Two quick record cleaning methods - enough?

After getting back into vinyl a couple of years ago, a record-buying-and-cleaning frenzy followed. Then followed a research-about-record-cleaning frenzy (things having channged a bit since I last cleaned records in the 80's).

And, suddenly, burn-out followed, which is probably almost inevitable when you're messing with cleaning methods that take 20 minutes+ per record.

Here are 2 methods that I think work very well, and that take less than 4-5 minutes per record, using a VPI 16.5 record cleaning machine:

1. Brush Mo Fi Super Deep clean on with a VPI brush while the RCM platter is going. Brush back and forth like a paint brush. Don't need to (and probably shouldn't) use much pressure. Vacuum after 45-60 seconds. Then use Mo Fi Super Record Wash for 15-30 seconds, spread on with a Mo Fi brush, but don't brush. Vacuum, and you're done.


2. Brush Audio Intelligent One Step cleaner onto the record, again while the platter is rotating, but use an Osage record brush, brushing back and forth like a paint brush. After about a minute of that, vacuum, and you're done.

Why the VPI brush? The bristles are fairly stiff, and I (and some others--see my recent thread about brushes) think it does a better job of getting down into the grooves.

Why not use the VPI brush with the AI fluid? The AI people warn against scrubbing, and the Osage brush seems to have been developed for the AI fluids. It is like the VPI brush, but not as stiff, and you simply can't scrub with it with any vigor. (I'll assume their concern about too heavy scrubbing is valid, and I don't scrub hard with the VPI brush in method 1. I've discovered some synergy between the MoFi Super Deep Clean and the VPI brush, by trial and error.) Honestly, I haven't tried the VPI brush with the AI fluid. I just use the Osage brush because that's what AI apparently likes, and it certainly seems to work in this context.

What about multi-step processes, heavy-duty enzymes, ultra-clean water rinses, etc.?

First, what I've found with either of the two methods described above is that, if there is still a noise problem on a record after that, you've got a big problem. In my experience, this means you've probably got a record that will never be noise-free, and may well never get close. Have I been able to reduce noise with additional, longer cleaning using enzymes, etc.? Yes, to some degree, and very occasionally, to a surprising degree...but only occasionally. What I've finally concluded after many hours of dealing with the various multi-step processes, is that, at least for me, it is rarely worth the effort.

I buy a fair bit of 50's and early 60's vinyl (classical and jazz, mostly). How I proceed now, if I've got a record that is still noisy after the quick cleans described above, is first to examine the record very carefully under different lights. Where there is noise, there is often light scratching, but sometimes it's pretty hard to see. If I can find evidence of light scratching, I usually give up, unless it's a really, really important record. If I can't find scratches, a good second step is to try whichever one of the quick-clean methods you didn't use the first time. If there is any improvement (and sometimes there will be), then I think the next serious step is a long enzyme soak, which can be largely unattended (so it won't make you crazy). The AI website has a good description of how to do it, and has good enzyme fluids, and Mo Fi is now making an enzyme fluid which I will eventually try, that I am told is good. (I should add that, as between the long enzyme soak, and the multi-step processes, I seem to get better results with the long soak, AND (very important) the multistep processes require much more work and attention. (A typical multi-step process is described on the AI webpage, and can also be done with Mo Fi fluids, and other fluids that I haven't tried.)

If I do a 2nd short clean as an experiment, and obtain virtually no improvement, the problem is probably in the vinyl itself, and I think the best move is to give up (again, unless the record is really important).

Recently, I came home from the Austin Record Convention with two boxes of records. I have been using this methodology in dealing with these records. I am finding that my record-cleaning-sanity is slowly being restored, AND, I have more time to listen.

Full disclosure re: what I've tried and haven't tried: I've only used AI, Mo Fi, and VPI fluids, and AI/Osage, Disc Doctor, and Mo Fi brushes. I should add that I always brush superficial dust and debris off of records before I do any of the cleaning described above. I also always examine the records, at least superficially, and if there is an obvious bad scratch, I usually toss the record. However, whether a mark is going to "sound" is not always easy to predict.

For those of you who, like me, have found themselves driven crazy by the urge to try cleaning "just one more time," consider the above. And I'm sure there are others who have simple, quick, yet effective processes they might like to share.
Thanks for echoing my experiences with record cleaning, i.e. sometimes a
record is just inherently noisy and no amount of cleaning will correct the
problem regardless of the fluids or method.

Just curious...have you experimented with steam cleaning?
Nope, haven't tried steam cleaning. Part of it is laziness, part of it is inherent clumsiness (which would undoubtably result in some melted records), and both of those issues attract me more toward the naysayers, I guess.

You know, I haven't cleaned a single record today. I've just listened. It's been great, and with the quick clean methods, I've got a stack of clean records from the last few days that I haven't listened to yet. Freedom from record-cleaning madness!! There's hope!!
04-12-09: Eweedhome
Nope, haven't tried steam cleaning. Part of it is laziness, part of it is inherent clumsiness...
Ha! I resemble that remark.

A few months ago, I acquired an absolutely pristine copy of an LP I had been hunting. Took out the trusty steam cleaner, and proceeded to drop the steamer's brass lid onto the vinyl, leaving a nice divot.

90 percent of the noise on a record -- clicks, pops, random buzzes -- are due to pressing defects and/or mishandling by previous owners and can't be removed. Which means record cleaning is largely a fruitless task. Do I still do it? Yup -- because it does help for ten percent of records.

I tried the Walker and AI three-step processes, but it's a huge hassle and just not worth it. Now I use L'Art Du Son, which works as well as anything else I've tried and is a one-step, no-rinse deal. Takes about a minute per album.

IMO, people are being way to neurotic about record cleaning. A little dust isn't going to hurt either your LP or your stylus, or even be audible. And even if you did manage to clean off every last microscopic particle of said dust -- which you can't -- it isn't going to make an album sound clearer, or "lift a veil," or any of that nonsense.

In my experience, the records that respond best to cleaning are old records that are still sealed or have never been played. Don't have the slightest idea why that is.

To each his own when it comes to cleaning, but to imply that you don't hear a thing so no one does is impressively assertive.

I might, with similar hubris, announce that I do hear those things so you do too, whether you know it or not. But I won't.

Your next-to-last sentence matches my experience BTW. The usual reason given is that mold release compounds on older unplayed/sealed LP's have chemically hardened over the years. This makes them harder for the stylus to displace and harder to dissolve and clean away (and we therefore enjoy a great sonic benefit when they finally are removed).

I've no chemical evidence for that hypothesis, but it's consistent with my cleaning and playing experiences with such records, and apparently with yours.
Every record I clean has a minimum 50% reduction in noise, usually more. And I won't get into the improvement in sound quality, i e clarity, lack of harshness, less grain, etc. To each his own.
Headsnappin - I usually don't listen to records before cleaning them, but sometimes I have, and cleaning has always improved the sound, and frequently gotten rid of some noise.

Jake4357 - I respect where you're coming from, and indeed, have reluctantly concluded that a certain amount of, and certain kinds of noise, can't be removed. Indeed, my post is geared to record collectors who are a bit obsessive, like me (or maybe I'm the only one?) who have trouble giving up on noisy records--and my message is, don't be afraid to give up! AND, enjoy the extra time by listening to some of those records that DID clean up pretty quickly and easily. But my own experience suggests (to me at least) a better than 10% improvement rate. (I'd put it at 30-40%.) But it depends on the record, where it's been, etc.

Update - I've started using the VPI brush with the AI One Step fluid, and I'm finding myself again concluding that it's a really fine tool in the cleaning process. This is consistent with my previous experience, and, as noted, that of some others who posted in a previous thread.

2nd Update - At the suggestion of a couple of people, I added a brief AI pure water rinse to the AI fluid cleaning scheme. It only adds about 30 seconds per side. I like the results. My sense was that several of the records I cleaned only with the AI One Step seemed just a bit dull when I played them. I'm not getting that sense when I do a rinse step. Maybe it's just psychology. But good psychology is worth 30 seconds.

Thanks for everybody's posts.
I'm just trying for the first time, the AI three step process and Osage brushes with a RCM.
I previously had been manually cleaning with the Disc Doctor cleaner and brushes. I thought the DD process took a while, now I wish this method were only that slow.
On most LP's I notice more clarity and resolution. Definitely an improvement over previous method, and let's face it, isn't that what this hobby is about.
Although, I would like to streamline the process. What step to eliminate?
And has anybody tried plain distiiled or R/O filtered instead of the AI pure rinse water?
most of the above seems to converge with my own experience (and you may still? call me a bit obsessive...)

I have had a Nitty PRO2 and it was VERY fast (both sides at once) VERY noise, (I came to use ear defenders, no joke) and it cleaned tolerably well. (Why it is a Class A rated component is slightly beyond me though, maybe for sheer speed?)

I have had my fair share of mechanical issues with this one though, and finally decided on a Hannl MERA. It is slower (on side at a time) but from the start I noticed it got improved 'clarity' with records cleaned multiple times by the Nitty.
More recently the Hannl came out with a roller-brush (car wash like thing). Having 90%+ 2nd hand records I got one. (It was also demoed on the Munich 2009 High End).
This yet again improved on the 'normal' cleaned vinyl of mine --- in fact I do not feel like using their standard brush any more, as good as it works compared to the former RCM's results.
I have used various cleaning fluids (none of the ones mentioned above) non-alcohol based, using enzymes I think, and due to shipping issues( by air) I have gone back to my own mix with equally good results.
3/4 distilled water, 1/4 isopropyl alcohol, 1/2 drop of liquid soap and (believe it or not) a few grains of pool chlorine (to stop algae growth in the waste water container).
I do think that my results are on par with steam cleaning, which I also have also done for some short time.
Also there seems a miss conception about that process --- no way will you MELT a record since it is pretty cold steam. Cold?? Yes, due to the pressure drop at the nozzle. However, I found it worked good (but no better than my RCM) but it is more messy and cumbersome, but otherwise fine.
My audio friend (owner of the steam cleaner) decided also for the RCM (Okki Nokki), VERY noisy but again less messy by far.
Roller-brush cleaning time is +/- the same as normal scrubbing-brush i.e. ~ 3min plus per record. It actually works up a small lather as can be seen on my system site's pic (just like at the car wash :-)
I would like to streamline the process. What step to eliminate?
Me too, since my process is even longer. Trouble is, we hear the improvements, or the lack thereof if we skip any of our steps. To each his own of course.

... has anybody tried plain distiiled or R/O filtered instead of the AI pure rinse water?
Yes, and several others too. That's why I use the AI water.
What's "AI water" ?
I know "DI water" = Deionized water, used e.g. in wafer-fabs
"AI Water" is Audio Intelligent water. It is a commercial product of supposedly lab grade water.
Ai water = Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions


Dealer for AIVS

OK, intelligent-audio-water, that's cool.
So what is it D.I. or distilled by Peruvian virgins? :-)
A secret I should guess...