90% is dirt, the rest fall into the categories of mishandling or defects. Very few LPs just simply wear out with play, unless played with cheap and/or poorly aligned stylus.
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IME there are four sources of pops and clicks
1. poor quality (mostly older) vinyl
2. manufacturing defects (not common, but less rare than we'd like)
3. groove grunge
4. grooves damaged by the user
Poor quality vinyl and manufacturing defects do exist, but I agree with Dan that 90% of pops and clicks result from dirt and its effects. Of vital importance is the fact that reason #3, which is preventable, will if not prevented inevitably lead to reason #4, which is permanent. This leads us to an inconvenient but irrefutable truth - playing any LP without first cleaning it is a form of user abuse.
A decent quality rig that's properly set up will not appreciably damage a clean record. I have hundreds of LP's that are as quiet as the day they were pressed despite hundreds of plays. They remain quiet because I cleaned each one before its grooves ever experienced that dangerous liason with a stylus.
Dragging a sharp diamond knife through a plastic groove does risk damage, but damage is avoidable unless the groove contains dirt. If dirt is present, however, the diamond will grind it against the groovewalls and that virtually guarantees damage - pops and clicks forever.
Wet clean and vacuum every LP (including new ones) before their first play and your LP's will be quiet.
Happily, a good enzyme-based cleaning system like the ones from AIVS, MoFi and Walker actually eliminate many existing pops and clicks. Certain biological growths within the grooves make hard, sharp shapes that produce sudden transients when the stylus has to jump over/around them. Enzymes remove many of these.
As an aside, the higher quality the cartridge and phono stage, the less annoying any remaining pops and clicks will be. Mechanical and electrical reasons for this have been discussed on threads here and elsewhere. Anyone who's compared multiple cartridges and phono stages has noticed that some are better than others in this regard. The best are amazing.
When I mean steam I'll say "steam". :-)
Unlike most who've tried it and reported results, we found steam cleaning did not match our existing process. Steaming was certainly faster, easier and less expensive, but it didn't meet our particular needs - which those who know us will tell you are nuttier than most.
The results we desire need four fluids, five dedicated brushes and six vacuum passes/side on a $2K+ Loricraft record cleaning machine. All this takes 20-25 minutes/side, which many people would find not worth their time. Over the years we've tried less costly RCM's, fewer and different fluids and reduced soak times, but the results suffered and we ended up recleaning the LP, which wasted more time and money than doing it right the first time.
This isn't to say that you or anyone need go to such lengths, though several other Audiogoners do. Your specific goal of eliminating the large majority of clicks and pops (90%+, as Dan suggested) can be accomplished with a 3-4 minute soak in AIVS's One Step Solution.
Vacuum removal of fluids is certainly best, and some machines do it better than others. You can mod a $25 Shop Vac from Walmart. You can buy a $2-3K Loricraft record cleaning machine. There are many RCM's in between, starting around $200. But even if you only wipe with a clean, microfiber cloth followed by air drying (as some steamers do) your records will be quieter and most large, sharp transients will be gone.
How much further you want to go is a personal choice, but no one need listen to clicks and pops. The only exception is an LP that's permanently damaged, which nothing will fix.
Thanks Doug and Rodman99999 for your comments, Im learning a lot this last week. Good to know that there are several options to get rid of (almost) all that anoying sounds that I thought are inherent to LPs. This is another reason to return to analog and maybe never back to digital. Honestly this last 3/4 days I have been listening several LPs and found some of them that sounds like heaven, higher, MUCH higher that their similar digital counterpart.