record cleaning findings/puzzle

Hello Gentlemen,

I have been experimenting today with steam cleaning my records. I am looking for support of my findings.

I used 2 identical records ( as well as others ) one I cleaned with the vpi 16.5 and my homebrew 25% isopropyl(99%), 75% distilled water (pharmacy)


1.Mo-fi brush one 2-3 cycle with cleaner, vacuum 2 cycle
2.audioquest brush, distilled water rinse 2 cycle, vacuum

(The brushes were just ones I had around, I did not pick these for any particular reason)

The other record was cleaned with the same brushes, same method, but I also used the hand held steamer during steps 1 and 2. I kept the steam on the record 2-4 inches away, for duration of scrubbing.

I assume there is a sonic print to my solution, is achohol typically bright/harsh sounding?

Between the 2, at first I found the steamed ones to sound more organic, maybe slightly rolled off in the highs, but just warmer and more detailed everywhere else except the highs.

When I play the Alcohol only, cleaned record the highs are more present/forward, and noticeable, but upon further listening I notice a lack of depth because of it. trick details.

Here's the good part:

I then switched the cleaning methods for both records ( and others as well) and the sonic footprints followed each method onto each record. I did this back and forth 3 times with this pair and four times on another single record.

I am assuming I am hearing my solution, but could the steam somehow be reacting with my brushes and maybe melting them, or leaving something I am hearing on the surface which is damping the highs. At first I thought I wrecked the records, then I started to notice the inner details in the rest of the spectrum other then the highs, and when I added my solution again, the highs came back, now sounding to strong and glaring.

Which is the real sound of this record?
Has anyone else found this too?

I forgot to mention I use 5 drops of dawn in my home brew. What does dawn sound like?
Birds chirping?
I steam cleaned my records for a while about 2 years ago. IMO, the steam and heat altered the sound of the record. Not permenantly. I found you could reverse the results by thoroughly cleaning the record. I found the sound became thin in the mids and somewhat harsh in the upper frequencies. Other audiophile friends came to the same conclusions. We stopped steam cleaning after these findings.
A little on how records are made.Check out
Ehaller, I have birds chirping 24/7, probably not the Dawn.
Elinor, What solution are you using for your cleaning? When you steam cleaned were you using a RCM? Interesting that I am finding the opposite with the steam cleaning. What I am trying to find out is, maybe you weren't reversing the effects of the heat, but you were adding something to the surface of the record which changed the sound?
Using alcohol could leach out the plasticizers that keep a record flexible. That might be why people that use a lot of alcohol say that the records sound bright after that type of cleaning.They maybe getting harder.Google (gcaudio record cleaning)They give their opinion.[]
There are no small-molecule plasticisers in the vinyl mix that "keep a record flexible" and which would be leached out by organic solvents like alcohols. This does not necessarily apply to PVC products in general, but I've never heard of such plasticisers being used in LP manufacture, and neither have any of the former fabricators I know.
Sorry Hanaleimike, I don't remember at this point what I was using to clean my records. I think it was Lloyd Walker's Prelude Cleaning System with a VPI 16.5 RCM. The Walker Prelude did not include Step 4 at the time so there was no alcohol in the regimin.
Something must keep the vinyl flexible.Here are some links.
Plasticizers wiki []
Gramophone records wiki[]Plus this Canadian site for recordings[]
Sorry,here is the Canadian site for recordings.[]
More on isopropyl alcohol leaching the plasticizers from vinyl records in wiki.Scroll down to uses link.
Hifitime, I haven't heard that people who use alcohol claim their records sound bright after, this would coincide with my findings. Is this generally accepted as fact. I am trying to find out if the alcohol is removing the effects of the steam cleaning, or the steam cleaning is removing the alcohol/dawn residue.
A small percentage of IPA contacting a vinyl record for a very brief time has absolutely no deletorious effect.

Nor does it contribute to any of the cleaning fluids' efficacy.

Move on hifiguy.
Excellent experiment. Thanks for the interesting results and questions.

I assume there is a sonic print to my solution, is achohol typically bright/harsh sounding?
There may be a sonic residue from either of your methods, but it won't be from the alchohol. Whatever alchohol your RCM doesn't vacuum off has evaporated long before you actually play the record.

Between the 2, at first I found the steamed ones to sound more organic, maybe slightly rolled off in the highs, but just warmer and more detailed everywhere else except the highs.

When I play the Alcohol only, cleaned record the highs are more present/forward, and noticeable, but upon further listening I notice a lack of depth because of it. trick details.

More extended highs are not "trick details". They're real details and the sign of a cleaner record. "Warmer" sound (if due to a different cleaning method) is likely the result of residue on the LP acting to dampen stylus movements. That's perfectly fine if that's the sound you like, but don't fool yourself as to which method is getting the record cleaner.

If HF's are more extended but sound harsh, odds are the problem is that some component(s) in your system is(are) unable to reproduce clear HF's. Other things being equal, greater HF extension is a sign of a cleaner LP. Think about it: whatever residue a cleaning method leaves behind, it will fill in the smallest groove modulations first and most completely. A very thin layer of residue may have little effect on how the stylus sees the long, deep modulations that produce deep bass or big dynamics, but it may easily fill in the tiny modulations that produce high frequencies or micro-dynamic shadings, preventing the stylus from seeing those at all.

NOTE: do not use an Audioquest or any other CF brush for wet cleaning. The bristles have a layer of varnish that some solutions can dissolve, leaving a layer on the LP. One visual clue that this is happening is if the CF bristles start "clumping" together after the brush is dry. The solution we've used that does this most quickly is AIVS's Ultra Pure Water Rinse. We initially thought the problem was with the water, but in fact it's the water's purity which lets it dissolve the varnish faster than other solutions we've used. We use AIVS UPW as our final rinse step, with an appropriate brush of course.

I then switched the cleaning methods for both records ( and others as well) and the sonic footprints followed each method onto each record. I did this back and forth 3 times with this pair and four times on another single record.
Excellent. That's how I test/compare different cleaning methods too. If you can do/undo/redo results than you can eventually figure out what's happening.

FWIW, my results with steam cleaning matched Elinor's. I use my steamer for bathroom tiles, it's way less effective than my vinyl cleaning regimen for LP's.
Doug, I will try it again today, but what I refer to as trick details are the hf being pushed forward. Hearing the " tssh" of a symbol out front and the rest of the body of cymbal is back in the soundstage where it is supposed to be. You notice the hf detail and think there is more detail, but it's just out of place.
With the steaming method I think the details were all there, more in fact across the whole spectrum, but most importantly the sound as a whole was more real and natural.
If you think the alcohol would produce a cleaner record, I will try it on another couple pairs of doubles and report back. Maybe the dawn leaves a residue, of the cf brush ( I just ordered a vpi brush)
Sometimes hearing the differences is the easy part, it's deciding which is the right or real sound, or even which one you prefer that drives me mad.

Maybe with the steam the grooves are cleaner. I read that the high frequencies are higher in the groove wall, so maybe the steam cleans further down the groove and allows the detail from the rest of the spectrum to match the level of the hf, therefore sounding even and not accentuated in the highs. I mentioned I thought it sounded slightly rolled off at first, upon further listening, the highs are still there, but the mids and bass are more detailed as well. It doesn't sound damped, it sounds more open and lifelike???

I'll report back when I get the new brush.
I didn't say alchohol would produce a cleaner record. I said it wouldn't leave a sonic signature.

I use an alchohol step in my regimen for only one reason: to de-nature any enzymes left behind by my first cleaning step, which involves a soak in an enzyme-based solution. If I weren't using enzymes I wouldn't use alchohol. Like Audiofeil, I haven't found it to be particularly effective as an LP cleaning agent.

"The high frequencies are higher on the groove wall"? What????
Ya sorry, it appears maybe I am higher. So much reading and info on the googlegon net sometimes I mix and match facts. Thanks for the clarification.
i have found steaming does improve the quality of the cleaning regime i use but i do not use it on all applications. I also use a home made version using alcohol similar to yours and find it effective especially with steaming. IMO, the steaming raises the temperature of the cleaning fluid slightly thus making it more effective. The alcohol primarily reduces the surface tension and allows the fluid to get deeper into the groove. It does aid in evaporation, but i think that is a minor attribute especially with vacuuming. I also think the use of good brushes are a key to cleaning. a brush that has the microfibers that can extend deep into the groove improves cleaning. Now having said all of this, i find the highs more improved with deep cleaning than anything else. If you have ever pick up a dust ball or little grundge on the stylus, you probably noticed it when the highs got lost or distorted. So i echo dougs comments that if a cleaning regime produces brighter highs, it is more effective.
>>09-26-09: Oilmanmojo
The alcohol primarily reduces the surface tension and allows the fluid to get deeper into the groove<<


Surfactants, not alcohols, by definition (Surface Active Agents) reduce surface tension of solutions and are better known as "wetting agents". They allow the solution to penetrate deep into the groove.

Alcohol's purpose in record cleaning solutions is basically for drying. Surfactants and enzymes do the digging.
It is quite common for solvents sold as spectroscopic-, HPLC-grade, or even higher purity to contain significant levels of contaminants that remain behind after evaporation. These contaminants are detectable in electron or scanning-probe microscopy experiments as nanometer-sized, or larger, background deposits. For critical applications solvents are typically redistilled in an all-glass apparatus shortly before use and may sometimes be stored under nitrogen or argon. I do not know whether trace contamination is contributing to what you are hearing; however, one should be aware that even "highly purified" solvents, including ethanol or isopropanol, are often carriers of impurities.
To Hifitime: I repeat - the small molecule plasticisers that alcohols may dissolve out from PVC products are not present in the PVC used in LP manufacture. To find out what plasticiser is used in records, re-read your Canadian site reference. This species is no more alcohol-soluble than is PVC itself. Pay a little more attention to what you read on Wikipedia.
I'll second Maclogan's assertions with reference to alcohols (at least the small lecule alcohols such as IPA)dissolving the high molecular weight plastizers, di-octyl phthalate being one of them, that are used in the PVC used for records. It doesn't happen!
One would have to be using the alcohol from which the plasticizer (an ester)is made, in the di-octyl phthalate case, 2-ethyl-hexanol.

Salut, Bob P.
audiofiel: agree that surfactants lower surface tension. Alcohol will act as a surfactant in solution with water as will detergents and other chemical compounds. I also agree that alcohol does aid in evaporation as it helps create an azetrope with water that evaporates easier than water. As a chemistry student did several experiments during my college career involving different materials that impact surface tension of water. Lots of materials impact surface tension. If you want to perform an interesting experiment to prove the point. take a very clean mirror. Add a drop of water on the mirror. It will typically stay in a ball and will not spread out very well. this is an indication of high surface tension. Add a drop of alcohol to the same mirror. It spreads out. an indication of low surface tension. Make a 50/50 solution of alcohol and water. It will spread out on the mirror. Again, i am not disputing your statement of the surfactant, i totally agree. Alcohol though has some surfactant properties. The use of a detergent greatly increases the surfactant properties (compared to alcohol) and also adds a dispersant property that helps lift, solubilize or carry away the gunk. typically alcohol itself does not have that dispersant property that is critical in cleaning a record. Also agree that enzyme also helps digs out the gunk but typically by reacting or combining with the dirt/gunk to help lift it.
Hi there Hanaleimike
I had the same problem last week burnt 3 albums
what I changed was stay at 4 inchs away and dont heat up
the soap.
My method is
1/ steam 4 inch away
2/ while steam is still visable apply soap and scrub with cut to 1 inch paint brush
3/ vac away
4/ apply walkers enzine(Does wonders)for 1 minute scrub with vpi brush
5/ vac away
6/ apply alcohol 99% with distilled water 1/4 mix with vpi brush enough just to cover 10 seconds is fine
7/ vac away
8/ distilled water 10 seconds
9/ vac away
I know this looks like alot but this is just for used records (garage sale)makes them almost new .
For new I start from 4 the enzime and work to 9
Out of 1000 records 3 burnt albums is not that not bad.
Ive been steaming for quite a while but still have a lot of lps in my collection that were cleaned by other methods. To my ears steaming adds to a better playing record because its been cleaned to the bottom of the groove causing better contact with the stylus which is the reason for hearing a quite better sounding record, compared to the other non steamed records in my collection. Steaming is more work and time but for me its worth it.
Like mentioned the rinse cycle is IMO most important to get all of the solvent out of the grooves.
To each his own because its the music and how it sounds to our ears that counts.
That is a good perspective on steam cleaning. I could see how the records do actually have a more thorough cleaning with that method and therefore will have an improved sound when being played.
If you want the cleanest solvents, perhaps 'Semi Grade', those used in the semiconductor industry where any metalic /ionic (mobil ion) or heavy metal contam will destroy the devices.
You can write chemical companies for the MSDS and analysis sheets which should list the analysis of the chemical in question.
DO NOT use the steamer while the cleaning fluid is still on the record. Use it as a first step and as a rinse.
I've been steaming my LPs for 2 years and the results are truly excellent.
Well, I show some pics from my cleaning solution after doing the job.
I use a Source Odyssey, it is based on the famous Keith Monks, Point nozzle, ...

Here you see the fluid after 30 records, grading from new to VG+ (used)

Cleaning solution
Cleaning solution-1

You can hear the difference :-)
Inpenninovations states that only the alcohol from the alkyl portion of the phthalate ester used as a plasticiser will dissolve it. This is chemical nonsense. Use enough methanol even and you'll dissolve any long-chain alkyl phthalate. In any case, my point was that these alkyl phthalate plasticisers are not present in the vinyl mix used to make LPs. Plasticity is conferred by other molecular means. Look it up.
Maclogan, then people using PVC piping that contains D-octyl-phthalate, better stop pumping methanol through them!

The company that I worked for produced ester plasticizers that went into the vinyl used for records. In fact it the plasticizer was DOP (di-octyl-phthalate), so I needn't look it up, I made the dam stuff, and the vinyl compound which used the DOP.

With respect, Bob P.