A mold solution of bleach. Mix it with water and only use a damp cloth. Test first on a small area that will not show much. If it doesn't work make the solution a little stronger.
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There are different sorts of papers used to cover the cardboard on old jackets, and the same goes for inks. This means that even with experience gained the hard way, trying to clean up old jackets to valuable records is always going to be a dicey proposition. The easiest-to-clean surfaces are almost always those with the most "glossy" texture, with plastic-laminated (think old Impulse Jazz sleeves) of course being the best. The more "papery" and rough the surface, as well as the lighter the color or white, the worse the result likely will be if any liquid is applied, causing staining. Some color inks are also more likely to run or rub off than others, but again this is very hard to determine in advance. Other than urging you to try a small test swab in an inconspicuous area (Ha!), I would just say to stay away from solvents like alcohol and certainly from bleach, which if it's going to work on the mildew is going to do the same for the image. You can forget about doing much cleaning on a lot of back covers, which tend not to be glossy even if the front is (plastic-laminated excepted), and frequently have a lot of white space. Here my safest suggestion is just to moisten with water and wring out a soft white rag or paper towel, and try starting with lightly wiping a small area, moving on to a bigger area and more pressure if nothing untoward occurs. Check the towel to see if anything is coming off and move to new clean spot on it if it has, or stop altogether if nothing is coming off the jacket. If there is grease or oil-based soiling on the back cover, you can try this with a dilute solution of mild soap, again wringing it out until moist before applying. Once this is done, go over the cleaned area with a totally dry towel. But again, with many back covers you are better off doing nothing at all! (All of the foregoing also applies to that small percentage of non-glossy front covers, too.) With an average "gloss" of front cover, you can also try the above method, and oftentimes that will be all you'll need to do. Test a small area if you can for colorfastness, though - some cheaper inks disolve very easily and must be left alone. For a good quality typical front cover with a shiny substrate and better colorfastness that has heavy soiling, mildew, grease pencil, etc., the best cleaning agent I have found is heavy clear mineral oil. Oil disolves and lifts grease and dirt, and "polishes" the cover at the same time. A very little goes a long way, so apply the towel to the bottle mouth and turn it upside-down to wet a small spot of the towel. With many quality covers you can wind up doing a rather vigorous rubbing without causing damage. Keep moving to new clean spots on the towel as you reapply the oil, and watch out for white backgrounds, which can be made yellower and darker. After the surface has been treated, again wipe the remaining oil off with a fresh dry towel. Hope this helps, but be careful, err on the side of caution, and don't come after me if you screw something up even worse than it was!
Who, me? A couple of BTW's: Most of what I talked about concerns records from the early 70's, 60's and 50's (thin-jacketed 80's sleeves, for instance, tend to be colorfast and glossy all over; 40's jackets nowhere). For tape and label adhesive residue, forget about all of above, including alcohol, which will usually just move the adhesive around into a larger blotch if it does anything. If you are determined and willing to risk it, only WD-40 or a dedicated adhesive remover (I have a product called B'laster E-Z Take-Away, but there are others) stand a chance of disolving old glue, but be very conservative and only blot it up, don't rub. And if it looks like it ossified forty years ago, give up before you start. For pencil (and some dirt, too), a white draftsman's eraser can be of help sometimes; for ballpoint and magic marker, not. Good luck!
Wipe off as much as possible with a clean dry cloth and spray a FINE mist of Lysol on to the jacket from a distance, so as not to soak the jacket. Then let it air dry. The problem with mold and mildew is it keeps growing back if you don't kill it. I have never ruined an album cover with Lysol.Just go easy with it. If you soak it, the paper cover will lift off the cardboard. The fine mist of Lysol will kill the mildew and air drying allows a light residue of Lysol to remain on the jacket to inhibit further growth problems. Keep any mildewed albums separated from other albums so as not to "infect" any other jackets with the problem. It is a living thing and will move onto your other albums.
OK guys I am going to reveal my secret weapons.
Go to Container Store and buy the Plexiglas cleaner called Novus Plastic Polish in the spray bottle. This removes all but glue, will not harm the paper, improves the gloss inks and plastics by a full grade, and will not harm anything.
To remove adhesive labels use Bestine. This is a brand name solvent manufactured by Best Test Company and is used to reduce rubber cement that was once the mainstay of graphic artists.
To have a shot at erasing Sharpie Pen ink, such as a persons signature on a LP cover, try Marshall's Super Marlene. This is a photo product used to clean textured photo papers when applying oils during hand tinting process.
I have used all these product for more than twenty years with no ill effect to myself or my record collection.
Water will not kill mildew and will even help it grow. It may look like the mildew is gone but it will more than likely come back. Lysol may work but not as well as bleach. I'm not saying that it can't damage the jacket but if you are careful it shouldn't. Start with a mild solution in an inconspicuous spot. A white area is a good place to start and only dampen the area. Do not saturate it.
Albert, great and useful post ( as usual ). Only one problem though. You'll have to refer to these tricks as just your "weapons" now instead of your "secret weapons". Going public removes the "secret" aspect of it. That is, unless we on Audiogon are supposed to keep these things "under our hats" ??? If that's the case, these tricks have now become OUR "secret" weapons : ) Sean
My own opinions about the nature of mildew: It's my experience that once the record and jacket are removed from the cellar they likely came from, and stored thenceforth in a normally climate controlled environment, mildew will not grow anymore or spread to anything else near or touching it. This is why you never see mildew anywhere else in a house other than a damp basement or in between the tiles in the bathroom - if moisture is not present, it will not form or grow, and in fact dies. I have bought records (and other items) that were mildewed and put them into climate controlled storage for quite a while before taking them out and cleaning them, and it has never grown or spread in the meantime, and fact was always better than it was when I first got the item, because it was dead. Chemical agents to "kill" mildew on a record or jacket are overkill, IMHO. Physically removing it is what you need to do. Once it has been wiped, scrubbed, rinsed, whatever you prefer to do, away from the surface and put in a dry environment, it won't be back. Applying a moistened towel to aid in physically cleaning it from the surface, and then drying afterward will not cause it to experience a "growth spurt". The reason folks use bleach in cleaning the bathroom tile isn't to kill the mildew (although it will do that) so it can then be removed - scrubbing will also do that by itself, and besides it will soon grow again in that environment - it's done to literally bleach out the color of the stain it makes when it grows into the grouting and leave it white, which is something I don't want to do to a record jacket. If the bleach solution someone is using on their jackets is so dilute that it doesn't bleach the image, then it's not doing anything about the mildew either - it's the moistened wiping that's doing it. I know there is also a product for cleaning vinyl records that purports to work better than other solvents because it "kills" microscopic fungi supposedly thriving in the grooves of all our records; this is also not the case, IMHO. If this was so, none of my "clean" 40-year old records could possibly exist - they would be overrun with mildew by now, instead of looking about as shiny as the day they were made. OTOH, Albert's suggestions are very interesting to me, not because they might kill mildew, but because they might be valuable ways to dissolve more gunk (including mildew) from jackets without harming the paper or ink.
Since I suggested using bleach(clorine)for cleaning record jackets, I thought I should try it myself. So I took two old record jackets that were well worn and sprayed them both with the same water and bleach solution that I use to clean the bathroom. I don't recommend spraying them like I did but I wanted to really see what would happen. I sprayed a glossy jacket first and wiped it off with toilet paper then I did the same with a porous jacket. As a matter of fact, the white parts of the porous jacket that had yellowed over the years looks much whiter now and it did not affect the red and black ink. Remember ink is not the same as the dye in clothes.
Don't forget, most of us drink and bathe in this stuff everyday.
Rwear, see if the same thing happens if you spray with water and wipe. Or alcohol in solution. Or ammonia in solution. (This is what's known as a controlled experiment.) It's the elbow grease that's important, along with the universal solvent, H2O. If the bleach had been concentrated enough, and left on long enough, to cause the whitening you saw, then the colors would have been faded to a similar degree. You simply dissolved, suspended, and absorbed some of the accumulated scum. This will almost always clean the jacket effectively enough for government work. Again I reiterate that is not necessary to also try and "kill" mildew if present, which obviates the "need" to play with bleach. I find it a little surprising, though maybe that is naive on my part, that you would have posted twice on this subject disagreeing with me (your perfect right, BTW) and promoting your bleach regimen instead, when you apparently had no prior experience doing this procedure. I admire your eventual forthrightness about this, but question your impulsiveness OTOH. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, no matter what their experience level, but it's wise and honest to make clear exactly what is opinion and what is known. And in that spirit, let me make it crystal clear that every opinion I have expressed above about the use of effectively significant concentrations and quantities of chlorine bleach in the aid of cleaning record jackets is based on everyday common sense and life experience with its use on items *other* than record jackets, because I am not crazy enough to use my collection to carry the experiment you detail above to its meaningful and logical conclusion (nor have I had the need to)! Cheers, Z.
I have tried this before and it works. I have just never tried it in such a high concentration. And just to make sure I poured bleach right out of the bottle on the same jacket that I cleaned yesterday and it only made it look better. I don't recommend doing this but it did not harm the jacket or ink. If you use water only it will not get rid of the moldy smell and if you rub a porous record jacket(elbow grease)that is wet it will damage it. This may not be as true of glossy jackets to the same extint. And I repeat the ink did not fade at all. Even the label on the bleach bottle has not faded after much bleach has run down the sides. Don't rub the jacket, blot it.
If you only use H2o to wash your clothes, take a shower and wash your hair, I'm glad I don't have to be around you.
I am not in the business of selling bleach. I'm in the audio business and I am given lots of record collections. Not all of them are pristeen. If you don't beleive me, I don't care.
#1: I was just going by your above statements which implied you hadn't previously tried what you were recommending.
#2: What sort of jacket (how old, how glossy, etc.) did you use for your experiments?
#3: Removing the mildew (and storing in dry conditions) removes the smell of mildew, in my experience.
#4: I never recommended making a porous jacket wet, and stated above that rubbing was only appropriate for glossies.
#5: Bleach is used to make paper (and recycled paper with ink in it) white in the first place.
#6: Well, I don't wash myself in bleach, either, and only white laundry. I hope you do the same. (And I'm really not that bad to be around.)
#7: I didn't say I didn't believe you, I said I doubted your experiment was really informative or that your prescription was wise.
#8: I will try your method on some jackets I can afford to destroy, in the name of science and fairness, and post a follow-up (Lucky you!)