How to Clean a Record

Use plenty  of solution and really get the record wet while being very, very careful to keep the solution off of the record label, as it will cause the paper label to “rise” or stain the label, etc, and it will never look like new again.

Apply the Cleaning Solution to a Cloth or Record Preener

The best way to apply the cleaning solution is to apply it to the cleaning device that you are going to use, such as a soft cloth, record preener (brush), etc. I recommend a very soft, clean cotton material such as a baby’s diaper (old school, washable type).

Thoroughly wet it using the best quality water available, then wring it dry, then apply the solution onto the cloth.   You can use the solution either full strength or diluted as you see fit, depending on the task at hand.   When diluting, use the best quality water available.

Scrub the Vinyl Grooves

You can then scrub the vinyl grooves with the wet cloth using a circular arm motion so as to follow the line of the grooves as closely as possible.   The cloth will work its fibers down into the grooves.  Don’t be afraid to apply some elbow grease to really dirty records.   I like to clean a third or a fourth of the record at a time, then turn and clean another section and repeat until you have made your way all the way around the record.   Special attention should be paid to the “trail in” vinyl on the outer edge of the record because more inadvertent fingerprints and dirt are found there, plus it’s the first sound that you will hear from your newly cleaned record!

Dry the Record

To dry the record, use another soft clean cotton material cloth and buff it until it shines.   While drying use a circular motion that closely follows the curvature of the grooves around the record.  When cleaning and drying use good lighting and try to view the record’s surface by looking at the reflection of the light on the surface of the record.  Incandescent lighting is much more revealing than fluorescent lighting.    Be sure to work on a clean surface and don’t place the cleaning surface of your cloth face-down on anything because it can pick up little pieces of dirt that will scratch the next record you clean.  Rinse your cleaning cloth regularly using the best water available.

Inspect the Surface

When you are done cleaning, use your fingers to feel the surface of the record while cleaning (when presumably your fingertips are completely clean) for a final quality inspection.   Sometimes little deposits are found on the surface of a record from any number of sources that the first pass with the cleaning cloth did not remove.  Fingertips will feel these little bumps better than your eyes can see them!  Many times these little specs can be coaxed off of the record with a little extra effort from your wet cleaning cloth.  Sometimes they need more help which is where your fingertip or even fingernail can gently persuade the spec to let go.  Beware that too much effort can cause permanent damage, so practice on cheap records first.  Also understand that some problems cannot be cleaned away as they are embedded in the vinyl.

A general rule with records is that if you can feel it with your finger then you will hear it when playing.  Scratches can be evaluated with that in mind. Some surface marks look bad but are nearly inaudible, while others are nearly invisible but cause a loud, audible clunk.  Scratches on records are as unique as fingerprints or snowflakes as no two are exactly alike. Scratches that are perpendicular to the groove cause fewer problems than those that are nearly parallel to the groove as it relates to skips and repeats.

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The Classic Vinyl Listening Experience

  • History

    Intro To The Classic Vinyl Listening Experience

    Welcome to the Sound Exchange reference guide about vinyl records. On these pages we will explore any and all topics that are relevant to the enjoyment of vinyl records. Read more...

    The Emergence of Long Play (1948)

    The Classic Vinyl Listening Experience began with the emergence of the 10” and 12”, 33 1/3 rpm, Long Play, Micro-Groove, Vinyl Record in 1948, and its smaller sibling, the 7” 45 rpm record. Read more..

    Modern Long Play Records

    The modern long play, micro-groove record brought to the market had a tremendous impact on artistic creativity. Read more..

    The Modern Vinyl Record (1960s)

    It has a relatively long playing time and does so while reproducing sound in what is called high fidelity. Read more..

    The Classic Vinyl Listening Experience Timeline

    Let’s put all of this information in the form of a timeline. Read more..
  • Analog Vs. Digital

    Which is better, CDs or Vinyl Records?

    This question can be reduced to studying their differences. Read more..

    How Sound is Created and Heard

    This discussion begins with the creation of sound itself. Everything in nature that creates a sound creates an analog sound, which also happens to be the only kind of sound that we can hear. Read more..

    Analog to Digital Conversion

    The digital process begins at the point where the electrical impulses generated by the microphone are encoded onto a recording device. Read more..

    Playback Pros and Cons

    An analog recording doesn’t attempt to describe the sound as it simply records its input continuously, so it doesn’t have the sample size and sampling rate issues that digital has. Read more..

    What about CDs?

    First you must remember that the specification for CDs was developed way back in 1979. Read more..

    My Thoughts on Digital Vs. Analog Sound

    The vinyl record is my preferred media for active listening to recordings made in the 1950s and into the 1980s. Read more..
  • Stereo Recordings

    Stereo Recordings

    Any discussion about music and sound reproduction will eventually make reference to how it is presented to the listener. Read more..

    Stereophonic Recordings (1960s)

    Regarding stereo recordings, when stereo first came out it was a brand new world and exactly how to represent a recording in a stereo format was very subjective. Read more..

    Mono Vs. Stereo Recordings

    Beginning with the comparison of Mono and Stereo recordings, it was typical that both mono and stereo records were made from the late 1950s until around 1970 when they ceased production of mono records. Read more..

    Quadraphonic Recordings

    Finally let me touch upon quadraphonic recordings as they appeared on vinyl records. Read more..
  • Turntables

    The Record Player

    “For the record,” a record player is generally thought of as a turntable with a built-in amplifier and speaker(s). Portable units are typically record players. Read more..

    Anatomy of a Turntable

    The turntable has several basic components including the plinth (base), the revolving platter, the tone arm, the cartridge and stylus, and the mechanical and electronic components to make it all work. Read more..

    Reducing Unwanted Noise

    Isolating the noise generated from the turntable’s motor from the platter is essential. Read more..

    Choosing a Quality Turntable

    So how do you know how good a turntable really is regardless of cost? Read more..

    Turntable Belt Replacement

    Occasionally, belt drive turntables require turntable belt replacement.

    All about Phono Cartridges

    At the heart of any turntable system is the phono cartridge. Read more...
  • Other Stereo Equipment

    Classic Stereo Equipment

    Stereo equipment is one more significant variable that can greatly affect the Classic Vinyl Listening Experience. Read more..

    Phono Preamps: Amplification and Equalization

    When the discussion turns to the phono preamps (short for pre-amplifier) we are really getting down into minute details of the record groove in order to understand its role and its importance. Read more..

    Purchasing Quality Preamps

    Like all components of a stereo system there are significant variations in quality in the preamps, which has significant effects on the quality of the playback of your records. Read more..
  • Records

    On First Pressings

    Typically, a first pressing is defined as what the actual record album looked like when it first came off the manufacturing line. Read more..

    Grading the Condition of Records

    At Sound Exchange we use visual grading (as opposed to play grading) for our records. We do not grade jackets, only the vinyl itself. Read more..

    About 78 rpm records

    The 78 rpm record was the primary format for music sold during the period from the early 1900s into the 1950s. Read more..

  • Taking Care Of Your Records

    Record Storage

    Always store your records in a cool, dry, dark environment in an upright position (never flat) that is high off the ground, and that provides some airflow around them. Read more..

    Tips for Handling Records

    Always handle your records by the label and the outer edge and never ever touch the record grooves except when performing a deep cleaning. Read more..

    That’s Not a Scratch on Your Vinyl – It’s Dirt!

    Dirt and static electricity may cause good records to sound “scratchy”. A proper cleaning will remove dirt and static electricity from the vinyl. Read more..

    How Often Should Records Be Cleaned?

    Record cleaning, like most any other type of cleaning, is a matter of degree. Read more..

    Record Cleaning Solution

    Wet cleaning of vinyl records is the best way if not the only way to really get them clean and to get them free of static electricity. Read more..

    How to Clean a Record

    Use plenty of solution and really get the record wet while being very, very careful to keep the solution off of the record label, as it will cause the paper label to “rise” or stain the label, etc, and it will never look like new again. Read more..

    Salvaging Vinyl

    An old trick of “last resort” is to actually play a record while wet. Read more..