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)
-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.