased a new Turntable, and broke out some of my albums from the 1980's. All, I might add are in terrific shape. :-)

Thanks for this useless post! This is for when you score some used records and need to clean them, not for your Mel Torme LPs you bought 40 yaers ago.

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???

I hate to admit it, but WD-40 would remove it. When ever I have had issues with removing labels from anything, WD-40 comes to the rescue. Word of advice, once removed, make sure you remove all signs of the oil.

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.

I'll make sure I'll never come your house with a lighted match. :-)

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.
JonathanH73 months ago

Acetone is a major no no. Ladies and Gentlemen, we are conversing about a circular piece of vinyl that is vulnerable to practically anything It may touch. Harsh chemicals are, "OUT". :-)

My major concern is not a clean record, because I have always taken care of my records. Periodically I will hold my records to the a bright light. Tilt the record slightly, and it will reveal the record's usage history.

My concern is..., How to eliminate the faint pops during quiet segments of a particular song. I think we can all agree that most of those little pops are caused by static electricity. I have performed searches via the internet trying to find an "Anti-Static" cloth that I can apply to the record before playing it. Everyone refers to a cloth made up of Micro-fiber. Personally, I can't stand the way they feel to the touch. Most of them are made out of synthetic fibers. I prefer more cotton in the blend.

I also recall reading where one individual places a small percentage of fabric softener mixed with "distilled" water in wash tub. Takes an old T-Shirt, places it in the tub, allows the fabric softener to penetrate the cotton. Then, wrings out most of the fabric softener/ water to where the T-Shirt is at the damp state, and applies it to the record. This person has also followed the same procedure and applied it to his flat panel TV. He claims it to be a guaranteed fix.

What is your opinion? If you disagree, what would you suggest?

bmatthews34 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?

Are you really that obtuse, or just that clueless? You digitize em for backup, for deejaying, for archives, for when you want to listen to the song(s) in your car, or portable media device. C'mon use that grey matter.

bhunter7367 years ago
Is that a Herb Alpert record? Nothing quite like Jazz or Classical on vinyl from the peak of the era. : )

I thought he chose the herb alpert because those are staple cheap records you find everywhere for less than buck, and if you damage it who cares.

mattdp (author)  bhunter7367 years ago
Yes, it's "Sounds Like Herb Alpert." This is the stereo version I picked up at Savers (for $.99) the other day. I previously had the mono edition. Most of the records I get are dirty, so I just wash them off before I even think about playing them. As I mentioned in the tutorial, I clean any dust off with a carbon fiber brush before playback, so I think cleaning is really only a one time thing.
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?

shut up, you know exactly what he means.

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?

Considering that I see this in the wild often, it's not worth much, unless its in mint cond. or contains auth. signatures, etc. You might be able to flip for some extra cash to someone who doesn't know what records are worth, but its a 2 - 3 dollar record, at best. The Star wars records that are pictures discs are worth more, and the ones that contain dialogue and stoires are good too.

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.
doug.enochs6 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.

ru.meister8 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.
robcha657 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!

fmoser9 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

thanks

underground resistance hey, nice one.

will take up your record cleaning advice

... further to the above

http://www.questforsound.com/analog/analog_buggVynalZyme.htm

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-
http://www.vinylengine.com/care-and-handling-recorded-sound-materials.shtml
What about acetone, 70%? or 50%? to clean records.

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

http://www.coleparmer.com/Chemical-Resistance

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.
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