Introduction: Vinyl Record Cleaning With an Ultrasonic Cleaner
Cleaning vinyl records with an Ultrasonic Cleaner. This ticks all the boxes with regards to non-contact with the surface of the record and they can be cleaned very thoroughly. Microscopic dust particles are removed from the very bottom of the record groove. The less physical contact anything has with the face of the disc, the better and most cleaning methods require some kind of rubbing or brushing. In an ideal World, the only item to touch the surface of a record should be a stylus. Ultrasonic cleaning is non-contact.
If you have a collection of old or new vinyl records, you will understand the importance of keeping them clean and dust free. Even with a budget record deck, the difference in playback quality can easily be greatly improved by cleaning. But no matter how carefully you put a record away, over time dust somehow finds it’s way into the inner sleeve. And each time the record is played, this dust will damage the grooves if not removed. The question is how do you clean vinyl records safely?
A 6 ltr sized ultrasonic tank will hold 4-5 albums at a time. The motorised holder will evenly rotate vinyl in the water. Available from Best Ultrasonic Cleaners (UK)
Step 1: Supporting the Vinyl Record in the Cleaner
My support / spindle is still very basic but sufficient for me to leave it at this and I’m not going to try motorising the spindle. The ultrasonic tank size is 6Ltr which is ideal for LP's. The fluid I use is L’Art du Son solution plus some Kodak Photo-flo to wet the vinyl properly.
I usually put five records in at a time, the maximum with these separators – balsa wood circles with rubber ‘O’ rings glued on which protect the record labels from getting wet – soak the vinyl for quarter of an hour or more while the cleaning fluid warms up to 33 degrees centigrade and then turn the spindle one fifth of a revolution every minute for fifteen minutes on the gentler cleaning setting. Then I suck the records dry using my old vacuum record cleaning machine, without any rinsing. This process means it takes half an hour plus the soak to complete the five records.
The improvement over just using a vacuum cleaner is very noticeable and I am completely sold on the value of the ultrasonic tank for the listening experience. The improved sound demonstrates a remarkably thorough cleaning, far better than anything else I have experienced and it’s reassuring to be able to see the muck accumulating at the bottom of the tank. Link to blog entry.
Step 2: After Cleaning With an Ultrasonic Cleaner
The photo shows the deposit in the tank after cleaning 27 records. I’m surprised there’s so much as all the records had been cleaned by a vacuum record cleaner previously.
Step 3: What Is Ultrasonic Cleaning?
Ultrasonic cleaning is achieved by producing millions of microscopic air bubbles in a tank of water, generated by a transducer that transmits the ultrasonic sound through the liquid. These tiny bubbles reach breaking point and implode giving incredible cleaning results by dislodging the build-up of dirt and grime that is normally impossible to remove by hand. For more information on Ultrasonic Cleaners, CLICK HERE
UPDATE: A motorised device for holding up to 5 LP's at a time is now available. This rotates vinyl at 4 rpm and fastens to most ultrasonic cleaners. More details HERE
Question 2 years ago on Step 1
Magnificent! I have been gifted a dedicated rotisserie for xmas, and am looking at which tank to buy. You say that 6L is ideal, can you advise the internal dimensions of your tank? Specifically its the width that is the question. Of course, hoping that MOST of the records width can be accommodated. Can you advise?
6 years ago
This kind of ultra sonic cleaner could probably be used to clean a lot of different things that I have lying around.
Reply 4 years ago
For black powders guns works perfectly.
Reply 6 years ago
You can use the cleaner for many domestic items from jewellery to cleaning dentures. :-)
5 years ago
I have a BUTTLOAD of 78s that I need to clean...I've acquired about 300 or so in the last three years, and a serious sorting of them shows pristine (rarely) to just short of being dipped in mud.
Right now I'm looking at a 6 liter and a 10 liter machine....any suggestions?
She Who Must Be Obeyed will be getting it for me for Xmas, PROVIDING I don't get a vac machine...I lean to the ultrasound machines...
I have disc cleaner I use from a 78 record player dealer/restorer, and can readily get more...I can't use alcohol-based cleaners due to the shellac 'melting' from them!
I had just last week started looking for an ultrasonic cleaner, and came up with an idea YOU might consider using...a BBQ rotisserie motor, suitably modded to slowly rotate the discs. The square shaft would need to be filed/turned down to fit the disc holes, but that's no great concern, especially considering the slow speeds a rotisserie turns at. O-rings pushed on would serve to keep the records stacked on the shaft.
My 78s range in age from the giant single-sided discs (circa 1900) to the 1950s.
INCIDENTALLY folks...if you play 78s, make sure you either use a NEW steel needle with each play, OR make sure your diamond stylus is sized properly for the discs.
New needles go for about $27 for 500 of them....
5 years ago
Doesn't cavitation cause the vinyl to degrade over repeated cleanings.
6 years ago
Would you please share your water/L'art du Son/Photo-Flo ratios?
6 years ago
Great project! Is there another way to dry the records if you don't own a vacuum machine?
6 years ago