Despite the ever-growing popularity of streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, the sale of vinyl records has been on the rise for several years now, and in 2017 4.1 million vinyl albums were sold in the UK.
What was once considered something of a blast from the past has seen a resurgence, with people getting into building a collection either as a hobby or to play to a crowd. There are many reasons for their popularity, with some people believing they offer a superior sound quality, while others just enjoy a more tactile music experience. We caught up with Vinyl pressing specialists, VDC Group, to find out more.
But with a physical format like vinyl come a few surprises for those who are just getting into building a collection. Unlike a playlist online, records tend to get rather dirty. The grooves attract dust and grime really easily, and this can have quite a heavy impact on the sound quality.
For this reason, record owners should take the time to give their collection a little bit of TLC and make sure they are looked after properly. We’ve put together this guide to help you out when it comes to taking care of your records, from storage to cleaning them.
Storing your records
Make sure you store your records properly when you’re not playing them. To prevent warping, you should store them vertically and keep them away from temperature or humidity changes. Laying them flat is a big no, as they will definitely warp over time if you do that. Also be mindful that a record collection is heavy, so sturdy shelving is a must.
To protect your records from dirt and dust, always store them in their sleeve, placed inside the cover. You can buy plastic outer sleeves for an extra layer of protection, and to keep the sleeves themselves in tip-top condition.
Inner record sleeves are also a good purchase in the war against dust, as the paper sleeves your record came with won’t help to protect it from static, which is what attracts all the dust and dirt.
Handling your records
One of the best ways to keep your records clean is to prevent them from getting dusty or dirty in the first place, ideally. So for that reason, you want to avoid touching them with your hands, and only handle them on the outer edges or the inner label. Avoid touching the grooves with your hands, and protect your record from dust while you’re playing it by closing the lid on your turntable if it has one.
Use a carbon fibre brush to carefully remove any surface dust before and after playing your record to avoid dust build up.
Cleaning your records
You can be super careful with your records and they will still wind up needing a good clean eventually, so it’s important to know how to clean them properly when the time comes.
It is important to keep your records clean to keep them sounding great, but also to avoid damaging your stylus over time. If you buy your records second hand you will no doubt find dirt dust and oil is present on them, so it’s important to give them a good clean before you play them.
You can buy record cleaning machines such as vacuum based cleaning systems, which are by far the most effective way of getting your records clean. You simply apply a cleaning solution, and then the machine literally sucks it back out of the grooves, along with all of the dirt and dust.
If you can’t afford such a machine, there are manual methods which get great results, they’re just a little bit more time consuming, but great if you’re on a budget.
Place your record on a soft surface free from lint, and apply some record cleaning solution mixed with distilled water. Avoid using tap water, as it contains lime scale and mineral deposits which can damage your record. Next, take a microfibre cloth and gently clean your record in the direction of the grooves. Use a separate microfibre cloth to dry your record.
Besides taking care of your records themselves, it is important to take proper care of your turntable and stylus. This post from Techaeris runs through a few points you may want to bear in mind to make sure your turntable is kept in good condition and will not damage your records.