Stylus cleaning: tools, fluids, techniques?

I'm interested in your opinions about the best stylus cleaning tools and fluids are. I'd also like some input as to how to clean the stylus; but not so basic as to "always in the direction of record play". I'm more interested in how often, always with fluid, sometimes dry, how much force against the cantilever.

This question comes about as the result of my killing an inexpensive, but enjoyable, cartridge. I'm wondering if I "loved it too much". I'd like to get my vinyl hygeine down before the upgrade bug bites that part of my system.
macdonj: i use an ortofon "electro stylus cleaner" and last "stylus cleaner" fluid about every 15-20 hrs. of play. i try to check the stylus frequently to see if any fuzz-balls have formed; these, i usually clean off with a stylus brush and mirror that (i vaguely recall) came with my tonearm. i do think that you should refrain from too frequent cleaning of your stylus, given the fragility of most cantilevers. -cfb
I use Last cleaner too along with Benz brush that is being supplied with the cartridge. Last brush is great too.
To visualise I use dental magnifying mirror that is available for free if you ask your dentist.
macdonj - I have a Linn LP12 and I notice that the owner manual states that stylus brushes are "completely useless". They recommend a "dry vibrating cleaner" and I do not know what that is.

Having said that, my local Linn salesperson strongly discourages use of liquid stylus cleaners because of the residue they leave. I do not know how true that is. He does recommend using Silly Putty! Just let the stylus rest under its own weight on a piece and then pick the tonearm up. The silly putty will remove all the gunk. It is simple enough and I do it every few records or so.
Record Research stylus cleaner will make an immediate audible improvement the first time you use it. You may benefit from cleaning as often as every one or two sides of LP play, this obviously dependant on the condition of the records.

The best way to clean a really dirty stylus is either a battery powered vibrating tool ( Audioquest made the one I own ), or the dense pile stylus brush made by the Last Company. Saturate the pile with the RR fluid and clean thoroughly. You may leave the vibrating tool in place and simply cue the stylus down onto the surface for a few seconds. To use the Last brush, go ONLY from rear to front with gentle strokes, or you will break the cantilever.

After the initial cleaning the brush provided in the Record Research bottle should be sufficient, unless you go too many plays before touch up.
Linn was, at one point in its history, all out for plastic backed microfinishing film (the green one made by 3M). I don't know the grit, but such pieces were being handed to participants at an 'oficial' Linn seminar. Mi piece did not have the grity number printed. How effective this is? Don't know...

They came all the way down from Scotland to the Caribbean just to teach a seminar--He he...beach time!!!
albert: thanks for the tip on record research stylus cleaner. i use their record cleaning solution in my vpi hp-17 and think it's the best i've ever tried. the ortofon eltro stylus cleaner i use is also a vibrating model, probably resembling your audioquest. i've had mine for probably 15 years, or more. must have used it on 4 or 5 cartridges during that time. -kelly
my local linn dealer gave me some of the green 3M paper or my first turntable purchase, as well - a rega tt. i've since purchased a linn, and he still says to only use the green paper to clean the stylus and nothing else, every two sides played or so. i live with cats and cat fur loves to gather on the stylus. (always that one strand that wraps around it) and the green stuff does a reat job.
I've never had any experience with cleaning fluids, but the vibrators definitely work. Just a few seconds seems to do the job. I use it in addition to the Benz supplied cleaning brush. If you get one, be sure to switch your preamp to another source component before turning the vibrator on.

Albert, thanks for the heads up on Record Research. I'll search out their products.
Thanks, everyone.

Anyone know where to find the vibating stylus cleaners? Needle Doctor? Elusive Disc? Music Direct? for the best stylus cleaner with no liquid.
I've always been leary of polymer based stylus cleaners as they place negative force against the stylus shaft itself. There aren't any records that my stylus has stuck to. This force over time may lead to premature wear of the shaft and suspension, even when used correctly. Imagine a wire that is twisted back and forth. Eventually the wire will break at the stress point. Will this happen over time? If it doesn't actually break, it will still have stress points due to the stress applied in both normal use and with the negative stress placed upon cleaning with the polymer cleaner. Isn't this worth considering? If it doesn't break, it seems logical that the metal used in the shaft is at least stressed, so it is weaker. This may affect the sonics of the cartridge.

Polymer products are also petroleum based, so it is logical that the solvent action of the petroleum within the compound is what actually cleans the stylus. With these types of solvents, a film is present after the cleaning, which may lead to additional stylus build up. This also is of concern to me.

I've seen others use the polymer based cleaners, many believe in them, but for me the verdict is still out. Properly used, liquid stylus cleaners work fine, without imposing negative force, without creating stress points, and without films left behind. I'd used Audio Technica back in the 70's, Last during the 1980's and early 1990's, and Record Research since then, without any premature wear or stylus suspension failures. Cartridges used include the top of the line models from Grado, Benz, Koetsu, vdH, and Clearaudio.
Plain H2O. And I mean pure, *demineralized* water, the universal solvent...
I find it a bit surprising that so many have still not heard of the Record Research "stuff". Maybe because I live very close to the source, the word got here sooner.

I have found that the record cleaning solutions from RR are vastly superior to most all other products, including LAST. As for the stylus cleaner, I find LAST and RR to be equal, though I haven't done microscopic analysis on which to base this claim. The LAST stylus brush is great. I wouldn't think one could go wrong with either of these products.
The polymer based cleaners do not have to be petroleum based (nylon socks are petroleum based, but probably didn't affect human health). There are many other non-petroleum checmicals. However, most of the liquid cleaners are solvent based. Solvent will 'dissolve' things faster than any polymer, just the evaporative action of pure 100% alcohol is very powerful action.

Of course water and brush are the 'purest', will do no damage, but will also hardly clean.

However, I have never seen any stylus fallen off because of either solvent-based or polymer cleaner. However, a lot of dirty coils from capilary action (i.e. the hollow boron cantilever wicks up the liquid, while the dust particles 'kicked off' by the stylus hit the moist coil and stays there.)

The other physics against the liquid/brush cleaner is the fact that the brushing strokes by human finger many times stronger than that of tracking force, and this really will impact the logetivity of the cantilever/suspension. On the other hand, Newton already proved that the force applied by polymer has to be exactly equal to the tracking force set on the tonearm.

I did encounter many sad owners of premature moving coil cartridge failure from prematured cantilever suspension collapsed after only 1 year of active use + vigorously cleaning with brush/liquid.

The 'purity' of our polymer based cleaner can be easily proven, just smear some polymer on a clean mirror surface, and rub it off, there will be no residue, no grease left on the mirror surface.

Extremephono products are tested with almost every top tier cartridge, including the $10000 Clearaudio Insider.
Record Research fluid is distributed by the same people that import the Benz, Clear Audio and Koetsu cartridge lines.

I seriously doubt they sell a product that puts all these cartridges in harms way.
I see so many negative comments on forums that suggest the worst case scenario without knowing the facts. I'm glad extremephono wrote back. I've got several friends using them on their Benz, Lydian and ZYX cartridges. (Premature collapse-it's known as cantilever fatigue and effects some cartridges more than others. I've had three Dynavectors which had suspension assemblies freeze up/harden and one with cantilever collapse from 1980 to 1992. Since then, only Lyra's which have superior suspensions).