cleaning vinyl

November 23, 2009

This weekend was spent almost exclusively collecting firewood and cleaning records. I have been meaning to clean my minimal record collection for a long time. My dad kept on telling us about how much better the records would sound if we only cleaned them. He even ordered us cleaning solvent and new record sleeves and plastic slip covers. And I think that we have had them for a good year…

Finally, Skye and I went over to my dad’s house and got to work. He has a really nice setup. A record cleaning machine, and all the bottles and sponges filled with the right things for the appropriate steps. He gave us a thorough tutorial, and I have made notes to outline it below.

Here is a general outline. I might have forgotten to note some of the specifics, but this should give you the gist of things.

Step 1.

Remove records from jackets and discard old and funky inner paper covers (you can save any original ones with things that might be important on them). Place records into dish rack, starting from the back and taking care to place record with side a facing up. My dad’s setup (aka dish rack) fits 12 records.

Step 2.

Place record on table (a turntable of sorts) and screw the top tightly on.

Start the motor spinning, and soap the record up. The sponge catches the soap as the record turns, evening out the cleaning process. The soap cleans out the dirt in the grooves of the vinyl. An indicator of this is the level of gloss on the record. The above record needs a little more soap in the middle where you can see the streaks in the reflection. We had the whole thing setup under a bright window, and this helped to identify if there was enough surfactant present. During this step the record is also intermittently spun backwards, to clean more thoroughly.

Step 3.

Rinsing and vacuuming.

Place the vacuum tube on the record at an angle, and turn on. After one full turn place the “water sponge” down and start washing the soap off with distilled water.The water rinses the record, and then is sucked out through the vacuum tube. When water begins to form droplets you know that the soap is rinsed off (surface tension changes), and the record is clean and ready for the final 2 spins with the vacuum tube. If the vacuum is used for too long, the record will pick up static, which isn’t good, as it attracts dust and other debris right back to the clean record.

Switch record to side b, clean it, and so on and so forth.

The final step (4)  is to replace the clean record in the jacket, using a new sleeve if necessary. The sleeve should be dated, and the cleaning method should be noted for future reference. In my case, November 09, and the soap which was Disk Doctors Miracle Record Cleaner, and the name of the machine (VPI). Then, the newly cleaned record is placed in a plastic sleeve, and you are finished!

Now I am listening to a scrappy old George Jones record that used to sound pretty bad and now sounds much, much better! Cleaning is totally satisfying work!!

2 Responses to “cleaning vinyl”

  1. Bill Says:

    Happy Birthday Tor Tor!

  2. Bill Says:

    And, just for the record, always use a fresh, new acid-free paper sleeve for the cleaned record. (Some people prefer plastic but it can be the culprit in mold growth and does not have the advantage of paper. True, plastic is softer.) Acid-free paper will help to buffer the cardboard in the record jacket. and the paper record label. Non-acid-free is death to records because it slowly deteriorates and releases tiny fibers i.e. dust.


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