Music production has gone leaps and bounds from the early days to recording to the age of the iPod. But for all their modern bells and whistles, CDs and mp3s have yet to match the sound quality of vinyl records, a technology that dates back to the 1800s. Audiophiles are drawn to their rich, warm sound, something even state-of-the-art recording tools would be hard-put to achieve. The only catch, of course, is that vinyl records don’t last forever.
Vinyl collectors swear by a number of methods to keep their records in top shape, but most would agree that cleaning is essential. You want to keep your discs free of dust and stains without using strong cleansers and abrasive surfaces. The best way to go about it is to use a record cleaning machine, which takes care of everything from the cleaning solution to the scrubbing and drying. Having a machine do it helps you avoid over-cleaning or missing some spots. It’s not a small investment, but if you’re a serious collector or seller, it’s well worth the money.
If you’re bent on doing it yourself, or don’t have that many records to make machine cleaning worth it, get a cleaning solution specifically made for vinyl records—you’ll find them at most music shops. Most stores will also have professional cleaning brushes designed to be gentle to vinyl surfaces; read the recommendations on the bottle or ask store attendants for suggestions.
You can also make your own solution if you’re on a budget. Use either 90% isopropyl alcohol (available at pharmacies) or a dishwashing soap, preferably unscented or the kind made for sensitive skin. If it smells or looks too strong, dilute it in a bit of water. It’s always safer to make it too weak and just add more soap or alcohol as needed, rather than the other way around. Microfiber or soft flannel cloths usually work well for drying.
Once you’re done cleaning, you’ll want to store your records properly. Instead of putting them in their original sleeves, which are probably dusty as well, get a new set of plastic inner sleeves and use them for newly cleaned discs. Then put everything in a larger outer sleeve before storing. Use a new sleeve every time you clean. Do this regularly and you’ll find that you won’t need to clean the disc as often, and they’ll keep their sound quality for a lot longer.