This article is a part of RS Recommends, an editorial series reviewing products in music and entertainment. Items are independently selected; Penske Media may earn a commission from purchases made from our links.
Whether new or old, every record needs a bit of care to keep it sounding as warm and lush as intended. Luckily, some of the most common issues with records are also the easiest to fix. We’ve outlined a simple guide for pain-free vinyl maintenance. From brushes and sleeves to sprays and crates, these are our favorite products for cleaning and caring for your records, as well as how to use them.
1. Vinyl Cleaning Brush
Whether your record is freshly pressed or older than the surviving members of The Beatles, a quick cleaning will do wonders. To get the most out of your record, we recommend a cleaner brush, like this one from Boundless Audio. The key with any vinyl brush is to make sure it’s anti-static. A normal brush will actually give your record a static charge, which will cause your original copy of “Rubber Soul” to turn into a magnet, attracting and trapping dust in its grooves. If you thought cleaning your record was tough before, wait until it’s naturally attracting every piece of dust in the room.
This Record Cleaner Brush from Boundless Audio costs under $14 and boasts a healthy average rating of 4.5 stars on Amazon.
Popular on Rolling Stone
To use the brush, place your record on your turntable and turn the power on. Then, hold your brush at a 90-degree angle and allow the record to spin under it. The idea is to move the brush from the inside grooves to the outside while it is spinning. One thing to note, however, is to make sure you don’t press down too hard. While this brush has been designed specifically for vinyl records, it’s far from foolproof. Jamming down on the brush can damage the grooves in the record and trap the gunk you’re trying to clean out. Keep your sweep nice and light and you’ll find your records are all the better for it.
After a good once or twice over, spin the brush back into its holster. As you’re flipping it back, the carbon fiber bristles will rub against the compartment and kick off any lingering dust. Do not touch the brush with your fingers, though. Your hands are oily by nature, and anything you drag onto the bristles will get transferred to your records during future use. Purchase: $9.99 on Amazon.
2. Stylus Brush
Much like the vinyl brush mentioned above, this stylus brush is a solid bet for every record enthusiast. As you play record after record, small amounts of dust will build up and collect on your stylus. This can then transfer that dust to your records, causing skipping or even damage, as the stylus will force contaminants into your records.
To prevent this from happening, we like the Vinyl Buddy Style Brush. It’s a well-reviewed product on Amazon and users are often surprised by how much the sound of their records improves with one use of the brush.
To use, swipe the brush back to front lightly, clearing away any lingering dust and dirt. Once finished, leave the brush on your turntable motor board, or side table, bristles up, to avoid further contamination. If ever the brush gets too dirty, use another fine brush to come it gently to remove dust or debris. Purchase: $13.49 on Amazon.
3. Cleaning Solution and Microfiber Cloth
The next step in the process is the deep clean. For a brand new record, this isn’t an issue, but for those rare record finds at your local shop, this is an extremely important step.
For a deep clean, we recommend this spray and cloth set from Record-Happy. Unlike the anti-static brush above, the spray and cloth set goes deeper into the grooves to remove any junk clogging up your vinyl.
To use, spray the solution onto your microfiber cloth (which is also anti-static), and lightly wipe in a circular motion around your vinyl. Once again, you want to avoid pressing too hard on the vinyl, as that can cause any dust or gunk to sink deeper into your record. After a few spins around, let any leftover solution dry before playing your freshly cleaned record.
At under $14 for the spray and cloth, this cleaning set is a solid bet for keeping your records clean. It’s alcohol free and non-abrasive so you can set your worries aside and ensure your vinyls are in top form before you give them a spin. Note: this cleaning solution has been specially developed for vinyl records, so you won’t be risking any damage by dampening the cloth. Purchase: $13.47 on Amazon.
4. Inner Sleeves
Now that your records are squeaky clean, you can do one of two things. Either play them or store them. If you’re aiming for the latter, we recommend purchasing record sleeves. Record sleeves come in multiple styles and materials, but the important distinction is whether they are an inner or outer sleeve.
Inner sleeves are the thin, paper holsters that come with new records and act as buffer between the record and the jacket. For those of you dumpster diving at Amoeba, there’s a good chance your great finds will come without a sleeve. And even if your original Star Wars soundtrack from 1977 comes with a paper sleeve, odds are it’s seen better days.
When it comes to inner sleeves, we prefer Big Fudge’s pack of 100 Heavyweight sleeves on Amazon. At $21.95, it’s an easy buy and a great thing to have around should you come across a fantastic record that is without the proper protection. These sleeves are made of heavyweight, alkaline and acid free paper that will not damage your records. What’s more, Big Fudge is so confident in their product, they offer a lifetime guarantee, and will offer a full refund should you feel the product isn’t up to snuff. Purchase: $21.95 on Amazon.
5. Outer Sleeves
For your records that are clean and protected with a premium quality inner sleeve, an outer sleeve is a great way to ensure they stay that way. An outer sleeve is a thin, plastic casing that slips over the entire record, jacket and all. Use these while storing your records to ensure your freshly cleaned or newly purchased vinyls don’t get dusty in between spins.
This set of 100 outer sleeves from Big Fudge is a simple way to ensure a long shelf life for your vinyl collection. The plastic sleeve is made of durable polypropylene plastic that won’t wear or tear with regular use. Like their inner sleeves, Big Fudge is so confident in their product they offer a lifetime guarantee should you feel it doesn’t work as advertised. Purchase: $23.95 on Amazon.
6. Vinyl Crates
Now that your records are clean and protected, the final step is storage. While there are many different options for storing, one rule remains the same: never stack your records horizontally. Whether you keep them in a crate or on a shelf, it’s very important to keep your records vertical as stacking them horizontally can cause uneven pressure to weigh down on your vinyls, warping and distorting them.
When it comes to crates, this crate from Amazon is an excellent addition to your home entertainment setup. At 17.5 x 13.5 x 14 inches, the crate is deep enough to allow for easy stacking, should you want to pick up more than one. Also, they’re long enough to fit up to 75 vinyls per crate, though we’d recommend giving a little bit of breathing room so your records don’t get crammed together. The crates come pre-assembled which is a nice touch, and are ready for use the moment they arrive on your doorstep. Purchase: $39.99 on Amazon.