Cleaning Vinyl Records





Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

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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    121 Discussions

    You can buy 2 plungers from hardware shop and remove the handles... then simaltainiously apply them over the labels... should give you a water tight covering to protect the labels...

    Very well explained the process to clean the vinyl records with few simple steps. Can you also give some tips how to avoid records from getting warp.


    Make your records as quiet as CD's. Well not quite but better than you would expect. I have been playing records for 60 years and like you I have suffered the usual background surface noise on vinyl records. I have found a WD40 product to clean my records and reduce static and noise. It's WD 40 specialist anti friction Dry PTFE Lubricant. Squirt four small amounts equally spaced on the on the center of the tracks and clean in a circular motion with a soft tissue.You will notice the tissue will collect dirt change to a new tissue. Keep polishing until all trace of liquid has disappeared and the record is shiny black. Now the record will feel very slippery. If the record is in reasonable condition background noises will be reduced. On the first play more dirt will pop out of the grooves after which it will stay clean for while with less static.This may even reduce record wear.

    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???

    10 replies

    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!

    Ok I have to say, this WORKED. I found a bonus album inside a Herb Alpert Case which turned out to be 12" Cameo Word up Extended version. Well Im an 80s child so I was stoked. But the record was bad with clumps of dirt. I tried alcohol at first but then i tried the wd 40. I sprayed some on a microfiber cloth and wiped gently in one motion around the record. Then I used a damp dishsoap microfiber cloth to clean the wd40 off. then dried with a soft tshirt. I think it still has some wd 40 residue (certainly smells like it) but it plays so smooth now!. And it isnt ruined. :)

    I found this worked much better than I expected. Tried it on 45 year old records like Electric Ladyland & Abbey Road, records that have suffered much maltreatment and neglect from when I was younger, and the sound was restored to almost as new! Also a much newer record which I purchased from a supposedly 'superior' record supplier ("180g Vinyl Mastered From The Best Available Sources" - is their claim) and which was full of surface noise from the first play, is now sounding clean as it should have. [As an aside don't waste money on buying from these allegedly high quality suppliers, you just pay more for no improvement in sound quality.] A word of caution though - be sure to check the stylus after first play following cleaning, a lot of dust and grime that has been freed up collects on the needle and needs to be gently brushed off.

    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 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.

    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.

    Thank you for all the very useful information. I just bought a new turntable after about 20 years of not having one. I have records I collected as a teenager in the 70s as well as those my parents had from the early 50s and are older than I am (60). I have tried through the years to at least make sure that they didn't warp. I've played some of them and it was so nice to hear some of the stuff that is not available on CD or in the cyber world. My project for the next few weeks will be cleaning them all and then enjoying all that wonderful music.

    I use a simple soap, a brush for applying shadow and isopropyl alcohol. First, wet the vinyl under warm running water, then brush along the tracks cover with soap and water and wait 10 minutes (can be longer, depending on the vinyl contamination), then wash off the soap with warm water, the next step - cover with isopropyl alcohol, and again my warm water. After that - a vacuum cleaner. At the end of the tube is necessary to put a small piece of microfiber and fix her hair rubber band or money, who it uses it. Starting vacuuming, but the pressure on the vinyl is not necessary, everything happens naturally expense of suction effect. Then we place the vinyl on the turntable, turns it over in half an hour on the other side. Then we pack it in an antistatic bag. All! Rejoice pure vinyl, beautiful sound and life!

    All good, clean vinyl and a nice sound!

    P.S.: In my experience, very clean and well maintained vinyl in Japan (personal opinion).

    Sorry for bad english.

    Thanks, for a nice article. Audio purists might ridicule this approach, but I have found it gets records clean while avoiding using aggressive chemicals. A refinement I have found, is using Dent pullers (118mm) as label protectors when sink cleaning using your procedure. They also provide convenient handles avoiding touching the record at all. You can even leave an album in to soak for an extended period without the fear that the label will be damaged

    thanks this was very helpfull.

    In an ideal World, the only thing to touch the surface of a record should be a stylus. However, one method is the use of 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 without chemicals. Microscopic dust particles are cleaned from the very bottom of the record groove.

    More info:

    cleaning vinyl records with an ultrasonic cleaner 1.jpg

    I would NEVER EVER clean an LP like in this instruction, YOU WILL RUIN it if you do. WHY would you get the label wet ? Using a washcloth will scratch it