Following on from some of our earlier stories about the resurgence of vinyl, this time we will address the wear and tear of your precious wax.
As an avid record collector will tell you, vinyl can be an expensive but rewarding hobby. However, if cared for properly, your precious discs of wax can last generations.
Storing Your Records
Our friends over at Norman Records advise that normal diligence when handling vinyl is vital. Don’t touch the surface of the record, don’t blow on it and use an anti-static brush before playing it.
Those microscopic specks of saliva may not seem a big deal at the time, but once your record is back in its sleeve and safely on a shelf it may never see the light of day again for years. The combination of slobber and time can cause mold. Then dust, pressure and time will result in scratches. Basically, be good to your records before you store them away again.
Take care after use
- Be quick. Dust is everywhere and vinyl records just love collecting it, so aim to reduce the amount of time your record is out of its sleeve.
- Give your record a quick go with an anti-static brush.
- One record, one sleeve: never store multiple vinyl records in the same inner sleeve.
- Place the record carefully into the anti-static liner sleeve you’ve procured.
- Place the liner sleeve and content carefully into the cover sleeve.
- Finally, place the cover sleeve and contents into a durable plastic sleeve.
Remember that vinyl records, when treated well, should only ever need to be bought once.
Creating the right environment for your vinyl
When it comes to storing and preserving your records, their surroundings are key. Heat, light, humidity, pressure, vibrations – all can cause warping and distortion if you’ve stored your records incorrectly, resulting in surface noise in playback or worse. Here are some key things to consider, to find out more, check out our guide to storing vinyl.
Heat: A room temperature of 15°C to 25°C is optimal. Make sure you keep your records well clear of any heat sources – whether that’s radiators, vents or sunlight.
Light: Try to store your records in permanent shade. Although it may take a while for sunlight to heat your vinyl up enough to actually warp it, it takes much less time for sunlight to bleach the colors out of those beautiful sleeves.
Humidity: Vinyl records should be stored in a dry environment. Records themselves will almost always survive a bit of contact with water, but sleeves and labels are easily ruined by moisture. Steam in particular moves about quickly, so keep them away from damp rooms.
Pressure: The aim is to keep your records upright with minimal force pressing against them, to prevent warping. Ensure you don’t store your records horizontally, always vertically and never stack them on top of each other. Don’t keep them too tightly together and never use them as a surface.
Vibration: Your vinyl records structural integrity can be compromised by strong vibrations. Keep your records a reasonable distance from speakers, washers, dryers, etc.
Size matters: Keep your 12”s, 10”s & 7”s separate from each other. Different sizes stacked together will mean that pressure will be placed on the larger records, warping them to the shape and size of the smaller records next to them.
Shelving and dividers
Along with the obvious benefit of organizing your records, dividers also help to reduce static, especially when opting for wooden shelves rather than metal. Remember that the shelves should have sturdy, immovable dividers every 4-6 inches and be able to support a weight of around 35 lbs per foot of shelf. Most importantly, the dividers you use must support the entire face of the disc in its sleeve, otherwise, the pressure between the records could result in warping.
Cleaning Your Records
Vinyl records are dirt magnets. They easily attract grease, grime, dust, powder and skin cells to name a few. But the importance of maintaining clean records is undeniable, and the benefits are numerous: extending vinyl life, improving playback, preventing needle wear, maintaining value.
The everyday approach to keeping your vinyl records clean
Get yourself some decent anti-static kit and form a habit of using it regularly. It’s worth the investment. It will last for ages and take up virtually no space. The brush dislodges the dust in the record’s grooves and the anti-static mats reduce ‘hiss’ and further dust while your record plays.
When using an anti-static brush use gentle, long strokes. Work in the direction of the grooves, not across them, and avoid pushing down or applying pressure. A decent micro-fiber cloth will help remove everything the brush has dislodged, as well as helping to absorb excess oils from any poor handling.
Get yourself into good habits by keeping your brush near your deck, use it each time you are about to play a record. Your records will stay pretty much dust-free and will sound great for years to come.
A step-by-step guide to deep cleaning your vinyl records
Choose a cleaning solution: Find what works for you, of course, but whilst they may cost a few pounds more, purpose-designed vinyl-cleaning solutions are worth sticking with.
Here’s our step-by-step guide to cleaning records.
- Remove static and dust: Grab your anti-static brush and micro-fiber cloth and carefully sweep away that first layer of filth. Remember: follow the direction of the grooves – don’t cut across them
- Inspect the record: Find a well-lit spot and look carefully at the surface of the record for any fingerprints, greasy patches, smudges. Rotate the record round to vary the angle of viewing, to see more of the dirt and grease. Problem areas may need several treatments, so it is worth performing this step carefully to know exactly what you’re dealing with.
- Spot-clean problem areas: Place your record on a flat, clean, stable and non-abrasive surface to avoid warping or damaging it as you apply pressure to it. Buy a micro-fiber towel, or a dedicated record cleaning mat and spray or dab the liquid onto your record. (Don’t drench it in solution). Apply a gentle pressure in circular movements to rub away the blemishes. Don’t scrub across the grooves, follow their direction around the record.
Note: Take great care to avoid touching the label with liquid of any kind. Loosening the label glue, or simply staining the label, will both ruin your aesthetic enjoyment of your record and devalue it. You can buy record label protector discs to help avoid this problem, but even then you need to be careful that your cleaning solution doesn’t leak underneath.
- Rinse and dry the record: Allow the record to dry in the air. If you’re short of time or have used a lot of cleaning solution, use a different, clean micro-fiber cloth to dry it. Ensure it’s completely dry before filing it away again. Don’t store a record that is even a little damp.
- Store your record safely: In the time it takes between drying your record and tucking it away in its sleeve it will likely be sucking up dust from the air again. Give it one final light sweep with your anti-static brush and – handling by the edges, gently ease it back into its anti-static sleeve.
An Expert Guide To Repairing Your Records
Unfortunately, sometimes vinyl can arrive in a less than adequate state. Even that prized ‘Mint’ label can be deceptive. And, of course, some brand-new records arrive factory-damaged, but the vast majority of physical damage is caused by accident or neglect.
Fixing a warped record
It’s worth remembering that vinyl is a physical product with a relatively low melting point. Warping can occur simply when a record gets too hot and the vinyl softens up, leading to it becoming bent out of shape. If you’re lucky a warped record won’t be noticeable. But, in the event that it is, you are faced with two choices: buying the record again or attempt to correct the warp. Check out our guide to repairing records here.
The DIY approach: Pure fear will put many people off this method. The pure effort involved will put off many more. But if you’ve got the nerve and the patience to experiment, try this:
- Procure two sheets of blemish-free, smooth, flat, ovenproof glass (big enough to cover a 12″ record, small enough to fit in your oven)
- Put your oven on very low heat, absolutely no higher than 50C (120F)
- Sandwich your record between the sheets of glass/oven safe items of your choosing
- Leave your weird record sandwich in the oven for ten minutes, just enough to make the vinyl supple again
- Take the record out of the oven
- Place it on a perfectly flat surface
- Place a heavy, flat object on top
- Leave it to cool right back down again (for at least an hour)
- Remove the vinyl and inspect it.
If you’re lucky, the result will be a flatter record.
Obviously, though, with this method comes danger. If your oven is too hot then the heat will make the grooves collapse. If the glass sheets you use are themselves warped, you’ll place a warped record in and take a warped record out.
Repairing a scratched record
Think about what a vinyl record is and how it works. A vinyl record is nothing more than a brittle plastic disc with deliberate scratches – AKA grooves – carefully etched into it. A stylus reads these scratches and transforms them via magic into sound.
In other words, a vinyl record is basically a big scratch and a turntable is basically a big scratch-reading device. Add new scratches to a record and you fundamentally change its original scratch. The best way to remedy this is to simply buy a new copy. However, there are a few ‘folk remedies’ that might be worth a go before shelling out again.
Use a wooden toothpick: This technique is likely to not work for deep scratches, and almost certainly not for mild scratches either. But it’s worth a go if you’ve already reached the ‘what have I got to lose?’ stage.
- Grab a wooden toothpick. Not plastic. Not metal. Wood.
- Grab a magnifying glass and a clean anti-static cloth.
- Isolate the scratched section. Play the record, and when you hear the skip lift the needle and visually inspect the area of bother with your magnifying glass.
- Watching all the while through your magnifying glass if you can, gently but firmly push the toothpick back and forth along the affected area, feeling for any ‘unnatural’ bumps.
- Clean away any debris raised with your cloth.
- Play the record again. Repeat the above steps until you’re satisfied that you’ve fixed the issue or are simply wasting your life.
Our thanks for this article to Norman Records, an online music retailer, specializing in indie, alternative and electronic music released on physical formats. Based in Leeds, they have been selling vinyl, CDs, and tapes online for over 20 years. Their customer service is legendary, and regular reviews, updates and feature articles are devoured by tens of thousands of vinyl lovers every week.