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01 February 2006

Vinyl-o-Philes: How should I clean my old LPs? I hooked a turntable last weekend for the first time in a dozen years...[More:]I am now wallowing in the joys of my ancient LPs, some very fine, and some I don't have on other formats. But there's lots of snap, crackle, and pop. What's the proper way to wipe these things clean without damaging them? Also, could it be my needle?

I understand some of this is unavoidable with vinyl. Some of my records are in pretty rough shape from getting bounced around in storage since the early 90s. And because I was a lazy teenager and didn't care for them well. But I must be able to make some improvements in the sound, no?
Up. Hooked up. I didn't steal it, honest.
posted by Miko 01 February | 21:20
This is the stuff we used to use, back in the day.
posted by bmarkey 01 February | 21:23
bmarkey has it. oh god, the nostalgia.
posted by rebirtha 01 February | 21:24
Oh yeah, I remember that stuff. I was wondering, though, if there were any homebuilt remedies that would do just as well.
posted by Miko 01 February | 21:27
I seem to remember people saying that they used a weak solution of dishwashing soap. I was never brave enough to try it myself.
posted by bmarkey 01 February | 22:00
Oh boy, big topic. Without getting too crazy: You want a carbon brush for day-to-day dusting before playback. You also should look for a stylus brush and cleaning solution. DIY with pure isopropyl alcohol; apply with a #8 synthetic bristle round artists' paintbrush.

For really dirty records, you can scrub 'em in the sink with a microfiber towel and a squirt of Ivory liquid soap. The label can handle getting wet, just don't scrub it. I've done dozens this way. Blot dry on more microfiber towels. Some folks claim that a run through the dishwasher on low & cool, again with Ivory, is OK. Mind the heat, and practice with Barry Manilow records first.

If the vinyl smells or looks moldy or mildewy, you want Buggtussel Vinyl Zyme, which lyses the biological stuff. If you are cheap and cheerful, well-diluted lysol spray would probably do the same job. Glassware cleaner from the biology lab is the hot ticket here too.

The serious kids all use vacuum suction cleaning machines; if you're lucky, the cool record shop in your town has one in back and will clean yer records for a dollar a pop.
posted by Triode 01 February | 22:08
I used to have a whole lot of vinyl, and I have a lot of friends with a lot of vinyl, many of whom often can be found DJing in dusty, windy and even outright sandy desert or other outdoor locations.

We've always had a huge problem with dust, sand, grit and dirt... and worse. Spilled drinks at clubs on the tables, smoke, unidentifiable goo and more.

Besides just keeping them clean in the first place and using those expensive spray-on vinyl cleaners like GroovGlide or whatever and a proper vinyl brush or pad, what we discovered was this:

Clean them in the bathtub.

Make sure your tub is grit and grease free, and have a dish drying rack or something handy. Fill the tub with slightly warmer than lukewarm water. (Too much heat and vinyl warps and melts) Use just a little basic dish soap, Dawn is preferred for it's mildness and anti-grease qualities. Wash gently by hand. Rinse. Set aside to dry.

Obviously if the record is gritty or sandy or anything, you don't want to be scrubbing on it with a washcloth or anything. You're just trying to float away the grit with water and a mild surfacant. But once the grit is gone you can gently wipe down the records with a soft, wet cloth while the record is in the water.

However, we used to be able to tell who had been playing outdoor parties the most by who had the least amount of intact paper spindle labels on their records, so, yeah, the labels do get soaked and float off eventually.

For electronic/dance DJs, though, that just makes their records look even cooler 'cause every platter looks like an exclusive underground white label. ;)
posted by loquacious 01 February | 22:26
I used to have that brush thingy bmarkey linked, so I'm no more help to you there...

Where did you get the turntable? I haven't owned one in ages, and have a bunch of vinyl (mostly 45s, a few LPs) that I bought in the 90s and have never been able to hear, because they never came out in any other format.
posted by BoringPostcards 01 February | 22:28
Huh, and today I just bought a portable record player -- having bought an AM/FM/Phono/8-track a few days ago. That's right: an 8-Track! You have my permission to shrivel up with envy.

The portable is a component for my world-famous traveling bar. Every bar needs music.

The boys above have nailed it. Discwasher and soap and water. Some swear by baby shampoo.

It takes me back, it surely does. Endless stoned discussions about the care and feeding of vinyl. Followed by another bowl and some Firesign Theater.

Sigh. Nostalgia for my wasted (in oh so many ways) youth.
posted by warbaby 01 February | 23:22
I was lucky enough to get my Dad's hand-me-down circa 1980 turntable. But he gave it to me because he got this new one for cheap. I'm sure it's not considered a very good one by DJs, but again, cheap. There are a lot of them back on the market now.
posted by Miko 01 February | 23:58
where you at? Come to my house, I got stacks ofthe stylus brush and cleaning solution and carbon brushes and soft cloths. Clean, listen, clean, listen. Lets make a night of it. ;)
posted by dabitch 02 February | 09:25
≡ Click to see image ≡
just don't get your vinyl mixed up with (some of) my vinyl. :)
posted by dabitch 02 February | 09:34
dabitch: that sounds great, but are you anywhere near Northern New England?

The very first night I busted these records out I was with a friend. It was a little bit of an orgy to be handling records again. A flood of sensory memories came back. It's so great to look at the big, giant artwork and liner notes, to smell the cardboard, to slide the LPs in and out of the paper sleeves, to get up every 18 minutes to flip the disc, to really pay attention to the music because it's so much more of a pain in the ass to play.

We thought we should have "record party" night, and invite people over, asking them to bring a handful of random records along. That would also be an excellent housewarming theme: everyone bring an LP to give. People could just pick 'em up at the Salvation Army.

I'm so excited to get back into vinyl.
posted by Miko 02 February | 09:45
Denmark doesn't count as Northern New England..right? aw, darn.
posted by dabitch 02 February | 10:13
Well, there's that little pond called the North Atlantic intervening. I've always wanted to visit Denmark, though. If I ever get the chance, I'll ring you. I may not be dragging my record collection in a backpack to Europe, though, so we'll have to rely on yours.
posted by Miko 02 February | 10:45
ninja gaiden black || Today? Thanks, but you can keep it.