Vinyl Cleaning

Is there a home brew solution for vinyl cleaning such as alcohol or distilled water? Also is there a particular style of brush that can be used (i.e. horse hair) to use with the cleaning solution?

I make my own cleaning solution. Get a 1 gallon jug of distilled water, and drain off 1 pint of the water. Then add 1 pint of 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol to the distilled water, plus 1/4 teaspoon of a good surfactant (a high quality liquid detergent will work, but I usually buy a chemical surfactant from a chemical supply house). Shake the gallon jug of solution to distribute the surfactant. You can store the solution in the jug or a glass container (such as several quart Mason jars).

I use this solution with my Nitty Gritty cleaning machine. Apply a fairly liberal amount of the liquid to the surface of the LP, work it around the surface of the record with a gentle brush, or an applicator such as the one that comes with LAST record preservative. Then vacuum off the solution.

I've been using this solution and method for more than 20 years and have been very pleased with the results.
There is a discussion on this topic which is entitled "Best cleaning fluid procedures with the VPI 16.5." Some don't like any alcohol, although using 5% isopropyl alcohol and 95% distilled water along with the dab of soap (surfactant)will do the trick. Too much soap will cause it to foam and leave a residue. SDCambell may be recommending far more alcohol (12%!!)than is useful and could harm the vinyl if left on for any length of time. Also, there is no 99.9% pure alcohol as chemically, it's a virtual impossibility. Typically, you'll find 60% and 90% at the drug store. Go for the 90%.

(In case you are wondering, the balance of the alcohol in the 60% or 90% solutions is pure water. As you may recall from chem class, alcohols and most acids love to absorb water, making it reasonably impossible to get more than about 95% to 98% pure unless you want to spend the national budget.)

Actually, Jim, I buy 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol in a local drug store. It may not be widely available, but it's not that hard to find. Your point is valid about not leaving the cleaning solution on for an extended time, but the 30-45 seconds or so between application and vacuuming it off has not caused any damage to any of my LP's. As I said in my post, I've been using this solution with good results for more than 20 years, and have cleaned some 2500 LP's with it. I have no hesitancy recommending it -- but if you want to cut down on the alcohol percent to err on the more cautious side, that's fine too.
Hey, SD!

I haven't noticed any ill effects from alcohol either, but some folks are (rightfully) leery of putting ANY alcohol in the mix. Part of the reason I try to use a minimal amount is that, after cleaning several albums, the alcohol odor starts to get to me. If it were only Jack Daniels instead of isopropyl.....

Perhaps the "99.9% pure" refers not to the percentage of alcohol, but to the overall purity of the solution?


Alcohol doesn't damage vinyl by itself. However, sometimes plasticizors are included to the vinyl to make the vinyl composition more flexible and workable. Adding plasticizors make the stamping process easier, and made shipment damage (loss of profit) less of an issue, since the record was more flexible. Most plasticizors are composed of di-basic fatty acids, and are alcohol soluable. (they will disolve in Iso-Propyl Alcohol,(IPA)

I have tested many samples of LP records to find which labels did and which didn't use plasticizors in their vinyl, and found that non were consistant. I even went as far as to test vinyl from different plants, I.E; Mercury and RCA had various plants. There was also an inconsistency in the amount of plasicisor used. Maybe different compositions were used by different engineers, or maybe it wasn't an issue.

At what rate does the plasticizor disolve? Once again, different compositions equal different rates. Could we clean LP's for 50 years with straight IPA? Are we all too anal about the whole cleaning process? Maybe. While there is no concrete information as to whether or not IPA based solutions will damage your LP's or not, I'll continue using alcohol free.
To Wags question on what brush to use- the guy at Record Research recommends using a soft carbon micro fiber type (several brands on the market from $10 or so) while the brush that VPI has available is quite stiff. I find myself using the VPI brush for wet cleaning and the micro fiber for dry dusting.

Jimbo3: the 99.9% pure refers, as far as I know, to the ratio of alcohol to water. It is essentially impossible to distill 100% alcohol, since alcohol will pick up water vapor from the air. The 99.9% stuff I buy, however, is also pure with regard to other agents that are sometimes found in alcohol. The one cautionary note for anyone planning to make their own cleaning solution is DO NOT use rubbing alcohol. It often has often ingredients that are intended for use on human skin, and these substances are NOT good for vinyl LP's.
I will add my endorsement to Sdcampbell's recommendation. I have been using an alcohol and distilled water formula almost identical to his for 20 years on several thousands of records with no ill effect. The only difference is the use of 92% isopropyl (also from the local drug store) and the addition of about 10 drops of Kodak Photo-flo as a wetting agent.
If you want record cleaning formulas goto

The DIY section has lots of different brews.

Listen to the Psychic...
Rushton: good to know someone else uses essentially the same solution. The formula I use was provided to me by a now deceased friend, who made a part-time living buying estate collections of LP's and re-selling them -- mainly to the Japanese collector market. My friend David probably cleaned 30,000 LP's over a 15-year period using the formula I recommend, and he never had any problems with it. Furthermore, this solution tastes GREAT -- and, it's less filling!
Sdcampbell: At one time I recall Anthony Cordesman describing essentially this same formula in a TAS article. Interesting how information seems to get shared in this small community of ours.