How to take care of your vinyl records
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 16:10
For the most part, vinyl bought in record stores is usually already clean. But if you’re buying a record from a yard sale or thrift store its good practice to clean your records before you play them. These records can sometimes have mold or thick dust on them which can make your record player’s needle skip.
“If you have a very dirty record it’s always good to use a cleaning spray,” said Angela Ziles, an employee at Reckless Records’ North Broadway location.
Ziles pulls out an old used record. Carefully holding it on its sides with both hands, she sets it down on the clean counter top. She then grabs a small white bottle with a label that reads “Groovy Cleaner.”
“That’s the one we supply,” said Ziles. “But you can also just make a homemade one. It’s three parts water, one part rubbing alcohol.” She holds the record up gently and sprays the cleaning fluid lightly four times. “Try not to get this label.” she says pointing to the center of the record.
After you’ve sprayed the record you move on to the next cleaning step. Ziles grabs a small yellow cloth near the counter. “Then you take a lint-free cloth, it’s got to be lint-free, and you just swipe along.” Ziles demonstrates by swiping the record along the grooves in a circular motion. “You don’t want to rub too deep or rough, just nice and round.” You then repeat the process for the other side.
The cleaning solution usually dries in about thirty seconds if wiped down properly. But always check that your record is fully dry before playing it on the turntable. A wet record can actually damage your record player’s needle by making it rust.
If a record is only slightly dusty, cleaning solution isn’t required. Instead you can opt for a velvet finish record brush. Reckless sells one brand for $19.99. To wipe dust off with this kind of brush you use the same circular motion as with the lint-free cloth.
Another important tip for record collectors is to make sure that they’re using quality needles in their turntables. Bad needles can damage your records in the long run. “If you ever buy an old turntable from somewhere make sure you change the needle,” said John Markley, who works at Permanent Records, a store that just celebrated its sixth anniversary.
If you want to be extra careful you should make sure you replace your record player’s needle every few years as well. “The rule of thumb is usually after 1,000 plays,” said Ziles. “But no one really keeps track of that. So maybe once a year tops.”
Markley agreed that changing the needle is important. “You should change it every couple of years. If you’re an audiophile and you listen to a lot of records you might even want to change it every six months.”
Storage is another important step in collecting records. Always make sure that your records are in white paper sleeves. These sleeves protect records from getting scratches. New records usually come with a sleeve but in some instances used records might not. Sleeves can easily be purchased online or at a record store.
Markley added that you should always store your records upright to avoid them from getting bent. “Keep your records out of any direct sunshine or source of heat,” he said. “Records don’t have to get very hot to start warping a little.”
If you’re looking to buy used vinyl at a record store it’s important to check for scratches. Old records often have tiny scratches that aren’t a big deal, but bigger deeper scratches can actually trap the needle creating the infamous record skip.
“A good rule of thumb is to move your thumb gently across the big scratches. If you can feel the scratch it will most likely make your needle jump. Deep scratches can damage your needle,” Markley said.
It’s also important to check if a used record is warped. Warped records are bent and unplayable. The best way to check if a record is warped is to lay it down on flat surface. If the record does not lie flat, or rises slightly, it is warped and should be avoided.
As Jack White said in a recent interview, there’s something inherently more romantic in listening to music on vinyl. By following these basic tips you’ll be collecting quality records and taking proper care of your collection in no time.