With the popularity of vinyl records on the increase, it’s important to educate new converts to the format of the proper care and handling of their records. Records require a lot of special handling to insure that they last and stay in good condition. The following is a place to start.
Hopefully as a record collector you want to keep your records in the best possible condition as possible. In order to do so, there are a few essential things to keep in mind.
Cleaning the Vinyl
It is very important to keep the vinyl record itself clean. Due to the vinyl record’s tendency to easily build up static electrical charges, it becomes a virtual magnet for dust. It is recommended that you buy a brush for your records and use it on them every time before you play them and before you put them back in their covers to ensure they’re not being put away with dust on them. Dust left on records can actually have drastic effects, since dust particles can become embedded in the grooves of the record, which could obviously affect the sound, creating pop and clicking sounds when the stylus moves over them. But also those dust particles could even, in extreme cases, cause the vinyl to wear unevenly as well as cause the needle to wear more quickly.
There are a few different types of cleaning products made for vinyl records (of course, once upon a time, there were many — but not anymore), but the one of the most popular and the one we recommend, is the Discwasher brand Record Care System that comes with a brush, or microfiber pad as they call it, a bottle of record cleaning fluid, and a smaller brush with thicker bristles called the pad cleaner to remove the dust from the microfiber pad. The instruction guide that comes with the Discwasher Record Care System instructs you on how to use the cleaning pad. You are to position it a certain way, aligning the brush in the correct direction (marked on the handle) so that the small bristles will clean and pick up the dust most effectively. You apply the brush to the record while it’s on the turntable and you can manually turn the turntable so the record runs under the brush, allowing the brush to pick up the dust. You apply the cleaning fluid to clean embedded dust. It’s probably not a good idea to use the cleaning fluid too often because that could harm the record too. Also, don’t play the record while it is still wet from the cleaning fluid. Allow the record to dry first.
Cleaning the Stylus
As the record revolves underneath the stylus, sometimes referred to as the “needle,” it will inevitably pick up dust particles from the record, regardless of how much you clean your records. You’ll often be able to see the dust on the stylus. It’s best to remove this before playing a record, because when clogged with dust and gunk, the stylus doesn’t vibrate fully and may not properly rest at the bottom of the record groove thereby adversely affecting the sound and increasing the likelihood of skipping. You can remove larger dust particles with your fingers, but it is best to get a stylus cleaner to fully clean the stylus. Discwasher makes a Stylus Care System, which we recommend. It is basically a densely packed bristle brush that will remove the dust from the stylus without damaging it, which is very easy to do when using your fingers. Ultimately, though, your stylus will wear out and you’ll have to replace it. Most styli need to replaced every four or five years, and it’s not exactly cheap to replace. But you can extend the life of it with the proper care.
Cleaning the Turntable
The turntable surface itself should also be kept dust and static free. Most quality turntables come with either a rubber turntable surface, or an antistatic “felt” surface. Either of these surfaces must be kept dust free to avoid pressing dust into one side of a record while the other side is being played. A good idea to prevent excessive dust build-up on the turntable surface is to keep the record player’s dust cover closed when you’re not using the player. If you don’t have a dust cover for your record player, you should definitely get one.
Record storage is very, very important. There’s nothing worse than coming across a record at a thrift store or at a garage sale that you’ve been looking for, for a long time, and it’s in such bad shape that it’s not worth buying. And you think, “If only this person had kept better care of this record and had stored it properly.” Here are some important tips for storing records: keep them upright, and don’t stack them on top of each other; make sure all your records have inner sleeves; buy plastic outer sleeves to protect the record covers; keep your storage areas clean and dry; do not store your records in a place that will get very hot, because this could result in warping — ideally it’s best to store records in a place where the temperature is constantly cool.
Handling your records
It is best not to touch the surface of your records with your fingertips. When picking up a record you should handle it by the edges and the center hole. Don’t handle your records if your hands are dirty or sticky or wet. And lastly, always put your records back in their covers after using them. Don’t let them sit out or put them on dusty or scratchy surfaces.
Today’s new records are mostly of Audiophile quality so playing them on higher grade equipment will produce better results. Record players/turntables can be bought for $50 to $5,000 – you will get more out of your records by using better players.
Do not play a record more than once in a 24hr period. The needle exerts pressure of 200 -300 pounds per square inch on the surface of the record and the record needs the time to regain the form of the grooves.
This youtube video is helpful. Below it, is another interesting video showing how records are made. Suspect this is an old video dating back to perhaps the 1960’s. The same machines are still in use to this day.