Best cleaning fluid procedures with VPI HW16.5??

I need to buy more record cleaning fluid to use with my VPI HW 16.5 that I recently purchased. Obviously I'm thinking of the VPI fluid (& it's the cheapest), but I was wondering what other fluid might be better, like perhaps the Disc Doctor Miracle Record Cleaner? Also, does anyone else believe in the Michael Fremmer theory that one should clean records with an Orbitrac or something BEFORE using the VPI?
It sounds like a great idea, but pretty extreme to me.......most of my records are about 10-20 years old, but were basically well cared for. Years ago I used to use the Discwasher brush & fluid (which probably seems pathetic now), so I don't think most of my records are all that filthy & hopefully will not contaminate the cleaning pads all that quickly on the VPI??

Anyway, I've only had the HW 16.5 for a few months, so I'm looking for any advice on using it to best advantage. I've had a Rega P25 with a Benz Glider for over a year now so am enjoying "getting back into vinyl". Thanks!
steveaudio: i've owned a vpi hw 16.5. for the past 10 years, or so, i've used an hw 17f for record cleaning. for a long while, i used touromat (not sure it's available any longer). my cleaning fluid of choice now is made by record research lab. you can read about it at:

happy cleanin' and listening, kelly
Well, if you think Fremer's extreme...Yes, I would recommend using the Orbitrac before the 16.5. The theory is the felt strips on the 16.5 get dirty if you don't and then dirty up the rest of the records, which made sense to me, as did trying to preserve my Grado cartridge for as long as possible. Hence, I use the Discwasher first, then clean with Torumat, applied with new baby spit cloths(cotton, and cut into squares). No spare turntable, so I use the Orbitrac rubber mats and apply manually. Then rinse with triple distilled water. Dry with another piece of cotton if needed. Apply Disc Doctor fluid same way and dry with Orbitrac. Then on the 16.5 with VPI cleaning fluid. Gruv-n-Glide follows. I buy most all my records used from the used record stores locally. New ones get a Disc Doctor- Orbitrac- 16.5 with VPI cleaning. I get a good quiet background and good sounds. I admit to wondering if I could get the same results with less effort, and to having a backlog of stuff to clean, but I'm happy with the results and now that I've confessed my obsessive ways, I even think I feel better.
I have used the 16.5 for about 8 months and have used various techniques. But, this one seems best for really dirty records:
1- Take 'em to the sink and wash with warm water and any dishwashing detergent on a clean sponge to remove finger oils, dust and in-groove dirt. Rinse and wipe with diaper or cheese cloth. Use care not to get water on the labels.
2- Spray with Record Research Deep Cleaner and run the Orbitrac.
3- Spray again Record Research record cleaner and run the 16.5.
I have bought garage sale and Ebay records. Some of these (particularly the Ebay's) were totally unplayable until I started using this method.
I spray the fluids because it uses less fluid and spreads better.
I do a 2-step cleaning process. First, a wash with a solution of 90% distilled water and 10% isopropyl alcohol (the 90% pure alcohol, not the 60% stuff) mixed in an 8 oz squeeze bottle along with two small drops of shampoo (DO NOT use the kind with conditioner!) Use a liberal amount of this cleaning solution (it's cheap!) in conjunction with the 16.5 along with the brush, then complete the first step by vacuuming dry. The second step is basically the same, except to use about 10 to 12 drops of the Record Research product that Kelly mentioned.

If the record is really grungy, repeat the first step a couple of times and/or use the Record Research Deep Cleaner per their directions before the second step.

Seems like we all do at least two steps and probably get similar results. Try a few of the ideas and see what works best for you.

Never use a volatile alcohol on a vinyl record. Alcohol can only hurt records not clean them; it will make them harder and harder to keep clean by attacking the vinyl's natural protectant. Alcohol is an organic SOLVENT. Unless you have spilled something like paint or glue or some other organic material, you don't need a solvent. For strong cleaners, there may be a 0.001 - 0.002% of solvent added, but this is to help the surfactant dissolve better in water, and we're talking 1 or 2 drops per qt. All you need for records is a surfactant in water. Even the most critical lab analysis equipment, which uses vinyl tubes to hold samples, uses a surfactant and water solution. The beauty of vinyl is that dirt is very easily removed, but if you damage the vinyl surface by drying it out and causing cracks. I make 3 strenghts of record cleaners. The first will clean 99 out of 100 recors. It contains a surfactant for vinyl and water. You don't need anything else, if people tell you otherwise watch out. A gallon of vinyl cleaner should cost less than $20. Detergents like dish cleaner, are good for really soiled records, completely cover the playing surface on your VPI and let it soak for a while. I use 2 VPI cleaning machines; one for really dirty records, and one for everyday cleaning. The really dirty records get a second cleaning on the every day machine. Again completely cover the record and let it soak, I use these white felt brushes that someone sells in packs of ten before the actual vacuuming. You need to clean all brushes including the felt on the VPI regularly. Dirt particles on there can scratch the records and buildup of the surfactant can lead to surfactant remaining on the record and hurting the sound.

You are correct that alcohol dries vinyl. I use a small amount (<10%) to break down pollutants, skin oils, etc. A surfactant will not readily break these kinds of compounds down. VPI's own fluid has about as much alcohol (or more), or so I'm told. The Record Research Lab cleaner has some lubricating compounds added to it which restore any lost natural lubricants in the vinyl, making an assumption that some was lost in the first place by age or small amounts of a solvent. The RRL product also seems to pick up any residual surfactant.

I've been doing this for several years and have not noticed any drying of the vinyl and it has not affected sound quality. ("Dry" vinyl looks dull and somewhat grey and streaky. "Good" vinyl has an even, shiny black look.) The very first ones I did this way still look and play great!

Ah, but to each, their own.....


I really appreciate all the feedback......I have to admit I didn't know what I was getting into tho when I bought my 16.5. (I actually bought it to save time over just getting an Orbitrac--little did I know!) Thanks, Steve
It does save time- time being frustrated hearing snap crackle and pop, and adds much more time enjoying records you bought sometimes 4 for the price of a cd. That's what I like. Once the new " old records" are cleaned good, maintainence with Orbitrac/16.5 will keep them going. I use clean new sleeves after cleaning as well. Excitement awaits at the "New Arrivals" bin at the used record store. Enjoy.
10% alcohol is a lot. You usually don't need to break anything down on viyl because not too many things bond to vinyl. If some solvent is needed, it should be not very volatile. More than 99% of of records can be cleaned with a surfactant. Some may require soaking for longer periods; 15 - 30 min, but they usually come clean.

You're right about 10% alcohol being alot. I just mixed up another batch and it was actually less than 5%. It was just enough to get a faint odor and no more. I don't know of any other solvent that will dissolve readily in water, which is a necessity if one wants to the control volitility for this application.

A note on soaps (surfactants) is that more than a large drop of non-conditioning shampoo or a couple of drops of dish soap per 8 oz of distilled water will cause sudsing while brushing and vacuuming.

Might try first soaking the record with just soap and water for 30 minutes or so (maybe longer), as you suggested. Would you recommend a little bit more soap in the mix for the soaking stage?

If a record is really dirty, I use a stronger solution of surfactant. Only certain surfactants are good for vinyl. All of those are liquid at room temp. This is where a small amount of solvent helps get more of the surfactant into solution. I use thw white felt brushes that my dealer sells in 10 packs. I don't know who makes them. Because they're whit I can see if there is still dirt coming off the record. If there is I wash it again. I have occasionally had to wash records 3-4 times.
Bluesman- Thanks for all the information. You mentioned dish soap as a good detergent- any specific brands? Know of any other surfactants that will work? How much soap do you use for a given amount of distilled water?

Steveaudio- You seem a little overwhelmed by the extent of work some do to get a record clean. As you mentioned that your records are fairly clean to start with, one cycle with the 16.5 and the appropriate solution should do the trick.
The dish detergent is only used as the first pass for really dirty (especially greasy fingerprints) records. Use with tap water. They need to be rinsed off and then cleaned with distilled water or everyday LP cleaner. I find that really old fingerprint stains are virtually impossible to remove. So listen to determine if the dirty fingerprints are affecting the sound first.