What's the best way to clean vinyl records?

I'am getting into vinyl and have been reading about cleaning records with everything form soap and water,Wendix, expensive cleaners at $250, spin machines to machines that coast over $5000. I have about 300 to 400 records from the 70s they all need care. I'am looking for a safe way to clean records,not at a coast that doesn't make sense. What are your suggestions.
Steam, steam and more steam. Walmart has steamer's for about $30. Using distilled water will help. Of course, the condition of each record varies, so try a few before spending on pricey fluids or machines. After steaming, wipe with some washable micro fiber towels and then air dry. Enjoy.
The OP said he wanted the "best" way. IME, a string based RCM (Keith Monks, Loricraft or similar) used with effective cleaning solutions, including very pure water for final rinses, provides the best results. This method is expensive and time consuming, but the results are audibly superior to wand-based RCMs (VPI, Nitty Gritty) or ultrasonic RCMs.

I've tried steaming, using machines and regimens recommended by steaming proponents on this forum and elsewhere. The results were unacceptable. There are a couple of reasons for this:

First, steam does not dissolve everything. At temperatures and pressures safe for vinyl, steam is far from a universal solvent.

Second, regardless of what cleaning vapors or fluids one uses, allowing a grunge-rich solution to evaporate necessarily causes the grunge to deposit back out of solution. The grunge ends up right back where it came from... at the bottom of the record groove.
If you want to do it cheap , then you have to do it yourself including some DIY construction .
There is a video on you tube that explains this method better than I probably will .
For @$60 purchase a small wet/dry shop vac , a plastic tailpiece for a sink and an old fashion drain stopper .
Cut a slit @ 6 in. long in the drain pipe and put the stopper in the big end of the pipe . Stick the other end of the pipe into the vac end piece on the end of the hose . Wrap a piece of micro fiber around the tube and cut a slit in it the same size as the one in the pipe . You have now made a record vacuum cleaning machine !
Now go to another store and get 2 of the old fashion ketchup squeeze bottles with caps on the spout , a bottle of 91% rubbing alcohol , a gallon of distilled water , 2
paint pad edger devices and a small bottle of dish soap .
Fill one of the ketchup bottles with distilled water and label it RINSE . In the other bottle just cover the bottom with dish soap , then fill up to @ 1in. from the top with distilled water and the last inch with the alcohol and shake it up . You have now made your cleaning and rinse solutions !
Set a record on a clean lint free towel and squirt some cleaning solution on it and spread it around with one of the paint pads . Let it sit for a bit and then use the pad again , in the direction of the grooves . Now vacuum off the dirty solution . Squirt some of the rinse solution onto the record and repeat the brushing with the second paint pad and vacuum dry . Now put a clean lint free towel onto the first one , under the record , and turn the record over to clean the other side . When done stand the record up to make sure that it is completely dry before returning it to the clean sleeve .
I used this method on side A (usually the heavier use side)
after cleaning the entire record in a Spin Clean tank using
their cleaning solution and drying towels . Both my wife and myself could tell a noticeable difference between the two sides of the record ! The DIY cleaned side had a little more detail , less background noise and more you-are-there presence .
For @ 70-75 dollars and a bit of extra work the DIY method did quite a bit better job than the @100 dollar Spin Clean method . This DIY method is now my preferred way .

Good luck .
This may be way over your idea for a cleaner but you asked for it.

The best version I have is the KL Audio LDP200 ultrasonic cleaner
Not cheap at $4,000 but it gives incredible results that really get out the unwanted material in the groove leading to better detail, low level resolution and quieter surfaces. Just lower the disc down into the machine and go about your business

I have a Loricraft cleaner as well and used the 4 stelp Walker process. It is very effective, especially for soiled records

The KL does a better job and doesn't require tons of your time
Change the distilled water every month and clean away

There is a similar ultrasonic cleaner the Audio Deck. Ut requires cleaning solutions and swapping out cleaning brushes but gives similar results.

This is like a major cartridge upgrade and even brings great improvement to new vinyl
i have used virtually all of the DIY options including steaming, strong cleaners, vacuums, and Ultrasonic. I really like the results using the scrubbing with a good brush (i like the mofi brush but have used several types) and using a steamer to heat the liquid before scrubbing. I vac after scrubbing and after two RO water rinse with great success. I have also built a Ultrasonic that IMO with the right cleaning solution is the best i have ever used. I built the vac cleaner and ultrasonic using techniques described on Diyaudio and here. For the really dirty records i pick up, i will do both cleaning with the scrubbing/rinse followed up by a Ultrasonic cleaning and final rinse with RO water. To many people cheap out on the rinse water and leave deposits on the records. I have over 4000 now and other than surface noise on some, they are remarkably quiet. I have my own cleaning solutions that i like but many commercial cleaners do an exceptional job. Good luck
I know Saki's method works very well and has modest cost. I suggest distilled water, max 5% isopropyl alcohol, dash of Dawn dishwashing soap (has alcohol as an ingredient). Rinse, rinse, rinse. Then I have used the "LAST" products (which I think are great) to finish off. Records are tougher than most think. When I've bought 'dirty' collections I've used soft brushes, gently, for washing and rinse. I've probably been more brutal than anyone would suggest-but it has salvaged records I would never have played - lest they rip out the needle.
Jump on a VPI 17F now..
For $199 investment you can get the manual RECORD DOCTOR cleaning system. Throw the ketchup bottle away
Might I digress? How often do we clean our records? I always clean new LPs before playing, but then usually clean after each use. I have my VPI 16.5 and my homemade ultrasonic. Is the clean after every use overkill, the norm, the recommended method?
REALLY good question. Clean records are far more important than one thinks.

Ultrasonic, BUT all ultrasonic units are not created equal, which is why I made my own.

How good is it? Going from VPI to my ultrasonic was MORE than going from good MM to higher end Koetsu. Hard to believe, but true - when I said that I could almost believe the choir was in the room, my wife (who sings in a choir), said, "No, better, because you can clearly hear the concert hall."

Things to watch out for: high frequency US (I use 80 KHz); enough room in the tank for ultrasonic waves to resonate, otherwise they will not clean properly (2 cm for 80 KHz, 4 cm for 40 KHz, though more is better); high power; good energy distribution; rated for continuous use. In short, a quality commercial unit adapted to record cleaning.

I should have spent the first big chunk of money on keeping my records extra clean, because 1. reduced stylus wear, save money, prevent record damage 2. big investment in sound. Instead, I did it last, and burned serious money on replacing cartridges, which I had regarded as expendables.
Once mine have been thoroughly cleaned once, then LAST cleaned and 'treated', I just keep them in good sleeves and plastic overcovers and check for dust when playing. I haven't found it necessary to continually clean or treat. My Goldmund has a cover and I close it when playing. Like to keep the stereo area very clean. (I admit to checking the record for dust and doing a light dusting before every playing. I think this fussing & cleaning allows me to innocently satisfy my OC tendencies; how about you?)
VPI 16.1 on the used market - $400 - $500.00
Walker Audio Prelude Quartet Record Cleaning System - $215.00
Ptss ;
Like you I agree that cleaning well once is enough . And , yes , I use a static brush before playing every time .
Although I'm not a plastic sleeve aficionado ! These old clumsy mitts seem to get those sleeves jammed up when trying to insert or remove the record . Really quite aggravating !

Happy Tunes
To Ebuzz: once i am able to effectively clean a record, I don't see a need to repeatedly re-clean it. In fact, as Doug pointed out, leaving any fluid/residue on the record- a risk in cleaning- makes things far worse than just leaving the record alone. So, I avoid recleaning at this point as a matter of routine, but as my cleaning methods have improved, I have recleaned a number of records- some which I thought were irretrievably compromised by groove damage were in fact contaminated by a combination of ground-in pollutants, and glued firmly into place by tar from cigarettes, previous record cleaning by earlier owners (I buy mostly older pressings), etc.
The most effective 'cheap' solution I have found is AIVS No. 15 -agitate, soak, vacuum, followed by lab water/vacuum. (A VPI 16.5 will do yeoman's work here and is effective).
I've been using a lot of different methods lately, and multiple steps/approaches yield improvements for compromised records. Currently using the big Monks and the KL with reagent water. Cleaning fluids on the Monks vary, depending on a variety of factors.
Doug, have you tried Syntax's 'reverse clean' (my term, not his) ? Ultrasonic wash, then plopping on the Monks for a point nozzle dry? Extremely effective on problem records.
(Aren't there 583 different threads on this topic?)

Call Disc Doctor (see his web site) and ask someone who has been studying this for years. He'll probably suggest some kind of vacuum record cleaning machine and he'll fix you up with the proper kind of cleaner to address your needs.

And yes, he is in business to make money. But he wouldn't have lasted all these years if he was producing an inferior product or giving bad advice.
BPoletti- yes, probably more. But, I think you'll agree, that there are
probably that many different methods, approaches and favorite machines,
fluids and different combinations of steps or sequences. I never used the
DiscDoctor, from what I gather, it requires multiple rinses, and several
plays, according to the manufacturer (at least with the Miracle Cleaner, not
the one-step) , before optimal results are achieved.
In the fluid world, I have used enzymes (from Walker as well as AIVS,
which cut my work time in 1/2), along with a variety of other fluids I'm
playing with now (Monks, the TM-8 reboot of the old Torumat, and Hannl,
among others). Everybody seems to have their favorite. I have found the
enzyme cleaners to be very effective if followed by a pure water rinse.
I've used Miracle Record Cleaner for years. No second rinse.

I don't agree that there are multiple "best" methods of record cleaning. There are only alternatives which are of varying effectiveness. My preference is to apply chemical solution to the kinds of dirt that would be in the grooves.
B Poletti, when you say 'no second rinse,' I take that to mean you are doing a rinse step with water after the DD, just not multiple rinse steps, right?
The best way is to keep them clean.
The second-best is to use anti-static brush to sweep off the dust before landing needle.
Record cleaning machines are third-best.
Spraying and rinsing with cloth is one to void.
Hand scrub with favorite cleaner juice, dry with micro-towel and finish in KL Audio Ultrasonic cleaner. You cannot get a record more clean and static free. It is really that simple.
My new regime, which I am ecstatic with, is: 2.5ml of Tergitol 15 S-3 in 1 liter
aquafina (or reagent grade water) and 1.25ml to 2.5ml of Tergitol 15 S-9 in 1
liter of the same. I keep the solutions separate and do 2 steps rather than
combine them. Two rinses after the 15 S-9 with reagent grade water or the
equivalent and just the best sound I've had with my vinyl! Oh, a VPI 16.5 for
suctioning off the solutions. But this has been a big step forward from either
the RRL, Record Doctor and the AIVS solutions I was happy with in the past.
Cheap too compared with either one although the initial outlay is about $150
for the two Tergitols and the reagent grade water. BTW, Teknova sells and
ships painlessly their reagent grade H2O. The nice thing about this combo is
you know exactly what you are putting on you records and not taking anyones'
word for the safety or effectiveness of the solutions.
@Whart - Yes.
@Whart - I'm using a VPI 16.5. After I vacuum the rinse from the record, I gently wipe the surface with a clean, "lint free" cloth (usually a spent white t-shirt).
Doug, have you tried Syntax's 'reverse clean' (my term, not his) ? Ultrasonic wash, then plopping on the Monks for a point nozzle dry? Extremely effective on problem records.

Just noticed your question (a year late... not bad!).

I don't have an US machine, but the regimen you describe is exactly what I'd like to try if I had. The slowest part of my (verrry slow) regimen is the multiple solutions, soak times and vacuuming after each step. If US could replace most of those, it could be a real time saver.
Doug- the methods seem to work synergistically. I know people who swear by ultrasonic alone, but suspect that their records are already pretty immaculate and they are just going for that extra dimension in sound that comes from an ultrasonic clean. Me, on the other hand- I’m dealing with 45+ year old records that have not been properly cleaned, if at all, often seem to have some sort of sludge or other contaminant, and ultrasonic alone proved ineffective to completely remove this ’stuff’ (some of which I suspect is cigarette or cooking fumes, as well as stuff that may have been put on the vinyl at some put to give it a sheen or perhaps to reduce surface noise). In any event, I have succeeded in salvaging a number of records I would have ordinarily written off as a lost cause, some quite valuable or difficult to find. On the other hand, just using the Monks alone, which gives a very good result with few of the drawbacks of a wand machine-- deeper, more effective vacuum in my estimation, no static and far less fuss in terms of cleaning the vacuum contact area-- still seems to lack that final ’finish’ that the ultrasonic provides. And, the question i had posed to you-- better late than never-- was reversing the process by washing in US and vac drying on the point nozzle. I have been advocating a used Loricraft plus a DIY US machine for this purpose at far lower cost than the Monks + KL. (The Audio Desk doesn’t permit you to remove the record between wash and dry cycles; though you can easily do that on the current KL, the manufacturer recommends against it because it can apparently wet the electronics in the machine). There is also a less expensive Monks now which I haven’t tried.
So, DIY ultrasonic plus a point nozzle (Monks or Loricraft) can not only be more cost effective, but possibly, more effective in result.  I still use the AIVS No. 15 plus lab water on the vacuum machine side, but frankly, I get the same results on the Monks using the Hannl fluid that Syntax recommended followed by a lab water rinse. I think it has to do with the point nozzle’s effectiveness, and less to do with the fluid. But, whatever machines and fluids used on the vacuum side, it seems like the combination of methods works extremely well for me. And though I’m not terribly patient, I can get a good work-flow going; the Monks is actually quicker than you’d think, and the ultrasonic takes time too, though less labor intensive, so I’m running both machines simultaneously. Enough! You get the point. Thanks for responding.