How To Clean & Maintain Your Vinyl Records

Almost every home anywhere in the world has at least some sort of a vinyl record collection; whether you’re an enthusiast, a collector, a professional musician who just happens to have a ton of music from bands you’ve played with or just someone who inherited a pile of old records, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter and what most people don’t know how to do properly is how to clean and maintain their vinyl records, so that’s what we’re here to talk about today?

People have many methods to store and display their collections. You can easily take care and clean your turntables and vinyl speakers, but your record collection requires more attention.

How To Clean & Maintain Your Vinyl Records?

Essentially, there are many approaches to vinyl cleaning and maintaining, and usually, the best way to do it is to set up your own routine of regular cleaning and weekly checkups. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to use the cleaning tools you have at home or if you wish to upgrade to a bit more specialized gear, but know that both options are just as legit.

 In short, cleaning vinyl records is pretty simple and does not differ much from the cleaning processes of other memorabilia and collectibles of similar material. However, records are pretty delicate, and you need to be pretty patient and accurate, as small mistakes might end up lowering the quality of the record. Let’s plan out the steps you’ll need to take:

1. Cleaning the dust off of your vinyl records

clean and maintain your vinyl records

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that vinyl records are ‘magnetic’ in a way. They usually ‘attract’ people who have a holistic love for musical art, but they also tend to attract quite a bit of dust, regardless of how often you are using them (or how much you are neglecting them). 

Even though dust particles are too small to be seen with a naked eye, they can cause quite a bit of damage if they get deep into the grooves of a vinyl record. 

Over time, the dust particles end up forming a pile that prevents the stylus from ‘scratching’ the record properly. If you happen to notice that your favorite records are skipping, clipping, or if the general quality of the sound is a bit different from what it used to be, there’s a big chance that you’ll just need to wipe some dust off of it. 

Now, some people simply ‘blow’ their records before putting them on the record player, and that actually works sometimes. However, this is not necessarily a reliable way of ‘cleaning’ a record, so we suggest this method only if you have no other options available. The fact is that you almost always do. 

If you don’t want to invest in the cleaning tools overly, you can always use a piece of cloth you have at home. Ideally, you should use a microfiber cloth, but any other soft material will do the trick.

The cloth should be damp if you happen to notice any blemishes or marks. And it should be dry if there aren’t any marks spots.

The best way to clean the dust from your records, though, is to get a specialized vinyl record cleaning brush. There are dozens of brands on the market that offer different models, so you are free to pick in accord to your budget and preferences; pretty much any model will do the trick.

Vinyl record cleaning brushes have very soft bristles that can in no way damage the record. They are typically made from such materials that they can collect and disperse even those particles that are deeply ingrained within the grooves of the record, so a couple of passes will always suffice.  

2. Handling visible blemishes, stains, or marks

The first thing you should do about visible stains on your vinyl record is to figure out what they are and how they happened to emerge. Handling dirt stains a different process from handling cuts and similar types of physical damage. 

Records can get dirty even if they were safely tucked in their ‘sleeves’, and they can just as easily get scratched. The best way to prevent any kind of damage is to designate a special spot where you will keep your record collection, but even then, some scratches might befall your favorite vinyl records. 

If the stains are caused by built-up dirt, you should rinse your records, use a cleaning solution of your preference, and dry them afterward. 

3. Using water and cleaning solutions

clean and maintain your vinyl records

There’s a common fear among vinyl record owners that they should not use just any kind of soap to clean their records. It’s important to understand that there is a difference between using regular water and distilled water, cold water, and mildly warm water on vinyl records, just as there is a difference between using a special record cleaning solution and your household soap.

The ‘worst-case scenario’ is still not bad per se; using cold tap water and an average soap should still not damage your vinyl record. However, this method is usually frowned upon by the record enthusiasts and collectors, mainly due to the fact that over the years, they have probably used different kinds of soap and have presumably been living in areas where tap water is not exactly clean.

‘Strong’ soaps, especially those that feature potent chemicals, will leave a form of residue. The only way to combat this issue is to scrub the record clean, rinse it, and dry it as efficiently as possible. Given the fact that this does not always happen (possibly due to negligence), it’s usually a better way to use tools that were specifically designed for these kinds of tasks.

Distilled water is much ‘healthier’ for use with vinyl records, and you’ll also want to warm it up just a bit. Cold water can make the record a bit ‘stiff’, which might lead to warping. A warped record is a damaged record, and repairing it will take time and effort, but it will probably never sound the same again.

Using specialized record cleaning solutions and tools will also boost your vinyl record’s ‘health’ in the way that they won’t damage it or leave potentially harmful residues. 

4. Drying the record

dry your vinyl records

The simplest step in the record cleaning process is drying it; you don’t need to rush anything, but you also shouldn’t simply leave your wet records out in the open as they are bound to collect even more dust this way. On the other hand, using a fan in heating settings is also not recommended. 

The best way to dry your record is to use a dry, clean piece of cloth, preferably made of microfiber materials. Avoid leaving new fingerprints behind; you might want to use surgical gloves, or any kind of ‘soft’ gloves (for instance, don’t use heavy-duty construction gloves, as their crude design might actually damage the record). 

5. Purchase a vinyl cleaning kit

Regular cleaning increases the chances of your vinyl to survive longer. The best way to achieve that is to go for a vinyl cleaning kit. They are cheap, and if you plan to clean your records regularly it will save you time and effort.

Boundless Audio Record Cleaning Kit:

Boundless Audio Record Cleaning Solution - 6.75oz Vinyl Record Cleaner Fluid & Vinyl Cleaner Cloth & Record Label Protector
How to use Boundless Audio Record Cleaning Solution - 6.75oz Vinyl Record Cleaner Fluid & Vinyl Cleaner Cloth & Record Label Protector

The Boundless Audio record cleaning kit includes everything you will need to properly maintain your vinyl collection. The kit includes:

  • Record Cleaning Solution
  • Vinyl Record Cleaner Fluid
  • Ultra-thick microfiber Vinyl Cleaner Cloth
  • Record Kabel Protector

6. Storing the record

Vinyl collection stored

Most DJs usually store their records on the shelves of their home DJ desk. However, there are numerous ways to store your records, but only a couple of which are actually proper. You’ll just need to avoid a couple of really obvious, yet pretty common mistakes, such as storing the records outside of their sleeves, stacking them, or storing them in a vertical position. 

  • Vinyl Positions: No matter how ‘light’ your records appear to you, a bundle of 10+ records feels pretty heavy to the bottom-most one and it will inevitably damage it. The best way to store your records is in an upright position, mainly because this will ensure that your records don’t warp or get scratched. 
  • Protective Sleeve: If you have plenty of vinyl records but don’t have all their album sleeves, you should ignore the urge to put two (or more) records in the same jacket. Records rubbing off of each other are damaging each other, let’s put it plainly. We highly recommend you checking how to choose inner and outer record sleeves.
    You can always build your own album jackets; in fact, most people who don’t own corresponding sleeves do that. Such ‘personalized’ sleeves can be made of pretty much any soft material; most people go with paper as it’s easiest to cut out and ‘mold’. 
  • Storage: The last thing you should know about storing your records is how to pick a good spot. You don’t want them to be standing in ‘harm’s way’, which is why most people usually place their record collection in a special room. If you can’t spare the room, simply make sure that they’re out of reach of your pets and children.

Wikihow has a better way to explain how to protect your vinyl records. As 

Frequently asked questions:

Can you use soap to clean vinyl records?

In short, you can use soap to clean your records, but it’s much better to use specialized cleaning solutions that will not leave any type of harmful residue behind. 

Can I clean my records using household tools and items?

Generally speaking, you have everything you need at your home – a clean piece of cloth, some water, and a towel are all you need. Again, using designated tools will improve the longevity of your record collection.

Can water damage a vinyl record?

Cold, ‘dirty’ water can damage a vinyl record; consider using lukewarm distilled water with ‘soft’ cleaning solutions.

How to store your vinyl collection?

At first, you must use inner and outer record sleeves to protect them. Then use a storage box to archive your types of vinyl and store them in a display shelf for easy access.

Can you clean vinyl records with Windex?

Windex or any other commercial cleaner is not recommended for cleaning and maintaining your record collection. The included chemicals can damage your record’s protective coating and leave a  residue that will be impossible to get rid of.

VIDEO: best practices for cleaning, and storing your vinyl records:

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