As the world around you settles for compressed MP3 files through the miniature speakers of their smartphones like a herd from The Walking Dead, you’ve determined there’s a better way appreciate music. Since nothing beats the warm, rich mahogany acoustics of vinyl, you got yourself a turntable with a nice little collection of records. Once you’ve experienced the classics on vinyl you’re in it for the long-run. Whether your turntable is new or vintage, a little bit of TLC and elbow grease will provide you with many years of full-fidelity.
Prevention Is Key
Have you ever heard the old proverb, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? We can’t say for sure but we’re almost certain they were referring to vinyl. The simple truth is the best way to get your gear immaculate is to not let it get dirty in the first place.
Maintaining Your Vinyl Records
Always wash and dry your hands before handling a record to so you won’t leave oily fingerprints or dirt that can gunk up your stylus. When handling a sleeveless record only touch the edges and labeled areas, avoiding any contact with the grooves. To store your records, place each record in its own (clean!) sleeve immediately after every use. Your records should then be stored vertically next to each other with enough space to easily pull it out but not too to where it will lean. Find a proper container to store your records in that will keep them upright and safe. There are many cases and crates designed specifically to hold a record collection, but even a wine crate or book box will work just as well as long as the records fit. Since your records should be stored in a dry, cool space with climate control, it’s best to avoid damp basements or humid attics.
Maintaining Your Turntable
The most important step in maintaining your turntable is to keep it clean. Since the static electricity created by vinyl will naturally attract dust to your record player, it’s best to reduce or eliminate it. You can do this by keeping your turntable in a well-ventilated, fairly dust free room at a temperature of around 70 degrees. An anti-static gun or anti-static cloth will help to prevent future dust. Be sure to not place your turntable in direct exposure to sunlight, heat, moisture, and dirt as these can all cause damage or warping. Choose a flat surface with a strong suspension to store your turntable that won’t be impacted by footsteps or other forms of vibrations. You can us a bubble level to ensure the surface is perfectly level.
When Cleaning Is Necessary
While prevention is always best, there are instances when it’s out of our hands. Maybe it’s a used vinyl from a previous owner who wasn’t as meticulous as you or your child accidentally spilling a drink on your favorite vinyl. Whatever the circumstance, it’s time to do some cleanup work.
Cleaning Your Records
It may or may not be obvious that it’s time to clean your vinyl. Visual messes such as fingerprints, oils, and dirt are usually easy indicators, whereas dust may not be so obvious. Even if you can’t see it, dust can create distortion in your sound and potentially scratch the grooves. One of the best ways to clean a record is with a vacuum based cleaning system which removes all residues from the record’s surface. You can also clean your records by hand with just a few inexpensive items. With your record laying on a clean, flat surface, apply a mixture of disc solution and distilled water to your vinyl (avoid tap water as it can contain mineral deposits), then use a soft, clean cloth to gently wipe along the direction of the grooves. Use a different dry cloth to dry up any moisture. Repeat as needed.
Cleaning Your Turntable
It doesn’t take much time to properly clean your record player. With an anti-static dusting cloth, simply wipe away dust on all the surfaces of your turntable. For a more thorough cleaning, you can dampen a lint-free microfiber cloth with water and wipe down the surfaces using a dry cloth to remove moisture or allowing it to air dry. While some audiophiles swear by rubbing alcohol, always be careful whenever using an acetone product that can possibly strip paint and finishes. To clean the platter, start in the middle and wipe towards the outside in a circular motion. Whether or not you should clean your turntable’s stylus is disputable. Keep in mind any dirt or oils on your records will eventually end up on the needle so if you use proper prevention measures you shouldn’t have a problem. However, if you do find it necessary to clean your stylus, use a quality stylus brush and ultrasonic cleaner to remove any visible gunk.
With habitual maintenance and proper cleaning methods, you’ll be on your way to enjoy the depth and texture that makes vinyl superior to any compressed digital version. What’s your best advice to keeping turntables and records pristine?