There's a few threads on this subject,and a youtube video. Read them, experiment, and don't use your favorite records to practice on.
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I am sure Harry will shortly come out with a unit that includes a steam component. For now, skip the VPI machine and get a $25 steam unit at Walmart. The YouTube video mentioned clearly shows how it is done. I've used steam for a long time and find it is an excellent solution. You do want to find the label cover device that is available on e-Bay from time to time, it prevents the label from being steamed off and is a handy way to actual hold the record without touching the groves. Enjoy the the music.
As the sole member of the "spend more time cleaning than listening to music" backlash, I advise you to purchase your VPI, do a thourough cleaning as recommended by VPI and you'll be listening to the record in approximately 2 minutes. Contrast this with putting on a scuba suit, steaming up the room, worrying about ruining the records and then being too tired to listen when it's all done. And you still really need a vacuum machine to get off all the water and grunge anyway.
Listen - If you want to join that crowd, be my guest. But there is an alternative. I will admit that, on an old, filthy basement, moldy record that you bought for $1 to play on your $30K system, steam will probably do a fantastic job of getting all the crap off. Fair enough. But on a normal record that someone has taken reasonable care of, it's a drudge. At least that's what I think. Best of luck to you and to us all for that matter.
A cheap alternative is described in this thread. A pair of car dent pullers from Autozone at $4.99 (or less) each.
I think the 16.5 is one of the smartest moves in cleaning. Spend less and you get less, spend more and you really don't get any essential advantages. Make sure to use a separate cork mat for the clean side and a different brush for each step.
I also see no reason to view a cleaning machine and steam as mutually exclusive alternatives. I view steam as an adjunct to the cleaning process. For example, I use the Disc Doctor regimen but have worked steam in after the initial scrub and as the initial rince. It's much easier to steam uniformly on the spinning 16.5 platter. Follow up with a couple ultra pure water rinces(each with separate brushes) and I doubt anything works much better. Other methods probably get similar results but also cost more.
A good thorough regimen may take you 5-7 minutes per LP side but I believe this only needs to be done once and theresults are worth it.
I agree with sonofjim that used in combination, the rcm and steaming produce outstanding results. With or without steaming, a good cleaning fluid, good brush to scrub(yes u must scrub) and a good rinze with very clean water (i like ro water), are requisites. Steaming does a wonderful job especially on those grundgy cheap records.