A Guide to Caring for your Record Collection
Since the early 1900’s, records have been largely appreciated by music lovers and collectors of all genres, from rock to hip-hip to alternative vinyl records. With a recent and powerful comeback post the early 2000’s, vinyl records have weathered the course of time, and with good reason. Those who value and enjoy vinyl records claim that the sound is far superior than any other form of listening. To keep these records in the best condition, elongate their lifespan, and preserve the overall sound and quality that they produce, it is important to understand how to care for your record collection. Read on to learn more about how to take care of records with our step by step guide so you can enjoy your time listening to music at home.
Handling Vinyl Records
If you’re wondering, “how long do vinyl records last?”, much of the answer depends on how you handle them. One of the best ways to care for your records and maintain their utmost quality for years to come is by handling them with care. This means being extra cautious and mindful when the records are in between being played and in storage.
Steering Clear of Dust and Dirt
What’s the number one rule when it comes to taking care of your record collection? Avoiding dust and dirt at all costs. Vinyl records are delicate in nature and can easily become damaged by the slightest amount of dust and dirt buildup. When tiny particles fall within the grooves of a vinyl record, the sound quality decreases, resulting in either skipping or further damage. Here are a few ways you can prevent dust and dirt from settling in on the grooves of your vinyl records:
Watch Those Fingers
While it may be difficult to prevent how much dust and dirt naturally floats around a room, you can prevent attracting more dust and dirt to your records right from your fingertips, literally. When handling your records and moving them from the record player to storage and vice versa, it is important that you handle your records by the outer edges and the inner label.
Even if your hands are clean, the naturally occurring oils on your hands can cause damage. Not only can these oils tarnish the surface of the records itself, but they also attract dust and dirt as they stick to the oil, seeping further into the grooves of your record.
Aside from oil and excessive dust that can build up from improperly handling your vinyl collection, fingertips also pose another threat to the quality of your records: scratches on the vinyl. Even the slightest scratch can damage the grooves of a record, negatively affecting the overall sound quality.
Pay Attention To The Stylus
Another way that dust and dirt can affect your vinyl records is when it comes into contact with the stylus when being played. If your records are not properly cleaned from dust and dirt prior to being played, the stylus will drag the debris along your grooves causing further damage. In addition, debris can get caught onto the stylus and be carried over to other records that you play as well.
By taking regular care of dust and dirt on your records and handling them properly in between storage and being played, not only do you keep the records looking great, but they will sound even better naturally.
Cleaning Vinyl Records
Okay, let’s be honest, it’s not entirely possible to keep your records squeaky clean. There is only so much you can do to protect them from dust particles floating around and sometimes you accidentally touch the vinyl without realizing it or not. The good news is, there are a number of cleaning methods that can restore the quality of your records. Here are the best ways to clean vinyl records once you start a record collection:
Use a Carbon Fiber Brush
Using a carbon fiber brush should always be the first step you take when cleaning your records. Brushing the grooves of your records with a carbon fiber brush not only clears the surface dust, but it also lowers the static electricity. When a record is anti-static, it repels dust and dirt, making it more difficult to settle into the grooves. Consider cleaning your records with a carbon fiber brush on a regular basis, ideally before and after each use of the record in order to keep them as clean as possible.
Wipe Down Your Records With a Microfiber Cloth
When wiping down your records, it is important to take extra precautions and use a microfiber cloth. While it may be easy to grab a t-shirt or towel and give your records a quick wipe down, using these types of materials may cause further damage to the vinyl itself. Materials such as t-shirts and towels are hotspots for built up lint that can easily transfer over to the grooves of the record when used. The best way to wipe down your records is by using a microfiber cloth along with a cleaning fluid of your choice. Once you have wiped your records down with a cleaning solution, follow up by using a dry microfiber cloth to clean off any remaining particles.
Invest in a Cleaning Machine
Cleaning machines are definitely more of a financial investment than other forms of cleaning, however, if you have a large record collection it may be worth the extra cost. When it comes to record cleaning machines, there are two well-known and effective options:
- Vacuum cleaning: A dry cleaning method where suction is used to remove dust, dirt, and small debris particles that have filled the grooves of your record.
- Spin cleaning: A wet method of cleaning where diluted cleaning fluid is the basis of cleaning the dust, dirt, and other small debris from grooves of your record.
When deciding between vacuum cleaning (dry) and spin cleaning (wet), they both do a great job of cleaning your records, it really just comes down to personal preference.
Apply Wood Glue
Glue?! Yep, that’s right. Think of it as a face mask, but for your records. To do this, lift the stylus and apply the wood glue while the record is spinning. Once fully coated, let the record dry and peel off the glue. When you peel back the layer of dried glue, the particles stuck within the grooves will adhere to the glue and come along with it, leaving you with a squeaky clean surface.
However you choose to clean your records, be sure to make cleaning a regular process when it comes to caring for your records. This is especially important when it comes to cleaning used records as you don’t know how well they were taken care of by previous owners. When you take the proper steps to clean your records, and do so consistently, you infinitely increase the quality and lifespan of your records.
Storing Records in Your Vinyl Collection
Once your records are clean, you have two choices: put them on your vinyl record player and enjoy your favorite tunes, or store them away for another day. As for the latter, there are steps you should take in order to store your records away properly and preserve your collection. Consider the following tips when it comes to storing your records properly:
Use Inner Sleeves
When storing your records, first and foremost, you will want to be sure that you are protecting the vinyl. To do this, use inner sleeves, which act as a safeguard between the jacket and the record. The most common inner sleeves include paper, poly, and paper with poly lining. While the sleeves that have poly built-in help reduce static, the decision on which to use really comes down to personal preference.
Store Your Records Vertically
Storing records horizontally and stacking them on top of one another is one of the most common ways in which records become warped and unusable. The weight and pressure of records that are stacked on top of one another result in bent and distorted vinyl, which can be difficult to fix depending on the degree of distortion. The best way to avoid this issue is to store your records vertically alongside one another. From crates to bookshelves, there are plenty of options to store records vertically and avoid unnecessary bending of the vinyl.
Keep Them Out of Direct Sunlight
Another way to keep your records from becoming warped is to keep them out of direct sunlight. Extreme temperatures from extended sun exposure not only distort your records, but fade the artwork on your record’s jacket as well. While your record collection may look nice displayed right by your window, they are far better stored in an area that will preserve their overall quality and appearance.
By taking storage tips into consideration, you can better maintain the quality of your records, keeping them in great condition and ready to use at any time. When you are not using records, be sure to store them using inner sleeves, standing vertically, and out of direct sunlight. In doing so, you will lengthen their lifespan tremendously.
Now that you are familiar with all of the best ways to care for your record collection, take some time to sit back and enjoy your albums. The best way to do this is with a vinyl record player that matches the aesthetic of your home, while also providing superior sound quality allowing you to truly appreciate each record. Or, do some research and add the top vinyl records of 2020 to your collection. When it comes to finding the perfect record player, look no further, Victrola has a variety of vinyl record players for every music enthusiast.