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Whether new or old, every record needs a bit of care to keep it free from crackles, pops, and scratches. Physical media — especially vinyl — needs a little more care than digital files, which won’t degrade if you play them non-stop.
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. A Vinyl Cleaning Brush
Whether your record is freshly pressed or 50 years old, using a cleaning brush can make a big difference.
This one from Boundless Audio has carbon fiber bristles that’ll go deep into the grooves of your album to remove dirt, hair, and dust that has gotten stuck inside. The bristles are effective at cleaning, but soft enough that they won’t damage your record during use.
We we’re recommending Boundless Audio’s brush over others because it’s anti-static and electrically conductive. Static can attract dust particles to your album, so using this brush actually provides proactive protection.
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, jamming down on it 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. Your hands are oily by nature, and anything you drag onto the bristles will get transferred to your records during future use.
2. A Stylus Brush
Cleaning your records is important, but it won’t do much good if your turntable’s needle is dirty.
Styluses get dirty by picking up dirt from your records, which can build up if you spin vinyl regularly. If you don’t clean it regularly, your stylus may get damaged, and need to be replaced. Vinyl Buddy’s Stylus Cleaner can help you avoid that.
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.
3. Cleaning Solution And A Microfiber Cloth
If you’ve cleaned up the surface of your albums, but still hear a lot of clicks and pops, it’s time to deep clean your records.
KAIU’s 3-in-1 kit includes a 6.75 oz bottle of alcohol-free cleaning solution, an anti-static microfiber cloth, and a silicon protector that will keep your album’s label from getting wet.
To use, spray the solution onto your microfiber cloth, and lightly wipe in a circular motion around your vinyl. 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.
4. Thick Inner Sleeves
Once your records are clean, it’s time to properly store them. Older records came in cheap sleeves that yellowed over time, so it’s worth upgrading them with a more effective set.
Big Fudge’s sleeves are made of heavyweight, alkaline and acid free paper that will not damage your records. They come in packs of 100, which means you’ll likely cover your entire collection with one set. We’re highlighting the 12-inch size, but they also offer a 7-inch version to protect your singles.
These sleeves have rounded corners, which make it easier to get your records out of their album jacket, and have enough slack that you can slide your albums out easily. Just make sure your vinyl is dry before putting them in a sleeve.
5. Plastic 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 Invest In Vinyl is a simple way to ensure a long shelf life for your record collection. The plastic sleeve is made of polypropylene plastic that’s three millimeters thick, and won’t wear or tear with regular use.
An added benefit to using a plastic sleeve is that you won’t risk your albums rubbing up against one another, which can eventually damage their jackets.
6. A Vinyl Crate
Now that your records are clean and protected, the final step is storage.
There are many ways to arrange and store your vinyl, but one rule remains the same: never stack your records horizontally. Stacking them on top of one another can cause uneven pressure to weigh down on your albums, warping them.
This crate from Amazon is an excellent addition to your home entertainment setup for a few reasons. It’s deep enough to allow you to easily stack your records, and long enough to hold up to 75 albums. This crate comes pre-assembled, which means it’ll be ready to use immediately.