I just started using the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser that a lot of other members here use. Works better and easier to use in my system than the Zero Dust.
24 responses Add your response
I had the same reservations too, but finally decided to go for it and the ME has worked out fine for me. I can mount a thin piece of the ME on a nickel and it sits nicely on the platter allowing me to easily lower the stylus on it and raise it using the lift. I could not do this with the Zero Dust. As I said the ME was easier to use in my system. I still think the Zero Dust is a very good product, but the ME works better for me.
I too used the Zero Dust, however, after changing carts from robust Denon 103 to the very delicate Dynavector 17 D III,
I realized the ZD might be too risky
in that the gell could catch the stylus and bend the cantilever during a passionate cleaning
(some LPs just move me, shake my bones and rattle me).
At a loss and in need of a passionate cleaning, I finally retrieved the MCME
which was given to me (a fellow audiogonee)
and timbers shimmer me
it was as delicate as a babies arse in ke tuck ee
So now, Mr. Clean magic Eraser is the only one for me!
The ME is chemical-free and used dry. I know many use a cube of ME and then dip the stylus into it and this may be the best approach for those with poor eyesight and unsteady hands.
However, the approach that works best for me is how I've seen DougDeacon use it. That technique uses a thin piece glued to a toothpick like a brush. The ME is gently brushed down the sides of the stylus, obviously not back a forth. I don't think there are any fibers left behind, but I always use my soft stylus brush before and after the ME. This method has kept my XV-1s stylus clean and shiny.
FYI: STYLUS CLEANING LIKE MAGIC!
I own a ZeroDust, an XtremePhono and some liquid stylus cleaners, but I dont use them anymore. Why? Because none of them works as well as a product I bought at the supermarket for a few pennies. I've been using this product to maintain my cartridges since 2004. Their styli and cantilevers have never been cleaner.
So what is this piece of magic? Its called the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (ME for short). Youll find it with the household cleaning products. Two dollars will buy enough ME to make hundreds of stylus cleaners, enough for many lifetimes.
ARE YOU KIDDIN ME?
Search the archives on Audiogon and Vinyl Asylum, you'll find hundreds of testimonials.
WHATS WRONG WITH THOSE EXPENSIVE STYLUS CLEANERS?
Jonathon Carr of Lyra explains that heat and friction from the stylus-vinyl interface leave a layer of vinyl molecules (and probably other contaminants) bonded to the stylus after each side. This layer must be removed or it will continue to accrue. At first this layer will only be visible under a strong (200x) microscope. As the buildup thickens with additional plays the stylus gradually turns cloudy, gray or yellow. The sonic degradation from this buildup is gradual but progressive. High frequencies slowly disappear, since the stylus can no longer trace the finest groove modulations. Micro-dynamics are slowly impaired and the sound goes dull. If the layer gets thick enough mis-tracking will occur.
Gels and goops will not remove this layer. They aren't aggressive enough. Liquids won't remove it unless they contain alcohol or other solvents that are dangerous to some cartridge suspensions and stylus/cantilever glues. What's needed is something that will physically abrade that gunk loose without doing damage.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
By abrasion. The venerable Scottish turntable maker Linn used to supply strips of very fine sandpaper. That works, but a properly used ME is easier and more effective for daily use. Modern materials science has created a product that is compliant enough to clean all sides of a stylus, yet abrasive enough to remove even stubborn contaminants.
Theres a good article and a photo here, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melamine_foam. (Note: the article states the ME should be used wet. This is true for normal cleaning tasks but not for stylus cleaning. See the instructions below.)
As you can see, the ME is made up of micro-fibers arranged in an open mesh. This airy structure lets the fibers flex around a stylus and contact every surface.
These fibers are sharply ridged and very hard, making the ME very abrasive on a microscopic scale. Were talking about nearly molecular sized ridges; dont go looking for them with your pocket magnifier!
HOW DO I USE IT?
Always dry brush with a stylus brush (back to front) before using the ME or any other stylus cleaner. Theres no point contaminating your stylus cleaner with loose fluff.
Use only the white portion of the ME. The blue portion contains detergents that could leave a residue.
Use the ME dry. Wetting the ME causes its open mesh to collapse into a denser bundle. Thats fine for scrubbing dried taco sauce off the stovetop, but a dense bundle wont let a stylus penetrate into the ME to be rubbed by fibers on all sides.
There are two popular methods for using the ME. One is safer. The other cleans better. Get comfortable with the safer method before trying the better one but please note, the safer method alone may not be adequate over time.
Cut a small, thin piece of ME and glue it to a coin or other thin, heavy object. Place this on the platter and dip the stylus straight down into the ME and back up, using the cueing lever. Dip it several times.
NEVER move the stylus or the ME sideways, forward or backward. Those interwoven fibers are grabby and strong. Once the stylus is inside the ME, moving any direction but straight up and down could separate stylus from cantilever or break the cantilever.
ALWAYS dry brush the stylus again after using the ME. It sheds pieces of itself easily and these are very abrasive. You dont want them on your vinyl. Some people ZeroDust or XtremePhono at this stage, to be extra sure.
Slice off a small, thin wedge of ME and stick it on a toothpick. The pointy end of the wedge should be VERY thin. It should flex easily under the slightest pressure.
After dry-brushing, dunk the stylus into the ME a few times or bring the ME up to the stylus and back down, as in the safer method. Then use the thin end of the wedge to scrape along the cantilever and around all sides of the stylus. BE CAREFUL. Do not apply any force; the ME will do the work. If you see the cantilever deflect youre pushing too hard.
ALWAYS finish with a dry brushing, ZeroDust or XtremePhono, as discussed above.
Used regularly, this method will remove all traces of the vinyl buildup layer. I have styli with over 1,000 hours on them whose color and clarity under a microscope are indistinguishable from new.
HOW OFTEN DO I USE IT?
After every side.
That layer of vinyl molecules attracts more gunk with every play. Dont let it get started and your stylus will always be at its best.
IS IT SAFE?
Every stylus cleaning method involves risk. The ME uses no chemicals or solvents, so the risks are limited to operator error. Pay attention at all times.
I do know of two ME-related disasters, both involving Lyra cartridges that lost their styli. In the same time period a third Lyra owner lost a stylus while cleaning with Lyras own (liquid) stylus cleaner. Conclude what you will. Im inclined to think Lyras methods for affixing styli to cantilevers might need improvement. Im unaware of ME-related problems with any other cartridges.
I have seen two severely neglected styli which the ME could not clean. Each had been played for a year or more with no maintenance other than dry brushing. This allowed the accumulating vinyl particles to get burnished on so thoroughly that more aggressive measures were needed. I didnt have any Linn sandpaper around so I faked it. A slip of 2000 grit silicone carbide paper (sold at auto parts stores for paint finish repair) was all it took. One or two swipes with that on each surface of the stylus, followed by the ME followed by a dry brushing and those styli were crystal clear again. I reserve this technique for desperate cases, but it works beautifully.
Thanks for posting my article. The original can be found in the Threads beneath my signature, but the version you posted looks like my regularly-updated Word doc. I only added that Wiki link within the last year or so.
The ZD removes dust, as the name implies, but there's more to stylus cleaning than that. Read the explanation by Jonathon Carr in Lak's post. I've rehabilitated over a dozen styli that were badly grunged up despite regular ZD-ing. When the owners got their cartridges back, truly clean, most of them said it sounded like new again.
Nothing in the ME is likely to migrate up the cantilever. Read Dan_Ed's post and check out that Wikipedia link.
However it can and does shed abrasive microscopic particles. Therefore, as Dan_Ed, Audiofeil and I have always warned, you must dry brush after using the ME to remove those particles before playing.
It doesn't matter what the bristles are made of. You're just brushing to remove stuff already loosened (or shed) by the ME. If Bill likes camels, that's his business!
I tried the Magic Eraser with my Zerodust afterwards..
It worked great, and I can really hear the difference that a clean stylus makes.
I liked it so much that I made a wood cleaning station for my Nottingham using both the magic eraser and my zerodust. I mounted the Magic Eraser to a piece of rubber pencil eraser and use the same size piece for a cover.
I used the plastic tray from a stamp pad mounted on black painted wood, and mounted the ME & Zerodust in it with clear silicone seal. I put soft felt on the bottom, so it slides easily. It is just the right height for my arm.
All I do now is dip the stylus 4 times on the Magic Eraser and 2 times on the Zerodust after every side. It takes about 20 seconds and it's done.. It made a very real difference in the sound of my Zyx.. Here's a few pics..
Pic 1shows the station with covers on. Pic 2shows the covers off. Pic 3 shows the station in use..
Thanks to all for their advice and info in this thread..
You're right. The ME is just a higher tech version of Linn's sandpaper. The concept is the same, abrasion, and they both work.
The ME's microfibers are more flexible than sandpaper, so they reach all stylus surfaces better. That makes the ME better for regular daily maintenance.
OTOH, I've received cartridges for inspection that the owner's claimed were "worn out", even though they were 2-3 years old or less. Of course they weren't, they just had gunked up styli. The ME rehabilitated most of them, but one or two seriously neglected cases needed something a little stronger. I tried a sliver of ultra fine grit sandpaper used for auto paint work polishing and that did the trick.
So, ME + brush or ZD for non-neglected styli, super fine sandpaper + brush or ZD for really gunked up ones. I've never seen a stylus that one of these couldn't bring back to life.
The potential problem using the Zerodust after the ME is the microscopic abrasive particles from the ME are captured in the Zerodust. Using the Zerodust again and again only increases the chances of those particles returning to the stylus and damaging your vinyl.
Alternatively, brushing the stylus after an ME treatment causes the particles to fall harmlessly on the plinth and eliminating the chance of stylus contamination.
Stylus gunk can embed in ME fibers and Zerodust gel, and microscopic ME fibers can embed in a camel hair brush. I suspect that whatever touches the stylus can transfer stuff from it or to it.
I use all three along with liquid RRL stylus cleaner and, most frequently, a magnifier. I use a 20X loupe mounted on a little stand so it is exactly at stylus height when the arm is in its rest. This makes it simple to check stylus condition after each side, assuming you put your arm in its rest when changing records. I found the stand mounted magnifier on ebay (no affiliation). Look under something like "20X TRIPLET Lens JEWELRY LOUPE On a STAND". One of the best TT tools I have.
Glory, if you're brave, very gentle and very careful, Dougdeacon described a "deep cleaning" process with the Magic Eraser that has worked well for me. I've used this process on cartridges that have build up on the stylus: Slice a very thin tapering length of ME that will be very flexible at the tip. Use this strip of ME to very gently wipe the surface of the diamond and cantilever, as opposed to simply dipping the stylus into the ME material. Work very carefully and gently. The piece I cut that has worked well for me is about 2" long and tapers from about 3/16ths of an inch (where I hold it) down to about 1/32nd of an inch at the working tip. use a magnifying loupe to watch as you work. Just be very careful, slow and gentle as you work if you try this.
Try what Rushton said ^^^ Stick the ME sliver on a toothpick for a handle, and hold that between thumb and one finger only, delicately.
If the stylus still doesn't look crystal clear under magnification, step up to the super-fine sandpaper technique Stringreen and I discussed just above. That and a brush will clean anything I've ever seen on a stylus.
With either tool, be slow, gentle, patient, undistracted and chemically un-altered. No caffeine or other fun juice. It's also a big help to have something sturdy as a wrist rest while you clean.
If a stylus is gunked up and you make it notably cleaner, the improvement will be instantly audible.