Magnolia Record Store's Go-To Guide
Whether your vinyl record collection is new or old, big or small, there are a few, simple steps you can take to ensure the longevity of your vinyl. “But why do I need to do that?” Well, unclean records don’t just have poorer playback quality than their clean counterparts; they can also affect the quality of your record player, dulling the stylus and shrinking its lifespan and damaging other records too.
You don’t need fancy or special equipment to clean your vinyl either (although it doesn’t hurt). From the most elaborate to the most simple, this is our go-to guide for treating your vinyl to a spa day by giving it a good cleaning, no matter what your collection entails.
The Best (And Most Expensive) Method
For true vinyl enthusiasts who care deeply about maintaining the integrity of their vinyl, you might want to invest in a special vinyl record cleaning machine or specialized kit. These are especially made for vinyl, so they are therefore the most effective. This also means they are the most expensive option. Vinyl record cleaning machines do all the work for you and will clean them the most thoroughly, so this might be the best option for someone who has an extensive and/or valuable collection. We’d recommend checking out Pro-Ject’s VC-S2 ALU, Nitty Gritty’s 1.5 model, or the Degritter for this method.
The Best Budget-Conscious Method
For more casual vinyl owners and/or those on a budget, you can still clean your vinyl at home without buying special equipment. While you can clean your vinyl with DIY, at-home solutions, your best option is to purchase a product specifically made for cleaning vinyl to achieve near mint condition results. We’d recommend Groove Washer’s cleaning kit or Vinyl Styl’s system for the more budget-conscious.
If that’s not in your budget, you can use a distilled water and soap mixture or just distilled water. Regular water may contain harsh minerals or impurities that can leave behind residue and further damage your record, so it is not recommended. Some sites will recommend using alcohol to clean your records, but we do not, as it can break down the protective surface of the vinyl and make it even more vulnerable to aging and damage.`
Now on to answering, “how do you clean vinyl records?” No matter which journey you decide to embark on, these are the steps which you should take to clean your vinyl at home:
Prepping Your Vinyl
Start with dry-cleaning your vinyl by removing dust or any loose dirt from the surface of the record. It’s preferable that you use an anti-static carbon fiber brush to do this, but a microfiber cloth is another good option. To do this the most efficiently, move with the grain of the record and be gentle to prevent scratching. It’s also best to do this before and after you play any record for best up-keep.
Cleaning Your Vinyl
Lay your vinyl flat on top of a microfiber towel. Next, spray your record-cleaning solution onto another microfiber cloth. This will allow you to better control the amount of cleaning fluid applied to the record, so this method is recommended over spraying directly onto its surface. Similar to how a stylus of a record player moves, place your finger gently onto the record and follow the grooves around the record in a full circular motion -- starting from the inside working out. Once you’ve reached the outside, reverse this process back towards the middle.
This process should be repeated as necessary, careful to not oversaturate the cloth (and subsequent record), push too hard, or reuse the same, dirty section of the microfiber cloth you are using to clean with. These can all cause buildup to be pushed further into the record. Allow time, air, etc, to dry the record completely before attempting to play.
Maintenance & Storage
To keep your vinyl -- new or old -- in the best condition possible, there are a few things you can do. First, keep the vinyl itself in a good quality innersleeve. These inner sleeves should have a satin finish on the inside, not something abrasive like normal paper, to avoid scratching the surface. This is particularly important for older records with aged sleeves that are starting to tear or yellow.
Beyond that, keeping the cardboard jacket in a plastic outer sleeve will protect both that and the record from dust collection or damage from rubbing against other jackets or surfaces. Vinyl bags are also a good option here.
Read our ‘Tips for How to Take Care of Vinyl Records’ article for more advice on general maintenance, upkeep, and storing records properly.