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Home brew stylus cleaner experimentation strikes me as an endeavor ripe for future regret. As I'm sure you know, many cartridge manufacturers advise against any wet cleaning at all. That said, I've used Stylast for many years with no ill effect (Grado woodies and Ortofon moving coils) Having inadvertently spilled it, I know it evaporates very, very fast. It evaporated so fast it was more like ether or acetone than alcohol. Anything that doesn't evaporate fast has greater potential to migrate into places it doesn't belong. If it is too aggressive a solvent it can soften the adhesives some styli are glued with. A $35.00 bottle of Stylast lasts me for two years of daily use, not a significant expense in the grand scheme of things. Especially considering what a cartridge replacement or retip costs.
I might also mention that I had one occasion to use a home brew stylus cleaning solution. I'd purchased a used Garrott Optim FGS cartridge whose condition was wildly misrepresented by the seller. After it arrived and I looked at it under a loupe, it appeared to have never been cleaned. The stylus was buried under what looked like a ball of welded on black tar. Seeing it was basically useless as it stood and I had nothing to lose, I removed the stylus assembly and fastened it with a gob of blu-tack under a dissecting microscope. Using 100% isopropyl alcohol on a small brush, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, and tiny strips of 1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper, I slowly cleaned off the tar ball. After about 45 minutes of cleaning, it looked like new again.
This looks like it should do the trick.
I have a similar carbon fiber stylus brush that I have used or years. I think it is the old Discwasher brand, but not even sure. Extra bonus is its all wood, encloses into a case to keep clean, all one piece and has magnifying mirror on the rear side for inspecting stylus condition when needed. Perfect if you can find or make something like this still these days.
Like This if any still around.
Magic Eraser is what you want. You lower the stylus into the foam. The strands of melamine that make up the foam matrix surround the diamond and gently scrape off residue as you lift the cartridge straight up from the foam. Very effective. Never scrape the stylus only dip into the foam from above. It is the verticle motion that cleans and is safe. Dragging the stylus across the foam could allow for the very strong strands to remove the diamond. Only straight up and down. Under my microscope the diamond is cleaner than I ever was able to do with fluids. I do use a brush after the ME dip since the foam does break down a little over time and from multiple "dips" and any residual powder does not need to be scrubbing my albums. One box of original ME (no soaps or additives) could last you a lifetime. Do not get it wet. Water collapses the foam matrix and it is no longer effective for our purposes.
Consider the Magic Eraser. My original post describing its use is here. Wow! It's been over ten years.
Used successfully by hundreds if not thousands of vinylphiles, including those (like me) with LOMC's costing many thousands of dollars. Recommended by Arthur Salvatore (who plagiarized my post, lol).
Mapman, I described the risk of ME residue and one way to mitigate (use a soft, dry brush). Others dip the stylus into something like a Zerodust, which also works for the stylus (though not for the cantilever).
Any effective stylus cleaner is going to create residue and the best ones create more. That is, after all, the whole point of cleaning. The trick is getting it off the stylus and cantilever before playing a record.
P.S. I guarantee that a proper ME cleaning would remove burnished-on residue that your stiff brush can't. It may not be visible, even with a microscope, but you'll probably hear the improvement once it's gone.
Lyra sells a liquid stylus cleaner called the "Lyra SPT Stylus Treatment" that comes with a brush (you can get it on needledoctor--I've used it and I like it) so I wouldn't think Lyra would void the warranty on their cartridges for using that, but I don't know about Zyx or any other manufacturers.
I also use an Onzow Zerodust to get the dust and grime off of the stylus. Works similarly to how people describe the magic eraser (you lower it vertically onto the surface and then lift it back up) but it's a soft, sticky pad that the dust and grime literally sticks to. I've had good success with that too. It's about $35 on ebay.
That's why I said that liquid cleaners have the 'potential' to cause damage in those ways. Like anything in high end audio whether they actually do is subject to debate. Some cartridge manufacturers believe that they can create issues and therefore recommend against using them when other safer alternatives are available.
Regardless of what kind of cleaner is used, it is still necessary to clean the gunk off of the stylus AND the cantilever. A Magic Eraser sorta works on the stylus but isn't completely effective.
Looking at the problem from a microscopic perspective, the gunk needs to be softened to help release its bond to the stylus AND the cantilever. Some kind of mechanical action needs to be used to remove the softened gunk.
Raising and lowering the stylus into a dry Magic Eraser may help remove some of the material, but gentle brushing (back to front) will be much more effective and will get the build-up off of the cantilever.
The fluid used to soften the gunk can be most anything that will not loosed the glue bond of the stylus, and something that will dry leaving no residue.
This debate has been endless and will not end soon. As long as there is vinyl, there will be discussions about cleaning the components in the chain.
BTW, I use DiscDoctor Stylus cleaner and some cleaner that was given to me when I got my Clavis dC. In examining both cartridges, there is not residue present on either stylus or cantilever. I also have a Magic Eraser block which I have used a few times.
But what do I know.
My thoughts are rather along the lines of Bpoletti's regarding the effectiveness of relying entirely on Magic Eraser with a dip 'n dunk technique. I use Magic Eraser after every play, but have always used it with a "sideswipe" and a dunk. I cut the stuff into little 3/16" blocks and glue those to 2" x 1/4" pieces of popsicle sticks. You can use the top 90 degree edge of the little block of ME wipe the side of the stylus and cantilever without dragging the stylus through the fibers. You do need a very steady hand and really good eyesight to do it safely, so be forewarned. I've been "upper case shouted at" on certain other audio websites for even suggesting this. Like I said, I've got a steady hand and I'm really nearsighted. LOL. To tell the truth, I use Stylast because of its purported positive effects on stylus longevity. It would be interesting if there were ever any third party validation of Stylast's claims. I also understand why a cartridge manufacturer is going to recommend against wet cleaning. They have no way of knowing what solvents are going to be used in the myriad variations on the market or if a ham handed individual is going to over apply the liquid.
Photon46. Are you using Lasts stylus cleaner or their Stylast which I think is a fluid to reduce friction. They are different. I've used their stylus cleaner for years now and never had any problems with it. Of course I don't use it every time I play a record but use it once every couple of weeks to remove any baked on gunk that may adhere to the diamond or the cantilever. All of the other times I just use a soft stylus brush to get the loose fluff off each time I play a side of a record. Once again, I never had any problems with this cleaner in terms of loosening up a diamond or any migration problems from the fluid going up the cantilever tube into the cartridge's suspension.
While I have read of others also using Stylast as an effective cleaner, it is clearly not marketed as such. It is sold as a lubricant that is to be applied immediately before playing which reduces friction, improving tracking ability and prolonging the life of the stylus. The LAST company which manufactures Stylast has another liquid product that is intended for stylus cleaning.
I had reservations when I first started using Magic Eraser but those quickly subsided. Here is in the order of importance from my personal experience..
(1) A clean record. Audio Desk. After cleaning, ( I've written elsewhere regarding this procedure) store it in a quality inner sleeve. I use Sleeve City's Ultimate inner sleeve. (I never have to use a brush anymore because the AD removes all dirt, dust & more importantly, static. Just blow the lp off before playing.
(2) Every now and then I use the ME, then I follow that with the Onzow, then a brief brushing with MOFI Lp#9 stylus cleaner, (formerly Record Research Labs). Note: I use the liquid cleaner on a irregular basis. One advantage to the Onzow is that you can actually see if any crud comes off of your stylus. Since acquiring the AD, I find it's less & less.
I think this is important enough to repeat. I'm going to give a current example:
I recently purchased Ben Taylor's "Listening" on vinyl.
My normal cleaning procedure includes:
(1) Visual inspection
(2) Depending upon what (1) shows, I then apply Audio Intelligent Enzimatic fluid with a VPI bristle brush (that is always steamed after each lp).
(3) Steam lp.
(4) Audio Desk level (3).
Ususally, this is sufficient. Sometimes not so much. After listening to "Listening" after the first cleaning, I decided to inspect, re-clean.
(1) Applied lighter fluid to surface of lp. (This dissipates extremely fast so use a soft cotton cloth to wipe the surface very quickly.
(2) Re-do my aforementioned process.
(3) Use the AD on level 5.
The results are very gratifying and noticeable, IE: worth it. I know that lighter fluid raises question marks. Understood. My several years of using it in certain situations that are called for, has resulted in no negative effects. The main thing is that it evaporates extremely fast, therefore no chance of damaging affects.
(1) Visual inspection, listen, Ahh!
I think ME works great and I use it at the end of every listening session. But between sides, I prefer the Zerodust and some liquid stylus cleaner. IMO, using the ME between every side makes the process more prone to human error and the ME can definitely tear the stylus off if it gets caught in those fibers. Again, nothing wrong with ME - it's the human factor I worry about. The Zerodust is a really good product, IMO. It takes the initial dust blob off so it doesn't get into your expensive stylus cleaner and it's very safe, even if you are a bit careless and drop the needle for instance.
Chayro, excellent points. The highest risk factor for ME use is indeed the risk of user error. The material itself is completely benign.
Since I use the "brush along the cantilever and faces of the stylus" method, which cleans best, I suppose my cartridge is exposed to the highest risk of user goofup. :-0
It's also really clean. :-)
I've used both Stylast treatment and their stylus cleaner without problems. With the stylus treatment, one should take care to only apply a very small amount directly to the stylus and avoid slathering it all over the cantilever. The fluid dries to a sticky consistency and some people have had issues with that goop getting up into the cartridge's suspension. There are some claims that liquids applied to the stylus and cantilever can migrate up the cantilever by capillary action (wicking).
With liquid solvents, always leave some amount of time between cleaning and playing the record to allow the glue that holds the stylus in place some time to harden (in case the solvent softens the glue). Lyra makes its own liquid cleaner (so it is presumably safe for their cartridges), and they recommend something like a 10 second wait between cleaning and playing to allow the glue to harden.
I have not used Zerodust, or any other such sticky pads to clean my cartridges. My concern is with accidentally pulling the cantilever out of the suspension. The suspension is design to accept the load of the tracking force pushing in one direction, but not necessarily the force pulling in the opposite direction. I know of someone who pulled the cantilever of his Allaerte cartridge out of the body of the cartridge using one of these things. I don't know if this is something particular to the Allaerte, or whether the cartridge was somehow damaged before such use, but, in any case, this was a VERY expensive attempt at cleaning the stylus.
Magic eraser works very well. If you have real stubborn gunk, use a magnifying glass(jewel loupe) or microscope and a small piece of the ME and gently work with the tip of the stylus to loosen the stuff. on very rare occasions, i have tried the "chemical" solution to soften but ME usually does the trick. Put the cartridge on the Microscope to really see if you have an issue. Kinda changes your perspective when the stylus looks like a chisel up close. Easy to see what you are dealing with and if you have steady hands really helps you clean it
Unless a cantilever were made of a layered material, with gaps running up it's length, or it were porous(highly unlikely); no liquid could venture up it's length, via capillary action/wicking. If the cantilever were hollow, as some are, one would have to dip the end in a pool of liquid, for it to flow up into a cart's body/compliance. That's just the Physics of it. I suppose their are some, ham-fisted enough, to slather enough cleaner on stylus/cantilever, to wet it's compliance too, but- I'd hope for better. Some info: (http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/Physical_Chemistry/Physical_Properties_of_Matter/Bulk_Properties/Cohesive_And_Adhesive_Forces/Capillary_Action)
Yes, I am always acutely aware of the risks using ME on every side. Audiofeil reminded us some time ago that alcohol and vinyl just do not mix. I can attest, as I learned that lesson quite well in the late '80s. All my shenanigans now wait until later in the evening, when I am playing internet radio!
I have seen cartridges with mysterious goo up near the cartridge body end of the cantilever. I don't know how that happened, so I was relating what one cartridge manufacturer said. I never have a problem myself, but then again, I don't apply much Stylast or any other stuff to my cartridge.
I am sort of amazed at how many people clean their stylus with every play. I hardly ever need to clean the stylus. I keep my records clean and that seems to be good enough so that I only bother to clean the stylus once every ten or so sides.
Hi Larry- I don't doubt that(mysterious goo) a bit, and have seen it myself! There have been a number of, "groove lubrication" products, over the years, that could be over-applied, dredged out of the groove by the stylus and flipped up onto the cantilever/cart, over a period of time. Not to mention; there are people out there that actually play their records wet. Some radio DJs used to use glycerin, to quiet noisy records. Again, another possibility; those ham-fisted few and who-knows-what-product?
I am sort of amazed at how many people clean their stylus with every play. I hardly ever need to clean the stylus. I keep my records clean and that seems to be good enough so that I only bother to clean the stylus once every ten or so sides.I used to think the same, until Jcarr explained why more frequent cleaning is beneficial.
Even if one's LP grooves are perfectly clean, the stylus collects molecular-sized bits of vinyl as it plays. These get burnished onto the stylus surface by heat and pressure at the contact points.
Cleaning every ten sides or so allows this layer to accumulate. The degradation in sound is gradual and subtle, but it occurs (slighly muffled HFs, loss of lowest level detail, diminution of micro-dynamic "snap"). The color of the stylus will also go slightly yellow, compared to the pure white it would be if perfectly clean.
ME after each side prevents this buildup. I've seen and heard the difference on styli that are cleaned less often. Thus my recommendation for more frequent cleaning, based on guidance from one of the world's best and most helpful cartridge designers.