Steam will put VPI machines to shame, and also the Keith Monks units. Stick with microfiber clothes and be done with it. Don't put the microfiber cloths in the washing machine, it will pick up lint. Hand wash and rinse.
It sounds like you can get by without the RCM. I personally like the convenience of using the RCM while steaming, but if you don't mind holding the record while you steam, I see no problem with not using the RCM.
I had a microfiber cloth that left white residue, but not all do. It sounds like if you get a different microfiber cloth you will be all set.
I think this depends on how you use your RCM.I have been cleaning albums for 40 years and have tried just about everything. I have found that using a RCM in conjunction with disc doctor products and a good regim will get a record as clean as possible.
I Tell ya! I am totally amazed at how well my little Shark Steam cleaner works and even though I built my own RCMachine I have no intention of using it ..Now its a conversation piece.I am that happy with the Steam cleaning..I set up a jig in my basement and can clean 10 records ( including a rinse cycle ) in less 15 or 20 minutes and now albums only needs periodic touch up ( light particles ) with a Discwasher or dry brush...If you have the bucks I am sure its great to have a $2000 RCM but if you are retired ( like me ) or can't afford a machine.For less than $50 you can clean to your hearts content....Very simple to use too.......
Well, I had a hearing test about two years ago and was told I have a huge, huge, hole in the octave around 2k...I don't notice it except sometimes life just sounds like I am in a tunnel, but I suspect my brain compensates most of the time. My top end is fine. But they said the loss was likely from being around loud noise...I was a DJ for years wearing headphones, and then had a recording studio, on top of playing in bands, and am now paying for it. I really am more concerned about not standing a foot away from my (very loud) RCM for even a minute or less. So I'm happy that the steam seems to work well without the RCM, and records even seem to sound better to me without the vacuum. Of course, from a man admitting hearing loss, but I do think I'm not missing anything.
Oh, and I'm 37 - take care of your hearing!!!
I use steam in conjunction with the 16.5 and I feel it offers a couple of advantages. I think with the platter spinning, I'm distributing the steam more evenly which also distributes heat more evenly and may reduce the risk of warping. I also believe that vacuuming off the residue is synergistic with the steaming process. Wiping the fluid off with anything seems to be a risk for pushing some of this gunk back into the grooves to me. I have no doubt that steaming without a RCM works fine but I think if you already have one it's more convenient and probably more effective to use it. I plug my ears when I turn my vacuum on. The duration of the noise is not long enough to be a likely cause of hearing damage anyway. It's not just decibel level, it's decibel level and duration that lead to damage. I come from a long line of farmers. Even low level engine noise all day long can be devastating. You're RCM for a few seconds at a time with your ears plugged, no problem.
What is the procedure for steam cleaning a record?? How far to you hold the steamer from the LP ?? Can someone either post or email me the procedure for steam cleaning, What steam cleaning I should get and were can I get one?
Btstrg: No major tecnique..Just go to Wallyworld or any discount type store and find a hand help steam cleaner..I found the Shark works very well with the ( aprox ) 4"wide attatchment..I try to keep the steamer about 3"-4" away from the record suface..Other than that it just takes a couple tries ( Practice on garbage record for )..I rigged a set up where ( record hangs on a rod ) so you can get at both sides ( with out handling ) ..and I steam both sides
( using Demin. water )and once steaming is done I spray a rinse (seperate spray bottle so it drips free )and them remove and lightly wipe with a Micro fiber cloth ..Records look prisinte once completed..You can't remove sctatches but just about everything else.
Vameter : Do you know that lots of free Steam cleaning tips and explanations have already been covered in Two Steam Cleaning Threads , one currently active the other discontined. Both are worth reading.
The advantages of using a RCM were parced in these threads as were those that wanted to steam w/o the use of a RCM. From my perspective , steaming significantly loosens pressing greases that entrap all sorts of household gunk.This only gets worse as time moves on. The advantage of a RCM is that once the entraped materials are released ( either with or without record cleaning fluids ) a RCM Quickly, sucks up the released compounds. Of course , you can disregard using a RCM and rely on micro cloths. But, Should you own a RCM why not use it ? As for machine noise,a pair of inexpensive noise protectors works quite well.
Because, I swear, in addition to the noise issue, I really think I am hearing a little more space and air upon playback when I don't use the RCM. As I mentioned, I did one side each of a couple of different LPs both ways and really think I hear a slight difference for the better. I could be crazy, too. I know, I know, change the pads, right? :)
There are a couple other strings on this forum related to steam cleaning particularly the first one that will outline several iterations and methods to steam clean. Suggest you look at those too.
Buy a lazy susan. IKEA and other home stores sell them for around $10. It is basically a round wooden platform with a base made of bearings. I put a microfibre cloth on the top, drop an LP on there and spin it while steaming. Works perfectly and great for getting even coverage of steam.
You have already answered your question. I had a VPI 16.5 and sold it a while ago. I now steam and it is the way to go. I use the 90 degree attachment and just place the record on a clean towel on the counter top (like the video on youtube).
Here is why I prefer not to use the VPI machine. I will steam for a few hours and clean many records at once. I like to listen to the records while I am cleaning. Hard to do with the RCM noise but rather nice while steaming.
The Microfiber cloths work great and remove all of the water, so I do not need the RCM.
Okay...I've been steaming for about two months now, and REALLY like the sound improvment. However, I'm getting a lot of dust still on the stylus after playing an album side, something I haven't dealt with in 20 years of having an RCM. Is there a way around this - I really like just using the microfiber cloths - or should I reconsider some combination of steam and RCM? It's bad enough that sometimes the sound is distorted, as the stylus is mistracking - I assume that's slight moisture in the groove causing the gunk to cling to the stylus.
Vanmeter - for what it is worth I have been experimenting with Pledge dust and alergen unscented dry cloths available at Target and at my local supermarket. These disposable cloths appear to me to be without any obvious chemical additives like scent or aloe. I am using them as a dust and lint remover just before I drop the needle. Perhaps they can solve the gunk problem you are experiencing from (you suspect) the other micro-fiber cloths. I have also seen some random material residue when using the Wal-mart or auto detailing cloths. I am not suggesting you stop using the cloth-cloths - they seem to work very, very well - I am only saying that you might add a simple extra step. For the moment, I have replaced the carbon fiber record brush I WAS using with the pledge wipes. So far so good, with NO static issues.
Please carry on with your steam experiments and report back to the this thread or the steam-cleaning thread.
I assume that's slight moisture in the groove causing the gunk to cling to the stylus.
That is exactly why I still use my DIY RCM after steaming. Nothing else lifts that suspended crud better than vacuuming. And you don't have to wait for the lp to dry before playing because it is dry after vacuuming.
I can't help but think that the RCM is an advantage, just I can't help but think the those Pledge cloths are charged with stuff that is best kept off your records. It's possible that the degradation that you hear after vacuuming is due to the static that is generated from the vacuuming process. If you use the RCM to the point of utter dryness the disc will come off staticky and quite attractive to dust in the air. I find a destaticing device such as Mapleshade's Ionocalst or Walker Audio's Talisman invaluable at this point just prior to playing. Alternatively, there are those who swear by playing their records wet, which of course precludes static, although your water better be ultra-pure, an important advantage however you clean.
I don't think I could stomach the idea of playing records wet. The steam seems to work so well...I catch myself constantly forgetting I'm listening to vinyl since the noise floor seems to drop so much and the sound becomes somewhat 3D. I really do think I hear some degradation of that using the RCM after steaming, but I can't imagine why unless, as you say, it's related to static. And it could be my imagination, frankly.
I mentioned wetness in the groove, but this gunk last night was on a disc steamed two weeks ago or more that I had let air dry, so it must be more than just dampness in the groove remaining. There's bound to be a "best of both worlds" situation, it's just finding it, right? :)
I should say, on a disc I had let air dry after wiping down with 3 different microfiber cloths, which has become my routine.
Vanmeter it sounds like you are charging your lps with static some how which is drawing in dust particles from the air. I use a Furutech De Stat after my steam cleaning process. De Stat is a little expensive but it works very well. Also good for cables and other things in your system that develop static. I might be going overboard but i bought 3 of Orecks air purifier units. These things really work they capture dust, mold, bacteria, viruses and fungus from the air in your home, the wife hardly needs to dust as much now. One of them is very close to my TT.
I agree with you wholeheartedly with the sound of lps after a good steam cleaning regiment. Clean, clear, quite, and wide open sound.
I just started steam cleaning records with a hand-held Shark-- a great little $40 1000W steamer from Target on-line-- and a VPI 16.5 RCM. I can't imagine using steam without a RCM to ensure even application of steam and vacuum dry afterwards.
I have noticed that the buildup problem seems to be totally random, too, so static issues would make sense. I was drying with three different microfiber towels and then giving a quick wipe again before play to remove dust, but it seems I have less dust buildup on the stylus if I don't do that last step.
I tried steaming and mirofiber-ing one side of an LP last night, and steaming and RMC-ing the other, then played the towel side...big blog of white (and this isn't a dust bunny, it's a congealed blob) crud on the stylus that needed wet cleaning to get off - the ME wouldn't touch it.
Then, I played the other side, 45 minutes to an hour later, and after being face down on the mat. No gunk. Sad to say I think I'm answering my own question yet again...but I still feel like I'm losing some of that airiness when I RCM. There's got to be an answer to this (that isn't spelled Loricraft, which is out of my price range)...
How are you using the ME? I've never found anything that the ME won't get off.
The loss of airiness is most likely increased static that can be sometimes caused by vacuuming as others have already posted. I don't experience this with my rcm. Have you tried to restrict the airflow through the vacuum? Cutting down on the air velocity a little may help with this. Also a Zerostat or some other device used just before putting the lp down on the platter may help.
I have seen one stylus and cantilever (out of 15-20) so badly gunked up that even aggressive scrubbing with an ME wouldn't clean it.
To revive that cartridge I used ultra-fine sandpaper, Linn's old trick. That loosened the crud up, then the usual ME + dry brush finished the job.
It took months of play with no cleaning for the cartridge to get that stubbornly dirty, but it is possible.
FWIW, our (steamless) LP cleaning regimen (slow, costly and with expensive RCM) "never" leaves anything in the grooves. I do sometimes find a trace of dry, loose fluff on the stylus at the end of a side, but since any given LP will sometimes leave a trace of fluff and sometimes not, it's presumably airborne fluff attracted by static during play.
Should there be any fluff buildup during play we hear the degradation of HF extension, speed and "air" near side-end. That might be what you're hearing, and if you don't de-static before play (as Dan_Ed correctly advised for its own sonic benefits) it's more likely to occur.
It's even more important to de-static and dry brush *after* play before returning the LP to its sleeve, else dust collection is pretty much guaranteed.
That makes sense, Doug. I'll experiment some more...
Doug is certainly the expert when it comes to using the ME. The technique I learned from him was to trim a piece into a taper, sort of like one of those foam paint brushes, and use the thin part just like a brush instead of a dipping motion, which I never use anymore. Think brushing paint on the sides of the stylus carefully from top to bottom. It does take a reasonably steady hand and good visibility. This method should have easily taken that gummy crud off, but you would probably have had to just cut away that hunk of junk.
Keep working this with the steam and rcm, I still believe it will work very well for you once you find the techniques that work in your environment.
Also, you mentioned using a home-made cleaning solution. What this is made of, and how and when you use it in relation to the steaming step can have an impact on results. I like the idea of using an alcohol, or some other suspension, based cleaner along with the steam. This I find to keep the crud in suspension so it can be vacuumed up immediately. What works for me is to steam and then apply an alcohol based cleaner (AIVS in my case) while the LP is still wet from steam. Others report better results by applying the cleaner before steaming.
I wish everyone the best, but some of you are reacting to challenges that have already met & resolved as far as to steam cleaning. It is a fact that RCM's have a place in steam cleaning , but that does not preclude the use of steam only. For instance, the VPI RCM's work well with steam cleaning. They suck off lots of loosened materal far quicker that a Loricraft. But that does not mean a Loricraft can not be admended to the process.
The situation , the materals , the record's condition all interact with the outcome. Don't underestimate the importance of the condition of the pressing at the time of manufacture , even which pressing machine used, contribute to what resolution we hear from a given LP. I do suggest a read of most of the initial steaming thread , until the flamers . Lots of FYI buried there.
As always take care when accepting advice. Your prudence can save one from falling into a black hole. A comment I liked was from a person that claimed steamers don't make steam but water vapor koz steam is not visable to the eye. So, when one sees vapor no steam is present. Perhaps, but in the big picture its the steam (unseen) immediately followed by vapors and heated water spray that combine to loosen the grunge. Using a record cleaning solution can make for a greater improvement depending on the materials pressed between the grove and the output pressure of the steamer. Besides the idea is to use the properties of steam and water to bring you closer to the groves and hopefully the music. All steam could blow a hole thru the LP, something that can not happen with consumer grade hand-held steaming units , less garmet steamers that pose a danger to the LP due the surface area they heat. RCM certianly can significantly improve the listening experience ; they are the ultimate sucking machines.
All the Best.
I think I understand what you mean, Crem, as I've gone back and forth over the past couple of weeks switching between RCM and microfiber. And I've found that either way on some records I get gunk, sometimes that isn't gone after 2 or 3 plays. And only on some records, but while I had thought it was the end step causing it, I really am starting to think it's either something from pressing time coming loose with the steam or else...smoke, or something. At any rate, I'm glad to have come to the point I've seen for myself that I'm getting the same results basically with or without the RCM!
Vanmeter : With respect to micro-cloths "softer the better", has been my experience . I personally wouldn't be without my RCM but I use micro-cloths regularly and get excellent results. And, I never forget that MurphysLaw is always at work as far as LP pressings go.
My steam-enhanced steps:
1 - AudioQuest Carbon Fiber Brush to remove "big stuff"
2 - Remove line of "big stuff" with Nagaoka Rolling 152
3 - Apply Mobile Fidelity Enzyme Solution, work into grooves using Osage Listener Select Brush (best I've found)
4 - Let Enzyme work for 5 minutes, scrubbing once or twice during.
5 - Apply steam for about 3 revolutions while scrubbing.
6 - Vaccuum off fluids with VPI 16.5
7 - Apply Mobile Fidelity Rinse with second Listener Select Brush
8 - Vaccuum rinse with VPI 16.5
9 - Repeat steps 7 & 8
This has yielded the best results I've ever had using a variety of fluids over the years.
I don't have much use for steam cleaning, but I have found a modified vacuuming tube made of delrin by Walker Audio so greatly improves my VPI 16.5 as to replace even my string cleaning machine. I don't want to enter into any virtues of steam versus RCMs, but you all need to be aware of this improvement. The tube has been temporarily unavailable, but that is supposed to change.
Sounds very interesting Thg. Whats the big difference in the stock tube and the Walker tube other than being make of delrin and how does a a vacuum tube make a lp sound better.
Tbg, You stated " I don't have much use for steam cleaning ". May I inquire , is that based on personal experience ? Would you give a more specified outline of your objections ? The reason I ask is that reviewing you rig I am surprised that steam cleaning was such a negative experience. I would have guessed a different outcome ,perhaps, that you would have experienced greater "air" & extended "high end" in playback at minium.
I join Stltrains in my interest in the Walker tube vs say a Loricraft. All the best.
Stltrains, St. Louis trains?? The Delrin tube has no stand off nylon pads and has a narrower vacuum slit. All of this greatly increases the vacuum. With it all liquid is removed in one revolution, which is really helpful when you are using a four step cleaning as I do. I had a Loricraft which replaced my VPI and was much superior, but it took forever to vacuum off the record.
I have repeatedly recleaned records that had been cleaned with the Loricraft and always found cleaner, tick and pop free sound, plus better bass and treble. I even tried the more expensive Loricraft to see if it would be faster, but it was not really any faster.
Crem1, my experiences with steam cleaning were many years ago. I am sure that had I better equipment I might have had better results. As it was the process was too time consuming and the results not satisfying. Were there an easy to use steam cleaning product, I would try it again, but I cannot imagine better than I am presently getting.
After still wrestling with white gunk on my stylus with just random records, last night out of frustration I tried Spray 'n Wash as has been recommended again and again on AA. I put that on one of my problem LPs, rinsed, then steamed, then scrubbed with my usual stuff, rinsed again, and dried. No blob on the stylus. So far, anyway.
Tbg yes i love the Cardinals and Choo Choos almost as much as music. Very interesting on the vac tube. No pad that adds up to a much better desigen and im going to guess not harm to the vinyl. Going to check Walker and see if they are available. Thanks for the good info.
Stltrains, I grew up in Kirkwood long ago. At that time the Railroad Museum was merely an abandoned mass of trains behind barbed wire fencing. We use to go there often and climb into the engines. It was great fun.
I have some bad news about the tube. Lloyd has postponed having them available until April. I guess he just has too many other things on his table.
Thank you Tbg will put this on my watch list. have a good one
Vanmeter: Your post detailing "Spray&Wash"(S&W) offers a reasonable solution to an difficult cleaning problem. Vinyl is vinyl . Steam cleaning a super-grunged LP with the use of S&W , should cause no problems. Besides when its "Spray & Wash" a LP or the trash can , I'll use S&W. Thanks.
Readers : I purchased a McMulloch , Model MC 1235 Handheld Steam Cleaner @ The Home Depot Internet site ($50 to my door). I learned of the MC 1235 from a posting on another thread. The MC 1235 has too many innovations to summarize. Its a significant upgrade to my arsenal of steamers for LP cleaning. I recommend anyone interested Google "mc 1235" for a detailed explanation ... A true 21th Century Product in design, operation & technology. Best to all.
Vanmeter , I signed onto AA searching for "Spray & Wash" posts . I note that of 200 comments I viewed,none were adverse to "S&W's" use. A net search revealed a spray and a liquid. Which one do you recommend? If its the liquid is the ratio ,as some posts mentioned, 14 units of H2O to 1 unit of "S&W"correct? V, what do you recommend?
I've just been using the spray bottle such as shown at the link below, but about a 4:1 ratio (4 water to 1 S&W)...somewhere on AA I saw that, and that's what I tried!
Why are there no commercial steam record cleaning machines?
I have to mention, and it may have been said before and I've missed it, that the most amazing difference I've heard wtih steam is on old mono 45s. Steam isn't a miracle worker, but I'm hearing better signal to noise, less distortion, just all around cleaner sound much of the time.
Tbg,I'll take a jab at responding to the question. This is a viewpoint found on years of slogging.
An over-view of the subject:
1: Many commerical steam machines exist , none suited to record cleaning. Most are suited to heavy industry to degrease machines. As a group they come in all sizes an shapes producing super-heated steam & water (some at hundreds ++ degrees) that melt grease(an vinyl) on contact. Next are garment steamers. Most can distort vinyl in seconds. The reason? Garment machines ,by design, steam & heat a relatively large area to remove wrinkels from cloth. Apply them to vinyl ,kaboom, now you have a droopy, wavey LP. Steam irons do the same only more so. Way too hot and dangerious!
The exception are the household , handlheld steam cleaners. As a group, the comsumer machines produce steam with heated water at near exactly the right temperature(212*- 220*F)cooling to 150* to 187*F. Perfect for record cleaning and household useage. Some more perfect than others but all can perform. Nearly all are constant water-boilers maintained under pressure til' the water runs out(8-15 minutes). They must cooled down before refilling.
Consumer handheld steam cleaners are already under licence (to some one or some company) . With no financal incentive, the Record Cleaning Industry (RCI) shuns most anything they can not contol. Generally, the steamers are not under public domaine but several components maybe that make them difficult to patient. A lot of trouble , money and no return.
2. Steam cleaning LPs is viewed as a threat to the record cleaning machine (RCM) market, manufactures having invested in expensive advertising & machining for decades. In truth, RCM make little money in return for the investment. Its a fact RCM's cost hundreds to thousands retail more than steam units that sell for $50.00 or less. A significant retail spread.
We are what I term "insidental users". We adapt an existing product to our needs that were never recognized by the inital manufacture. In short, we get all the "R&D" benefits with no additional mark-up. They manufacture for the world, in thousands of units, we as a group are few in numbers compaired to the global market,but, we pay the going rate. That's true most of the time;exceptions do exist.
Since I already own a RCM , I incorperate its use , what I term "Combo-Ing" to cleaning records with excellent results. Should you have a RCM use it.If not, no problem.
3. Liability. Of the designers/manufactures whom I have freely spoken with , none were keen to sell high pressure handheld, water boiling units out of concern (fear) for abuse & lawsuits. Still, others refuse to accept any notion that "lite" steam can clean LPs, only their product or cleaning fluid.It has been related, some take every chance to speak negatively , to Audio Insiders , here & in Europe, to slow the notion of steam cleaning.A few even claim steaming causes inaudable, periment damage to LPs, a claim wispered with no published evidence.
I can't blame them , if I were they I might adopt the same tactic. Nevertheless, the paradigm is changing(slowly)and in time the RCI will adopt steaming but as for when ? Besides , when insidental users (like us) can buy a MC 1235 for $50,light-years ahead of convential pressurized units,why should the RCI even bother ? Once I got confortable with the 1235's operation ,I doubt I will ever use a pressured , water-boiling handheld unit again.
Of course ,one can spend $150 on the Mapleshade Kit . Mapleshade puts their ID on the steam unit,actually a "Steamfast Runner",a constant water-boiler, Model SF-227, as their own . That's ok ,they have a right to do that,no problem. Or,one can easily duplicate the kit,sans the rinsers,for about a 2/3 thirds less than the retail price, a tad more with a 1235. Insidentally, the Steamfast units and the McCulloch units are manufactured for Top Innovations (TI), Inc. in China. TI owns the distribution rights to both lines. That is a fact.
I do not expect to see "Record Steaming Machines" anytime soon. But with the MC 1235 ,frankly, who needs ID's .
Crem1, very interest even if a bit paranoid. I know most of the RCM manufacturers, they feel no sense of being in control.
Can you please elaborate on how you use a handheld steamer to clean a record? Do you just blow off foreign material onto the floor or in the sink?
Tbg, you can communicate with me off-line at your convience ,should you wish to discuss this further.
As for the "how to" that has been outlined many times in past years that's viewable in posts already archived. I would never be so cavilier to do "blow-off" material onto the floor. I respect my audio roon & lifestyle to do that. Thats a repugnate idea. Perhaps a read of old copies of "Listener" & Stereophile would help. I'm mentioned by name & the method was reviewed by Michael Fremer in '03 & '06. I'm was included in "Positive Feedback" a few years back.
Steam Cleaning Lps is something I have been perfecting for over a decade. I began to share the idea in print in '2000. Posters report that steaming is more effective than using a RCM but without the cost. Read a bit than try it out.
Crem1, sorry I seem to have ignored your efforts. I will catch up.
No problem here. Give a read or email me. "Control" was a short-cut term . My view is that the Industry ignores the prospect of steam cleaning because there is no reason to support an idea that competes @ pennies on the dollar. Endorsing steam cleaning rather than your brand of record cleaning is not a great way to get your product sold.
I will disclose that several years ago I agreed to a private, invite only, informal "shootout" with one company that manufactures RCMs ,world wide. The owner was present. The pervailing view was that inexpensive steamer used out performed these very expensive products & machines. This was a private matter and I will not reveal the marque. That's all I shall disclose .
I don't write in a vaccum. I receive emails from all over the world requesting advice I give freely. The emails & posts help me as much as I contribute to them. That's how I learned of the MC 1235 ,a remarkable machine one completely adapted to steam cleaning LPs.
In closing, an example of the dramatic difference between steaming and vaccum machines . I own a 1950's Maria Callis LP in mint+ condition that I cleaned with a RCM. Initially, I could hear a slight "stage noise" before Callas began to sing . Upon steam cleaning & in the manner I suggest, one hears : Callas slowly walk onto her mark , the russel of her dress, the soft-sound of leather(most likely shoes) , the movement of her diaphram near the open mike as she opens her mouth, breathes in & instantly I am transported to the exact moment she sings. Quite profound , never forgotten.