Suggest you go to the Discussion Forums and type in"record cleaning" in the Archives. There's a ton of info here.
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I'm sure that some LP purists will scream bloody murder, but for really dirty records you can literally wash them under luke warm ordinary water in the kitchen sink. Use dishwashing soap, and some kind of fine brush or velvet cloth to wipe in the direction of the grooves. The hardest part is drying them off without getting fresh lint on them. If you put them back into the old record sleeves you will have the dust problem all over again. Don't use too hot water, or you will warp them. Some folk would play the record while it was still wet...this was supposed to sound good. Surprisingly I never noticed much difference, wet or dry.
Water with soap is not enough for dirty or new records.Unless you want to use,say,Disc Doctor or Last cleaning fluids and brushes,I suggest a mixture of 25% of alcohol and 75% of water,preferably distilled.But I would not use it myself for rare and valuable records,just in case.I would use Last for them,a fluid proven for decades.I sometimes use a WET towel to wipe most of the water off and then dry the records in the air.Apply as little pressure as possible while wiping off;wet towel should not scratch, but be careful.You can also damage the labels with water.
save yourself a few bucks from all these fancy cleaners. As Eldartford said, wash your records with warm water and dishwashing detergent works well with a velvet brush/cloth. The biggest trap is not to let your records just lie there and dry, otherwise you'll have watermarks left on your records and all these efforts wasted. After washing those dirty vinyls I dry them with towel and then spray them with a mixture of about 70% alcohol and 30% distilled water. So they will dry up in no time and you can happily put them back in their sleeves or play them straight away without pops and ticks.
I clean my records if I know cleaning will save them.
If cleaning will not save them I simply let them go to the backyard and replace them with better copy if neccessary.
Having established a great record collection, I acquired VPI HW16.5 and cleaned almost the whole collection whereever it was neccessary using VPI supplied liquid and than acquired a gallon of Nitty Gritty fluid.
Than I sold VPI since my record will only need sweaping for I guess next 10...12 years. They're all stored in polylined sleeves in good jackets(I always repair edge-,corner-, and ring- weared jackets with masking tape to preserve its life).
There seems to be a lot of approaches to cleaning records. Some are sound and others are just downright destructive. I suggest checking out the thread on this site called "record-playing rituals". There is a debate as to whether using alcohol is a wise thing especially anything more than a 10% solution.
I've used several of the above methods with pretty good results. The one that works best for me is the "DECCA" carbon fiber brush followed by a Gruv Glide treatment. This method for me actually makes the record sound better, and the static is virtually eliminated. I did not get good results from the discwasher D4 fluid & brush, it just lined up the dirt, and did little to get rid of the static problem.
Essential groove has a the lowest price I found on gruv glide www.essentialgroove.com, or go to www.gruvglide.com
hope this helps, happy listening..
Jfrech suggested the Premier record cleaner and I would agree with him. I use it in conjunction with a Sota record cleaner. I pretreat with the Premier and then use the Sota cleaning fluid.
I have been quite surprised by how well this product works on old and appearantly beat up vinyl.
I know you don't have much money in your TT but it would still be a good idea to look into a used record cleaner. The VPI you mentioned is a great cleaner, even at that price, but there are many more including the record doctor which cost considerably less and will keep your collection in good shape for years of continued listening. Playing a dirty record can/will damage both the LP and the cartridge. Regardless of the method you use do a good job a cleaning the LPs and you will ultimately be much happier with what you already own.
The approach of one anal analogist (VERY LONG)
OK, I will make a very brief visit here and offer some tips that I have picked up myself and have learned from others over the years. They may or not prove useful to you. It is fine to use less exotic methods and solutions for cleaning your LPs but, in the end, if you decide to acquire more and more vinyl and you want to do the best job possible, obtaining a vacuum cleaner and using quality solutions of some sort is a very effective INVESTMENT. Many, though not all, of the methods commonly suggested do little more than push old dirt and grime around and around in the grooves, not cleaning, and possibly doing serious collateral damage. On the other hand, a vacuum cleaner will lift out this grime, in solution, and carry it away. It is also difficult to rinse sufficiently based on the usual suggestions, with a residue and sonic signature left behind.
I will detail my record cleaning regimen. Mine is basically a two-part process, depending upon the filth of the LP. Use any of what seems to make sense for you. Or, ignore it all!
PART ONE SINK CLEANING
The first part of my regimen is used for any record that has come from a flea market, Goodwill, etc., or a record that has not been played in years and there is some question as to dirt and dust in the grooves. This first part could be employed as a total cleaning method if one decided not to obtain a vacuum machine.
There are a few necessary things you will need:
A pan to hold solution one of those 6X12 metal or glass meat loaf pans works well. I would suggest a dedicated pan for this. If you use it to cook in, there may be residual grease left behind.
A lint-less terry cloth towel or other cotton cloth for drying.
A brush for cleaning. Go to the Home Depot, Lowes, or whatever, and buy one of those very soft painting pads with a handle. These have a flat base about 7 wide. Be sure to get the one with the foam pad inside that has a very fine and soft cover on the outside. DO NOT use the ones that are foam only. They usually are packaged as fine, medium, and coarse, depending upon the painting intended. For THIS purpose the coarse works the best as coarse as that might sound! :-) These can be had for about $6-7 and will be the only pad you will need. They are almost the perfect width to span the recorded area of the LP, have a comfortable handle, will NOT scratch, and are easily rinsed and cleaned when you are finished. If you are anal, get two one for washing and one for rinsing.
A slightly stiffer brush for cleaning stubborn spots. A stiff bristled paint brush or a carbon fiber brush works well for those small spots of guck that you will often find on a used LP like when someone has placed food-laden fingers or other unmentionables on the vinyl.
A GROOVMASTER. I find this to be an indispensable tool for hand cleaning records. There is a guy in Massachusetts who sells these on E-Bay. Just go there and search under groovmaster. It will cost you $25-35 depending on bidding but is worth its weight in gold. You could probably make one, but buying one is easier. The Groovmaster is basically two acrylic discs, each with recessed circular grooves that contain rubber o-rings on both sides. These discs have a threaded rod that runs between them with handles on each end. One side of the discs is for LPs (larger o-rings), the other for 45s (smaller o-rings). You put one disc on each side of the record and then screw the handles together. This tool provides ultimate security against getting fluid on the label you can hold the records straight under running water. Plus, it provides a handle so that you neednt ever touch the vinyl with fingers while cleaning. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I only wish I had the patent on this device.
A dish rack (optional). Use any of the many racks designed for dishes to be placed after washing. Use one that is rubber/plastic coated and has the little channels for holding plates in an upright position.
So, now begins the cleaning. Take your loaf pan and put JUST A SMALL SQUIRT of mild dish washing detergent in the bottom (I use Dawn because it has a grease cutter). Then fill with just warm water and mix. Place the Groovmaster on an LP. You will now have a round handle from which to hold the record. Turn on the faucet so that the water is just warm, not hot. Give the LP a thorough rinse without using any brush use your spray head if you have one. Then, dip the paint pad in the soap/water solution to get it good and wet. Make a single circular pass around each side of the LP, following the grooves and using light pressure. If you want you can let the soap/water solution soak on the LP for a minute or two. Then rinse the LP and the pad. Now, dip the pad back into the soap/water again and, using more firm pressure, work your way around one side of the LP in short circular (with the grooves) scrubbing strokes, following the grooves around the record. When youve made a full circuit, rinse the pad, redip in soap/water, and repeat on the other side of the LP. Follow with a THOROUGH rinsing of the LP under the faucet. Use a spray head if you have one. Here, you can also use an additional paint pad to help with the rinsing if you remember to rinse it completely after each side. I find that I do not need to do this using a spray head.
If you have a very stubborn spot on an LP, you can give it particular attention. I have made a solution containing 3 parts water and one part DIRECT vinyl tile cleaner. Or, better yet, use Record Research Deep Cleaner. Put the solution in a spray bottle, spritz the affected area, and let it soak awhile. Use the stiffer brush to then gently remove the gunk. Some have said that using an old water pick with this solution also works well. I have even heard of people using wood toothpicks to carefully run with the grooves to remove gunk. Whatever the method, make sure to carefully rinse when finished. Now, some will hold that you should use distilled water as a final rinse because tap water can leave residue. I do not do this because I follow up this cleaning on a VPI machine. If this is the end of the cleaning for you, the use of distilled water as a final rinse might be in order.
After both sides of the LP are cleaned and thoroughly rinsed, remove the Groovmaster and carefully lay the LP toward one end of a large towel that you have spread across a firm flat surface. Fold the towel up over the LP to make it a sandwich. Then, use light pressure to blot the LP with the towel. When mostly dry, place the LP in the dish rack until dry or until you are finished cleaning other LPs. There may still be a hair of lint or two on the LP when finished. If so, use a carbon fiber brush to clean the surface of lint. Then, place the LP in a new, CLEAN inner sleeve of your choice. At this point, try the LP on your rig. If all sounds quiet, thats it. There are times when two or three cleanings are needed. Dont give up on an LP if there is still some noise after the first pass. But, if a couple or three of cleanings dont do the trick, assume groove damage and get another copy. All of this effort will depend on what level of noise you are willing to accept, how easily the LP can be replaced, the value of your stylus, etc., etc.
PART TWO VACUUM CLEANING
I use a VPI 16.5 as a follow up to STEP ONE for records that started out as very dirty and as the only step for new or relatively clean LPs. The use of this RCM or any of the others is pretty straightforward, most choices being limited to the fluids used. Personally, I do not like the alcohol-based solutions and have found through MANY trials that the Record Research products are the best in terms of effectiveness and for not leaving a sonic signature behind. I use Record Research fluids, only. I buy the Deep Cleaner (16 oz. - $25) and the Vinyl Wash (32 oz. $25). Never been able to find it cheaper but would love to hear of cheaper sources!
The following assumes a hand cleaning RCM, not the VPI 17, where the cleaning and vacuuming is done by the machine, itself. These machines are great and recommended, though. I just couldnt cough up the $1K when I bought my used VPI 16.5!
I begin by placing the LP on the platter and screwing down the knurled, threaded keeper. As a side note, I always begin with Side A(1). It may seem silly, but if you are cleaning a number of records and have kids coming in, the phone ringing, etc., it is easy to forget whether you have done one side or another.
First, I apply some Vinyl Wash (VW) to the leading edge of a Discwasher brush (the one with wooden handle and attached pad). Turn on the machine and apply the VW to the LP to collect any small amount of lint or dust and to thoroughly wet the vinyl (recommended before applying the Deep Cleaner (DC)). While still wet, I use a carbon fiber brush to apply DC to the LP and give it a good two or three cleaning spins. While the LP is usually free from serious grunge after STEP ONE, or if new, the DC assures that any mold-release agents are expelled. After the DC is applied, I give the LP one or two vacuum spins.
Then, I like to give the LP a first rinse using the VW on a clean, separate LAST pad. I like the LAST pad better for the rinsing as I think the cleaning has been done and I am not as concerned about getting to the very bottom of the grooves in this step. I apply a generous squirt of VW and give it three rinse revolutions, followed be one or two vacuum spins.
Finally, I repeat this process using another separate LAST pad with a little less VW and then three vacuum spins to get the record good and dry. A little caution here is necessary. The VPI manual states that you should not do too much dry vacuuming so as to avoid record damage and/or static buildup. Let your good judgment be your guide in striking a balance between this and assuring that the record is dry. When satisfied, place the LP in a clean record sleeve.
One note, I always remove the vacuum wand assembly and use the open hole to vacuum the wand strips and all cleaning pads after each LP.
One can also try to clean inside of old covers if they contain a lot of dust. Holding the cover upside down and tapping on the spine will do a decent job. If you want to go crazy, I have used an old thin, flat upholstery tool on my vacuum cleaner that I drilled a series of holes along its length. Just be careful not to damage the spine or seams.
There are two other steps than can be done if you want to spend the money and feel it is effective. One is to use LAST Record Preservative easy to apply while the LP is on the platter AFTER cleaning. The other is GruvGlide which can be applied easily at this point, as well. I will not enter into the debate regarding the merits of either product here, though. To each his or her own on this one!
Cost? I can do about 200 LPs with the Record Research cleaners. That comes to about two bits per LP. The painting pad cost me $7, the Groovmaster $32, the Discwasher $17, the LAST pads $20, the VPI 16.5 $375. I have cleaned just over 900 LPs using these materials about 50 cents per record with the marginal cost decreasing each time I clean another record. Add another 25 cents for an inner sleeve and we are talking, roughly, $1 per record.
There are MUCH cheaper methods than this, I will grant to you. If you decide to brew your own solutions and/or eschew a RCM, you can get off for much less. However, this method works for me and VERY RARE is the case that I have even minimal surface noise when following this routine. Hope this is of help to someone, anyone!
BTW, I would be remiss when discussing Record Research products if I did not mention the #9 stylus cleaner. It is THE best product for cleaning styli, IMHO.
4yanx, Excellent response. Often, I come across LPs at various antique fairs. They were generally in good shape except, they would be FILTHY. Filthy beyond what any VPI could clean. I would reluctantly pass them up. After reading your "process", I'll revamp my method of thinking.
You may have read my post "processing" CDs. Ya know? It works. So I'll continue to do it. Your small investment in time, elbow grease and minimal cash, no doubt, yield great results also.
Great contribution, Thanks.
I will second the plans for DIY cleaner that Teres points to. I built one myself using the guts from a Hoover upright. Loud as hell but it does a great job. Mine is a manual spin. I am keeping my eye out for a disposable TT that I can snatch the platter and drive motor out of to add to the mix. I must say that it really helps to have a circle cutting jig for either a band saw or a router if you have to fabricate a platter. All I need to play now with is the solutions and cleaning brushes I use. I have found that a flooding with distilled water after cleaning really helps not matter what solution I use.
5 minutes is nothing relative to the results you are more than likely achieving. I'm running about 3 minutes per CD. I do two at a time. I do new CDs as soon as I get in the door. If I am doing a single newly purchased CD, I also do one of my older ones. I've done about 400 of about 900.
I got a long way to go.....
4yanx....Relax!...In a casual way I complement you on the comprehensive writeup about cleaning records. If you enjoy cleaning records that's OK with me. People with antique cars spend more time polishing them than driving.
Does music exist to serve as a test signal for audio equipment, or does audio equipment exist to convey music? Can we agree to disagree?
Have you or anyone else considered a mail-order record cleaning service for lazy blokes like me. It seems that you have the equipment, experience and enthusiasm for such an enterprise.
There were a few responses in which people described or put links to "building your own record cleaner". Has anyone who has done this seen good results? It seems like the concept behind a VPI cleaner is fairly simple. It's basically a turntable with a vacuum stuck to it. I've narrowed down my options to building my own, buying a used VPI 16.5 , or a Nitty Gritty 1.0. Also, thanks for all the responses--they helped me (and probably others) a lot. Especially 4yanx. My mom has been asking me why I spend so much time on vinyl, so I explained your routine to her, and that put it in perspective.
Let me cast another vote for the Disc Doctor products. My budget for stereo stuff is very limited and I've tried a number of low budget solutions to lp cleaning (orbitrac, diy cleaners, etc.) I've found the DD stuff to be the best for the money. You could get a qt. of the DD stuff, some new vrp sleeves and a carbon fiber brush for around $100. I use an old tt as a cleaning station. I apply the DD solultion with the supplied brushes, clean off with toilet paper, apply distilled water, vacuum mostly dry*. and allow to completely air dry in a dish rack.
*I bought an extra wand for my wet/dry vac, blocked off the end, cut a slit in it, and attached felt to the contact surfaces--works great. Feel free to email me if you have any further questions.
Save your money for buying records. Here's my cheap-o method that works wonders on my old records. I got a crevice tool formy sho vac and plugged up the end with a bit of wood, then cut a slot about record width on one wide side using a roto-tool. I then used two sided foam core adhesive tape (you can get this at most drug and hardware stores as it is used to stick things to the wall)on either side of the slot and put some felt on top of this. I attached the tool to my Sears wet/dry shop vac which,with its 3hp motor will suck up a VPI 17 record cleaner for lunch.
To clean records, I simply place the record on a felt mat and spray it with my home-made record cleaning solution (mostly distilled water with some isopropyl alcohol and a drop or two of dish soap)I brush this in with a fine chinex bristle varnishing brush (new one of course)After letting it set for a few minutes,I suck it off with the crevice tool. To turn the record,simply lift up the crevice tool(the record comes with it because of the suction) turn it 1/8th turn and put it down again. No fancy turning motor is required. You can see the liquid being sucked towards the crevice tool around the record and its left dry after you pass over it. Finally, when I go to play the record, I give it a wipe with a record brush to remove any bit of felt that may have been left. The result is old records that are ABSOLUTELY quiet except for the tape hiss that is inherent to the recording (and scratches but I don't buy records that have them)
Total cost - about $12 for the crevice tool and misc. That doesn't count the shop vac but you could use any vac. The amount of water you suck off is trivial and evaporates in the process. If you are doing a lot of records at once, I would change the bag so it doesn't get moldy. Or buy a shop vac and it can do double duty helping you clean the garage (Try doing that with a VPI!)