Vinyl records have been around for centuries, but how long do they really last when it comes to personal use and overall value? While there is no expiration date on a vinyl record, the answer lies within how well you take care of your records over the years. In order to keep your vinyl records spinning and beautifully displayable for years to come, there are a few maintenance factors to keep in mind while listening to music at home. Read on to learn more about how to take care of records and make them last as long as possible, keeping them in pristine condition.
Music Made to Last
When questioning how long vinyl records last, it is important to consider the material in which it is made from. In this case, vinyl records are made from a plastic material also known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a material that is easily impressionable when exposed to extreme temperatures. However, when kept in normal environmental conditions, PVC can last a significant amount of time before deteriorating. With that said, PVC has been shown to last well over a century.
PVC, a material also used for pipes and plumbing, has been shown to exceed a 100 year lifespan, even underground with water running through it. With that said, vinyl records composed of the same material have the potential to last just as long, if not longer when taken care of properly. However, if not upkept and cared for, vinyl records can also become ruined and unusable just as easily.
Factors That Influence The Lifespan of a Vinyl Record
While there are a number of factors that individually influence the lifespan of your vinyl records, be sure to consider each step as an essential part of the overall process when it comes to caring for your vinyl records.
Exposure To Sunlight
The amount of exposure to sunlight is one of the most common factors that influence the lifespan of your vinyl records. As extended amounts of exposure to sunlight result in extreme temperatures, vinyl records that are left out in the sunlight for extended periods of time will warp and become distorted. Once PVC reaches temperatures around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the material loses its resilience causing this deformation.
While there are methods you can take to reverse minor warpage, the best way to prevent this type of damage in the first place is to keep your records out of direct sunlight. If you have your record collection displayed by a window or an area that attracts a lot of sunlight, consider relocating your vinyl records to an area with less extreme temperatures. This will ensure that your records will steer clear of any temperature-induced defects.
Along with exposure to sunlight, regular record cleaning is an important factor in the longevity of your vinyl records as well. Keeping your records free of dirt, dust, and fingerprints will extend their lifespan and preserve their highest quality.
As the grooves on a record are delicate, any dirt, dust, or debris that falls within these information-filled ridges will have a significant impact on the playback of your records. When dust or dirt builds up, records will begin to skip and eventually decrease in overall sound quality. Using a carbon fiber brush to wipe down your records before and after use is a great way to take care of your records and steer clear of unwanted particles.
When it comes to cleanliness, fingertips also pose another threat. The tips of your fingers are filled with natural oils, which when in contact with the vinyl itself can attract an infinite amount of dust and dirt. Not only do the fingerprints allow particles to settle within your records grooves due to the oils, but fingernails also put your records at risk of getting unintentionally scratched as well.
The best way to avoid natural oils and scratches on your record altogether is to hold your disk by the inner label and the edges. You can simply do this by using your thumb to rest on the edge of the record and using your index, middle, and ring finger to balance the inner label. In doing so, you will avoid unnecessary damage as a result of mishandling your records.
In this sense, think of your collection as a work of art at a museum. In order to preserve them, they should be stored in proper conditions that won’t cause them to tarnish or depreciate. That said, humidity is another threat to the quality of your record collection.
In short, humidity conducts static charge, and a positively charged vinyl record attracts significant amounts of dust and dirt. While a carbon fiber brush may counteract some of this static charge, if the overall storage environment is above 45-50% humidity consistently, it will be difficult to maintain a static-free environment for your records.
Unfortunately, certain cities, such as those in the South, are naturally humid, which is out of your control. However, you can resolve this issue by using a dehumidifier in the room that the records are stored in. Managing the humidity levels will not only reduce static charge, but will also aid in the preservation of the vinyl album artwork as well.
Store Your Records Vertically
When it comes to storing your records properly, storing them vertically by standing them up next to one another, rather than on top of each other, is extremely important. When you stack your records on top of one another, pressure builds up and can eventually warp your records, making them unusable. In addition to this, the built up pressure can also result in cracking, which is ultimately irreversible.
Fortunately, there are means of fixing a warped record, however, it is best to completely avoid this issue altogether by storing your records upright and vertical. Whether you use a bookshelf, crate, or a storage rack, there are plenty of options to showcase your records while also taking care of them when they are not in use.
The Equipment You Play Your Records On
The vinyl record player or turntable you use to play your records is also very important in the longevity of the records themselves. While a cheaper record player may be more convenient for the time being, if you opt for a record player of lesser quality, you are putting your vinyl collection at risk of irreversible damage.
One way in which damage can occur when using a lesser quality record player is through groove wear. When there is an excessive amount of friction between a stylus and the grooves of a record, groove wear occurs. Essentially, this means that the grooves themselves depreciate and lose their quality as a result of being played, either excessively or in this case, as a result of a poor quality vinyl record player.
While groove wear is often subtle and unnoticeable until you begin to hear changes in the sound quality of your records, it is more likely to occur as a result of cheap record players. With that said, groove wear and overall record depreciation is easily avoidable by investing in a quality vinyl record player that is more delicate on your record’s grooves.
Investing in a Quality Record Player
If you want to start a record collection, choosing a quality record player doesn’t have to be completely unreasonable and break the bank. In fact, Victrola offers a wide selection of affordable vinyl record players from classic to modern and everything in between. When you invest in a top quality vinyl record player, such as a Victrola record player, you are also investing in the preservation of your record collection simultaneously.
If you want your records to last for years to come, consider a record player that you know will be gentle on the grooves, yet still provide the highest sound quality among other record players. In doing so, you will find that your records will far outlast those that have been used on lesser quality vinyl record players. When it comes to caring for your records, the equipment you use is equally as important as the small steps you take to prevent damage to your records on a day to day basis.
The Bottom Line Is, It’s Up To You
So really, how long do vinyl records last? Your vinyl records can last anywhere from a year or two and up to well over 100 years. If you’re aiming for the latter, it really comes down to how well you care for your record collection. Something as small as giving your records a quick brush before playing them can have a tremendous impact on how long they’ll last and more importantly, how long you’ll be able to keep them sounding great while spinning.
The beauty in vinyl records is that they are a timeless piece of the past that has been appreciated and passed down throughout many generations. In order to make the most of your records and care for them in the best ways possible, be sure to remain aware of each of the factors that influence the lifespan of vinyl records. In doing so, you will have a record collection that looks just as great as it sounds.