Guide to a Clean and Lasting Vinyl Record Collection
We’ve made you a simple guide to record cleaning that factors in effectiveness, budget and environmental impact. Follow our uncomplicated steps to a clean and healthy-sounding vinyl collection.
Is there anything more satisfying than a clean record collection? Well, yes, would probably be the sane answer. We can think of a few things (get your mind out of the gutter), but good, clean vinyl, liberated from dust, dirt and gunk to deliver unimpeded excellence in sound, definitely ranks up there with the very best of them. We’ve been making care products for vinyl records since 1971. It goes without saying that you need to be pretty excited about clean records if you spend half a century optimizing the products enabling said vinyl record cleanliness.
But how do you actually go about cleaning your records? We’ve been asked this question more times than you care to know, and it’s totally understandable, too: we all love our records, maybe even a little too much sometimes, and vinyl records are notoriously delicate objects prone to all sorts of blemish and scratch-inducing hazards. Heat, humidity, sunlight and, of course, a careless cleaning job can damage those all-important grooves, carrying the treasured sound.
As little more than a superficial glance at the vinyl-cleaning part of the internet will tell you, there’s quite a few ways to clean your records. Some are more efficient than others and certain methods go easier on your vinyl, effectively making your records last longer with the added bonus of lessening your impact on the environment. The AM take on record care navigates a balanced path between the two, prioritizing clean sound and low-impact sustainability in equal measure. We’re not going to sugarcoat this: vinyl is not exactly an eco-friendly material. As with so many things in life, however, a little common sense goes a long way: if you take proper care of your collection, you won’t need to replace your records, which stops them going into a landfill and ultimately puts less strain on the planet.
Alright then, let’s jump straight into it. The guide is divided into 3 sections:
1. Remove dust and static from your vinyl with a record brush
2. Use a cleaning solution on the grimy areas
3. Wipe clean with a microfiber cloth
1. Remove dust and static from your vinyl with a record brush
Static is this weird, kind of neat electrical phenomenon that occasionally gives you a little admonishing, yet titillating slap on your fingers. When it comes to records, however, static is far from being your cheeky little friend—it is, in fact, a deeply problematic foe with a rare gift for dust-hoarding. This is why having a good anti-static record brush is crucial when you start your cleaning process.
First off, it’s always a good idea to handle your record with a generous amount of care. There’s no reason to become paralyzed by caution, but touching it on the side and middle as much as possible when you’re carrying the record stops unwanted oils from your fingers and dust from being pushed into the grooves.
When applying your anti-static brush to the record surface, a good rule of thumb is always to be gentle and patient. Hold the fibers of the brush in the grooves when the record spins. After the record has made a full rotation, angle the fibers towards the outside of the record and gently sweep the particles from the vinyl surface. The record’s static charge is then neutralized when the carbon fiber sweeps over the record.
Not that we want to toot our own horn, but AM invented the very first anti-static vinyl brush way back in the 1970s. Endorsed by the world’s leading music outlets, like Turntable Lab, and used by some of the globe’s most critically acclaimed labels and music institutions like, Ninja Tune, Warp and Rough Trade, our anti-static vinyl brush covers your dust-removing needs. As you can probably imagine, the AM anti-static brush has been copied quite a few times over the years.
A good deal of these brushes lack the conductive brass needle connecting the carbon fiber bristles with the aluminium cape, which gives the brush its anti-static properties. A friendly heads up: it’s a good idea to make sure the anti-static brush you’re buying is actually anti-static.
Note that it makes sense to use an anti-static record brush frequently. Not only when you’re starting up your cleaning routine, but every time you put on a record in the efforts to get rid of that pesky static. Sometimes your records will need a more thorough cleaning (but not every time). This is where the second step featuring cleaning solution and cloth comes into play.
2. Spray cleaning solution on the grimy areas
Moving into the second phase of our vinyl-cleaning regimen, we’ll now take you through the best way to give your records a good, old-fashioned clean. This is where the ingredients in your solution play a significant part in cultivating a lasting collection of records.
Some people swear by solutions containing isopropyl alcohol (IPA), and while we’re not doubting the short-term efficiency of this method it can damage the surface—and thus the sound—of your vinyl in the long run. With that in mind, choosing a solution with little to no alcohol percentage is an important element when it comes to cultivating a lasting record collection.
Start by finding the areas that need cleaning. Either wet the cloth with the spray, or if you spray directly onto the record itself, just make sure you not to get the label wet. This can make the epoxy become loose and the label can deteriorate. Areas containing containing extra greasy gunk or particularly problematic elements like drink spills will need that extra bit of attention and elbow grease.
3. Wipe clean using a quality lint-free microfiber cloth
Using a lint-free cloth is important here because unlike a regular cloth, it won’t shed fibres. Needless to say, the build-up of fibres muddies the sound, but it can also ruin your stylus.
Take the cotton cloth and wipe the record carefully following the grooves all the way around. Work your way inwards tracing out the circular line markings on the record.
As mentioned, we’ve been making care products for a good long while, and a record cleaner complete with cleaning solution, spray and cloth is no exception. Way back in 1971, Danish teenager, Anders Moesgaard, the founder of AM, was inspecting the damage to his records after his older brother’s rambunctious partying sent them into an undesirable state of defilement. Realizing that the product he needed to get his prized Roxy Music records back into an acceptable condition wasn’t on the market, he started to experiment and came up with the solution forming the foundation of AM Clean Sound we know today.
There’s a lot less IPA in today’s AM cleaning solution (<5%), but the time-honored ease and efficiency with which it cleans your records remains the same—with that extra bit of care added for healthy and lasting records.
Now we’ll leave you in peace to clean your records with a firm, yet gentle hand. After which you can sit back and enjoy static free playback, reduced wear and prolonged life of your records.