How to Clean Vinyl Records

Have you ever sat down and put on a record only to be met with the sound of pops, crackles, and snaps? There are few things more annoying than a noisy record, but the good news is it can often be fixed! If you’re experiencing loud pops when playing vinyl, odds are your record needs to be cleaned. In this article, we’ll show you the dos and don’t dispels for how to clean vinyl records and a couple of myths along the way.

How to clean vinyl records

Unlike digital music files that we can stream, people often forget that records are physical media and need to be maintained and cleaned regularly. Luckily, cleaning your vinyl records and ensuring they are in proper condition is an easy process that does not require too much heavy thinking and preparation.

There are multiple ways how you can clean your vinyl records. While vinyl record cleaning solutions are the best choice, this is just one of many options you can use when cleaning your record collection. 

It is essential to know the various cleaning methods for cleaning your vinyl records; knowing the do’s and don’ts can help your vinyl record cleaning succeed. Let’s discuss the effective ways to keep your records clean.

Tips for caring for vinyl

#1: Don’t touch the grooves

When handling vinyl, only touch the inside label and outer edge. Oils and dirt from your hands can make their way into the record’s grooves with improper handling.

#2: Always store records in their sleeves and album jackets

When you’re finished listing to a record, always put it away in its sleeve and album jacket. To do this, slide the vinyl into the sleeve and then place the sleeve in the album jacket so that the opening of the sleeve is facing up. This will minimize the amount of dust that gets in.

Additionally, you can purchase anti-static sleeves to reduce static electricity that attracts dust.

#3: Use an anti-static brush before and after playback

Records contain metallic particles that can create a static charge that attracts dust. To mitigate this, quickly use an anti-static brush both before and after your finish playing the record.

#4: Properly store your vinyl records

Part of proper vinyl care is adequate storage. Ensure your vinyl is stored up-right at a consistent room temperature away from humidity. For more information, read on guide on how to store vinyl records.

How to properly clean vinyl records

Man cleaning a record

While there are multiple options available for safely cleaning vinyl records, here are our recommended steps.

You will need:

  • Vinyl record cleaning solution
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Anti-static brush

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Step 1: Remove any loose dust and debris with an anti-static record brush

As is standard before any playback, lightly brush your vinyl record with an anti-static record brush being sure to follow the grooves of the record.  This removes loose debris that could be pushed deeper into the record grooves.

Step 2: Use a microfiber cloth and record cleaning solution

In order to properly clean vinyl records, we suggest you buy a dedicated cleaning solution so as to not damage the record’s surface.

Take your microfiber cloth and add a few drops of cleaning solution on top. You do not need to press hard. Be careful not to apply too much pressure – just enough so that the microfiber cloth gets into grooves. Then wipe the record in a circular pattern.

Step 3: Clean your record needle

As your needle rides along the record grooves, it picks up dust and debris. Examine and clean your record needle with a soft brush. 

Your antistatic brush is usually soft enough for a quick clean in a pinch, but it’s recommended to use something a little softer eventually. For further instruction on this, check out our guide on how to clean a turntable needle

Using household items to clean vinyl records

Household record cleaning

As with most things in life, there is a budget, DIY method. While this can be good for a one-time cleaning, we recommend purchasing a dedicated vinyl cleaning solution if you’re serious about keeping your records in working order.

Here are some everyday household products you can use to clean your records:

  • Warm, distilled water
  • Dish soap
  • Microfiber towels
  • Lens cloths

The method you would use is similar to the process we outlined above. 

First, dust off your record with your microfiber towel or lens cloth. Then, combine 1-2 drops of dish soap, 4 oz of warm, distilled water, and stir/ shake to mix in a cup or bottle.

Add a few drops of the liquid to a dry microfiber cloth or lens cloth and clean the record in a circular motion, be sure sure to follow the groves, not go over the top of them.

Once complete, take a fresh cloth and wet it with just warm distilled water and repeat the cleaning process. Allow 30-minutes to air dry completely.

How NOT to clean your vinyl records

Things to avoid when cleaning vinyl records

There are multiple ways to clean your vinyl records; with so many options and tips available on the internet, it is easy to confuse methods to clean your vinyl records and techniques that can harm and damage your vinyl records.

Here are some vinyl cleaning myths that you should avoid:

Wood glue

The wood glue method in cleaning your vinyl records is ineffective. Cleaning your vinyl record with wood glue involves the glue being placed and spread on the record surface, only avoiding the record label. The grime will be removed from the record when you peel off the glue overnight. 

While some vinyl enthusiasts have had success with this method, there are more reports of it going wrong than right. With so many other solutions available, it’s best to avoid this method altogether.

Household cleaners

Some household cleaners have toxic ingredients that will not mix well when used as a cleaning liquid on your vinyl record. Most household cleaning materials include fragrance, lauramine oxide, sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate, etc., which can damage the record.

Tap water

When you are using water to clean your vinyl records, using distilled water is the best option for rinsing your vinyl record. Domestic tap water can include impurities that can damage your vinyl records when used as a cleaning method.

Brushing the grooves

Brushing your vinyl record the wrong way can significantly damage your records, so it is essential to know where to brush and where not to brush. Regardless of whether you have the right cleaning materials for your records, you can damage the record further if you do not know how to wipe and where to wipe you can damage the record further.

Isopropyl alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol should be avoided as a cleaning fluid for your vinyl records. Fluids containing a high amount of isopropyl alcohol can greatly damage your vinyl records, removing the plasticizers that can be found on your record and making the groove of your vinyl record brittle.

How about record cleaning machines?

Record cleaning machines are designed to clean your vinyl records and put them in top-tier shape. These devices often come with an attached vacuum cleaner that sucks up the debris as the record rotates. Dirty records get a satisfying deep clean to restore lost sound quality.

While we don’t recommend purchasing these machines if you’re still new to vinyl, they are great investments if you have an extensive vinyl collection of expensive pressings.

Cleaning records: Final thoughts

At this point, you should know all there is to know about cleaning vinyl records at home. There are a variety of different methods you can try and some dangerous myths to avoid.

If you’re just looking for a quick clean, try out the DIY method, but for record lovers with a growing collection, it’s best to buy a cleaning kit. As your collection grows, record cleaning machines will become more and more viable to keep your records and turntable clean.

We hope you found this guide helpful. Thanks for reading!