We have all experienced it, set the turntable going only for a beautiful piece of music to be ruined by those annoying pops and crackles that come with the territory if you use vinyl. And the more sensitive (read expensive) your system is the more you notice the imperfections. The problems is caused by dust, mostly flakes of skin, being attracted to the record grooves through the static charge they build up whilst being played. This charge attracts dust into the grooves causing the stylus to be deflected or bounce over them. This problem can be solved in a couple of ways; use something to dislodge the dust – brushes, cloths are the most popular and practical solutions; and use a good quality record cleaning fluid to loosen and soften the dust before cleaning. Why should you use a good quality fluid, because it will have anti-static properties that will reduce the dust attraction.
Stopping surface noise is an on-going battle and the price you pay for musical perfection. Whatever you decide to use to clean your records there are five simple rules and cleaning tips that will help you keep your vinyl record collection in tip-top condition.
Record Cleaning Tip 1. Clean your vinyl records little and often
You may of heard of the saying ‘a stitch in time saves nine’? It means prevention is far better and easier than the cure. The same is also true for your precious record collection. If you take regular care of your LP’s they will reward you with a lifetime of quality listening. Clean your records little and often and you will hear the difference.
Record Cleaning Tip 2. Use a two-stage approach
For the best results consider using a combination of cleaning methods. Initially and on a regular basis using a cleaning fluid to remove the worst of the grime is the best option. Every 5-20 plays depending on how much the surface noise bothers you. But this is probably something you wouldn’t want to do before every play. For that a quick wipe using a brush or a microfiber cloth before each play is easy to do and will make a real difference to the audio sound quality. Whatever you decide make it a habit before every play.
Record Cleaning Tip 3. Use the best quality products you can afford
We all know that we tend to get what you pay for and this is also true for vinyl cleaning kits. And we have all bought something because it was cheap and in hindsight regretted the purchase. Cheaper vinyl cleaning kits are cheap for a reason, to cut costs they use smaller cloths and weak, dilute or lower-grade cleaning fluids. Some even use liquid soap that leaves a sticky residue on the vinyl – and the stylus.
Record Cleaning Tip 4. Buy a brand name
Many cleaning fluids are made by well-meaning, enthusiastic amateurs making concoctions discovered by trial and error and then mixed on kitchen tables. Whilst these cleaning fluids may well be suitable there is no real way to know because they have not been tested. The only way to test them is on your record collection! So best to stick to a known brand that has a money-back guarantee, that way you know you and your LP’s are in safe hands.
Record Cleaning Tip 5. Clean your stylus on a regular basis
There is no point have clean records if you have a dirty stylus. So use a stylus cleaning fluid on a regular basis – a simple visual inspection will tell you if your stylus needs cleaning. HI-Fi Choice magazine said stylus cleaning fluid is ‘A highly efficient and very safe way of cleaning a stylus; used regularly it will enhance LP sound and help preserve discs and stylus.’ And remember the amount used in each application is minimal so a 10ml bottle will last for years.
Finally however you clean your records, remember that you’ll get your rewards from the crisper sound that they deliver. You will hear the difference.
Article by Jim Brackin of Vinyl Clear. Developers of the industry standard, Deep Track VinylClear Fluid used by professionals to reduce static, surface noise, improve playback quality and give records a lasting glossy finish.