How to Keep Your Vinyl Records Sounding Their Best
Achive the Best Sound Quality from Your Vinyl Records
Cleanliness is absolutely mandatory to achieve the best sound quality of your vinyl records. A clean vinyl record will not only sound better, but last longer. It has long been proven that the playing of dirty records will result in a rapid deterioration of quality and degradation of the original recorded sound, or simply can cause permanent damage to your records. The preservation of your valuable or irreplaceable records requires special care and cleaning. Not to mention that, stylus wear is greatly accelerated by playing dirty records, with the cost of a new cartridges these days, playing dirty records can lead to significant and unneeded expense.
Three Essentials of Proper Vinyl Record Care
Vinyl records are delicate, and very susceptible to damage and wear. Therefore a few techniques should be used when it comes to handling, cleaning and storage of your valued records. There are essentially three concerns to consider when handling vinyl records. One that the record is kept free of foreign matter, Two that they be kept free of any pressure that might cause deformations such as warping and three that they are stored in a stable, controlled environment.
How Vinyl Records Are Made 1
How Vinyl Records Are Made 2
My Records Look Clean, What Is Foreign Matter ??
Think Micro Biology Dust,
Smoke & Body Oils
Hold On You Say, My Vinyl Records Look Clean, What Is Foreign Matter ?? One can classify foreign matter as deposits which are not part of the original record, such as body oils from fingerprints, smoke, stains, stearic acids, dust etc.. Dust is commonly a mixture of flakes of human skin, minute particles of mineral or plant material, textile fibers, smoke, fingerprint oils and other organic and inorganic materials. There are often salts such as sodium chloride from fingerprints, and skin fragments and gritty silica crystals. Within this chemical mixture are the spore of countless molds, fungi and micro-organisms which live on the organic material in the dust (fingerprints make for a good culture).
Mold loves vinyl, not vinyl per-se but what is in the grooves. The paper dust and such that settles in the grooves, combined with the occasional wet cleaning, the dark confines of an album sleeve coupled with moderate temperature, all are extremely conductive to forming your own mold colonies. Much of this dirt is "hygroscopic" (water-attracting) and this tendency can encourage molds, as well as increases the corrosiveness of salts. Dust is an abrasive and combined with the pressure exerted on the groove walls by the stylus, can permanently etch the walls and worse the dust can be embedded permanently into thermoplastic substances.
Only a small point of the stylus is actually making contact with the groove walls, one and a half grams of stylus pressure on such a minute surface translates to several tons of pressure per square inch. The resulting drag generates enough heat that the plastic partially melts, though not enough to deform the vinyl but cause a microscopic flow around the stylus into which dust can be embedded permanently.
Stearic acids have always been a part of the making of vinyl in one form or another. After a record is pressed there will be thin film of these acids on the surface of the vinyl. The stearic acids found in vinyl formulation has a two-fold effect in the vinyl production process, they act as a record mold release agent but there primary purpose is to act as a buffer for the vinyl stamping process.
Vinyl Records & Their Environment
Proper Storage for Long Life
For long life and playability, proper storage of your recordings is a must. Some of the factors to consider for the proper storage of vinyl records are temperature and humidity, dirt and dust, improper stacking, excessive pressure and weight, and mechanical or chemical damage. With respect to the environment, though not always practical, a constant temperature of 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 degrees Celsius should be maintained. Plus a relative humidity of 45-50% is highly recommended. Avoid rapid changes in temperature and humidity, it could have an adverse effect on the life expectancy of your recordings. Special attention should be placed on sunlight and on sources of heat such as heaters, vents, and artificial lighting. Also beware of high humidity and water. This will cause mold to grow on the album jackets, and within the inner sleeves causing irreparable damage. Avoid dusty environments. Whenever possible, enclose your recordings in a relatively airtight container such as a cabinet with doors, or seal-able boxes. Don't be afraid to lightly vacuum the area surrounding your vinyl records. Replace dirty and moldy record jackets and inner sleeves to avoid further damage to the discs. Do not store, in or around smokey or cooking areas. Smoke and cooking greases easily adhere to phonograph records and their jackets.
A Few More Vinyl Record Storage Tips,
Don't forget to protect your albums cover or jacket against dust with poly sleeves
Never store recordings on their sides or flat! Always maintain vinyl records in an absolutely vertical position. Remove the original manufacturers wrapping from records. These wraps will shrink over time, eventually warping the jacket and it's contents. Replace this "shrink wrap" with high density polyethylene, or "acid free" sleeves. Additionally, one should also replace regular paper or "acid bearing" inner sleeves, with mylar or polyethylene lined sleeves. Regular paper inner sleeves will scratch the surface of your recordings with every pass. Also available are rice paper inner sleeves from Japan, though these type of sleeves are a little expensive.
Do Not Discard the Original "Dust Sleeve"
as it completes the originality of the packaging of your record
Handle with Care
Handling Your Vinyl Records
When handling your vinyl records avoid touching the playing or grooved surface. You should handle the record by either edge and the labeled surface only.
Remove the vinyl record from the jacket with the inner dust sleeve by bowing the jacket open by holding it against the body and applying a slight pressure with a hand. Pull the record out by holding a corner of the inner dust sleeve. Avoid pressing down onto the disc with the fingers as any dust caught between the sleeve and the disc will be pressed into the grooves. Remove your vinyl record from the inner dust sleeve by bowing the dust sleeve and letting it slip gradually into an open hand so that the edge falls on the inside of the thumb knuckle. The middle finger should reach for the center label. Never reach into the sleeve.
To hold a record, place the thumb on the edge of the disc, and the rest of the fingers of the same hand on the center label for balance. Use both hands on the edge to place disc on turntable. Do not use paper or cardboard inner sleeves and do not store records without inner sleeves. Use soft polyethylene inner sleeves. Do not use record sleeves made of PVC.
Keep Those Grooves Clean !!
Record Cleaning Fluids
Okay most will agree that these foreign substances should be removed to achieve ultimate playback and to preserve the life of the record itself, the debate rages on as to how best to accomplish this goal. If you ask 10 different record collectors about the best way to clean a record, you are a likely to receive ten wildly different answers from the alchemist approach to Ivory Liquid Soap in the kitchen sink.
The base fluid for record cleaning solutions is distilled water. Distilled water is used for cleaning for many reasons. First being, its precise chemical make-up is known, distilled water will not leave any residue behind, it is safe to use and inexpensive. Water disperses static charges and counteracts the increased conductivity from the pick-up of salt deposits from finger prints. However water alone can not dissolve grease and oils, thus surfactants are used as additives to enable water to be grease solvent. Surfactants break grease surface bonds and allow water to penetrate grease solids, causing swelling and the random dispersion.
Never Ever Play a Wet Record.
In Closing ...,
The proper care and maintenance of records is really a common sense procedure. once we understand and appreciate those conditions or circumstances which contribute to record wear and deterioration, we are in much better position to do something about it.
Jack Johnson "Better Together"
Eric Clapton "I Shot the Sheriff"
Lynyrd Skynyrd "Things Goin' On"
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