Learn How To Clean Vinyl Records and Care for Vinyl

Clean Vinyl Records | Care for Vinyl | Rare Vinyl Records

This article will take you through the best way to clean vinyl records focusing on vinyl record care, where to store vinyl and what to store them in. With Manship having near 50 years of experience supplying rare vinyl records worldwide, these simple tips and tricks have seen constant improvements over the years. Today we consider this is an essential route to ensure you’re successful when cleaning your vinyl.

First things first before diving into the video, a little advice to vinyl record suppliers, never stick a label on your vinyl cover detailing people of the price. It’ll be a nightmare to remove, we class it as a form of vinyl mutilation. Once the collector has bought this record and attempted to scratch off the label it’s likely to get damaged in the process and hence significantly reduce in price.

Or if the sticker is put onto the cover or label before being written on it can leave an indent into the cover or label of what was written. This mistake cannot be rectified. Rather annoying as you only find out after you have carefully removed the sticker.

Removing Vinyl Cover Stickers

Many collectors face the problem of not knowing how to remove stickers from record covers or labels. So, although we’ve previously touched on repairing vinyl records, helping collectors to remove stickers from covers and labels is crucial in helping them maintain the value of a record.

To begin with, take the record out of its cover. Use lighter fluid, easily available from a tobacconist shop. In a well-aired area, give the sticker a good dosage of liquid. (Do not try this in a small space the fumes from the fluid in excessive amounts can cause a hazard to your health. A small amount in a roomy space is safe.) Leave this to soak for 3-4 minutes. You can then carefully pick at the edge of the sticker.

If you feel tension when trying to remove the sticker, soak it in more lighter fluid and leave for a further few minutes. This should then help to loosen it from the cover and allow you to peel it off nice and smoothly. If you still feel tension on the sticker, stop and douse again. It will be dissolving the glue in its own good time, do not rush. Experience will tell you when to stop and apply another splash of fluid as your skill develops.

Clean Vinyl Records | Care for Vinyl | Rare Vinyl Records

Tip: Once you have peeled the sticker from the record cover, squeeze a little more lighter fluid where the sticker once sat and rub it gently with a paper towel or kitchen roll. This will ensure there isn’t any left over ‘stickiness’ on your vinyl cover.

Be aware that having removed the sticker there may be a slight discolouration where the sticker once was. This is likely to correct itself once the lighter fluid has fully evaporated, though this isn’t guaranteed.

Where To Store Your Vinyl Records

We have come across collectors who have stored records in adverse places. Keep vinyl away from damp, extreme cold, heat. So damp outside sheds, garages, lofts etc are to be avoided. A damp environment and vinyl are not conducive. You’ll get little tiny spores and mould attacking your vinyl, effectively “eating it”. Below you can see an acetate’s surface covered in such spores; all by storing the record at the wrong temperature and wrong atmosphere.

Clean Vinyl Records | Care for Vinyl | Rare Vinyl Records

Method To Fix Acetate or vinyl damaged by bad storage.

This method involves using a vinyl cleaning machine: Professional Record Cleaner by Loricraft Audio. It is without a doubt one of the greatest investments a collector can buy.

The first step is to place the acetate on the vinyl cleaner and pour a fine solution of liquid soap and water onto the record. Flick the switch that sends the vinyl moving forward. Using a brush like shown below, place it onto the record and hold it in the same position. Always go with the grooves and never go across the grooves. As the record spins, the bristles will mix with the soapy solution to begin cleaning the record.

Clean Vinyl Records | Care for Vinyl | Rare Vinyl Records

Important: Do not allow the brush to touch the record label. Water on the label can cause it to wear away. For best practice, use the little invention that screws down over the label to really protect it.

Clean Vinyl Records | Care for Vinyl | Rare Vinyl Records

Disclaimer: Manship has been caring for vinyl records for over 40 years and hence does not always use the label cover tool. To ensure your vinyl label is fully protected he advises you to make use of the tool.

You will see that the white bubbles from the soapy solution start to turn into a brown, dirty foam. This shows that the brush is gently cleaning the dirty vinyl record. Having held the brush in this position for some time, (2-3 minutes as seen in the YouTube video), it’s then onto placing the arm on and turning the pump on. Drop the arm at the edge of the label. As it gradually moves outwards across the record, the pump will suck all of the dirt away. This gets transported into a pot at the side of the record cleaner.

Once the arm has come to the end of the cycle, turn off the cleaning machine. Next, lightly use a tissue to rub away any leftover water from the record. Make sure you go in the pattern of the grooves and never, ever go across the grooves. The same applies when using the brush to clean the record. You may notice there are still some spores in the grooves due to the severity of damage to the vinyl.

Important: This particular example has been subjected to the elements though bad storage for 20+ years and hence it’s unlikely it will be completely removed, but we’ll try.

Clean Vinyl Records | Care for Vinyl | Rare Vinyl Records

If you aren’t happy with the result, you can apply some more of the weak fairy washing up liquid solution to the vinyl. From years and years of cleaning vinyl records, this solution has confidently cleaned the records without damaging the acetate further. Any chemical solution (alcohol, citrus, or caustic based etc.) on the acetate will worsen this by causing the acetate to melt. Dig the brush in slightly firmer to help the cleaning process. If you find the pressure you add to the vinyl is enough to stop the record from spinning, loosen the pressure.

Good To Know: The brush used to clean the record will not damage the vinyl regardless of the amount of pressure you place on the record. You can repeat this entire process as many times as you need to in order to clean your record.

Storing Your Vinyl In Thick Plastic Sleeves

When having stored vinyl records in thicker sleeves, they can take more effort to safely remove without damaging the vinyl cover. Gently slide your hand down in between the outside of the vinyl cover and the inside of the plastic sleeves, both front and back. This will help to loosen the vinyl so you can pull it out without damaging it.

Clean Vinyl Records | Care for Vinyl | Rare Vinyl Records

When the record starts to dull and bloom, you can see where it has been attacked as it starts to fade (some call this “surface fogging” that also diminishes sound quality. That’s because of the hard polyester gives a gas that reacts with vinyl. If you store your record inside one of these sleeves, ensure they have airflow and are not stored tight together.  The sleeve the record’s been stored in and the fact that it’s been amongst a pile of others, squashed 50 either side, multiplies the amount of the fumes which can, in some cases, cause terminal damage.

To help reduce damage in this way, it’s simple. Don’t store them in the thicker polyester sleeves or alternatively, make sure they’re not squashed 100 together when filed away.

Good to Know: Secondhand thicker polyester sleeves won’t dull your records assuming they contain no gas. It is, in fact, the gas within the new sleeves that caused the damage to your vinyl.

Protecting the Vinyl Cover

When caring for your vinyl cover, if storing it in a thick polyester sleeve, the gas inside these sleeves can cause the vinyl to deteriorate. Although this may not yet be obvious in your vinyl record grooves in the form of spores, the vinyl label or vinyl cover may be slightly bumpy. Test this by gently running your finger over the vinyl label and vinyl cover. If these feel bumpy, it’s likely due to being badly stored in either damp atmospheric conditions or hard sleeves.

You should store your vinyl in a dry environment in thin polythene sleeves that do not smell of any gas, when new. Also, be sure to not pack them tightly together to give them optimum protection.

The cover of the below record, Third World – Now That We’ve Found Love, is of a glossy finish. To protect vinyl covers of this type it’s imperative that you keep them away from any wet substances. Water on this glossy record cover will cause it to stick to anything in front of it and then it’s prone to tear.

Clean Vinyl Records | Care for Vinyl | Rare Vinyl Records

Final Words

It is absolutely essential that you add a Loricraft Audio Record Cleaner to your vinyl collection if you’re looking at selling records. This is in order to keep your records maintained and protected. For collectors looking to purchase records that may be slightly damaged, this vinyl cleaning machine is a miracle worker. It helps to ensure the record is of a high quality and playable again.

Sadly many collectors who sell records will have experienced other collectors sending dirty records back to them. They’ll often state “this is not the condition I wanted, please refund me”. If this is the case, you’ll be able to determine if it’s a record you’ve sold by seeing what condition it is in and whether it has been cleaned by a Loricraft machine or not. Alternatively, if it hasn’t, you’ll know it’s not a record that you’ve sold them.

If a cleaning machine is not in your budget, all these can be replicated with a “hand-wash”. But, you must be most careful to keep the labels dry. Dry the vinyl completely before returning it to the sleeve and only use a brush, cloth or tissue going with the grooves in a rotating arm motion.

Manship’s Tips Summarised

  1. Vinyl collectors and retailers should never place stickers on the cover. Sadly, this will cause them to devalue if there is damage done in the removal process. Or indents have transferred under the sticker to the album cover surface.
  2. Remove vinyl cover stickers using lighter fluid. Place this over the sticker, leave for 2-3 minutes and then gently peel back the sticker.
  3. Do NOT store your vinyl in a damp environment such as a garage. The damp will cause the vinyl records to attract tiny spores and if you’re without a Loricraft Audio cleaner, this level of damage will be hard to correct.
  4. When cleaning your vinyl with a Loricraft Audio record cleaner, using a weak solution of washing up liquid and water. Do NOT use any other chemical based solution such as alcohol. This will cause the acetate to melt rather than helping to clean it.
  5. Make sure you do NOT get any soapy liquid on the vinyl label as this will cause it to deteriorate.
  6. Do NOT store your vinyl in thick or hard plastic sleeves that smell of gas when new. Thick sleeves that are secondhand and do not smell are okay. Still, it’s best to avoid these to ensure your vinyl the most protection.
  7. Do NOT get any water on vinyl covers with a glossy finish. This will weaken them and cause them to stick to other vinyl covers and things placed on top of them. When trying to separate these it can result in them being ripped and ruined.