Sorry way too long to read. Especially about something as mundane as RC fluid.
55 responses Add your response
4yanx: I am puzzled! I seriously doubt that you could have seen this piece "word-for-word, on other sites or in other publications" unless it was actually my very own posts in another forum (Stevehoffman forum under the same user name):
I did give proper credit at the very beginning...to my own threads posted in SH, but I did not explicitly mention it by name because I did not want this to be an advertisement for another forum.
I sincerely hope you are not accusing me of plagiarizing myself.
Nrchy: OK, OK, I get it. It is way too long but I was absolutely sincere when I said that I rushed through this piece. The truth is this discussion (or any writing for that matter)could have been considerably shorter if a lot more time is spent editing it. I just did not want to spend that much time. Sorry.
I am glad to have read through it and printed it out for future reference.
(as to the molecules left behind, I always play immediately after washing as the LP stays in better (sounding) condition vs putting it away unplayed. I suppose I am heating/scraping away that layer by playing immedaitely, and I think it also helps remove some crud as that crud has some water etc still clinging to it, rather than completely dried up.
Justin time, Thanks for putting it down so we can all nibble at the text until we get it straight. Actually, many topics requiring a thousand word text do resist being reduced down to just a precious few words. That's what a picture is good for :>)
Bringing your information to this site from other places is great for those of us lacking time to search for ourselves.
Your much appreciated review does show nothing in life is ever as simple as it first appears.
Response to Rcziech about homemade fluids.
I agree with you that commercial RCF can be expensive. What you are paying for is not just the material but the expertise and the R & D work as well. That's why I make my own cleaning fluids.
Unlike most people, however, I have access to extremely pure water and alcohols (and any other solvents that I need) and a huge variety of esoteric surfactants to choose from which are structurally well defined, extremely pure and fully tested for performance.
I do not recommend that you make your own record cleaning fluids because like most people, you cannot get laboratory-grade chemicals and must rely on household products. When you do that, you cannot get the right ingredients, or the right purity, and you are also stuck with many known and unknown additives (colorant, perfume, solvent, enzyme, phosphate, etc.) that you don't want.
But if you must make your own cleaning fluid from household products, here is something that is pretty efficient for general record cleaning and pretty safe (disclaimer: the responsibility of using this product is yours alone):
1. 0.25 to 0.5% by weight of Woolite Fabric Wash (roughly 2.5 to 5 grams or 40 to 80 drops per quart of cleaning fluid). Woolite contains 20% or less of sodium laureth sulfate and sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate and no enzyme or phosphate. You may also use Dawn or Palmolive dish liquid which are more powerful cleaners (30 to 60 drops per quart). Dawn and Palmolive dish liquids are mixtures of nonionic and anionic surfactants, I believe, with 40% or less activity. They do contain many other additives as well (10 to 20% alcohol and, among other things, blue or yellow dye and perfume). The final active surfactant concentration in your cleaner will be approximately 0.05% to 0.2%, which is a good range for most cleanings. You may adjust the concentration to get the performance that suits your need.
2. 10 to 20% pharmaceutical-grade isopropyl alcohol by weight or by volume. You can get this alcohol at any drug store. The alcohol serves to reduce the risk of viscous phases formed by surfactants and some contaminants that are hard to vacuum. It also helps prevent excessive foaming as well as delay bacterial growth in your cleaning fluid.
3. About 80 to 90% water. Use the best de-ionized/distilled water with low residue that you can find to make up the rest of the cleaning fluid. I think grocery stores (and perhaps auto-part stores) carry these products in gallon jugs.
Other forum members might know of places where you can get chemical-grade surfactants and ultra-low residue solvents. I can't help you there because I never had to do it outside of my labs. I want to re-emphasize that I do not recommend that you make your own record cleaning fluids from household products because of too many impurities and unknown additives, but it you must, above formulation should work well and is pretty inexpensive to make. Of course I cannot guaranty the safety of using it even though I know it works fine.
Just don’t forget to rinse everything with distilled water and vacuum one final time.
Many thanks for the informative post. Can you assist those of us who do have access to reagent grade constituents so that we can minimize our leaning curve? Some recommended surfactants and detergents would be appreciated. For example, I have access to both Tween 20 or Triton X-100 along with deionized water and reagent grade isopropanol. I also have a bottle of Micro cleaning concentrate which says no residue and safe for plastics. Should I use it?
Mab33: Thanks. As incidental byproducts of my R & D work (totally unrelated applications) I have discovered several nearly ideal surfactants for record cleaning. They work at extremely low concentrations (less surfactant, less residue), provide ultra lower tensions (deeper cleaning) and can clean all kinds of oil including mold release without problems (no need for alcohol or two-step cleaning). Best of all, due to their highly unusual structures, these surfactants leave no sonic signature so they don't really require additional rinse with water.
If it sounds too goo to be true, it sort of is. Many of these surfactants are propietary molecules that we synthesized ourselves in the labs in small quantities for research purposes. A few are available in commercial quantities; they are very expensive specialty surfactants, although you need only about 4 or 5 drops per gallon of water for record cleaning so their material cost is basically irrelevent. The real cost is in the R & D work to study their properties, which is free for me.
I have used these very simple and very safe fluids to clean my own records for years with great success. I have patented several surfactants for other applications but I have never thought of producing commercila RCF because I am your typical research scientist who has no head for business. Besides, I don't think there is much demand for RCF to make it worthwhile. I may be wrong.
Mab33: I don't have my reference books with me at home and I do not recall the exact structure of the Tween 20 or Triton X-100. But I think they are both commercial nonionic surfactants of the nonylphenol ethoxylate types that are high purity. There are other similar commercial nonionic surfactans available such as Brij, Igepal, etc. which will also work. I think they differ in their alkyl chain length as well as in the number of ethoxy groups.
Generally, these Tween or Triton surfactants should work fine (at 0.1 to 0.2% active concentration in water) but they come in a huge choice of EO (ethoxy group) numbers with give them different oil/water solubility balance(HLB). Some will work much better than others for record cleaning but I have no way to telling which ones without looking up their molecular structures and running a few tests. They are definitely better than household cleaners.
Make sure you add some aclohol (10-20% IPA) to reduce the chance of making viscous goop with oily contaminants and also to help prevent biodegradation and bacterial growth (these surfactants will do that in a few months).
By the way, could you tell me how you can get these products? I usually got them as samples for R & D work in the labs but I never had to buy them as individual.
Any thoughts on using enzymes in the mix to remove mold/mildew that (supposedly) alcohol and surfactants are not too good at? (Such as Buggtussel's Vinyl-zyme, Audio Intelligent, or Phoenix cleaners)
Also, how about the medical grade detergents - some of which are specifically formulated for REPEATED use on expensive flexible plastic and rubber instruments such as endoscopes. Many of these are a potent combination of surfactant and enzyme. I would think that any significant removal of plasticizers would have been considered in formulation as a big No-No. Here's a couple of examples:
Or from the Alconox catalog: "Concentrated, anionic detergent for soak, manual and ultrasonic cleaning. Free rinsing to give you reliable results without interfering residues. Mild cleaner prolongs instrument life. Ideal for cleaning oils, particulates, silicon mold releases, buffing compounds and contaminants from glassware, metals, plastic, ceramic, porcelain, rubber and fiberglass. Excellent replacement for corrosive acids and hazardous solvents. USDA authorized. Dilute 1:100. pH 9.5
Answers for Zmrs13, Mab33 and Oplachip
Answer for Zmrs13:
With your background—frighteningly similar to mine—you won’t have any trouble making up your own RCF. I think your best bet is with the Triton.
Triton X series are nonionic surfactants (ethoxylated t-octylphenols). Like all nonionic surfactants, they work on the principle of hydrophilic-lipophilic balance or HLB, which is just a fancy way of defining the balance of solubility in oil and water. An HLB of 12 is in the middle of the range. I have worked extensively on these and similar surfactants (e.g., the Igepal CO series with a straight nonylphenol rather than a t-octylphenol tail) but I have not tested these surfactants specifically for their effectiveness in record cleaning.
The Triton X-100 may work just fine but you may have to try and compare three different Tritons to find the one that works best. They all have the same tails (branched octylphenol) which give them oil solubility and different heads (ethoxy groups or EOs) which give them different water solubility, solubilization power and foamability.
Triton X-114; tail = 7-8 EOs; HLB = 12.4
Triton X-100; tail = 10 EOs; HLB = 13.5
Triton X-102; tail = 12(?) EOs; HLB = 14.6
By the way, I think the Aldrich website makes a mistake and gives the formula for Triton X-301 (a sulfonate) instead of Triton X-102
You should use about 0.1 to 0.2% by weight of active surfactant. Though the tail is slightly branched (less chance of making viscous phase with oily contaminants), you should still use 10-20% IPA to help reduce bacterial growth and biodegradation of the surfactant.
The Tween is a sorbitan monolaurate, also a nonionic surfactant. It has a polysorbate or polyoxyethylensorbitan head (POE). I think Tween 20 may be too water soluble to be very effective. You may consider two other Tweens:
Tween 21; head = monolaurate; tail = 4 POEs; HLB = 13.3
Tween 40; head = monopalmitate; tail = 20 POEs; HLB = 15.6
Tween 20; head = monolaurate; tail = 40 POEs; HLB = 16.7
I have not used these surfactants myself for RCF but nonionics work similarly and I can’t see why one of the Tweens shouldn’t work, especially Tween 21.
Please remember that all these nonionic surfactants with ethyleneoxide (EO) groups are actually mixtures with Poisson distribution of EO groups. There are small fractions that are very oil soluble which could cause problem with extraction of plasticize given enough timer. So don’t leave the RCF on the Vinyl longer than necessary.
Finally, if you have access to product from Aldrich catalog, there are many other surfactants that are also worth considering.
Answer for Mab33:
Zmrs13 has access to Triton X-100 and Tween 20. You may want to contact Zmrs13 directly. Aldrich may let you order surfactants directly even though you are not with R & D or University labs. I got all my surfactants for my R & D work as free samples or synthesized them in the lab and never had to purchase them myself. Sorry I can’t be more helpful.
Answer for Opalchip:
I use surfactants as cleaning agents and alcohol as additive to ease vacuuming (less viscous phase) as well as to retard bacterial growth and surfactant biodegradation. They seem to remove most contaminants I’ve encountered on Vinyl, including mold and mildew. I have never used enzymes on Vinyl. Enzol and Medzyme commonly used in the medical field may do the job but I have no experience with them.
As for Alconox, I use it all the time in the lab as detergent for cleaning glassware. But I have never considered it for record cleaning because this is a commercial product, not a reagent-grade surfactant. The main surfactant is a dodecylbenzenesulfonate, a good but not great surfactant for record cleaning. It also contains sodium carbonate, tetrasodiumpyrophosphate and sodium phosphate as additives which are definitely not good for Vinyl sound.
Thank you Scott for your words of appreciation.
I really did not mind the negative responses. It's just not possible to please everyone and not everyone have the patience to read long writings these days, especially about arcane concepts in surface chemistry.
Unfortunately, my aim was not simply to offer tips about RCF; my main goal was to explain basic concepts that in the long run are more helpful to readers as they can make their own informed decision in a wide variety of situations. This kind of discussion requires space. No doubt this primer could have been considerably shorter but this meant spending a prodigious amount of time editing which, I must admit, I was loath to do—mental constipation usually causes verbal diarrhea.
In the whole scheme of things, if the information above helps just a few fellow LPs lovers get clean sound out of their Vinyl beauties and keep them safe for years to come, I consider my time writing this primer well spent.
Once again, thank you very much for you support.
Jyprez: Thanks. I am familiar with old RCFs like the First and Last fluids, and some newer RCFs like the VPI, DD and RRL. But I have not used the Audio Intelligent fluid.
I have refrained from making direct comments about commercial RCFs and will continue to do so because I want the primer to be about general understanding of how RCFs work and not an indictment or endorsement of any commercial products. Let me just say that they all have their strength and weakness. If you quickly review my summary in the primer, I am sure you can pretty easily draw the correct conclusion yourself about any of those products. I hope you don't mind.
While I was not busy doing real R & D work in the lab, I messed around a little with several common as well as exotic surfactants--I get most of them as free samples--and came up with quite a few outstanding RCFs. Unfortunately, I am your typical reseach scientist and have no head for business. I have no intention or desire to commercialize any of these products. I thought about patenting the formulations but didn't because I didn't think there would be much of a market for RCFs.
I am checking with a few people to see if it's possible for individuals not associated with R & D labs or companies to buy some common surfactants directly from lab suppliers. If this is possible, then I will recommend a few simple formulations and let you guys make your own RCFs that will be effective, safe and inexpensive. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
thankyou!! i appreciate a real expert taking the time to shed light on this very important issue for us vinyl lovers. even though your initial post was long; i felt that you gave the proper background so even a klutz like me can get a feel for cause and effect. i'll now go read the ingredients of all my various fluids and decide which to use when.
your communications here are particularly timely for me. i've been collecting records for about 10 years and have around 5000 so far. up until a few years ago i was constantly cleaning them (i've cleaned about 3000 so far).
due to other audio related projects and the noise level of my record cleaner i have not cleaned many for a couple of years. i have just purchased the Loricraft PRC3 (to replace my VPI 16.5) and plan to begin again in ernest cleaning prior to playing on a regular basis. i went with the Loricraft to get a quieter machine and i bought into the idea that their different approach to vaccuum cleans better.
i have a question for you since you seem to recommend a strong vaccuum;
do you have an opinion about which vaccuum approach is better......VPI or Loricraft?
with the Loricraft i purchased a 'group' of chemicals that are recommended for use in various situations. i wonder how close their chemisry will match the logic of your post.
A big thank you for this thread Justin_Time! Your right that the audiophile community needed an article like this. One of the audio websites should post your article or sticky it somewhere. Extremely valuable information.
In my quest for a diy record cleaning fluid I called around for Triton, distilled water, etc at differant suppliers locally and nationally. I had a really tough time trying to order in lesser quantities to make it worth it. I think the lowest quote for a quart of Triton was like around $40. Just to add a few drops to my RCF. Ouch. Then calling around for better distilled water than they sell at Walgreens was almost impossible to.
So I gave up on it and just went with 4 parts distilled water, 1 part Electronics grade 99% ISO Alcohol, 1 drop of Dawn dish detergent. From reading your article I guess this is a good formula. Then suck it all off with my DIY vacuum machine quickly. :)
Dear Justin: Great , great post. I think that is the most complete ( a bible ) information about wet cleanning LPs.
I use the dry technique to clean LPs that I take from Dr. Van denHul.
I use the wet way only in the new LPs or second hand " new " comers LPs.
My everyday clean-up is always: dry way. I'm happy with it. As a fact I think that the best LP cleaning procedure is what the stylus makes during playing. So, it is critical to maintain in pristine condition the cartridge stylus.
Well, this is what is working to me.
Regards and enjoy the music.
I hope you have some success finding a way for us to get some of the surfactants you think would be good. I appreciate your willingness to come up with some formulations for us as well! I would imagine if the volume required to purchase is large, like the quart of Triton mentioned by Stylinlp, there would be people here who would be willing to split the cost etc. to make it sensible. I would be willing at least. Thanks again.
Thanks a bunch. Lots of this is over my head, but I read every word with interest and a desire to find the best way to care for my precious LPs. Your time and effort is greatly appreciated.
What lead me to this thread, specifically, is how can I get rid of those annoying pops and crackles. You mention deep cleaning, micro particles etc. But which approach is best for removing the cause of the pops and crackles.
When you say "vigorous brushing" do you mean to say back and forth pressure with a soft cotton cloth, or a type of brush? One direction swiping? Please explain in detail the physical aspects of cleaning along with the ingredients, if possible (for us boneheads).
Is vacumming a must (I don't own one) or will manual/physical drying with soft cotton cloth be sufficient?
Any audiophiles are welcome to email me with their ideas/opinions, don't be shy!
Oregon—The best way to keeps your records free of clicks and pops is to take great care of them while they are still new—you may want to read my more recent thread on how to care for new records. Once the noises are there, they are very difficult to get rid of.
One way to reduce or eliminate the pops and crackles is to use a deep cleaning system, such as the RRL the Super Deep Cleaner followed by the RRL Super Vinyl Wash. There are similar commercial product out there that I am less familiar with. Some love the quiet sound of LPs treated this way, others—a small minority I must say—claim that the treatment deadens the sound a little. For very noisy albums, I feel deep cleaning is well worth any minor drawback.
The type of brushes to use rush is a controversial topic—like most audio topics—I would rather not get into. It is essential though to use a brush with very fine bristle—the high frequency grooves are exceedingly small, in the order of 0.1 micron in the top end. While applying the RCF, brush vigorously back and forth along the grooves to help dislodge small imbedded particles and contaminant film and help the surfactant do its job. Mechanical energy (elbow grease) AND chemical energy (RCF) are needed together for a thorough cleaning.
To provide easy, effective and safe cleaning, a record cleaning machine (RCM) is absolutely necessary. There are many fine RCMs (Nitty-Gritty, VPI, Loricraft) available within a wide price range ($300 to $2000). I feel that if you have more than 100 records, a RCM is a good investment. Some manual cleaning kits are far less expensive but not nearly as effective or easy to use. For general articles on record cleaning, you may want to check the following sites:
There is much useful information in these articles to help you get started on record cleaning. Just beware that some information is outdated, some is controversial, and some is plain wrong. You may have to dig a little deeper to get a broader view and make up your own mind about what to do. Look for the science, not the hype.
Good Luck and Happy Cleaning.
Sirspeedy. Most though not all surfactants used in RCF are bio-degradable. So most commercial RCFs use a preservative to extend the product shelf-life from several weeks to several years.
Most common preservatives used are EDTA or citric acid. If you make your own RCF, it will usually last from a few weeks to a few months without preservatives. You'll see some cloudiness and eventually grayish flocculants indicating decomposition and bacterial/fungal growth. So make up a small quantity at a time.
If you use a preservative, please stay away from harsh chemicals such as ammonia or acetic acid (vinegar). They work but their long-term effect on Vinyl may be harmful. Your LPs are too valuable to take this kind of chance.
Thank you, Justin_time.
I have long advocated (well, for a few years anyway, my theories are ever evolving) multiple cleaning steps and fluids to effectively clean a record. I have saved this treatise and expect to refer to it many times in the future!
I also applaud your lack of commerical brand reference; very professional.
I have posted my record cleaning regime a number of times at AA, which I will cut and paste here for sped redding sake:
It might be best to think of records as plate glass rather than pots and pans, but the point must surely be: they have a lot more on them than you think, and it takes SEVERAL steps to get it all off. Anyone thinking otherwise is deluding themselves.
Hi justin time, I have access to laboratory grade surfactants, alchohols and ddH2O de-ionized and what not, do you have any recipies/protocals that you prefer? I enjoyed your post, and was thinking about formulating my own solutions, but thought perhaps you might already have a few jems you could share.
Using enzyme based cleaning fluid I found a claim on Walker Audio which said
"That It is important to understand that the enzymes remain active for only about eight to ten hours before they die".
So does that mean the 1 gal of VPI cleaning solution I made up last year is doing sweet FA when it comes to cleaning my albums?
As I am no a chemist and no nothing about enzymes and there life span can someone elaborate?
Does a record cleaning fluid that uses enzymes only have a working window of 8 hours, or is this statement just marketing bull?
No, it's true. I work with enzymes. We keep them refrigerated as well.
So after they die are cleaning fluids that use ennzymes ineffective?
If so this is huge for all those sellers of enzyme based cleaning products.
How does this affect liquid concentrate vs. solid based cleaning products?
Justin Time may have known something about the chemistry of solvents and surfactants when he wrote this. But he didn't know very much about what goes into the mix that we call "vinyl", and he is apparently ignorant about what happens during the pressing process. His remarks on plasticizers and mold release are wrong.