How To Clean Vinyl Records

Vinyl records for some reason just attract dirt, grime and dust. It may have something to do with the late night listening between alcoholic drinks or that just could possibly be me. Not forgetting your find from the local thrift store. These can be covered in years of dirt and may never have been cleaned. All this dirt can lead to unwanted noise to spoil you listening experience. The grease from your hand can also wear down the surface of the vinyl and after sometime will become unplayable. A solution to these problems is not hard to overcome. I am going to lay out how to clean vinyl records it’s not a hard job but doing it correctly is key.

Easy Steps on How to Clean Vinyl Records

  1. Inspect vinyl record for dust and dirt
  2. Remove dust using a vinyl record brush
  3. Remove dirt with a record cleaning velvet brush
  4. Use a record cleaning solution for any stubborn areas
  5. Use a microfiber cloth in a circular movement
  6. Rinse vinyl and dry with a microfiber cloth
  7. Store vinyl records in the correct way to prevent further problems

Depending on how dirty your vinyl is will determine how many of the above steps you are going to need to carry out. Some instances you will only need to follow step one to step three. However, a vinyl find in the thrift store may require all seven steps. I will break down each step below to cover how to follow each step correctly.

Inspect vinyl record for dust and dirt

The first step of the cleaning process is to see what we are up against. This step will also determine how many steps we will need to follow.

Inspect the vinyl and see what we are going to need to tackle, dust will normally visually pop out at you. Take a closer look for finger prints and other greasy marks as these will need a deeper clean to rid them from the surface.

A vinyl that you have found in the local thrift store is more than likely going to have years of built up grime. In these cases I would always follow the full steps in the cleaning process as you don’t want this dirt getting on your turntable needles.

Not cleaning at this stage is going to lead to two problems. First being the sound quality is going to be poor. The second being you are going to get your turntable needle dirty. This will lead to poor sound on your other vinyl and a job to clean your turntable needle.

Remove dust using a vinyl record brush

Cleaning dust and bits from your vinyl is a pain free process and easy to carry out. You want to use a dedicated vinyl record brush as they have bristles that will not damage your vinyl.

Brush gently with long strokes following the lines in the vinyl. I like to flick the brush away from the vinyl at the end of the brush stroke. This is a personal thing that I like to do. I find this flick will push any bits that have found their way onto my vinyl off the edge.

Remove dirt with a record cleaning velvet brush

The next step once you have got rid of the dust from the vinyl is to use a record cleaning velvet brush.

If you have grease like finger prints on the vinyl use the velvet brush. Again lightly rub the grease spots. Rub in the direction of the lines on the vinyl record it’s important not to go to hard as you don’t want to damage the vinyl.

The reason we use the velvet brush second after the brush to get rid of the dust is key part of the process on getting your vinyl clean. We don’t want to rub the dust into the grease this will make cleaning the vinyl much harder. So going this way is important so we get the results we want.

Use a record cleaning solution for any stubborn areas

If you are tackling a vinyl that is still showing signs of dirt and grease you will need to crack out the cleaning solution.

There are many different cleaning solutions dedicated for vinyl records. I really like Boundless cleaner fluid when cleaning my own vinyl records.

Protect the label if you don’t want to damage it with a label protector and spray on the cleaner fluid liberally.

Use a microfiber cloth in a circular movement

Now we have the cleaning solution added. It’s important to use a microfiber cloth to rub the vinyl so you don’t damage the record. You can apply a little more pressure but rub in a circular movement.

Some recommend using a cotton cloth however I have found little bits come off onto the record so I avoid using a cotton cloth.

If you are not using a label protector it’s important to stay away from the label otherwise it will peel off. As people myself included love the art we want to protect the lable from being damaged.

Rinse vinyl and dry with a microfiber cloth

Now you have rubbed down your record it’s time to clean off any leftover cleaning solution. Over the sink use a spray bottle to wash the solution off.

Dry off the vinyl once you have cleared off the solution I recommend using a microfiber cloth but make sure it’s different from the one you used to clean the vinyl earlier.

At this point your vinyl will be better than when you purchased the record new in some cases. It’s important to handle the vinyl correctly from this point not to get any finger prints or dirt on your clean record.

Store vinyl records in the correct way to prevent further problems

Storing you vinyl correctly will not only stop a lot of problems it will also stop it from getting dirty again.

Some vinyl’s come with a paper inlet sleeve little bits can come of these so I recommend using plastic record sleeves. Also, you can get outer plastic sleeves to prevent dust getting in.

There is a lot more to storing your records correctly and we have put a complete how to store vinyl records guide.

When should I clean my vinyl records?

A question often asked is when should you clean your vinyl and it may seem obvious at first. However, there is a lot more to it than simply washing a vinyl when it’s dirty.

The most obvious is cleaning the vinyl when it’s dirty but this is really the worst time to clean a vinyl. First is that dirt makes the sound quality poor and over time the dirt can damage your record and it may never sound right. So its best practice to never let your vinyl records to get dirty. To do this handle your vinyl correctly and store them correctly.

Cleaning your brand new vinyl may seem like a crazy idea but there is a reason why you may want to clean a new vinyl. Some new vinyl despite the plastic wrap comes out of the packaging with lots of dirt. I’m unsure why this is but I can only presume it’s from the factory when printed.

Also, new vinyl tends to have lots of static build up and washing it can get rid of that also. You will see if you have a dirty vinyl and you will want to clean this for sure.

I purchased queen greatest hits it come with paper inlets and seemed to be covered in white little bits. The record has two disks I cleaned one and left the other. The washed vinyl was pop free however the other was popping like crazy. This was a test and I was right they both needed cleaning.

Conclusion

I really hope this how to clean vinyl records guide points out that following some simple steps you can clean your vinyl easily with great results. Keeping your vinyl clean will make your listening much more enjoyable.

Not all steps are necessary all the time and you may only need to follow the first three steps in most cases. Keep in mind that following step two and step three in the correct order will give you best results.

Step four to step six are for when you have an extremely dirty vinyl and hopefully with correct handling will not be needed to be carried out often. The last step seven is the final piece of the jigsaw along with correct handling on keeping your vinyl clean.

If you are going to be cleaning lots of vinyl records then you will want to consider getting a vinyl record cleaning machine. It may sound like it’s going to be expensive however they are very affordable. They are also going to save you a lot of time if you have a lot of vinyl to clean.