Introduction: Simple Way to Clean Vinyl Records

Many beginner vinyl collectors don't know much about records or how to properly take care of them. One of the first things I looked into when I started collecting is how to properly clean vinyl. There are many different people that will tell you various methods. Most of the methods I have seen include making a solution using isopropyl alcohol and some even recommend spreading wood glue over the record's grooves.

To me, the methods mentioned above seemed like very harsh ways of cleaning vinyl. The alcohol method makes a record look clean and shiny but many people claim that it can warp a record over time. The wood glue method seems very risky because you have to let the glue dry on the record and then peel it off. I personally would be afraid to let wood glue dry on any of my records, especially one that I enjoy or is valuable.

I found that a simple and cheap method of using soap and distilled water to clean vinyl records works really well and involves very low risk.

Step 1: Gather Materials

  • A small to medium sized clean bowl
  • Distilled water
  • Dish soap
  • 2 to 3 clean microfiber cloths
  • A sink (not pictured)
  • A record cleaning brush (not pictured)

Link to record cleaning brush:

Step 2: Prepare the Water & Soap Mixture

  • Put a small amount of dish soap in the bowl.
  • Add about 1-2 inches of distilled water to the bowl or enough so the soap and water can be easily mixed.
  • Fold one of the microfiber cloths and use a corner of the cloth to mix the soap and water well.

You could use normal tap water instead of distilled water but it may leave mineral deposits in the grooves. Many online forums suggest using distilled water for this reason, and it's only about $0.80 per gallon at most grocery stores.

Step 3: Clean the Record

  • Using the wet microfiber cloth used to mix the soap and water, wet one side of the record entirely.
  • Dip the microfiber cloth in the soap and water mixture again and scrub the record in the direction of the grooves with light pressure 5-10 times around the entire grooved surface. Ensure that the grooves are entirely coated with a soapy film.
  • Flip the record over and repeat this process on the other side.

Be careful not to get the soap and water on the label. The label won't come off if water gets on it; however, soap and water probably isn't the greatest thing to repeatedly get on a paper label.

Also, be sure to only touch the record on the edge so you don't touch the grooves.

Step 4: Rinse the Record With Distilled Water and Let Dry

  • Put the soap-covered record over a sink and angle it down toward the bottom of the sink.
  • Pour distilled water over the grooves to get all of the soap off the record.
  • Flip the record over and rinse the other side.
  • Let as much excess water run off as possible.
  • Dry the record with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.
    • To do this, fold the cloth over the edge of the record so the cloth dries both sides of the record at once.
    • It will probably be easiest to dry the record with 2 cloths, one in each hand, spinning the record with your hands as you dry.
  • Place the record somewhere so that the grooves can dry out completely before playing the record.
    • This may take a couple of hours.
    • I used the record's inner sleeve as a place to dry. A better option would be some type of stand that would allow both sides of the record to air dry.

Again, try not to get water on the record label when rinsing, and also only hold the record by its edge.

Step 5: Storing and Playing the Record

After the record is completely dry, I like to place it on the turntable and lightly brush any dust that may have settled onto the surface while drying. I use a cheap velvet brush that I found on Amazon to do this while the record is spinning on the turntable.

Always store records in both inner sleeves and outer sleeves to keep dust out while storing. If the original inner sleeve is dirty or in rough shape, I would recommend buying new plastic inner sleeves online.

After cleaning a record once with this method, you will probably never have to clean it this way again. Just always use the record cleaning brush before and after playing the record as well as keeping the stylus and platter clean.

After cleaning this particular record, it does not sound perfect as the record has some surface scratches and scuffs due to being stored incorrectly in a pile of records for many years. It is important to note that this cleaning method will not restore a record's physical quality.

This method will prevent further damage caused by playing a dirty record and improve the sound quality minus the pops and crackles due to any existing physical defects.