If you have vinyl records, chances are, you have them for a reason. Maybe you love the beautiful, analog sound that comes from vinyl records, or maybe someone in your family passed them down the family tree. Whatever the reason, they’re important to you. This means that storing them properly should be important to you as well.
Storing them improperly can lead to all kinds of woes, such as scratching, scuffing, surface noise, warping, and even breakage. You definitely can’t play a broken record, despite what you might think!
Vinyl records are fragile and have often been passed down in families for generations, as musical treasures that should be cherished and well-cared for.
Some collections could even be worth a significant amount of money, if not now, then someday. Storing them properly is simply part of the deal in preserving their value and being able to play them in the future.
So, here are some tips on how to store vinyl records and possibly help you preserve a legacy for decades more to come.
How to Store Vinyl Records the Right Way
No matter how old your records are or what condition they are in, they will benefit from proper storage and care. It is said that vinyl records can last 100 years or longer when stored properly in an environment that is climate-controlled.
However, vinyl is bulky, heavy, and takes up a lot of space. The larger a collection grows, the more difficult it becomes to store safely and effectively. Also, while a vinyl record itself may stand the test of time in the right place and environment, the sleeve is much less hardy and often wears down even faster, especially if your records are left somewhere less than desirable.
Consider Your Environment
It’s vital to keep your vinyl albums both cool and dry, away from bright and UV light. The recommended temperature for storing records in a home environment is room temperature or below.
You could also store them in a climate-controlled storage unit if you don’t have the space for them at home. Just make sure you don’t store them near anything that gets hot, because the heat will damage and warp them, defeating the purpose of storing music on vinyl safely.
Wherever you store them, the location should be dry with very low humidity levels. You can measure the humidity of your chosen storage area using a hygrometer if you aren’t certain it’s ideal.
Think cool, dry, and dark as the best environment for vinyl records. Never store your records where they can be damaged by UV rays, such as near tanning beds or bright windows, because it only takes minutes for them to be irreparably ruined.
Also, it may go without saying, but don’t stack your records either. They should be stored vertically, with plenty of breathing room for you to flip between them. Not only does lying them flat and stacking them put added pressure on the records, but it can also warp them
This is why people often use crates to store records, to help keep them upright and prevent damage. Crate dividers can be used as well to organize your records and help keep them vertical.
Clean Them and Clothe Them
Another aspect of storing vinyl records properly is making sure they are cleaned and sleeved before you crate them. Never use a rag or a t-shirt to clean a vinyl record, because tiny dust particles and traces of dirt can still be left behind that can cause damage and hinder your records from playing well.
There are special brushes that you can purchase that are made for cleaning vinyl the right way, and special solutions that may be used for more thorough cleaning and care.
Once your records are clean, they can be sleeved and stored. Most experts will tell you the only time your record should ever be naked is when it’s playing. Once it’s done playing, it should go right back in the sleeve to protect it from dust and debris. Leaving it out any longer than that exposes it to potential damage and an accumulation of dirt and dust that will interfere with its ability to play great music and sound.
Ideally, you should store your record in plastic. Cover the record in plastic, and cover the album cover in a plastic sleeve as well. While paper might have been preferred once upon a time, it doesn’t stand up to the test.
Plastic helps keep your records protected better and longer. And if you notice your record’s original sleeve has become damaged, as much as you may love it, replace it. A damaged sleeve can damage the record, too.
Use Shelving to Store Your Records
Again, stacking records is a big, hard, NO. Records need to be stored vertically, whether that’s on shelves, in crates, or both. Wine crates can work in a pinch and if you store your records on shelves, make sure they are strong and sturdy. If your shelves sag it can damage your collection. Plus, those records are heavy!
Sagging can lead to breaking, and broken shelves can lead to broken records. See where this is going? You need tough, strong shelves that let you store your records in a vertical, upright position. If you are also using crates to keep them organized, your shelves will need to be strong enough and large enough to accommodate them.
Of course, you can also get fancy with your shelving. There are shelves and racks made especially for vinyl records that allow you to safely store your records and still display them in a pleasing way. These fancier storage options may not work for large collections, but can be a great option for smaller collections that you want to show off for visitors.
You could even use a whole wall and mount some nice bookshelves to show off a bigger collection. Bookshelves work just as well for records as they do for books and there are a variety of creative ways they can be hung or mounted.
Use Strong Plastic Boxes for Long-Term Storage
If you don’t need easy access to your records, sometimes strong, heavy-duty plastic boxes may be a good solution. If they are designed well, they can easily be stacked too, taking up less room. These can be ideal if you want to store your records in a climate-controlled storage locker over a long period of time.
Just make sure that any boxes you choose are perfectly square on the inside. Some boxes may be rounded at the edges and this can cause damage to records over time because the records will conform to their environment. The outside edges can be rounded, just make sure the inside storage area is not.
Also, remember that you won’t be able to get in and out of your records nearly as easily storing them in boxes this way, so if you play them often or plan to take them out to show them off, plastic boxes may not be the best solution. You can also use strong storage boxes for more mobile storage, especially if you transport your vinyl records on a regular basis for DJing and gigs.
You can find tough, sturdy, aluminum and steel-plated storage boxes with handles and lids that lock to store and transport vinyl records safely and efficiently. Just remember that all the rules about cool, dry, and dark still apply, and you will still need to make sure your records are vertical in the boxes. Don’t just toss them inside in unkempt stacks.
Use Common Sense
As some final advice on how to store vinyl records, remember to always wash your hands before handling your babies. Human hands and fingers are laden with dirt, germs, oils, and other grungy business that can encourage the growth of mold and fungi on your vinyl and their sleeves. So wash your hands and handle with care. Make sure you dry your hands completely too, before you even think of touching a record.
Take care to only handle records by the edges and the labels. This takes some practice, so don’t give up if at first you forget or you aren’t that great at it. Once you’ve done it often enough, you’ll be handling your records like an old pro.
Make a point to clean your records at least every six months or so if you don’t access them on a regular basis, and make sure your record player is also cleaned and maintained properly.
Replace worn needles, keep the mat free of dust and debris, store everything in a cool, dark, dry location, and cherish your vinyl records. When you learn how to store vinyl records and care for them properly, they will bring you countless hours of enjoyment for years to come.