I've mentioned this elsewhere, but it's worth it's own Instructable. Your needle needs maintenance as much as your vinyl records do. An occasional brushing with a soft brush is reccomended by most experts, but I'm always a bit nervous applying a horizontal force to such a delicate piece of gear.
Instead of brushing, I now use a bit of removable putty, or "blue tack" placed at a convenient spot on my turntable's deck. When moving the arm over to play an album, I simply dip the needle and touch it to this sticky stuff.
I was surprised how quickly the surface of the putty became discolored from the dirt it was trapping. Now, I use it every play and do it by rote, so I know the needle is as clean as it can be.
Step 1: What You'll Need:
This is a simple hack. Not counting a turntable, only two items are needed:
1. Removable putty: This stuff is available just about everywhere. Stationary stores will certainly carry it, Wal Mart or other department stores should have it as well. I buy mine at our local supermarket.
2. Screw cover: Hardware stores sell this item in bulk packages. They're used to hide pan head screws and do neaten up those projects put together in a less than "proper" manner:)
Step 2: Assembly
Push a small amount of putty into the pocket of the screw cover. Let it ooze out of the hole in the bottom of the pocket. This will be what holds the cap to the deck of your turntable. One of the great features of removable putty it does not ruin the surface it's applied to, so if you ever want to remove it, it'll come away cleanly.
Line the cap up so your needle comes to rest somewhere near the center of the putty and press it down onto your turntable. If it needs more putty to stick, you can add more to the bottom. Once it's in place, it should hold tightly.
To clean your needle, simply let it touch the putty. Dust and dirt sticks to the putty and your needle will come up clean. If your speakers are on, you'll hear a very soft "puh" sound as you pull the needle up. If the sound is louder and harsher, chances are you're pushing too hard... Much less trauma than brushing.
If you can't find the screw covers or another suitable container, you can simply lay a short strip of putty down and get the same benefits.