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Dirty Vinyl - What to do?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Recently I have been chatting a lot about vinyl to friends and family alike. First I settle their minds as to why I am listening to an “out of date” format and then proceed to show them how great vinyl can be.

Given the recent trend of bad mastering on the digial side of the music world, and the release of top notch performances on vinyl (that mastered superbly), it’s no surprise that a lot of people are returning to the analog domain of vinyl recordings.

You got a turntable! You got a phono amp/pre-amp/integrated amp! You got some speakers/headphone! What do you do now!?

Most people rush out, buy a record they love and put it on. Cue the arm and on come some snap, crackle and pop. What’s worse – you don’t even eat Rice Crispies!!

All those memories of noisy vinyl come back and you start regretting your moves. I’m here to say that there is a solution! DON’T PANIC!!!

One of the questions I get asked the most by Vinyl Noobs is – “Do I have to clean my records?”.

The answer is – If you want good sound – YES!

The next question I get is “Even if they are BRAND NEW?”

The answer to that is – YES!

Then the response is “Oh - OK. How do I do it?!”

Before I continue, let me explain why even new records need cleaning. For that – let us take a visit to a record pressing plant. Hop onto the internet school bus as we learn how records are made.

Field Trip


Back to the Field Trip

Ok. When the biscuit is pressed by the stamper into a record, there is a release agent that is used to separate it and prevent mold from growing in the grooves. You want to clean brand new records so that you can remove any pressing debris and the "mold release compounds".

But why clean them? Well, for one, you’ll get better, clearer sound. Secondly, you’ll add life to your vinyl record and your stylus.

So, how do you clean LP’s? The answer depends who you ask. So – here are a few ways to do it. Starting out with the cheapest.

1.Alcohol with cotton balls.
This involves getting a cotton ball, wetting it a little with alcohol. You then run the cotton ball over the dirty LP moving it in a semi-circular motion until the LP look clean. Proceed to play.

2.Distilled Water with paper towels
Run the LP under luke warm tap water, making sure to wash away the dirt and keeping the label dry. Then rinse the LP with distilled water and tap dry with paper towels. Proceed to play.

3.Nylon Brush with Dawn and Distilled Water
Some people like to purchase a soft nylon brush and follow the above procedure (No. 2) but with 2 drops of Dawn added in the wash.

4.Carbon Fiber Brushes
This is used as a dry cleaning method. The bristles are tiny and are good at getting into the grooves to get the dirt out.

5.D4 Brushes / Groove Glide
These brushes come with a fluid you apply to the brush and then use to clean the record.

6.Disc Doctor Fluid & Brushes
Some people feel this is one of the best methods. You can find more information by search for “Disc Doctor” under google.

7.Vacuum Cleaner w/ Fluids
This is the most expensive, but IMHO, the most effective way of cleaning a vinyl record. This involves using fluids to clean out the grunge from the grooves and then using a vacuum machine to suck out the grime and fluid.

Ok. There you have it. 7 ways of doing it. Directly after this comes the following question – “What do you prefer LFF and why?”

Well, in all honesty, I don’t like method 1 because it doesn’t clean the record good enough. I don’t like method 2 because it can leave grunge behind when not done properly and the label is bound to get wet. I don’t like 3 because Dawn will leave grunge behind.
I don’t like 4 when done by itself. I don’t like 5 when done by itself. I do like 6 when used in combination with 7. I LOVE 7.

No. 4 & 5 is great when you use it to clean records which have already been through No. 6 and 7.

The best thing a Vinyl Noob can do is get a vacuum record cleaner. It need not be as expensive as one might think.

HERE is how you can do it yourself for under $30.00.

The next step up is The KAB EV1 record cleaner. This is under $200.00 and the only thing you need to add is your home vacuum cleaner. The design of the EV1 is based on the Nitty Gritty Design which is a much more expensive vacuum cleaner.

After this comes the models from Nitty Gritty, VPI, AcousTech, Hannl, Keith Monk and others. These are much more expensive than the previous two options but they come with their own vacuum and some are completely automated.

I know a few hundred dollars is a bit extravagant for a hobby, especially when it is merely an accessory to the hobby. But ask yourself a few questions the following questions:

Do you plan on holding onto your LP's indefinitely?

Do you believe that there are albums you own on vinyl that will never be available on any other format, including CD/SACD?

Do you love vinyl, but really hate surface noise?

Do you consider yourself a vinyl music collector?

Well, if you answered yes to any of the above, then you should own a record cleaning machine. A record cleaning machine is the single most important “upgrade” you can get in the analog vinyl world. It really does make a world of difference.
For those of you worrying about the continued use of cleaning fluid (and their prices), here is how to make your own formula. It is not the one I use (that’s a secret) but it works equally as good.

To make 16 ounces, use 75% distilled water, 25% alcohol and add 2 drops of DAWN liquid detergent.
If you want to make killer fluid, go 50% water, 50% distilled water with 4 drops of DAWN liquid detergent.
To clean Shellac 78’s, use 100% distilled water with 2 drops of DAWN.
There are tons of variations on how to make homebrew record cleaning fluid. Some people use a drop of Downey as a surfacent instead of DAWN.

Some people just buy the Disc Doctor stuff.

Whatever method you use, just make sure you use it. Never play a dirty record on your turntable. Your stylus and ears will thank you.
post #2 of 4
That youtube vid is awesome! Except that they say aluminium wrong...

Man the master disc looks so cool when its all glossy piano black O_O
post #3 of 4

Some great information. I'm sure it will come in useful, and of course cost me more $$$. ;-)
post #4 of 4
OMG!! That was so, low tech! How early 80's was that process to make records? You'd think they could come up with something that involved lasers and microwaves (not the kitchen type) to make records. Those machines were soooo grungy.
That's some good advice there LFF. Thanks for taking the time.
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