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How to Adequately Care For Your Vinyl Record Collection

Updated on October 20, 2011

As the world delves deeper and deeper into the age of technology, some people are re-focusing on the past. One area this has been prevalent in the last few years is the world of collection vinyl records. With many records collections now worth thousands of dollars, and increasing yearly, protecting the quality of the pieces in your collection is ever-important. This article, pin-pointing common mistakes, will help you keep your record collection in perfect condition for years to come.

1. Stacking. One of the most common mistakes people make placing a stack of records face down. Because records rely on the quality of their grooves for play, placing too much weight on the face of the record can cause imperfections in these grooves which can alter play. On top of this, records, especially older ones, are somewhat brittle and can shatter from too much weight. The solution? Stack your records vertically leaning at about 10 degrees. Each stack should have no more than 50-75 records. If too many records are stacked at a higher angle, the weight issue again becomes a problem.

Do you stack books this way? No, 'cause its dumb. So stop it.
Do you stack books this way? No, 'cause its dumb. So stop it.

2. Keep your records outside of their jacket. It's advisable to take your record out of its cardboard jacket, and place it behind the jacket inside a mylar sleeve. From weight, keeping a record in a jacket can cause a ring (both a depression ring and ring wear) to form on the outside of the jacket. Also, if you have the inner paper sleeve to a more rare or sought after records, remove the record, and place the paper sleeve inside the jacket, and buy a replacement paper sleeve for your actual records. The sharp edges of the record can slice open the paper sleeve edges, and ring wear can also develop on the paper sleeve.

Sting's beautiful face now has a crease running through it. Now he looks like old Sting.
Sting's beautiful face now has a crease running through it. Now he looks like old Sting.

3. Wash your hands before you handle your record. This seems pretty obvious, but some people just don't listen. The oils on your hands can cause damage not only to the cardboard jacket and paper sleeve, but also damage the record's vinyl. Take the time to wash your hands with some dish soap, and remove the oils from your hands - it's worth it!

4. Before playing your records, wipe your records EVERY TIME. Even when sitting on a shelf, dust can enter the mylar sleeve and land on your record. If you don't remove this dust before playing, it can cause the needle to function improperly, and damage the record. The easiest way to remove dust? Place your record on your player, and begin spinning the record without the needle touching. Grab a very very soft cloth (like a glasses cleaning cloth), and dampen it ever so slightly. When the record is spinning, hold the cloth over the record with it barely touching, and move from the inside to the outside. The dust will be removed, and your record will actually play better.

5. Really look at where you store your collection. Your records should never be in a humid or hot place, and never in sunlight. Heat can cause fading on the jacket, and can warp the record. Humidity can damage the sleeve as well as the vinyl. The best place may not always be the coolest place to display your collection, but who cares. They'll last longer!

Somebody left their record in the sun - or a nuclear reactor?! Hey, at least you've got a chip bowl.
Somebody left their record in the sun - or a nuclear reactor?! Hey, at least you've got a chip bowl.

6. When removing records from a shelf, never simply slide them. First, lift them off of the shelf, and slide them. This will prevent possible corner damage, as well as rubbing on the bottom. Ever been to a record store, and the bottom of all the records are split and white? That's because somebody forcefully slid them onto a shelf.

7. Always use good products to store your records. Use acid free mylar bags as an outer protection, and if you have a rare inner sleeve, buy replacements. A great place to get supplies for fairly cheap is:

8. If you should have a record still in its original shrink wrap, cut the shrink wrap. While it may seem counter-intuitive, shrink wrap, over time, will dry out and begin stretching, bending the record jacket and its corners. If you want to retain that fresh never been played status, simply cut the end opposite the opening, as proof its never been played. Intact completely unopened is great, but not so good if the corners are warped. Also, if you buy a record with remnants of the shrink wrap still on it (and especially if the shrink wrap has a sticker on it from its original release) DON' THROW IT OUT. It will add to the value.

9. Watch out for oddities on records. For instance, the Led Zeppelin III jacket has a metal spindle piece protruding out from the center, while the Stones' Stick Fingers has a Zipper. Keep records like this stacked separately. You don't want your Led Zeppelin IV to have a mark on the back of it from Led Zeppelin III.

10. Orientation. Many people place their record inside the jacket, and then inside a mylar bag, leaving the opening of the mylar bag the same way as the opening to the record. While this allows ease to get the record, it also leaves it open to dust. Even if its placed in a shelf, dust still can get in. Place your record downward into a mylar bag. Dust will enter from the top, but it won't get onto the record. Just be overly careful, as you will inevitably be handling the jacket more by doing this.

11. Never touch a record's face. Always grab it gently by the ring around the outer edge with no grooves - that's what it's for. Touching the face can damage or scratch the grooves. And on top of that, NEVER touch the label. While the label is bonded to the vinyl during production, they have been known to come loose.

In the end, records are beautiful for the sole fact that you physically own the music you're listening to. Long after the Zombie apocalypse, or an EMP blast from a rogue country's nuclear program, records will still play. The same can't be said for your mp3 Beatles collection. So take care of your collection, and it will definitely last you the rest of your life (or until the economy really tanks and you need to pawn them).

Matthew Gordon is the author of The Thin Blue Line: An In-Depth Look at the Policing Practices of the Los Angeles Police Department & To Live, To Think, To Hope - Inspirational Quotes by Helen Keller.

© Matthew Gordon, 2011


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    • FatFreddysCat profile image

      Keith Abt 6 years ago from The Garden State

      I miss vinyl. I still have a crate of records in the closet, I don't even have a turntable to play'em on anymore but I will never get rid of 'em. Too many great memories locked in those sacred grooves. :)