8 easy and affordable ways to clean your vinyl records by hand

8 easy and affordable ways to clean your vinyl records by hand

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dusty records

Stressed out by the idea of lathering your first editions in wood glue? Don’t fancy spending a packet on a cleaning machine? Paul Rigby offers eight easy and affordable ways to keep your records in good nick.


Words: Paul Rigby


“Oh, I can’t stand vinyl. All those clicks and hiss and noise and things.” In the majority of cases (not all, I grant you that) the source of this criticism is dirty vinyl, bunged up with so much rubbish that the poor stylus has to battle through the groove like a digitised hero in a beat’em-up computer game.

If you look after your vinyl, then there is no reason why your new, quiet record shouldn’t stay quiet for many, many years. More than that, giving second hand records a thorough cleaning will drastically reduce any noise that you hear.

Using a record cleaning machine is the best way to clean a record but they are often prohibitively expensive. Fortunately, there are plenty of cheaper, manual methods of record cleaning that do a great job. What follows is a broad selection of the different types of cleaning gadgets that you can buy.

Before we get to that, though, allow me to remove a few myths. There are certain things that you should most definitely avoid when cleaning vinyl. The most contentious of the lot and one that will have a few readers and some hi-fi journalists up in arms is pure, isopropyl alcohol (as opposed to the remnants of your last vodka and tonic). This stuff can be disastrous for vinyl. The problem is, it also lies within many commercial record cleaning products, so look carefully at the ingredients before you use them. Pure alcohol strips away much of the rubbish and gunge from grooves – which is great – but it also removes the protective coating that rests on the groove walls/floor. I don’t mean the oft talked about ‘release agent’ that a record pressing plant utilises and is often left to bung up vinyl grooves, either. Once that essential protective layer is gone, music sounds harsh and brittle. I’ve done a series of sound tests to prove this phenomenon. Initially, alcohol-cleaned records sound great. After the third or fourth clean, they sound terrible. By then, though, it’s too late and your record has been irretrievably scarred.

Another no-no is commercial cleaning products (i.e. sprays, liquids and the like) hanging around your kitchen. They can often attack the vinyl itself or, at the very least, block your grooves with more rubbish than they remove.

Also, do not rinse vinyl under a tap. You risk damaging the fragile record label. Tap water also includes plenty of impurities which re-infect record grooves.

Finally, new records need cleaning too. They are normally infested with dust – even on a micro level – plus that oily pressing plant release agent I mentioned earlier.

Now, onto the good stuff.


Microfiber

Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
Price: around £5-£10
www.amazon.co.uk (plus many other outlets)

If a good quality brush is out of your budget range then take a look at a non-abrasive, microfibre cleaning cloth. A good quality example is offered by 3M but there’s plenty of others out there. This type of cloth is good at absorbing oils and hangs onto dust and grime.


audioquest_anti_static_record_cleaning_brush

AudioQuest Anti-Static Record Cleaning Brush
Price: £13
www.audiovisualonline.co.uk

As an alternative to a pad, the brush is useful for two reasons. Firstly, it has a better chance of entering the grooves to remove dirt that lies within. Second, because of the nature of the fibre type, it drains static electricity which attracts dust in the first place.


CLEANING_MAT

Cleaning Mat
Price: £13
www.analogueseduction.net

It’s a good thing to clean your record away from your turntable so that any dust and grime removed will be away from the playing area. Otherwise, you risks recontaminating the record again.


mobile-fidelity-record-cleaning-brush

Mobile Fidelity Record Cleaning Brush
Price: £20
www.russandrews.com

A common tool in terms of cleaning your records, this brush is very easy to use and, because it has a wide surface area, is table and covers more of your record. Place it on a rotating record and see the dust build, sweep it off the record and the rest of the broad pad traps the muck. Simple and easy to use. Replacement pads are £8.50 for a pack of two.


tonar

Tonar Nostatic Record Cleaning Arm
Price: £20
www.analogueseduction.net

The cleaning arm, and there’s several models out there, purports to clean as you play. A small brush is fixed to the end that sits on the rotating record, removing dust before it hits the stylus as well as removing static. One of the better models out there.


zerostat_gun

Milty Zerostat 3
Price: £52
www.custom-cable.co.uk

This ‘gun’ cleans by removing static electricity that sits around your record: which, in turn, draws dust and grime to the grooves. When you remove your record from its inner sleeve, if you hear the crackle of static as you do so or your sleeve clings to the vinyl then you are in real need of anti-static tools. Never needs replenishing, it’s a one-off purchase.


Nagaoka

Nagaoka CL-1000
Price: £81.50
www.divineaudio.co.uk

Uses a sticky roller which, when pulled across a record, lifts dust and grime from the upper surface and the grooves. The roller should never lose its sticky action. It can also be washed to renew it. Although no longer made, also check out eBay for unused ‘Pixall’ Rollers which operate on the same principle but uses sticky paper. The top layer is discarded when full of dust/grime, to reveal a fresh piece underneath. You can often find them for around £20-£30 each.


Disco Antistat

Disco Antistat Record Cleaner
Price: £42
www.amazon.co.uk

The best manual record cleaner out there. You clamp a record between two plastic, screw-threaded discs featuring an axle of sorts, then hang the record in a thin ‘bath’ of cleaning liquid. You then rotate the record manually one way for several turns and then in the opposite direction whereupon brushes, submerged in the bath, gently ‘scrub’ the record. The record is then placed on a rack to drip-dry. A better design than the competing Spin Clean.

  • Carlos Horcasitas

    So, no isopropyl… ¿Not even at a small amount? I use a mix of isopropyl (25%), distilled water (75%) and two tiny drops of neutral soap with a microfiber cleaning cloth. ¿Should I stop using Isopropyl?

    • David Sanabria

      The isopropyl alcohol is too harsh for the record. I’ve heard that a solution of distilled water and alcohol (not rubbing alcohol) is best. A properly balanced solution of these should be comparable to anti-static fluid found a record shops.

    • Paul Rigby

      No. And…no. And…yes.

  • tzioup

    Never seen any of those rolls (#7) but that makes me think of lint rollers, which you can get for 2 bucks a six pack (same system, discard top layer) at the cheap crap shop. Any reason why this might not be a good idea?

    • Paul Rigby

      Lint rollers are not of the same quality. Their tack is far less powerful and the tackiness reduces quickly.

  • lolwut

    Thoughts on this Clear Groove solution? Has decent reviews http://www.amazon.co.uk/CLEAR-GROOVE-Advanced-Record-Cleaner/dp/B006DA4GUG

    • Paul Rigby

      Please check to see if it contains alcohol (see above as to why). Cheap and cheerful liquid solutions often use it as the prime cleaner ingredient.

  • Marcin Landowski

    natural water based baby whipes first and then fine microfibre cloth does the job! listen to my mixes all records cleaned with this method some of them used to be very dirty and didn’t look great before.

    https://soundcloud.com/lato-1

    • Paul Rigby

      I would avoid the wipes – contains potentially harmful chemicals that could also leave deposits.

      • Marcin Landowski

        Im talking about 99% of water based baby whipes, with natural fragrance. Im not using chemical ones.

        • Paul Rigby

          Well, even with Water Wipes, I would be cautious. They tend to contain a Vitamin C extract which is acidic. To my mind, why gamble when you can be sure and target something that you know is vinyl friendly?

    • Eric Lehy

      HAHA Listen to my mixes “all records” has pic of CDJS SMH GTFO

      • Marcin Landowski

        haha, do you think its me and my decks on the picture?

        • Joseph Spencer

          Are you not a dog then? Gutted for Eric, he was getting all excited.

  • Richard Pendrill

    Given that you clearly do not advocate alcohol based cleaning solutions, what liquid would you recommend I use in the bath of the Disco Antistatic Cleaner? I am assuming the fluid that is supplied with this set is likely to be Iso Propyl alcohol based?

    • Paul Rigby

      Absolutely, Richard and, yes, my preference would be to dump the included liquid. I’d recommend L’Art Du Son (there’s others of a similar ilk out there). Just use a cap full for the Antistatic bath (a tiny amount). Leave the record to dry in a relatively warmish environment and it will dry (slower than alcohol-based stuff, sure, but you could clean others while you wait for the first one to dry completely).

  • DJ Doctor Style

    I just wash them with dish soap, sponge and water. Dry ’em up with Microfiber cloth and apply a layer of Gruv-Glide. Works for me.

  • Anti static grounding mat and cord for around 12 UK pounds. It taps off the static charge. Also, anti static wrist bands as a cheaper alternative. I also use rubber latex solution as apposed to PVA wood glue. Far safer and does exactly the same job. I also use ladies large headed make-up brushes for removing dust from vinyl surfaces. These are the softest brushes available (for obvious reasons). These are all mentioned on my website: http://www.fabbeatlesaddict.com.

    • Paul Rigby

      The mat is good – yes. Like it. I’d be suspicious of ladies make-up brushes. You don’t know what micro-filaments they are shedding. No problem on the face but in a groove? (this is why specialist brushes are a good idea and not the rip off many people believe). Anti-static wrist bands are good but, in case anyone reads this and thinks the wrist thing ‘will do’, remember that you need to reduce static generally. Just the action of taking a record from a sleeve can build up static between sleeve and vinyl, independently of how much static is around you. You need to address the vinyl itself. As for using PVA or whatever or your vinyl…I think more research is needed on this in case it leaves a residue on the surface. I need to look more into this area as I know it’s an increasingly popular practice.

      • Hi Paul. I guess having a degree in three dimensional design has given me a bit of an advantage when considering some of these issue!. I should have mentioned that the make up brushes should consist of natural hair such as sable. These do produce shedding but only on the scale of single hairs rather than anything smaller. I’ve checked. As far as static goes, the whole idea is to earth any build up. As soon as you make contact with friction derived static it can be earthed by wearing appropriate footwear or using an anti-static mat. I use latex rubber on records because I know it leaves no residue. When I worked on MOD contracts in the late eighties we used latex solution to mask faceplate optics on NBC units (the breathing apparatus fighter pilots wear) before they were shot blasted prior to painting. Please check this method yourself though. It doesn’t suit everyone. I will always advocate NOT cleaning records in the first instance especially if they are vintage records worth quite a few pounds! Dusting only is as far as I will go on most of mine. My biggest tip is to always practise any method of cleaning on an old piece of vinyl you don’t mind ruining before unleashing any miracle chemicals or fangled gadgets on your prized record collection.

  • you say
    “The problem is, it also lies within many commercial record cleaning products, so look carefully at the ingredients before you use them.”

    Most commercial products are not 100% pure alcohol, they are a very weak solution. And most usually contain other surfactants’wetting agents to help release dirt/oil/grime
    Tergitol works great

    You say
    “After the third or fourth clean, they sound terrible”

    Not sure why one would need to clean them that many times
    One GOOD wet cleaning should handle most all embedded dirt, store properly and use one of the mentioned brushes before and after each play

    • Paul Rigby

      You regularly need to clean records. Depends where you play them, of course. Some rooms are dustier than others but, unless you play records in a vacuum, they will become mucky again with frequent playback and over time. Repeated cleans are then required. It doesn’t matter about the strength of the alcohol, it’s the chemical reaction between it and vinyl. Sure, the 100% stuff will harm sound quality quicker, but the thinned out liquid will get you in the end. As for me? I’m looking to have my vinyl running perfect for the rest of my life. How about you?

  • Bill Wren

    I will stick with my spin clean

    • Paul Rigby

      Spin Clean is fine but the pads do not clean the grooves as thoroughly as the Disco Antistat which features fine brushes. The latter is much more effective in an A-B test.

  • Toby

    Hello Mr. Rigby, thanks for the informative article. I appreciate especially the passage about isopropyl alcohol. However, somebody pointed out to me that in an older article
    (from Hi-Fi World – June 2010 issue) you specify recipes for cleaning fluids with isopropyl alcohol.
    I am assuming that these recipes are therefore obsolete.

    • Paul Rigby

      Yes! I admit it I got it wrong. Alcohol bit me in the backside. Actually, this backs up my intro to this piece. Initially, the effects of alcohol offered splendid sound quality. I wrote that piece and the world was a happy, jolly place. Then, after a few more treatments, the light dawned and I realised what a terrible mistake I had made and also that I’d basically destroyed a prime piece of my own vinyl in the meantime. I certainly learned from my own tribulations.

  • Toby

    Thank you for the answer. Yes, alcohol is treacherous. The negative effects occur depending on the composition of the vinyl faster or slower. Washing records several times with alcohol accelerates the evaporation of the plasticizer in the vinyl.

    • Carol

      Think about this: ever since the U.S. has mandated that gasoline must contain a certain % of ethanol there have been problems with small engine applications such as lawn mowers, string trimmers, chain saws, etc. These small engines use vinyl tubing for fuel line and the ethanol hardens the fuel lines which then crack and break. So alcohol as a record cleaner must surely likewise have a bad effect.

  • Alan

    Methylated Spirit contains Ethanol, is this not good either? I seem to remember being told that lighter fluid was good, although I thought lighter fluid would be a bit harsher than Meths.

  • Franke

    Hi Paul, Thank you for sharing all this wonderful information. Have you had any experience with the Crosley Vinyl Cleaner? Or has anyone else?
    I’m weighing it up with the Disco Anti-stat. It doesn’t use the clamps and instead rolls on the edge of the record, I assume, adjustable for different size vinyl. This looks like you could really move through records a lot faster, but if the brushes doing the work are not measuring up to the Disco Anti-stat, I’ll take my time to get it done right.
    Any thoughts?

  • The Vinyl Shelter

    I have over 8000 records for sale (@Discogs) and every record I list gets cleaned using the Disco antistat machine and our own brand of vinyl cleaning fluid which works extremely well (and is available to buy in the UK folks). If you can’t splash out the £40 for the machine you can use any “vinyl cleaning fluid” with just a micro fibre cloth or cotton wool pad.

  • Kat_Kan

    Paul, what brand of cleaning solution do you use? Do you mix your own?

    • Paul Rigby

      Hi Kat – I use L’Art Du Son with a record cleaning machine.

      • Kat_Kan

        Thanks!

      • Will

        Where do you get your water from to dilute it? Is it “purified” or “de-ionised”?

        Thanks

        • Paul Rigby

          Hi Will – I use distilled. You should be able to find a ready supplier on Amazon.

  • Owen Reid

    Take this for what its worth… I use two plastic glass clamps, available from any hardware..cheap..and clamp them over each side of the labels. This keeps labels perfectly dry and gives you something to hang onto.
    Im a Painter/Decorator and we use Vinegar to clean all grime on surfaces. Leaves no trace behind and can be painted over easily..so I use vinegar on my vinyl with a soft brush and it seems to work super well, and cheap…then I rinse in demineralised water…set in a dish rack to dry.

    • Could you post a pic of a “glass clamp” or a link to one online?

      • Owen Reid

        suction clamps available very cheap at most hardware.. place tiny rim of moisture around inside edge of clamp, place over label on record ensuring it covers all the label…clamp on, bingo!! Repeat other side.
        You now have a handle on both sides, and waterproofing for labels.

        • Aaaah… SUCTION clamps! Great idea! I was thinking the clamps used to “pinch” a sheet of glass from the sides. Suction clamps… absolutely great idea. 🙂

    • Eric Hutchens

      I am brand new to all of this. I was wondering about vinegar. I see the pva process described and worry about it leaving a residue, and was thinking about what I would use if some of it did not lift properly when it was being removed mechanically. I do instrument repair, and there is a product I use to dissolve water-based glues like PVA. It is http://www.de-gluegoo.com/ which is a vinegar based product. It is generally safe for all finishes I have worked with (shellac, oil varnish, lacquer) and seems pretty mild but effective. Has anyone else used vinegar at all? I also was wondering if people thin the PVA down with water before application which should make it flow into the grooves better and allow for a thinner more flexible layer to peel off when dry. I know the PVA process is a last ditch effort, but I have a feeling that the stuff I am interested in collecting will need quite a bit of that.

      • Owen Reid

        Eric: I cannot and would never say MY method is “the way”..in fact its just ONE way and even then there would be purists who would protest much.
        For vinyl that I feel is VERY dirty I first use a store bought Vinyl Cleaning Machine. This utilises a cleaning liquid.
        After that I go over it with diluted vinegar in warm water…followed by a thorough wash with demineralised water then air drying.
        I myself have never utilised the PVA trick however I wouldnt recommend thinning it down too much as it sure wouldnt dry as well nor as thickly, ergo losing some of its stickiness (the whole reason for using it!).
        I use vinegar a hell of a lot in my trade. Non toxic, brilliant grime removal and I havent yet had it react to ANY surface Ive used it on.
        I guess it depends on how finicky you want to be.

  • Douglas Scott

    I have one method of removing surface dust from a record. It is a method that I have been using for years. I use an air compressor on my records and it is a very quick and effective way of removing every last speck of dust and or hair and other horrible things that stick to old records. So I use the air compressor then I use either my Antistat or AM cleaning fluid with a microfibre cloth. This method serves me very well. The brilliant thing about a powerful air compressor is that there is no contact with the vinyl. I must say I do not know of anybody else that uses one. Why I am not sure, it is brilliant.

    • T Fontaine

      Maybe because not everyone has an Air compressor besides their player 😉

      But it is a very good way of “cleaning” the records. I use those aerosol can ones. Works very well!

    • bob dole

      Be careful doing that, as air compressors by their nature contain lubricating oils, and the air lines can even become contaminated by small dirt particles. These blasted at very high speeds will permanently destroy your record. I have seen glass marked in this manner.

      • synapticflow

        A good point. I use a oil and moisture filter in my air compressor and spray horizontally along the record instead of right on top.

    • Jeff Lanthripp

      Compressed air plus dust on the record equals sandblasting…I wouldn’t chance it.

    • synapticflow

      I do the same, but I have an oil and moisture filter on my air compressor.

  • Styn Vanderlinden

    A cheap alternative to Nagaoka CL-1000 is the Analogue Studio AS-500 Roller, you can get on there site.

    I have one and so far its great.

  • Sam Shaw

    Hi Paul, great article, very interesting read, as my vinyl record collection is starting to really grow. Can I take from this, that the best way to clean vinyl records without the money to purchase a vacuum record cleaner, is to use a disco antistat record cleaner (which i have purchased), L’Art Du Son cleaning fluid (which i have now purchased) and distilled water? (not yet purchased). Is the key to a beautifully clean record, a dash of L’Art Du Son and distilled water in a disco antistat record cleaner? Many thanks

    • Paul Rigby

      No problem Sam and ‘yes’. L’Art du Son is best used with a record cleaning machine because, unlike alcohol-based liquids, it takes longer to dry (the alcohol itself evaporates quickly resulting in a fast drying record). That said, it is also less aggressive so, I would still use it but dry a batch of vinyl (to speed up the process, rather than one at a time) in a warm room to increase drying times (give the vinyl a bit of a shake to remove excess liquid).

  • Kerem Sayın

    I wonder why record labels don’t use anti static material for manufacturing. That would be a more effective approach in my opinion.

    • Paul Rigby

      What sort of material do you have in mind Kerem?

      • Kerem Sayın

        Thanks for asking. I don’t know if you have already seen my reply, because i have edited it. I have an alternative material for record pressing on my mind, but i can’t afford intellectual property rights fees. Thus, i can share the details if you would like . You can e-mail me via kerem72@gmail.com. Best regards.

  • Kerem Sayın

    I hope someone reads my previous comment (especially the vinyl factory guys). So we can share ideas 🙂

  • jbrennan

    I still ave an old Pixall roller, misguidedly bought in 1978, or so. If you use it – and I haven’t since shortly after buying mine, it leaves an audible trace of very low-level surface crackle, audible through headphones. On the other hand, and disbeliveingly, I did once experiment with the Percy Wilson method outlined in his “Book of the Gramophone” on what i thought was a terminally contaminated LP I would never use again. I followed his instructions meticulously, carefully mixing the white vinegar and other ingredients. It took three hours, but the result was spectacular improvement. My copy has gone missing, but as soon as I find it I’ll post it. I’ve come across just as bad a disc , and I need it.

  • Alex Steele

    I have been using a mix of 1 part denatured rubbing alcohol to 4 parts distilled water with a teaspoon of fragrance/dye free laundry detergent added. It seems to work great and I got the recipe off the internet. On a record with many fingerprints and/or dust, I cover the center paper so as not to distort the label, spritz record, let soak into grooves a moment and the wipe down with a Discwasher pad I have had since the 1980s, It gets the vinyl fresh and glossy again.

    • Corey Harrison

      Thanks for the hint, as denatured alcohol is very different than isopropyl this recipe has piqued my interest, + I have the same 80’s Discwasher pad, ha.

  • I bought my first brand new LP for the first time in many years recently. Huge specks of paper dust from the sleeve was stuck all over it before I had a chance to play it for the first time. When I took it out of the sleeve I could literally see the LP snap up dust. I’ve never witnessed such extreme “static cling” with any of my vintage records. Are manufacturers using a different material that is more prone to static cling than older LPs?

    Here’s my idea for cleaning very old vinyl finds from thrift stores, Ebay or the like. I prefer a soap-free approach to minimize the chance of soap residues: Take 2-3 TBSPs white vinegar diluted in a cup of water (preferably distilled) and apply using a clean microfiber cloth. This seems to help lift oily marks. Household vinegar is also good at dissipating odors and also has disinfectant properties.

    On Ebay, where secondhand high-end handbags sales are huge, one trick I picked up is to apply a very light misting of aerosol Febreeze to a paper towel, which is the placed in or on the surface you wish to deodorize. (If you’re particularly desperate, a direct misting may help, but you have to be very careful not to overdo it so that the paper doesn’t warp.) For the inside of a musty (empty) jacket, lightly coat a paper towel with aerosol Febreeze and carefully place it inside jacket for a couple hours (or overnight). (Try to insert the Febreeze-treated paper towel so it lays flat.)

    Out of desperation, I tried the above with an LP I bought secondhand that, when removed from the plastic protective sleeve, had a noticeable mildew odor to it. Mildew odors tend to transfer to everything else it comes into contact with — and it never really goes away on its own — and so I had nothing to lose by trying the above approach. While no approach is perfect, it really helped!

  • Carol

    I have also read about “wet” playing of records. But not with tap water of a cleaning fluid. I’d like to know what they were talking about. Seems to me you’d gunk up the stylus pretty quickly.

  • Geoff.

    After washing my vinyl in my Disco Antistat, I dry them off using a microfibre cloth over a Karcher Window Vacuum, which has a suitably gentle suction.

  • Geoff.

    Aerosol cans of air, Duster sprays, are used for cleaning computers, and other electric and electronic equipment, and available from Amazon, quite cheaply.

  • Great article and discussion. I just wanted to throw my two cents into this. I was looking for an affordable record vacuum and ended up designing my own. I developed the Vinyl Vac as an effective and affordable alternative to expensive record vacuums. I love vinyl and the community that surrounds it and that is why the Vinyl Vac exist today. Forgive me for the shameless plug http://www.vinylvac.net

  • Daft Fader

    I seriously would advise against nearly all the advice previously if you really want to care for your wax. A few years ago I had access to an amazing Leica microscope and spent a considerable amount of time testing a wide variety of household products, solvents, cleaning products etc. Since then I treat and handle vinyl in a completely different way. Simply I would advise as little contact as possible with the face of the record. Every object that comes in contact with it will damage it to some degree. I don’t use any synthetic fibres at all anymore, micro-fibre cloths shed too many fibres which love to sit perfectly the grooves of a record and can also cause an alarming about of damage. I use 2 very high quality artists brushes (1 wet and 1 dry), natural fine animal hair is least damaging tool we could find (far far better than any synthetic fibre we could find). As you use them they get better and better as the tips of hairs split and tend to drop far less debris than synthetic also.

    I have several turntables and use one of my Technics 1200 mkII as a cleaning station. I start by carefully in the center working outwards with the dry brush and remove as much loose surface debris as possible, then use distilled water around 30’c and the wet brush and repeat. I wouldn’t advise it to everyone but I often listen with headphones to a record while i’m cleaning it and wet play it. I repeat the process until I can hear it’s clean or if there are certain areas that require more attention. It’s taken me years to master the art of doing it. Serious care and attention needs to be taken especially if it’s a valuable wax! It takes time and care, you can’t rush it with causing minimal damage. Remember it’s taken years for them to get dirty, it’ll take time to remove it carefully.

    Oil-based, water-resistant debris can present more of a challenge but generally still find the finest natural haired brush is best as they tend to be slighly absorbent and remove most things if enough time and care is taken.

    I would seriously advise against anything other than distilled water. It’s cheap and generally all I use 99.9% of the time. We did find a few products that seemed not to leave too much residue or damage the vinyl but varied massively from record to record produced over the years. Distilled water is the safest and it works fine.

    Again I highly advise trying to avoid contact with the face of the wax. I used to apply loads of pressure with a micro-fibre cloth but never again after looking through a microscope. Be as gentle as possible.

    Natural fibres tend to be more forgiving than synthetic, also have absorbent qualities which lift the dirt rather than just spreading it across the record.

    When I have them clean, I use a small artists air-brush compressor before I play them to remove any debris that’s landed on them. Again care needs to be taken as many pneumatics contain oils and lubricants in their systems, even dust traveling at high speed will damage the record surface.

    Unfortunately there was no image capture facility on the microscope. Be probably an eye opener for vinyl lovers if they saw what’s really happening to their records.

    • aleto

      Best vinyl cleaning advise I’ve read. In your opinion, what’s the best way to get rid of static on vinyl?

      • Paul Rigby

        The Zerostat is effective. Anti-static sleeves too. Cleaning with a record Cleaning Machine or the Disco using an antistatic liquid is good.

    • TJ58

      I have read that you shouldn’t play an album repeatedly (more than once in 24 to 48 hours if I remember correctly) to give the vinyl grooves time to return to there original position. Vinyl stretches and will not completely return to original if repeatedly played in a short period of time. I read this many years ago so I don’t remember from where. Sorry about that. I see you are very serious about your vinyl so you should look into this some more. Just saying.

      • Gregory Skinner

        One might remember we only live for around eighty useful years if we are lucky. I prefer to play my music. Some toad will one day take your precious vynl and throw them away when your life is over. Just enjoy the music stop fussing life’s to short.

    • gearoidhayes

      Hi Daft,

      thanks for this, this is fantastic information especially for me today as I was looking for specific advice…

      I just bought Bat For Lashes Fur & Gold album from a vinyl seller in the States recently I myself am living in London I don’t want to return the vinyl although I have found an issue with the record… both because I love the record itself and secondly it would cost quite a bit to return the vinyl to the US…

      The record itself was shrink wrapped when I bought it.. and looked brand new so I think it’s more an issue with the production side than the seller side…the problem is it has some solidified dirt wedged very deeply into the some grooves on one of the tracks… from reading your advice I don’t think methods such as a brush might remove it as it seems to be pretty well ground in.. what would you suggest I do to remove it. The record itself doesn’t skip when it plays but there is quite a noticeable noise when the needle travels over the dirt.

      Any ideas or recommendations would be very helpful, thanks in advance.

      Appreciated.

      Gearoid

    • Bob

      Horse hair brush or ox hair. Is one better than the other or will both work?

  • Daft Fader

    Oh something I’ve always wondered about but never actually done is using
    ultrasonic cleaning. I used to use an ultrasonic cleaning tank years
    back for cleaning precision engineering parts. Never heard of anyone
    using it before to clean vinyl. Obviously care would be needed over how
    it was done and suspended in the fluid, the label getting wet etc.. Although don’t use ultrasonic if
    you don’t know what you’re doing as heard horror stories of people
    going deaf turning them on without fluid in them!

  • Todd

    Hi Paul, thanks for this article! In the comments here you recommend L’Art Du Son as an alcohol-free cleaning solution and in the article you recommend the Disco-Antistat machine. About how many records can you clean using 1 bottle of L’Art Du Son with the Disco-Antistat machine?

    • Paul Rigby

      I’d say in the mid to high hundreds.

  • Paul Saunders

    I like many have found isopropanol to be a fantastic record cleaner especially for really dirty records, been using it for 20+ years and even used it neat without issue. I know many collectors who would not be without it. Isopropanol does not damage vinyl material in anyway, it simply does not react. you talk of these ‘protective coatings’ but are they even present on most records? – also remember that commericialy available cleaners are heavily diluted and surely tried and tested – are they really gonna include something that causes damage, I dont think so. If you are worried about it causing negative effects then please do your research and get a balanced opinion, the vast majority of collectors would recommend it as the best type of cleaner even for serious audiophiles. IMO the only type of records its not suitable for is old gramaphone records.

    • Paul Rigby

      Hi Paul,
      My tests were based upon cleaning and repeating (several times) the clean of the same LP over a period of about a week and then listening to the sound after each clean during that time, using the same alcohol-based, solution. Granted, the solution was pretty alcohol-heavy but I wanted to see if alcohol was harmless or not to vinyl.

      This was an abnormally intensive process, I agree but, after an initial improvement in sound, I then experienced a gradual reduction in sound quality after each successive clean and an increase in brittleness in the upper midrange especially was a dominant factor.

      Of course, most people would not perform such an intensive series of sessions. The cleaning of a single record would be infrequent and spread over a long time.
      Hence, such sonic changes that I heard would be gradual and, in general terms and because of the steady downturn in that sonic curve, the average user might not even notice the sound differences.

      Of course, if anyone out there is using alcohol and is happy with the results then that’s fine and good luck to them. As long as they are happy about their cleaning regimen then that’s the main thing. That said, I would still urge caution when using such liquids. In addition, just because a product is on the market, doesn’t mean that it’s the best or, in fact, any good. I even stumbled across an old toothpaste tube in an antique shop recently, from around 1920 or so which included the ‘tried and tested’ new marvel ingredient…ammonia!
      PS: And, yes, never use alcohol on 78s…only water-based cleaners. A specialised cleaner is recommended. If anyone requires further advice, please ask.

      • Paul Saunders

        Thanks for your reply Paul, and great work bothering to carry out these tests !

        There are just so many factors that would effect this. For example whos to say a clean with water, lemon juice or a chemical free product would not have produced exactly the same results?
        and of what quality was the isopropanol used for the test as this can vary greatly? You would need to test on many different records from many different eras etc…how do you know its not just gunk from repeated cleaning collecting on the stylus? – there are just so many variables.

        I just think it a little unfair to say all isopropanol based products will damage all records.

        You are assuming that any dilution of isopropanol will cause damage, Is it not possible that in diluted form there is absolutely no negative reaction taking place at all?

        I understand what your saying about not noticing a deterioration in sound between cleans over a long time, this could be true but I have records that I have had for 20 years, that have been cleaned many times that in my mind sound as good as the day I bought them – maybe its just the quality of the vinyl?

        I actually wrote to several vinyl pressing plants and asked them about protective coatings, they all said they dont add any type of protective coating but I understand it may be the plasticisers added to the vinyl material (apparently designed to protect the record wear from the stylus) that your are referring too? – theoretically even when used undiluted the isopropanol should not be able to dissolve the plasticisers bonded within.

        Its obvious that not all vinyl is made from exactly the same material and of the same quality and possible that any type of cleaning or just playing and handling will produce a negative effect on sound quality over time, not just alcohol.

        I have a theory that may or may not be true. Perhaps its actually the lack of plasticisers in some records which makes them more prone to deterioration – but the finger is pointed at the alcohol based cleaner.
        Whos to say a so called ‘safer’ alternative natural chemical free cleaner is safe when in most cases it wont even list the ingredients!

        In my mind there is just not enough hard indisputable evidence that any cleaner with isopropanol is a risk.

        All that said I think its fair to warn against the use of neat alcohol as a precaution (as you know it works better diluted anyhow!)

  • Dave Reinlieb

    I sit the record on my ottoman and scrub it around with a cloth mitt of tap water and a drop of dish-washing soap. Then I flip the mitt to dry it a bit and then I wipe it clean with a microfibre cloth. My method seems barbaric compared to everything else I have read on this post but it seems to work well.

  • I use the AudioQuest Anti-Static Record Cleaning Brush…. great!

  • Jake Purches

    So far after 100 LP cleans, the most exhaustive and best method to clean vinyl – is woodglue, or PVA. PVA is similar chemically to PVC so it doesn’t stick, but the dust and grit shure does. Its advantage is the ability to reach right to the bottom of the V of the groove. It lifts grease too. After a deep clean, the best course of action is none! Don’t use any products on the record. A good stylus will clean most dust out by itself and you clean the stylus before playing with a blob of blu-tak. A good record clean is only needed once or twice in 30 years if you always care for your records, put them in good clean slips, and store them upright. If anyone needs to wipe the dust off, there is a problem in the way your handling the records in the first place, and a bit of surface dust does no harm anyway. Never touch the grooves! (Record collector over 40 years)

  • RJ

    Compressed nitrogen or the keyboard duster cans for computers is what i use. A clean alternative to an air compressor with contaminates. Obviously regulate the pressure at which you point at the record so there no damage. Also works well to clean your stylus
    ………

  • Arno

    Clear Groove cleaner is wicked stuff, best fluid ive come across

  • Muso

    I recently bought a Project VC-s record cleaner and use it with Project fluid mixed in ratio of 1:6. Perfect results on both new and secondhand recordings. I recommend it unreservedly.