Collecting records is fun. Vinyl, however, requires special care. For those new to vinyl, here are some tips for maintaining vinyl records:
Clean Vinyl Properly
If you buy used vinyl you especially need to be aware that dirt, dust and oil will be present. That will all damage your stylus. So wet-cleaning cleaning is important.
Dust your vinyl with a carbon fiber brush before commencing to wet-clean/deep clean your vinyl. If you don’t dust first, you risk forcing the dirt and dust further down into the vinyl’s grooves.
Online experts report that a vacuum-based cleaning system is best for cleaning vinyl. These systems suck up any excess applied cleaning solution along with the dust and dirt. If you cannot afford one of these you can try what’s known as a “manual record cleaning machine” like the Spin Clean Record Washer. These machines literally bathe your vinyl with a blend of distilled water and cleaning solution. (If you must clean your vinyl entirely by hand with a cloth and solution then avoid tap water because it might contain lime scale or mineral deposits that can damage vinyl.)
Don’t Play Vinyl With A Dull Needle
Experts agree that cartridges can last for years but the needle needs to remain sharp. As a needle dulls, its surface area increases. This increase can negatively impact on the grooves in the vinyl and cause damage.
Use Polyethylene Sleeves/Don’t Leave Your Records Out
Play your records and then immediately put them back in their sleeves to decrease the chances of scratching the vinyl. More importantly, remember that paper inner sleeves don’t fully protect the vinyl from chemical reactions and dust. Instead, use polyethylene lined sleeves. The linings of these sleeves are not only soft but they keep static to a minimum.
Don’t Stack Your Records
Vinyl records are actually made of “polyvinyl chloride”. It’s malleable and soft. Stacking records can damage the shape of the vinyl and permanently distort the sound. It’s best to store them vertically but not too tight as this too could cause damage.
Don’t Expose Vinyl To Heat Or Moisture
Vinyl records, just like most types of plastic, have a very low heat capacity. They will start to melt once the temperature hits 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t store your vinyl anywhere close to such things as heaters, ovens or even anywhere that receives direct sunlight.
Moisture can also ruin your collection. Do not store them in proximity of any water supply or on the floor of a basement or garage.
Additional Vinyl Care Tips
Both before and after you handle your records, remove surface dust with a brush. You may also wish to wipe them down with a fiber-less cloth (such as an eyeglass cloth). The idea is to keep dust particles out of the sound grooves.
Handle your records by the edges. Put them away, after you play. Use airtight boxes or poly-sleeves for long-term storage of your vinyl collection. Vinyl records aren't CDs. You cannot fix them by applying toothpaste. Once you scratch a record the show's over, music fans.
Jessica Kane is a music connoisseur and an avid record collector. She currently writes for SoundStage Direct, her go-to place for all turntables and vinyl equipment, including VPI Turntables.