Do record cleaners work?
May 10, 2013 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Do record cleaners actually work? And if so, which model(s) are the best?

A lot of my records come from thrift stores, and as such are not in perfect condition. I'm considering buying a record cleaner (I've seen devices like this for sale nearby), but am I better off just cleaning them by hand?
posted by The Card Cheat to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Jinx. I was just reading about record cleaning.

The process you're after is called wet cleaning.

You don't need a vacuum record cleaning machine to enjoy the benefits of the Audio Intelligent cleaning formulas. Although a record cleaning machine will make the process quicker, easier and provide better fluid pickup, careful cleaning by hand can be very effective.
posted by popcassady at 8:13 AM on May 10, 2013

Best answer: I've used Nitty Gritty and Discwasher cleaners, and they're pretty good. For the money, however this is my cleaning regimen, which works as well as (or better in some cases) a cleaning machine. This is a bit more effort, but equal results at a fraction of the cost.

Make your own cleaner using this formula. Clean your record using the above and a velvet cleaning tool.

If they still have deep groove noise, use the white glue method. This is the magic bullet. This works so well at removing funk from grooves it's astounding. It won't fix scratches, but it has saved several dollar bin records from my cast-off pile.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:21 AM on May 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

I've always wanted one of these.

I have a few hand-held record cleaning tools, like a microfiber brush that you put a couple drops of cleaning fluid on and run around the surface of the record. It works pretty well. I think I would rather have a machine that did it all for me, but when it comes down to a decision to spend $250-$450 on a record cleaning machine vs. spending that money on something else, "something else" always seems to win out.
posted by deanc at 8:21 AM on May 10, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions! What do you mean by velvet cleaning tool, though?
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:41 AM on May 10, 2013

Yes, record cleaners like the Nitty Gritty, VPI, etc. do work. I love my VPI 16.5 but it is noisy and expensive. If cost were no object, or for a professional application, I would go with Keith Monks but I think those are over the $1K mark.

Whether cleaning by hand is as good as a vacuum machine depends on your method. If you search the web you'll find people are willing to jump through a lot of hoops to clean a record.

I've never used a Spin Clean but I've heard from others who echo the positive comments in the review. At the price it could be an attractive option.
posted by in278s at 8:45 AM on May 10, 2013

What do you mean by velvet cleaning tool, though?

Something like this. I'm not sure if it's called a velvet brush or what, but you want something with strands that can work down into the grooves to get as much dust and junk out as possible.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:53 AM on May 10, 2013

I've had excellent results from pressure cleaning outdoors (sit the vinyl on a folded towel on the lawn, and make sure the water is absolutely clean so you don't sandblast it and no more than lukewarm so you don't warp it). You have to be careful not to take the label off.
posted by flabdablet at 9:04 AM on May 10, 2013

The Discwasher brush 1f2frfbf linked to works amazingly well. I've had mine since the late 70's. You must use an appropriate cleaning fluid with it, though. The last time I had to find some, I think Radio Shack was the only place I could find anything close. Of course, I don't have any audio/audiophile shops nearby, so there may be other places to find the stuff.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:07 AM on May 10, 2013

I just wanted to chime in on the Discwasher. It's low tech, but man, that was the gill in the seventies when it was all vinyl all the time.

I loved how the bottle fit into the tool. I think it held distilled water.

You can still get it online for $20.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:11 AM on May 10, 2013

I think it held distilled water.

It was a bit more than distilled water. The solution had other stuff in it. Not sure what, exactly, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:15 AM on May 10, 2013

Best answer: I still have my moms discwasher, yep, from the 70s.

I wouldn't bother with anything but that, and then wood glue if that didn't get the job done.

Anything else is just too much money. Money that could(should? Tbh) be spent on more records, a better turntable, better speakers, a better amp/preamp, that giant habitrail you always wanted to make throughout your house, a bazooka, etc. Especially the stuff that costs more than like... $50, not to mention the >$100 stuff. And this is coming from someone who's sank close to $1000 in to their current audio setup that's focused mostly on playing vinyl well, and has a decent sized record collection.

Get a discwasher and a big ass bottle of titebond.
posted by emptythought at 10:19 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are a number of DIY record cleaner plans on the web. Here's one that claims to cost less than $50 to put together.

I have an old Nitty Gritty for which I paid $75. I've used it a lot, and this year I sent it back to the factory for refurbishing (about $200, including shipping). Nitty Gritty's customer service was great.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:47 AM on May 10, 2013

Discwasher d4 fluid is 97 percent distilled water with a little bit of ethylene glycol and some detergent, if I recall my 1980s lore correctly. You can definitely use distilled water just fine.

I knew a very intelligent pro DJ who washed records with a tiny bit of Palmolive and warm water in the sink and dried them like plates on a rack. Just saying.
posted by spitbull at 6:10 PM on May 10, 2013

The teresaudio site that hydrophobic linked above (great stuff) has a handy recipe for leaning fluid -- they say a 25% solution of lab grade isopropyl alcohol and purified water plus a tiny amount of wetting agent/surfactant.

Paying $20 for one ounce bottles of this is insane.
posted by spitbull at 6:18 PM on May 10, 2013

There's also the wood glue method if you're looking for a DIY solution.
posted by anagrama at 1:26 AM on May 11, 2013

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