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. You may be very surprised to hear how good your records sound once cleaned.  What you thought was noise caused by scratches may disappear.

An old or worn stylus will cause your records to sound bad or sound scratchy. This is because a worn stylus is getting down to the bottom of the record groove where there is no music. Understand that a stylus begins life shaped like an ellipse (rounded) and then wears down to a point and falls further down into the groove until it hits bottom.  This is bad for your records. The music resides on the sides of the record groove and is where a new stylus (needle) sits while playing.

Illustration of Wear and Tear from the Stylus

Ideally, records should be lightly cleaned before and after every playing using a cloth or record preener (brush).

Cloth and Preener Brush

When you play a record, the motion of dragging a stylus through a vinyl record creates static electricity. This can cause audible noise when playing the record, but more importantly understand that the static electricity turns your record into a giant dust magnet! Any little dust particle or dust mite floating about in the air is drawn towards your record. You don’t want this dirt and those little microscopic critters taking up residence in your records grooves! To prevent most of these harmful particulates from coming in contact with your records, play your records with the dust cover on the turntable in the down position. The dust cover is there to protect your records from dust collection while playing, not to protect the turntable.

Fingerprints, dirt, and dust mites are bad for your records.

Fingerprints contain body oils and abrasive dirt. These will do harm to your records and to your stylus. Those little dust mites can live off the oils left behind by fingerprints and other dust particles for a long time. Of course they too leave behind some of their own residue (if you know what I mean). I have seen records that actually have fingerprints etched into the vinyl because of long term exposure to the oils and dust mites doing their thing.

Vinyl is really a very rugged material because it needs to be in order to withstand the stylus being dragged through its grooves many, many times while still maintaining good sound quality. So when it comes to cleaning I find that most people try to treat records too delicately and end up just spreading the dirt around.

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

  1. Greg Castille on

    I just bought a Tech Play ODC21MKI-SL fully auto belt drive turn table.I’m hearing a strange Scratchy sound when singing is on.There is a no name Stylus and cartridge on it.The stylus isn’t broken.I play the record on my old turn table and it plays fine.Is it possible that the new stylus and cartridge are bad?I checked the wire and plugs on the headshell and they are snug.I know the record is old but it’s strange that it plays fine on the old turn table and new the new turn table it does not.Any Ideas? I am going to change the cartridge and Stylus to a Audio Technica Dual Magnet Phono cartridge AT95 E for starters.Thanks!

  2. thommes on

    perfect vinyl cleaning:

    1. buy Knosti anti-Static cleaning machine ( about 50$ )
    2. don´ use the liquid they provide
    3. mix 5 – 7 drops of dish-washer-rinse with 150 millilitres of isopropyl and fill up the knosti with demineralized water ( that for ironing…) all together worth 6 or 7$
    4. buy new inner sleeves for your valuable discs
    5. clean your records, let them dry well. Do not dry with towel, they are always contminated with silicons from washing.
    6. after drying – enjoy listening.

    It´ also a good idea to safe-storage your records in dedicated plastic-bags.

    cost for 100 12 inch ( 30cm) plastic bags about 25 – 30$ incl. shipping.
    the same for inner sleeves.

    But… it´ worth it!


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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..