Block and Bar Vinyl Record Cleaner

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Introduction: Block and Bar Vinyl Record Cleaner

If you're into vinyl records and you get yours at the same places I do, at flea markets, yard sales and Goodwill, you know how frustrating those "snap, crackle and pops" can be.  Trying to get the decades-old dust and crud that causes those noises out of the grooves can easily turn into an all-day affair.

Here's a device you can easily make, that uses a remarkable polymer sold just about everywhere as "Removable Putty" that can deep clean your vinyl records and return them to their original state.

I get my putty at our local grocery store.  I like the blue color, as it's easily seen in case any is left behind.  This stuff is tenacious, sticks to anything but it has a stronger bond to itself, so if you stick it to something, it will stay there until you pull on it.  It comes away, leaving what you stuck it to as it was...

Well, almost... If the object you stuck it to has anything not firmly attached to it, the putty will pull that away as well.

I decided to use that attribute to my advantage after realizing a $1000 record cleaning machine wasn't in my budget.   The gadget I made worked far better than I ever expected and cost less than $10... That's over a 99% savings, and no liquids or dirty threads have to be dealt with. 

I've checked and have found nothing like this, but if I've missed someone that needs to be credited, please let me know.   If this is original, and enough people try it, I'm sure suggestions will be made and maybe someone will even come up with a better version.  If you do, use the term "Block and Bar" in the title and we'll all be able to find it.

This method falls neatly between mattdp's excellent instructable on washing ( ) and Knarx's full-featured cleaning machine ( ).


Step 1: What You'll Need

For materials, you'll need:

1. One 1/2" wooden dowel.  Optionally, you can use a 1/2" plexiglass rod like the one I'll be using.

2. A block of wood approximately 3/4" x 4" x 6".  I used mahogany, but any wood will do.

3. A 4" x 6" thin sheet of plastic.  The type of plastic isn't important, but make sure what you use isn't any harder than record vinyl.  If you have a blank vinyl record, you can use that.  An empty 1/2 gallon milk container may be another good source (use the inside for the working surface because it will be smoother).

4. Two strips of removable putty.

You'll also need the items to cut, form, sand and glue these parts together.

Step 2: Making the Block

1. Cut your wood to approximately 4" x 6".

2. Cut and glue the plastic to one side.  

3. Radius (round) all exposed edges.

3. If you don't trust yourself, you can add foam strips to the short edges, but I've found the foam makes cleaning the record more difficult.  if you're careful, you'll never touch the record with anything other than the putty anyway, making foam protection moot.


Step 3: Making the Bar

1. Cut your dowel to about 4" in length.  If you want, you can use a 1/2" plexiglass rod or some other material that doesn't have surface grain.  Using materials with a smooth surface won't clean your records any better, but it will allow for easier clean-up afterwards.  In this instructable, I'll be using plexiglass.

If you want, you can use the rod as-is, without any more alterations, but you should, at the very least, radius (round) the cut edges slightly.  The dowel will be in close contact with your records and you wouldn't want any sharp edges to ruin your day.

2. Shape the dowel.  This step isn't really necessary, and it makes the rolling of the cleaning process a tiny bit more complicated, but it will let the dowel follow a curving path so you won't have to make as many passes in the cleaning process.  You won't come close to making a 12" radius turn, but it will help.  I turned mine on a mini-lathe, but if you have access to a drill press, that will work just as well.  I drew mine down to 5/16".  Any more wouldn't be practical. 

I clean my records "with the grain", but you may want to clean yours "across the grain" (grain in this sense, referring to the record's grooves).  If that's the case, shaping the bar isn't necessary.  But if you do clean across the grain, be careful when you're near the record's edges.  The putty's pull is strong, and you can possibly warp or break your record if you're not careful when you pull up.

Done... On to cleaning.

Step 4: Preparing the Bar

This is the fun part:

1. Knead the putty.  This will soften and clean it.  I use enough putty to make a ball "about" 1" in diameter.

2. Roll the putty out on your new block.  Just like mom taught you:)

3. Wrap the putty around the bar and pinch the ends together.

4. Using the block, roll the bar on a smooth surface to smooth the putty out.  Notice how clean the putty is in the photo... 

Step 5: Cleaning the Record

1. Place your record on top of a towel.  Place them both on a hard, flat surface.

2. Lay the bar across the tracks.

3. Using the plastic side of the block, push down hard on the bar and roll it back and forth along the grooves.  When you lift the block up, the bar should come with it.  Rotate the record and continue to roll the bar across it.  Push down hard.  Pushing forces the putty into the groove.  The harder you push, the further into the groove the putty will go.

The photograph is the result of cleaning one side of an already "clean looking" record.  I've seen no other method, other than smearing wood glue over the surface and spending hours pulling it back off, able to get this much dirt out of the grooves.  The process took me less than 5 minutes, mainly because I rushed for the pictures.  If you spend a fair amount of time cleaning, your putty will be much dirtier...  Sorry... That didn't sound right, did it?.:)

Step 6: Clean-up and Storage

No space needed for a big machine.  I keep my Block and Bar beneath my turntable.  Cleaning the putty off the bar is easy.  Just peel it away.  If you use a wooden dowel, it will be a bit more labor, but it will be easy none the less.  I kneed the putty again to clean it for the next time and store it in a plastic container.  I also use a tiny bit of putty to hold the bar and container to the top of the block.

As I mentioned, in my experience, the sound quality improvement was amazing, and I'm using a temporary, low quality cartridge while waiting for my Audio Technica to show up... I'll update this after Christmas... Hopefully:)



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Just tried a very lazy version of this: round pencil cut to length, some blue-tack (Uk Equivalent to removable putty) and a hard back book. Works like a charm and rescued what I though were records ruined by the ex girlfriend! Result.

Thank you.


Thanks, a great idea that I'll have to try out on my decades old records!

I found a similar product, Elmers Tack that is orange in color but not as sticky as the blue stuff. It would not stick to the surface of the record no matter how hard I pushed but did quite visibly remove the dirt from a thrift store sourced disk. It did generate a static charge on the now clean record which I dissipated by cleaning with Discwasher D4 brush and fluid as is my usual cleaning practice before every play. Thankyou for the fantastic idea for use thrift store/garage prowlers to use.


Thanks for your comment. I apologize for taking so long to reply, but I wanted you to let you know that I'll be posting another instructable about those "thrift store sourced disks". It won't be for the faint of heart, but so far, it appears to be bringing the totally wrecked disks I've tried it on back to life. Also, try using a carbon fiber brush for that static. They're inexpensive and work very well. I use mine on every play, just before I apply the Discwasher fluid.

wow, really cool idea, and dead simple. how big of an improvement is it over a regular disk washer and cleaning fluid?

interested to see these "zero movement" turntable feet as well.


Thank you for your kind remarks. Check out those feet at:

turntables here are placed on top of a full sized foam mattress. you can hammer on the support, the record is not affected.

btw what do you mean by a disk washer ??? a machine or a product ? I knew years ago a kind of machine actually spraying a liquid with a strong vacuum system following just behind the sprayer, when the record was rotating under such two "heads".... was english made i think.

And do you know a vinyl player producing directly a digital MP3 ? , those exist in Europe, but never seen those around here in America

Disk Washer is/was a brand name. I lived in the UK for many years and had one back in the 80's. It worked very well. The record was presented vertically into a slot which had fine brushes and electrolytically charged "fingers" of some sort of plastic. These were supposed to attract the dust and particles that were dislodged by the brushes. The record rotated on its edge in the slot. The edge of the record was actually sitting on two rubber rollers within the guts of the machine one of which was the shaft of a small motor. There was a proprietary spray in an atomizer bottle which was supposed to be applied to the record as it rotated. I was often amazed at how much improvement this machine could make even in a brand new record.

Regarding vinyl players to MP3 I think there are several out there. I have one made by "Ion" which I purchased in Canada. I think that Radio Shack might carry them. It seems to work very well and is a Plug & Play USB device. Half the value of the thing is the software that comes with it. It does a good job; breaks the tracks in to individual files, finalizes the process when done and the turntable shuts itself off when finished. All of that means that you can put on a record and to on to do other things. When you come back everything is shut down and the job is done ... except for typing in all of the track names if it's a recording that isn't listed on CCDB or similar (which you could copy and paste). It also has an imput for a tape deck which is handy as it also interfaces with the software.

Re: "jaysbob" - I've seen many cautions about connecting a standard turntable to your sound card without using a preamp in between as the output level is so high that it will blow the card. I guess that you pulled it off but it doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

thnkas for such info, will check more...

I should have specified there was a whole receiver/amplifier/equalizer set-up in between. It was actually the line out on my receiver I hooked into my computer. The idea of just plugging the raw output from the phono into my computer actually made me cringe. I definitely would NOT recommend doing that, lol.