Taking Care of Your Vinyl Record Collection
Keeping your records in mint condition can seem like an easy job. You buy the record, you keep it inside its record sleeve, you give it a quick dust if it has not been played in a while. You think everything’s going well but then, over time, your record becomes scratched, warped, or just outright damaged. Nobody wants that, especially when a record can cost you upwards of $25 a pop. If you want your lifetime worth out of it, follow what we think is the ultimate guide, put together by ourselves and Vinyl Me, Please, to give your investment that lifetime guarantee.
This might seem like vinyl 101, but getting a good environment to store your records can be tough, especially if you don’t have a room dedicated to your listening experience. Obvious things to consider, you want your records in a cool, dry place. That means no leaks, no central heating and no radiators nearby — doing this risks all of your records, even if they’re all in pristine condition.
When you’ve found the perfect corner of your flat or home for your records, the next step is to avoid massive piles. As Linn, who manufacture fantastic sound systems in Scotland point out, vinyl should be kept in a vertical position with no leaning, as this can cause your records to warp over time. Otherwise, you can use horizontal stacks of 15–20 albums. Any more than that will risk damaging your records at the bottom of the pile.
Ikea are a global company, and their products are pretty solid. Thankfully for us tonearm tautologists, they stock the “Kallax” range, which is essentially tons of different bits of furniture that you can fit records inside, the full range is here, but the one we use here is this one. It comes in at £20, which for the amount of records you can store, it’s got some serious value!
Key Points — Common safety with water, heat and other elements where you’ll keep your records, Ikea have great physical storage solutions if you need them.
“So I just bought a record from a thrift store”
A great deal of my records come from car boot sales or thrift stores, and the majority of the time you’re paying a tiny price for a fantastic album. Always check a record before you buy it but if you’re like me, it’s 7AM in the middle of Glasgow and a guy is asking for £1.50 for a copy of Graceland, don’t knock it if there’s a few scratches and some dust. Instead, follow our handy guide on how to get your new, old purchase into peak condition before bestowing the needle onto the wax.
Cleaning Your New, Old Vinyl
Get the Stuff
You will need the following:
- A basin
- Washing up liquid
- A record cleaning brush
- 2 soft cloths for drying
- A sink with warm water
- A clean surface to put the records on (their cardboard sleeves)
Prepare the Water
Put an extremely small amount of soap in the basin, and then fill it with about 3–4″ of warm water. Stir the soap around with your hand while filling up the basin. Now place the basin on a countertop or other comfortable surface where you can commence cleaning your records.
Drench the Record
Put one record in the basin, and turn it around by moving the edge with the palms of your hands (as to not touch the grooves). We recommend that you try to avoid getting the label too wet, as this could risk the label becoming damaged if it has aged badly.
Once the whole surface of the record is wet, grab the record brush and wet it. With one hand, hold the record (with your palm) and with the other, move the brush in a circular motion about 10 times. I like to do 5 counter-clockwise and 5 clockwise. If you’ve got heavy grime, you might want to do more. just make sure not to touch the label. After one side is clean, flip it over and repeat.
After you’ve gotten the record clean, put it in a sink and run some cold water over it, removing the warm soapy water, and turn the record with the palms of your hand. After one side is clean, flip it over and do the other. After it’s clean, turn off the tap and let the water run off.
Drying the Record
Now that most of the water has run off, get a soft cloth in your hand, and grab the record with it. Now put another wash cloth in the other hand, and grab the record. With one hand, hold the record, and with the other dry it off. Once it’s dry, flip it over and do the other side — which should be most dry by now.
Once the record surface is dry, put the washcloths on the labels and press against them with your hand. This should get the labels dry of any accidental splashes.
After the record is mostly dry, set it on top of its cardboard sleeve in a cool, dry place, then place it somewhere and let it dry for several hours, to ensure a clean dry record for peak playback.
Playing the Record
I would recommend that the record is stored in a sleeve (the paper jacket inside the cover). Paper is fine, but does shed over time, so your records might have a little bit of stuff on the surface. Later records — late 70’s and 80’s — have glossy paper and even plastic sleeves to prevent this.
When handling records, make sure to only touch the label and edge, because finger oil acts like glue and dirt will stick to it (I’ve seen many a used record with blotches of dirt in the shape of finger prints). Unless you seriously mistreat them, you’ll probably never have to wash your records again or even use cleaning fluid.
READY TO ROCK!? Not so fast…
Awesome, your records are in a nice place, and they’re ready to be played. But is your turntable? If your turntable isn’t configured correctly, or your turntable needle is damaged or dirty, this could ruin all of the work you’ve done up until now. Now all turntables are different, but we’re going to try to provide an overall guide on how to know your turntable is working the way it should be. Thanks to eBay for a previous write up for inspiration.
Fixing Your Turntable
Tip 1. Fixing a Non-spinning Turntable
When the turntable does not spin, it is likely due to a malfunctioning motor, or a belt issue. This problem can be fixed by changing the motor as it is usually easier than fixing the malfunctioning one. If you lift the platter off the turntable and see a piece of rubber looking astray, take it out, and use your turntables instructions to reattach the rubber belt to the motor, and to get your turntable spinning again.
Tip 2. Looking for Sound-related Problems
With this problem, the turntable will work, but no sound will come out of it. This is most likely due to a faulty needle. So, any loose screws or wrong pins will cause the needle to malfunction. It can also be due to a problem with the stylus, whether it may be damaged or not present, but we’d hope at this point you might have noticed that.
Tip 3. Identifying Problems with the Tonearm
Sometimes with automatic tonearms, they may not drop on the turntable, which can happen for no apparent reason. The tonearm suddenly malfunctions and does not return automatically. An automatic tonearm is one which when you press play, will automatically move to start playing, and once the record is finished, lift itself and move back to its resting position on the right of the turntable. If this happens, the solution is to reset the tone arm. This can be done by holding the stop button and manually rotating the turntable by 90 degrees. Once this is done, the stop button should be released. This should reset the tonearm. Apart from that, get googling on your particular turntable mode.
Tip 4. Correcting a Fast Spinning Turntable
One common problem is a fast-spinning turntable. It rotates faster than the record’s speed, which can cause problems for the user. A possible cause for this problem is that the motor works at a different speed. The solution is to remove the upper plate and check the motor. If the drive is slipping, then it can cause the motor to run faster. The drive has to be aligned to correct this problem. Additionally, the speed of the turntable should match that of the vinyl record. For example, if the record has a speed of 45 revolutions per minute, then the turntable should also be set to that speed.
Tip 5. Handling Crackling Sounds
When the user hears crackling sounds, it is likely due to the build-up of dust on the turntable. The user can gently clean the turntable using an antistatic cloth to remove the debris. It also helps to check the tonearm to see if it is balanced properly. These solutions can be used to fix any other abnormal sounds too.
If nothing seems broken, NOW YOU’RE READY TO ROCK.
Long Term Maintenance
Now that you’ve cleaned up, here’s a breakdown guide on how to keep your needle on the straight and narrow, and to guarantee long players which last decades. Don’t worry, it’s not a painful list.
- Always take your record off the deck and put it straight in its sleeve once you’re finished listening. This avoids the needle straining if it is not automatic.
- If your record is dusty, use a specialised record cleaning brush, whilst manually spinning the record on the deck. Don’t clean the record whilst it is spinning powered by the turntable, as this could damage the motor.
- Before you listen to your record, check the needle for dust, and give it a light clean with a cloth if it is before listening, avoiding any potential damage.
- Crank up that amplifier, and enjoy the hell out of your new record you probably spent enough on.
So everyone, did we miss anything out? Let us know in the comments below, and if there are any glaring holes, we will either update this article, or maybe even publish a part 2!
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Originally published on Vinyl Me, Please blog, and blog.theretro.co.uk on September 23, 2015.