How to care for vinyl records

vinyl records

Record albums. 45s. 78s. LPs. Haven’t heard those words for a while. Once the only way to listen to music, vinyl records have now become collectors items. Although the debate rages on as to which is more durable—CDs or vinyl records—it is important to handle both with care.

Learning how to care for vinyl records will protect your priceless collection. As a bonus, you’ll enjoy clearer and crisper sound when they’re played.

Read on to learn how to care for vinyl records.

General handling

Vinyl records, no matter how durable you believe they are, deserve tender loving care. The environment contains many hazards to the health of your collection. Dust, dirt, fingerprints, smoke, spilled drinks, and dull needles, to name a few.

Remove records carefully from their covers, being careful to handle just by the edges. Don’t allow them to fall on the floor. Once out of the inner protective sleeve, handle by the edges and the label. Use of anti-static inner sleeves is recommended. Keep a lint-free cloth near the turntable to wipe off records after each use. And, speaking of turntables, they should be kept free of dust also. If it is felt, the best method of doing this is with a vacuum cleaner.

Do your best to avoid doing any of the following:

  • Stacking records
  • Leaving them out of the sleeves
  • Playing with a dull needle
  • Allowing them to lean on the shelf
  • Packing them too tightly on the shelf
  • Losing the original sleeve and cover
  • Leaving them near heat sources
  • Lending them to friends

How to clean vinyl records

Records that are maintained properly should need little cleaning. However, if your records have not been played for a long time, or if they have been subject to mold or mildew, you may need to clean them. Records you have just purchased may also need cleaning. The previous owner may not have cared for them properly. Or they may have been sitting in a basement or garage awaiting a moving sale.

A good deal of controversy exists over the best way to thoroughly clean your vinyl records. Use the following with caution. As with medical advice, you may want to get a second opinion.

The object of cleaning is to remove dust particles from the grooves, not to drive them in farther. Good tools are available to do this effectively. Carbon fiber brushes or rollers are good alternatives.

If records only require a light cleaning, you may use a solution of mild soap, such as a baby bath product, in water. For wiping off, use a pre-moistened hand wipe, and dry with a soft cloth or a chamois.

Heavier duty cleaning may require an alcohol solution. Some believe that alcohol can be damaging to the surface, but with adequate dilution, you should be safe. Use rubbing alcohol or denatured alcohol at a less than 70% concentration, and dilute with distilled water (three parts water to one part alcohol. Use products that are pure and free of additives or unwanted particles.

Some sources caution against the use of ethyl or isopropyl alcohol or vodka. Vodka? You’re on your own with that one.

Playing vinyl records

Make sure you are using the right needle for the record. Never play with a dull needle. Damage produced by an old needle can never be repaired. Your player should be in good condition. Attend to a “stuck record” immediately. Close the lid of the player to prevent dust from entering. Dust the record before or after playing. Remove dust buildup on the stylus.

How to store vinyl records

If you possess a large number of vinyl records, you will need a special place designed for storage. According to the Library of Congress, a linear foot of LPs weighs between 35 and 45 pounds. Your 78s will weigh even more. Obviously, you don’t want to place your valuable collection on weak shelving. Consider using steel shelving. Or use shelves that are reinforced every 12 to 18 inches.

Records should always be stored vertically. Pack them closely enough so that they will not lean, as this will cause warping. Packing them too tightly can also cause them to warp. You should be able to pull out the desired record without pulling out the adjoining records.

Preserving the value of your vinyl records

If you are collecting for the potential value of the records, you will also need to keep covers in good condition. Some damage can be repaired. If the covers are glossy, you may be able to wipe off stains. Covers with matte finishes cannot usually be salvaged. Save all inserts that may have come in the original album.

Sit back and relax

If you have mastered the art of how to care for vinyl records, all you need to do now is sit back and enjoy the music. Superior tone quality and knowing you have a valuable collection will enhance your listening pleasure. And, of course, nothing beats hearing your old favorites over and over. Just go easy on the vodka.