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How To Care For Vinyl Records: Cleaning, Storing, Handling
Caring for your Vinyl Record Collection
Vinyl is making a big comeback these days. Despite the advent of digital music technology, people are drawn to the warm and true musical tone and tactile qualities of LP records. However, they do require a little more tender loving care than CDs and MP3s. If you learn how to care for vinyl records, your collection will last a long time and give you years of use and enjoyment.
Caring for vinyl records isn't all that difficult. It just requires some intentional action and planning as you use and store your collection. You need to make sure that you keep them free from dust, debris and moisture, and you need to keep them stored properly to prevent warping or breakage. And, obviously, you need to handle them with care and avoid scratches.
This article will tackle how to care for vinyl record collections, going over each of the essential steps to keep your music playing on for years to come. We'll walk through each care recommendation and suggest a few easy to find products that will make the job easier. Let's get started!
Keep Your Records Clean:
An important part in learning how to care for vinyl records is cleaning. The fact is, LPs play better when they're free from dust and other detritus. Obviously keeping your collection in protective sleeves and dust covers can help, but over time they will get dirty, especially if you play them regularly.
Dust and dirt can not only reduce sound quality, it can lead to degradation and scratching if it's not dealt with. What's more, if you don't clean your vinyl records carefully, or if you use the wrong cleaning product, you can damage them in the process!
Cleaning Solution: You'll want to make sure whatever solution you use to clean your vinyl records is fairly mild. You don't want to leave a residue behind, and you don't want something so caustic as to wear down the grooves. A mild soap and water or diluted rubbing alcohol solution is best, depending on the amount of dirt.
There are some dedicated vinyl record cleaners that do a wonderful job. I've listed one of them below. Spin cleaners tend to be an easy-to-use option that minimizes the potential for scratching.
Soft Cloth or Chamois: If you don't want to get too complicated, you can just clean carefully by hand. To avoid scratching, use a soft cloth, microfiber cloth or a chamois to wipe away dust and grime. You'll want to wipe in a circular motion, going with the grooves on the record, not from the center outward. There are some amazing microfiber vinyl record cleaning brushes available too. Be sure to search around and find something with decent reviews.
Store Your Vinyl Records Safely
Equally important to learning how to care for vinyl records is keeping your LPs stored effectively. Damage is usually permanent and irreversible, and there are so many things that can damage vinyl records, but it's actually quite easy to keep them in tip top condition if you invest in the right storage solutions and anticipate adverse conditions.
Keep Them In Sleeves: The most common type of damage for vinyl records is cracking and scratching, usually caused by improper storage. You'll always want to store your records in protective sleeves. If you've lost or misplaced one, find a generic sleeve, it's important. There are plenty of inexpensive paper record storage sleeves out there, so there's no excuse not to do it!
Constant Temperature: Another important vinyl record care tip is to keep your collection stored at a constant temperature. Heat (particularly direct sunlight) can warp vinyl and make the record bubble and wave, effectively ruining it. Trust me, I've seen some very nice records get totally ruined with just a few hours in the sun.
Keep it at a cool and constant temperature to avoid bowing, warping and other damage.
Vinyl Record Storage Boxes: Keep your vinyl collection stored in a proper case or box, and always store your collection vertically. Do not stack them flat on top of each other, and do not let them lean! The weight will damage the grooves and cause warping over time. Besides, vertically stored vinyl is easier to browse. I've added a good vinyl record storage case below this paragraph, it'll keep your records in great shape.
How to care for vinyl records while in use
Part of basic vinyl record care involves the handling and playing portion too. You already know the basics (do not drop, scratch, etc), so I won't get into common knowledge type information. I will focus on a few things that can prolong the lifespan of your LP collection that you may not already know.
Use A Quality Needle / Stylus: Have you recently replaced the needle on the stylus of your record player? One of the main things that wear out and damage perfectly good records is a bad or dull needle. They aren't difficult to replace, so there's no excuse for it. You can replace just the needle portion, or the whole stylus itself can be upgraded, depending on your model. I've listed a few examples below.
Consider Upgrading Your Turntable: A quality turntable will ensure your records are played properly. A cheaper quality option may save you a few bucks to start out, but cost you hundreds in replacement vinyl.
You'll also benefit from better sound, more ease of use, and potentially extra features (like USB compatibility for digitizing your collection) so do consider opting for something in a mid-range price point.
Listen Vigilantly: Vinyl record care also means you need to be aware of damage that can take place as you're listening. Skipping and 'stuck' needles are really bad news. If that's happening consistently, you'll want to get the player fixed, or upgrade outright, or you'll find yourself replacing your vinyl pretty regularly. Record players with anti-skate technology are great for preserving your collection.