New member w a Cleaning Question

Hi all,

I just joined the forum, having just gotten back into vinyl recently. I just got a project debut, and lucked into some ECMs at a store close out, so I'm pretty happy. Many of my newly acquired and older reords need cleaning, thoguh, and that's where I need some help. I've been told and have read that the only proper way to clean them is w a vacuum RCM, but am not at that point yet in terms of spending. SO I was wondering if there's any point in using a cleaning fluid like Audio Intelligent which purports being useable as a hand cleaning (i.e. no vacuum) solution, or will the crud just stay on the record, just maybe move places? Thanks, and I'll probably have more questions later on.

You can do a good job with manual cleaning. It is more labor intensive than using a machine but results can be similar. If I were going to use a manual process I would use the Disc Doctor solution and follow his cleaning process.
A RCM doesn't have to be expensive. See KAB Acoustics EV-1.

Price is $'s manual and is used with a household vacuum but it does the job. Also, check out A'gon threads on steam cleaning. Another low cost/hi return cleaning approach. I use it in conjunction with vacuum as well as Audio Intelligent cleaning solutions.
SO I was wondering if there's any point in using a cleaning fluid like Audio Intelligent which purports being useable as a hand cleaning (i.e. no vacuum) solution, or will the crud just stay on the record, just maybe move places?
Exactly right. Dissolving or emulsifying groove-crud (which AI fluids do really well IME) without removing the dirty liquid from the grooves is likely to do as much harm as good. If the liquid evaporates the crud goes right back where it started, though possibly broken down into smaller particles and distributed more evenly.

This may make the crud less audible in lower resolution systems, and that may satisfy some so it's a personal decision. But if there's any chance you'll one day move to a higher resolution system then vacuum removal is essential.

It doesn't have to be expensive, as already noted. A modded $25 Shop Vac works better than nothing. But deciding not to vacuum puts your vinyl at increased risk of permanent damage. Let's not forget, we're dragging a diamond knife through a plastic groove. Any loose particulates trapped between them may damage the vinyl. Whether that damage is audible depends on the system and ears, but if there's crud present then damage is more likely than if the groove is clean.

Having ruined enough LP's by playing them without cleaning, my choice was never to do that again.
Seeing Doug's comments reminded me of something I learned earlier from him and that is use of a bit of Mr Clean Magic Eraser for cleaning the stylus. It works very well and avoids the hazard of applying fluids to the needle. Clean your records. Clean your stylus.
I read this thread while using my DIY RCM, and find the following point so important that I'd reiterate it - the quality of extraction during the cleaning process is (probably) even more important than the solvent used for cleaning.

First, until I built my own RCM (using transparent 4mm tubing ultimately terminated by a ShopVac), I didn't realize exactly how much liquid is held in those grooved (even when the LP appears dry).

Second, I recall hearing (reading?) that after using a manual (no vacuum) cleaning process, it takes a couple of plays of the LP to get it to sound the best. Why would that be? Probably because you've dissolved a bunch of gunk, and combined with the evaporated solvent residue, it's settled into the recesses of the groove waiting to be dug-out by your stylus. Now *that's* an expensive record cleaning tool.

Just like Doug, I learned the hard way. First I simply dusted my new (used) records with a Swiffer duster. Then I invested in the Disc Doc solution and brushes - I thought I was in the big-league now - and washed my LPs in the sink. Then a spent a whopping $1.92 (or something like that) and cut a slit in a ShopVac hose extender and wrapped it in velvet to vacuum my records. Now *this* was a solid improvement.

Hold your hat - this is where things get expensive. I'm still using those DiscDoc brushes, but now I'm using the MOFI Plus cleaner. Also, I built a RCM out of an old turntable, a mason jar, 2 diameters of flexible hose, and a bit of Disc Doc replacement pad to keep the vacuum tip off my LP. Imagine a VPI / Loricraft hybrid. My total investment in this RCM was probably $50 (not including the ShopVac, Disc Doc brushes, or fluid). This was the greatest upgrade to my system to date. Why? It's all about the extraction process.

While a manual process (IMHO) is better than no process, if you have a ShopVac, you're a $2 piece of velvet away from getting a taste of what vacuum extraction can do.
You may also want to consider something like the Spin Clean. I've been using one for over a year, and while it may not provide a completely ideal cleaning method, it is much better than manual scrubbing alone and may be a good intermediate step for you before spending a lot of money on an RCM.

It's basically a tank that you fill with distilled water, and you add their "solution." This solution causes the dirt and grime to fall to the bottom of the tank so that the water above that cleans your records is clean. I use the Spin Clean as sort of a rinse after doing manual scrubbing and/or steaming. I would definitely recommend a Mobile Fidelity record brush for manual scrubbing, regardless of which cleansing method you choose (vacuum, spin clean, etc). I must say that using this combination, I've been able to achieve great results. Again, this is not the ideal solution because you must then either air dry your records or dry them manually with a towel (I always air dry, so as not to transfer dirt/dust from any other source). Of course when you air dry, you must wait a while for that to happen; this makes the RCM a quicker, more convenient method all around. I do plan on getting one myself some day; just how soon, I'm not sure.
I second the KAB EV-1. Been using it for over a year, and I think it represents an excellent cost/value ratio. I buy most of my vinyl used at shows and thrift shops, so cleaning is extremely important.

Also, do not underestimate the importance of the cartridge/stylus. I recently upgraded my Ortofon Super OM-10 to an OM-30. The improved stylus shape does a lot to minimize noise on records. I guess it just gets deeper into the grooves.
I use the AI products.
I had always been hand cleaning using Disc Dr brushes and micro-fiber towels with what I thought were V good results.
Recently, I purchased a VPI 16.5 here, and can hardly believe the difference. IME, vacuuming has made a significant improvement in the SQ of all my LP's, used, filthy dirty used and even new sealed.
Agree with virtually everything said as to the value of a RCM for sonics and vinyl longevity. If you own a large collection of LPs you'll eventually want some type of motorized machine to help reduce the drudgery, but until that time just cut a slot in your home vacuum's crevice tool and glue on the felt strips-or, there's all sorts of diy examples of RCMs all over the web. You don't need to spend much if you're determined and creative.
Agree with NRENTER that a shop vac and strip of velvet will work nicely. Not as convienient as the automatics, but it is very effective. The use of a steamer, good cleaning fluid (can be home made or purchased) and lots of good clean water for rinsing, and you will be surprised at how good a used 40 year old record will sound. My RCM cost me about 40 dollars and it works very well. If you already have a shop vac, then your pennies away from cleaning records. If you go to a thrift shop and pick up a broken old dd or belt table for about 10 dollars, you have a stable platform to mount your records and spin while you clean, steam or vac.