Record Cleaning: Show Your Needle Some Love

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Your needle goes through a lot. On average, your needle travels one-half mile per complete album. The least you could do for your fearless little needle is give it a clean working environment.

Invest in a spray bottle, record brush and lint-free cloths. Your needle will thank you.

An LED flashlight, or similar bright light, aimed sideways at the grooves will reveal how dusty your record is. From here, you can decide how to proceed.

Distilled water

Distilled water is the basis of any good record cleaning routine. Some add a touch of isopropyl alcohol or dishwashing liquid. A pre-play once over with a damp lint free cloth will pick up most of the noise-creating surface dust. Whether using a record brush or cloth, always follow the groves and avoid the label.

Wood glue

Most of my records come from the thrift store. While I have found gems at the thrift store, they are usually incredibly dusty. Not just surface dusty, either. Dust that is ground deep into the grooves. This dirt is hard to remove and adds an annoying fuzz layer to the music. In these situations, I turn to wood glue.

I put the record on my turntable and let it spin. Then I squeeze the wood glue onto the record from the outside in. Again, avoid the label. Smooth the glue out next. It’s messy, but who cares? An even coat is best. The glue will settle into the grooves and bond to all the dust, but not the record itself.

After a few hours the glue will dry clear and you can pull it off. Usually the glue comes off in one piece. If not, one can either use more glue or just wipe the remnants away with a brush. Removing the glue produces noisy static electricity, so it is best to put the record away instead of playing it immediately.

The wood glue method takes time, but the results are worth it.

Warm water and Ajax

Old 78s are different creatures. They are made from a heavier shellac material that is quite different from a typical vinyl LP. The tougher material means your cleaning can be more aggressive. But be wary of cleaning solutions. Isopropyl alcohol will chew up granny’s 78s.

I use warm distilled water with a little Ajax soap. Take a brush around the record, following the grooves. An old toothbrush is my choice. The Ajax is necessary because most 78s are filthy.

Once you have gone around the record a couple dozen times, and it is thoroughly soaped up, take it to the sink and rinse it off. As always, mind the label. If you are careful enough, the water and soap will follow the grooves.

Don’t make your needle grind through dirt. Cleaning your records properly will protect your music, your ears and your needle.

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