Getting and keeping records clean................


I have my turntable on the way and my vinyl collection growing weekly. I am thinking I will need to get a record cleaning machine to enjoy vinyl to its full potential. What RCM are recommended by you? Is it possible to clean records by hand effectively? I wonder if I can clean my collection by hand now with disc doctor or similar and brushes? I plan on getting a record cleaning machine but it will probably take a little while before I can swing the dough for one. Any help would be greatly appreciated such as which cleaning solution to use and brushes and their source. Thanks again.
A friendly suggestion. Type the words record and cleaning and/or machine in the search bar and you will uncover over a hundred threads discussing the topic. You'll get more than enough information to help or confuse you.
If funds are limited, you might also do a search for a DIY RCM. You might find it will fill your needs for a long time. I built one a few weeks ago and it works very well, for very little time and money. As far as fluids, RRL (record research labs) and AIVS ( Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions) seem to be the commercial solutions of choice by many. I have been using AIVS and am very pleased with the results.
To make it simple for you - If you want to save money get Record Doctor II. If you want to pay more for convenience, get VPI's machine (its the most popular), but overkill IMHO.

And yes you need something with a vacuum suction cleaning by hand will be labor intesive and you'll have a hard time getting rid of the lose dirt in the grooves after cleaning. Some will argue, but for $200 you can have all you need.

I agree with everyone here!! from doing a search and finding hundreds( seems like thousands!) of info threads on the subject as 4yanx said- to using any of the cleaners types listed as long as you do indeed use a vacuum.-Ken
here's my personal progression: Disc Doctor fluids and the Disc Doctor brushes (best brushes around...) / Nitty Gritty Record Master, Disc Doctor Fluids and Disc Doctor Brushes / VPI 16.5, Disc Doctor Fluids and Disc Doctor Brushes / VPI 16.5 and Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions and Disc Doctor brushes.

With each step up the ladder my results have improved. If I were starting out again - I'd strongly suggest the Disc Doctor fluids and the Disc Doctor brushes until you can afford a RCM. Then move to a VPI and the AIVS fluids (and some ear-plugs... that VPI is LOUD!!!).
I have posted a picture of my DIY RCM. I would put it up against most's short of Monks or Loricraft. If you can come up with the vacuum I can find a way to box it up and put a hand-spinning platter on it. This offer open to any A'goner with feedback above 15. All you'll be out is the shipping. If you want something special, then we'll have to talk. You have to be willing to wait a couple of weeks, I do have a day job.
I have been hand cleaning my records for the past six months and really felt very happy with the results. It was time consuming but a series of cleans with various sollutions and most were very quiet. Last weekend I purchased a VPI 16.5 and with the RRL solution and VPI solution I am in awe of how much better they sound. It was the most significant upgrade I have made in audio ever. I have some Disc Doctor pads and solution and Audio Intelegence comming as well. I highly recommend a RCM. I am very very happy with my 16.5.
Get a VPI 16.5. If you're serious about analog it's a must have. There are many cleaning fluids: I like the Disc Doctor. Also you must check out Last Record Preservative. You put it on after you clean your records. Please keep in mind new records must get the same treatment. Last claims you can put their treament on and your records will be good for 200 plays. I went to a junky used record store in Chicago and the only thing that caught my eye was an old Mobile Fidelity of David Bowie And The Spiders From Mars. I cleaned and Lasted that record 5 years ago and it still sounds like new. In fact I think I'll go listen to it.... Best Of Luck
Hi guys,
I have had various vinyl rigs for 30 years. I now have lots of tables. I've never wet cleaned a record yet.
My friend who seems to spend more time with his Keith Monks
and flavour of the month fluid than listening, always comments that my system does not show up surface noise/vinyl roar like his does (whatever table/arm/cartridge combo I'm using).
I always thought if you kept the stylus clean (zerodust - I use zyx's)that was the best way of lifting crap from the groove.
I must try this but it will be a cheapo hand operated job for 'bargain buys' that need a clean.
Last Record record cleaner and applicators; there is no need for a machine unless you have the space and desire to spend materially more money.
I clean my records by hand and am very happy with my results. I use 4 "microfiber cloths", the 16" size available at many places. 1 I use as a pad on a firm surface, 1 I cut into small pieces as applicators/scrubbers and the other 2 I use to remove the RRl cleaners I like. First pad goes down followed by the record. Next, I apply a few drops of RRL Deep Cleaner and scrub pretty hard in a circular motion. Once I'm satisfied I've done a complete scrub, I use 1 of the cloths to really scrub dry the record also following the grooves. This is followed by repeating the process with RRl Super Vinyl Wash. I keep the cloths seperate so I don't mix them up and I store the cloths in seperate plastic containers. I usually just dust the records once clean with the DRY pledge cleaning cloths. Works great for me. Cheap to. You can also enjoy your music as you are cleaning rather than the infernal sounds of a vacume.
Short response, buy the Loricraft record cleaning machine and use with the Art du Son record cleaning solution recommended in TAS. The Loricraft makes other machines appear to be bad jokes and is easy to use. The best by quite a margin.
I would argue that the hand cleaning suggested by Wntrmute2, C123666 and Simon74 is very far from adequate for record collectors who are purchasing a significant number of used records. It may be satisfactory for them when cleaning their own well maintained collections but I would not hesitate to put hand cleaning to the test against even the most basic record vac when it comes to cleaning a jazz record that has been sitting in someones damp basement for 50 years.
Hi Jyprez,
I would agree with you - but find old jazz records like NOS tubes, usually a waste of money unless you have a machine that can repair years of abuse and another machine to fix noisy tubes would be a boon - I wonder, has anyone tried using these things as fairy lights - mines would be an expensive christmas tree !
Sure I could melt all the 'rare' vinyl I have bought into something festive - I sure wouldn't put it in the same room as my'record player'
Jyprez, just so you know, all my records are flea market finds or the like, there are VERY few that don't respond positivlty to the cleaning method I use. You've spent your money buying or your time building a RCM and so it is valuable to you. For those of us that are happy with hand cleaning don't disregard our experience. People swear those jars of rocks make a difference also.
try the Loricraft prc-4 and Aud' du Son cleaner...rcm comes with rc brush, cover and fluids kit...there are several different models and all are backed by 5 YEAR most things, you get what you pay for!! it's very quiet and has double suction and increased power.
good luck!
I have no doubt that the Loricraft and Clearaudio machines are the best, but for real world use, the medium price VPI16.5 or equivelant will be all you need. I have tried the loricraft, it's quieter perhaps easier to use, but I could'nt detect any great difference in results. So I would say VPI in the US, over here in Europe the Moth, about the same price as the VPI, but available in kit form at a £200 saving. I am useless at carpentry, but got it built and working, though it aint pretty. Again I don't know if its available in the US, but the wonderfully named Okki Nokki from Germany I believe, is very similar to the Moth/ VPI, but a bit more basic, at half the price.
Automatic record cleaning machines are a great convenience I suppose. I use a manual machine, the Record Doctor II, and I guarantee that with a little elbow grease and the right cleaning solutions, no machine will get your records any cleaner. You can buy a lot of vinyl with the money saved.
For very dirty records I use warm water with dishsoap and a very soft towel to dry them. A sponge works fine to clean the records. Towels are used to lay the record down to soak off the water. Cheap; recommended as the method by Last Record as well as Nick Gowan.

Once the gunk is cleaned off I just use the Last Record fluid with their applicator device as I posted earlier.
Wntrmute2 - I spent alsmost nothing on my RCM - just the cost of a crevice tool for my shop vac and some felt and double stick tape to adapt it for record cleaning. While I doubt it will outperform a Loricraft, I also think it will perform on par with the other similarly designed machines and I absolutely know from experience that it way out performs hand record washing.
With the Art of Sound, does one need to have a distilled water rinse?
Has anyone had the experience, with hand cleaning, of having the stylus becoming the final cleaner and eventually totally gunking up. I had to change cartridges-very expensive.
A VPI 16.5 is a must. It's up to you as to what fluid you use. I like the Disc Doctor. I've heard Record Research Labs is good. Also look into LAST record prservative. It's appled after you clean and dry your records. It chemically binds to the vinyl and prevents you stylus from gauging chunks of vinyl out of the record grooves. It's not cheap, but a must have. I've played records hunders of times with no wear, clicks, or pop. Also look into Stylast. You apply you've cleaned your stylus. Your stlylus gets super hot due to friction, in fact it momenralty mealts the groves as if goes by. Stylast prevents this. But you must be carefull you apply it to the stylus only. You don't want it travelling up the cantilever and gunk up thr works. Check out Last, Disc Doctor, RRL, the Zerodust sylus cleaner on the web. Good luck
Threads on record cleaning are always interesting. The topic is almost a religion and can draw heated debate. I think as much as any topic in audio, it illustrates how little hard data we have to make decisions with. We each try one or two or maybe even four alternatives. The outcome is so subjective. Maybe that's the way it is with most things.

Myself, I belong to the church of DIY. Gutted a Goodwill t-table, use the platter to spin the disc with a DIY cleaner of expensive water and alcohol and a dash of something or other (surfactant). Dry brush, wet it and scrub it, vaccum it with an old canister vac and crevice tool padded with velvet. I might make it into one box, but haven't yet.

The records usually sound better - more open, but sometimes more poppy - I guess I pull the dirt out of the pits in the groove. I think I am getting the records completely dry. Who knows if much residual liquid is left.

Why? Because I like the ritual. And liking the ritual, I think it makes it sound better, even when it doesn't.
I finally took the advice of the experts & bought a new VPI 16.5 RCM this afternoon from my local VPI dealer. He showed me how to use it properly & tomorrow I should be cleaning some of my collection & putting the records in new clean sleeves. I am really looking forward to hearing them once properly cleaned. Thanks for the help as always.
Congragulations on your new RCM the VPI 16.5. I think that most everyone on this site owns one or did at one time. I also put my vinyl into rice paper sleeves after cleaning, another expense but the way I figure it is that it comes in direct contact with the grooves should be static free.
You will get years of enjoyment out of your cleaner.
Happy Listening
I wanted to buy a Nitty Gritty Record Doctor for my first record cleaner but I can't find any one that sells them now. Does any one know where I can find one thanks.
Got my Record Doctor at Audio Advisor a long time ago. Record Doctors' were made by Nitty Gritty, pretty much identical to their higher end model minus the wood paneling for 1/2 the cost. Just chk'd real quick and while AA still sells NG, it seems like there's NO RD's still available.
Thanks I just have to find some one selling a used one.
I bought a KAB USA EV-1 a few years ago. It's basically a Nitty Gritty without an internal vacuum; attach your own. Costs about $170 or so.
SSo, has the steam cleaning craze faded?
"SSo, has the steam cleaning craze faded?"

Not for me. I first start with a steamer to loosen up any debris on the record. Then do my cleaning on a VPI 16.6. Then finish it off with a steam rinse.
I rather have a nitty gritty with a built in vaccume
Talk to Gayle Van Sycle at Nitty Gritty. She wiill sell direct if no one is in your area. Sometimes she even has refurbished units. I have owned two units; 2.5Fi and Mini-pro2 - both worked great.
Faded in popular discussion maybe. I still use it as part of my regimen with the 16.5, Disc Doctor fluids and Nerl reagent grade double rince. People tend to talk about steam cleaning in isolation. IMO it is an adjunct, a step in the process.
Thanks I talked to Gayle and she is going to call me later to see if she has enough parts to build one. She found a case with a chip out of the corner.
"Sso, has the steam cleaning craze faded?"

Nope. I use one every time before I vacuum. I was going to mention it, but somehow I lost my internet connection and posted at the same time. Odd.

Get a handheld steamer! I bought one for $25 or so. In conjunction with the RCM, it's by far the cleanest and quietest my vinyl's ever been. I've tried a ton of other methods, and nothing was as good as vacuuming. Steaming kicked it up several more notches. For $25 or so and more uses than just LP cleaning, you can't go wrong IMO.


If you're getting a Nitty Gritty, you may want to find an old turntable to scrub your vinyl on. I use a Technics SL-BD2 that the only thing that's still operable is the platter spinning. On a Nitty Gritty, there's no platter to lean on while using a little elbow grease, therefore the LP will bend a bit if you apply any pressure.

I was given a ton of old vinyl that sat in an attic for about 20 years. My fingers turned black by just pulling them out of the jacket. Dust, mold, and residue from all the inscense the guy's wife burned took their toll.

Rinsing in the sink, steaming, scrubbing, vacuuming, re-steaming and re-vacuuming brought them all back to as good as new.

Sorry for side-tracking.
The only trouble with cleaning on a turntable is that before you clean the other side of the record you have to clean the turntable.