Below you will find a brief guide to Vinyl Record & Stylus Care.
Please visit our dedicated section of our shop for our current range of cleaning & care products HERE
So when you’re not playing them, where is your vinyl going to live? And what are the best ways to store them? Ideally, you’ll want to keep them in a clean dry place, avoiding extreme temperatures and humidity (so not in the bathroom or sauna if that’s what you were thinking…) What you’re doing is trying to avoid warping the record. Warping is when the record bends out of shape which often leads to unplayable vinyl. There are methods of unwarping but prevention is the best cure, so keep them away from direct sunlight and high heat.
Another way your records can warp is by stacking them, so NEVER store them horizontally. Compared to other formats vinyl are pretty heavy, so the weight and pressure will eventually warp them over time. The more vertical the record stands the better. While on the subject of weight, you’ll want to make sure whatever they’re standing on is sturdy. An average 12” can weigh between 140 and 220 grams so bear that in mind as your collection grows. There’s plenty of specialist units and storage racks you can get for vinyl too.
So, we’re stating the obvious here, but seriously, be nice to your vinyl. Always handle them at the edges or by the inner label at the centre. Much like how it’s sacrilege to touch the data side of the CD the same applies to vinyl. When you touch the playing surface, you’ll transfer oils from your skin into the grooves, which dust will stick to and affect the sound quality. You’re also running the risk of scratching the grooves with your fingernails.
You don’t want your vinyl rattling around inside the jacket. There are a few different types of inner sleeves made from different materials available:
- Paper – The most basic and cheapest option is to use paper inner sleeves and are commonly included with the vinyl when you first buy it. However, these sheets can scratch records as you slide them in and out as well as create paper dust. Plus, with them being paper, they rip and deteriorate much easier and much quicker. Hardcore collectors will also note that some of these paper sleeves come with pressing dates, record company logos and other interesting quirks, so double check before you bin them. We don’t recommend paper sleeves over any other types but it’s better than no protection at all.
- Poly – Poly sleeves (or polypropylene) are more durable than the paper sleeves previously mentioned but are also more expensive, but if you’re serious about collecting you might want to invest in these. It eliminates the issues of dust and scratchy paper damages when taking it in and out of the sleeve. It’s also much easier to remove and insert it into the album jacket. Some also have rounded corners making life even easier.
- Paper with poly lining – As you can probably guess, a mixture of the above. The outside paper makes the sleeve much more rigid whilst the poly lining inside lets the vinyl slip in much smoother with a lower risk of scratching and collecting dust.
Again, hours of Googling can be had here and you might find some weird and wonderful suggestions too (if you’re brave enough to try the dishwasher or toothpaste suggestions we found, we salute you). But to begin with here's a few simple tips:
- Dry Cleaning – Use a carbon fibre brush to clean your vinyl before and after every play. Brush lightly along the grooves and this will help prevent the build-up of dust and other dirt. The carbon strands (on the outer surface of the cleaner) reduce the static charge on the vinyl (which attracts dust) and the inner part (usually a cloth material) then collects the dust on the second wipe after the static is reduced. Remember to regularly clean the brush too. This should be a regular practice in your listening sessions.
- Wet Cleaning – Highly recommended when you want to give your records a deep clean. A mixture of record cleaning fluid and water (distilled, not tap!) works well. Clean with a micro-fibre cloth and dry with a separate micro-fibre cloth.
- Cleaning Machines – Once you have a big collection, cleaning records by hand might be a lot of effort. There are vacuum cleaning machines that automatically apply a cleaning solution and then vacuum the liquid off again. There are also spin cleaners that clean the record with the solution as it spins with the brushes cleaning off the dirt. Although effective, they can be expensive.
- Wood Glue – Yep you’ve read that correctly, using wood glue is an age-old secret to pristine vinyl. As it’s chemically very similar to the material of a record it won’t stick to it, but it will stick to everything else clogging it up. Spread on the glue, wait for it to dry and peel away. Try this out on an old vinyl first before applying to your entire collection.
The threats to your records are numerous and each can affect your discs in different ways: from impairing the clarity of the audio to skipping and even, in a worst-case scenario, rendering them unplayable.
But before we focus on the threats to your records themselves, we should highlight the importance of looking after your player, and more specifically, your stylus.
The stylus is the part of the player that runs through the groove, generating the electrical signal that results in your audio – therefore, it’s fundamental that you don’t allow your stylus to become caked in dust, grime or, well, anything really.
It’s often best practice to give your stylus a clean with a dedicated solution and fine brush regularly, if not after each play.
There are many different types of stylus cleaner around which you can pick up affordably, they’re worth their weight in gold.
Be sure to always run your brush over the stylus in the same direction that the record spins.
Be liberal with your application of the liquid but remember to clean and brush your stylus regularly. Also, check (as much as you can) that there isn’t anything nasty affixed to it.
Eventually, no matter how frequently you clean it, your stylus will naturally start to wear and need replacing. We’d recommend you purchase a brand-new cartridge after around two -to-three years of regular playing.
Replacing the cartridge also combats the possibility of the suspension stiffening, which tends to happen with poorer quality cartridges after around four years. Bear in mind that even if your needle is spotlessly clean, a cartridge with degraded suspension can damage your collection. So, to reiterate – get your cartridge changed after a couple of years.