The local indie record store used to be a sacred place for music lovers, people for whom music is so much more than a means to fill the silence. There always seemed to be at least one in every college town, and finding them was almost as much fun as finally tracking down that rare Wipers vinyl or wildly overpriced Dylan bootleg from '69 that you'd been looking for since before you could tie your own shoes. They were the go-to spot for hipsters, fans and the curious to mingle and expose one another to underground gems.
It's getting harder and harder to find the local record stores of old: posters lining the walls, pierced and tattooed employees flaunting encyclopedic knowledge of the most abstract musical history imaginable. But there's no replacing the discovery of a new love while sifting through stacks of vinyl at the record store, feeling the cellophane-wrapped edges under your fingertips, smelling that hard wax. And that's before you put it on the player and drop the needle into the groove of the first song!
Despite the evolution of listening formats and the rise of the streaming era, vinyl records are enjoying a strong resurgence in popularity due to artist involvement and events such as the annual Record Store Day. But fans new and old often overlook one key element of vinyl ownership: keeping their records clean.
If not properly cared for, records can start to show serious wear quicker than expected. In addition to creating unwanted noise on the audiophile's choice format, fingerprints, dust and scratches on your records can damage the surface of the record itself, further diminishing the sound. Natural oils from your hands can even erode the surface of your vinyl.
Thankfully, cleaning your records is an easy process that doesn't require much preparation. Getting rid of the dust, dirt, static and oils will help prevent any pops and clicks in your playback experience, improving sound quality.
Record cleaning solutions are helpful, but aren't a requirement if you don't have any on-hand. Record brushes and carbon fiber brushes are also commonly used to clean vinyl, but aren't necessary. Applying too much pressure with a record brush can actually harm the vinyl, so you're better off using a non-corrosive, non-abrasive cleaner with a microfiber cloth for the job.
- Wipe gently. Remove all dust and static using a microfiber cloth, using very little pressure to avoid driving any particles further into the grooves in the vinyl. Your goal is to pick up larger dust and dirt particles on the record without damaging the surface.
- Rinse. Dampen a clean microfiber cloth with water (distilled water is preferred), and lightly wipe the entire surface of the record in a circular motion with the grooves of the record, being careful to avoid the center label.
- Apply Simple Green solution. Add just a splash (about a 1:30 ratio) of Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner to a bowl of water. Lightly dampen the microfiber cloth with the solution, and wipe along the record gently, following the grooves.
- Damp-wipe clean. Wipe clean using the same process as in #2, making sure to remove all of the cleaning solution.
- Dry. Use a dry microfiber cloth to completely dry the record. Use a can of compressed air to remove any stubborn moisture remaining in deep grooves.
- Spin and store properly. Enjoy your clean vinyl! Before playing your record, make sure your needle is free of dust and in good condition Store vinyl records properly to prevent dust accumulation and future problems.