Here's a great discovery for those of you who, like me, prefer to hand-wet-scrub your LP's with a velvet brush (I use the Disc Doctor's), maybe as a preliminary step to use of an LP cleaning machine.
It's long been a minor problem as to what to use for a suitable work-surface for this task. If you have a sturdy cleaning machine with a full 12" platter, you could use that. But if your machine vacuums from the underneath or cleans both sides at once, this won't apply. You can spread out newspaper or a towel, but that leads to lint contamination. What I used was a rubber mat made expressly for this purpose from the 70's, or you could just use an inexpensive spare rubber TT mat. This works OK, but if you're like me and you prefer to saturate the record surface with fluid to really float out loosened debris (I use cheap isopropyl alcohol/purified water, so this doesn't break the bank), the mat approach runs the risk of excess fluid migrating under the record and wetting the down-turned label. Plus, equally reaching all angles of the record surface with the brush is made easier if you rotate either the record or the mat, but that can be a little clumsy with this setup.
Now I've found a better approach. The good news is that it's cheap ($10) and works like a charm. The bad news is that you can only get these items by actually going to an IKEA store - they are not available online or through the catalog, I've checked. I know many of you won't live near an IKEA showroom though, so if demand exists I am willing help interested people out with this, just let me know.
My find consists of two separate items: the "IKEA/PS Underbar" child's seat cushion, and the "Snudda" lazy susan. The Underbar is a 12" wide, 3/4" thick disk made of EVA foam with an upper surface of spaced raised bumps about 1/2" in diameter and 1/2" apart. (Note that there are two surface-texture variations of this product: the one with the bumpy surface, and another one with raised, wavy, continuous broad lines instead; you want the discrete bumps, which can't conduct excess fluid along the underside of the record toward the label.) EVA is the lightweight, durable, cushioning foam material used for the midsoles of athletic shoes. It is highly hydrophobic ('beads' liquid) and seems unaffected by the usual mild solvents and detergents one would use for cleaning PVC.
You can link to a picture of this item here: IKEA/PS Underbar cushion
(click on 'enlarge image' for a better view). As you can see, these are only $2.99 each and come in a variety of fun colors. I chose basic black (the colors are molded-in, not surface-applied), on the theory that this will best show any surface contamination indicative that the mat needs to be rinsed off. The ring-shaped cut-out for carrying or hanging that you see in the picture does not protrude above the plane of the raised bumps or in any way detract from the cushion's functionality in this application.
The Underbar was the first of these two items I spied in the store, and as I immediately thought when I saw it, you could just stop here and have a pretty good LP-cleaning work surface - one better than the dedicated (but long-discontinued) product I had been using. But continuing on through the showroom, I stumbled upon the other product that makes using the Underbar twice as good as it would be on its own.
The Snudda lazy susan is a kitchen accessory consisting of 16"-diameter upper and 7"-diameter lower concentric circular flats, each about 5/8" thick and made of a light-colored, tight-grained hardwood that looks like it may be birch, smoothly-finished and without stains or varnish that I can detect. The lower disk has a grippy rubber ring attached to its underside to positively locate it on your work table, while the upper disk is a plain, flat circle with a nicely rounded edge. The two platters are joined in the center by a very smoothly-rotating, heavy-duty, low-profile ball-bearing swivel of about a 2" diameter, and together they rise about 1 1/2" above your tabletop, or 2 1/4" with the mat in place. The whole lazy susan assembly is very sturdy and solid-feeling, so you can bear down on it without instability or fear of breakage, and it spins freely and easily with very little noise or play. Unfortunately, this item is not pictured on any IKEA website, but it looks very nice. It sells for only $6.99, less than you could home-make an equivalent for (just the swivel bearing alone is probably worth almost as much).
When I got these two items home from the store, my first intention was to somehow glue the centered mat to the top of the lazy susan. I might still decide to do this, but have learned that it is not really necessary. Although the mat is very lightweight, it is sufficiently grippy on its finely-ridged underside that you can clean LP's just by sitting it in the middle of the lazy susan turntable and going at it. This way, any fluid that gets between the two surfaces while you're working can be wiped away once you're done by simply lifting away the mat (this also aids in rinsing off the mat). If they were to be glued together, I think I'd want to use a silicone sealant to caulk around the mat's edges so fluid couldn't hide in between, trapped against the wooden surface of the lazy susan. Then I might even try to rig up some kind of central spindle with which to positively locate the record. Without going to this trouble though, expect that you will have to make the occasional small adjustment to keep the mat well-centered on the lazy susan.
The cleaning technique is simple. The record exactly covers the surface area of the 12" Underbar mat (there is a central bump on the mat which will show through the record's spindle-hole), and you're left with a 2" broad overhanging edge of the 16" Snudda turntable platter with which to grab onto using one hand. Apply your cleaning fluid to the record surface, and holding your brush lightly against the record surface in one position, angled-in slightly from the record's edge, gently spin the lazy susan platter around until your fluid has thoroughly coated the entire record surface, staying a bit away from the label. Then firmly grip one side of the platter to stop it spinning, while you scrub about 1/4 of the record's surface on the opposite side (as I'm right-handed, this means I'm holding the platter still on the left-hand side while I'm cleaning the record with my right hand 180 degrees opposite, for side-to-side stability). When that area of the record has been cleaned, simply let go with your gripping hand momentarily and use the brush against the record to rotate the whole assembly 90 degrees to the next cleaning position before grabbing on again. There is never any need to touch the record or mat with your hands while cleaning is this process, only your brush and the lazy susan turntable. As long as you're reasonably attentive to pressing straight down and making a concentric brushing motion, the mat will not slide around on the platter away from center while cleaning, and the record will not slide around on the mat even though there is no spindle. After you've finished one record side, you can then vacuum-clean that side immediately, but I recommend turning the record over and completing the other side in the same manner before proceeding further. The raised texture of the Underbar mat keeps things from getting messy and re-contaminating the record or wetting the labels, and waiting to vacuum or hand-dry until after you've wet-scrubbed both sides in succession prevents the mat from spot-wetting an already dried side during the middle of the procedure.
With this setup I am cleaning my new-used records better and faster than I ever have before, and feel more organized and in-control doing it while not having to be as concerned about fluid-damaging the labels. I realize this will not be for everybody, particularly those of you who already have a well-established cleaning routine that doesn't include hand-scrubbing. But if you're like me and frequently buy bunches of old records in various states of cleanliness ranging all the way down to pretty filthy, and have found that hand-washing is an indispensable adjunct to machine-cleaning or vacuuming for satisfactory results, I can't recommend this arrangement highly enough for the minimal investment involved (excluding brushes of course). If you're interested and live near an IKEA store, go look for yourself and you'll quickly intuit what I'm so enthusiastic about here. If you don't live anywhere near an IKEA but think you want to try this out, drop me a line and I'll be glad to assist you in acquiring your own Underbar + Snudda setup.
Happy record hunting and listening, Zaikesman.