Cleaning Records on a Budget

How To Clean A RecordThis will be a controversial post. Why? A lot of vinyl diehards swear by their record cleaning machines and will argue that I should buy one of those. And to be fair, because I’ve never owned a record cleaning machine, I can’t really tell you how the method I’m about to share with you stacks up against one of those gadgets. BUT…it’s cheap. I don’t have any intention of ever buying a record cleaning machine. I don’t have the space, and don’t really want to spend the money. I’m very satisfied with the results I get from this. Records can often come out sounding very clean and quiet, and at the very least there is always a substantial improvement.

So, this is really very simple. Do you own a towel? Do you have a sink with running water? You should also probably own some sort of record brush…that’s the part that does actually cost money. But chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you already have one.

Now, this is not something you’re going to want to do with every record, every time. It’s really meant for deep cleaning. I do this once when I first get a record from the thrift store if it looks especially grungy. It will remove a lot of the dirt that won’t come out with just a standard go-around of the record brush.

And a word of caution before we start: I don’t buy into a lot of male/female stereotypes, but I will say this to the guys reading this, which I’m guessing is most of you…I don’t recommend doing this while your wife or significant other is around. She will think you’re insane, and will also ask why you don’t take as much care cleaning the house as you do taking care of your records. Just a warning. 😉

Anyway, here we go…

Step 1: Grab a soft towel that is large enough to cover both sides of the record when folded over and lay it out flat on a table.

Step 2: Wash the record under running tap water. That’s right, take it over to the sink, run the water (make sure it is just slightly warm in temperature– not hot!!) and rotate the record underneath the running water so that it runs from just near the center label, off all sides of the record as you rotate it. Do this to both sides.

NOTE: Do be careful of soaking the label, but don’t be too concerned about getting a little bit of water on it. In my experience, the label should resist this and the water can be dried off without leaving any water damage.

Step 3: Place the record toward one end of the towel, and flip the other end of the towel over so the record is covered on both sides by the towel, like a sandwich. Press lightly all around on the towel so that you are drying both sides of the record.

Step 4: Take the record out and further dry each side with the towel by just patting lightly, straight down on the record. Obviously, DO NOT rub the towel against the record from side to side as this could scratch and scuff the record. You only want to pat the surface to soak up the remaining water.

Step 5: You will see plenty of residual dirt floating around on top that can be removed with a wet or dry record brush– whatever you typically use. This is the deep dirt that has been dislodged by the sink cleaning. A couple of passes with your brush should take care of this so you end up with a pretty darn clean record.

Step 6: Sit back and enjoy your record! You deserve it.

Posted in Record Collecting Info | Tagged as: | 7 Comments

7 Responses to Cleaning Records on a Budget

  1. Tom Rolin says:

    A solution for protecting the record labels.

    A used store in my area carries a commercially produced item that is very similar but a bit pricey. Its been awhile since I’ve done it but I have brought a few records back from the dead in the kitchen sink.

    • Tim says:

      Hey Tom-

      Wow, what a clever idea…I love those kind of DIY things that are cheap when compared to the “commercial” version. As far as the cleaning part, it’s funny, I’ve never used soap– just water– but I know that people have had good results with a little bit of dish soap, so I guess I should try that.

      Is that your blog, by the way?

      • Tom Rolin says:

        No, not my blog. As for detergent, I’ve read arguments pro and con, but, I think if used sparingly its ok. Generally, when I’ve washed a record, it was borderline unplayable to start.

        • Tim says:

          Yeah, I save the kitchen sink method for the particularly dirty stuff, but as I said, I’ve yet to try dishwashing liquid. Maybe when I come across a really bad one I’ll give it a shot!

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