Some very, very dirty records
June 3, 2006 6:32 PM   Subscribe

How can I best clean my LPs?

I've inherited a decent-sized collection of records that I'd like to preserve. They don't have a great pecuniary value, but have a high sentimental value. I have a Discwasher D4 system with a brush and fluid. However, a number of these albums seem to have mold or other debris I'd rather not contaminate or damage my brush with. Are there any more heavy-duty cleaning methods I can use that will clean these records to the point where I can use my discwasher?
posted by Eideteker to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Several sites recommend a 50/50 solution of rubbing alcohol and (presumably distilled) water, or various other recipes. But will they do the job for me? This site recommends this stuff; does anyone have any experience with it? For $30+, it had better work.

I don't really fancy using one of my personal washcloths for the job. Any recommendations on a fairly inexpensive cloth I can use?
posted by Eideteker at 6:48 PM on June 3, 2006

Enthusiatic amateur's experience : I've always been wary of any of the home-brew recipies using alcohol - it's a bit too much of a solvent for my liking. Same goes for anything using acetone.

I've had good success with the distilled water + (pure soap || windscreen washer fluid || lab glassware cleaner) recipies & an old nylon record cleaning brush. Slosh it on & brush it around. Sometimes if there's stubborn crud, I'll use a cheap shaving brush to shift it.

Wash, rinse, wash again, rinse well, & leave to dry for at least 12 hours. Playing wet is a no-no - the theory is that the heat produced by stylus friction actually softens the vinyl at the contact point; playing wet cools the vinyl too quickly & it tears slightly.

Remember, it's not so much the dust you can see on top that's the problem - it's the microscopic dust buried in the groove. If the groove is worn, it's possible to buy (depending on your cartridge) stylii with different profiles - choosing one that rides in a different part of the groove can make a lot of difference.
posted by Pinback at 7:37 PM on June 3, 2006

Back in the mid- to late-70s, my older brother used to employ a Discwasher. He was rather anal about such things, so I've no doubt the method is worthwhile. And lucky for you, they seem to still be (somewhat) readilly available.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:46 PM on June 3, 2006

Curses ... You already have a Discwasher. Damn my skimming. Nevermind.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:47 PM on June 3, 2006

Best answer: Ask MeCha.
posted by Eideteker at 10:10 PM on June 3, 2006

Get another Discwasher. Use a two-stage system, with one used first, to get the worst dirt, then run through the cleaner one.

Before that, try isopropanol(rubbing alcohol). It won't hurt anything. Wash with soapy water and a cloth towel first, then isopropanol, which will evaporate quickly so you don't need a long drying time.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 1:00 AM on June 4, 2006

Use a glycerol soap and distilled water and a lintless cloth. Rinse with distilled water. Do not use any solvent unless you have some really nasty and stubborn mold.
posted by Gungho at 6:25 AM on June 4, 2006

Analog hi-fi guru Michael Fremer has an exellent article online about this: The Most Comprehensive Record Cleaning Article Ever! But keep in mind this a religous issue with many turntable geeks. The more capable your system, the more the effects of cleaning are audible. I've read discussions about how different cleaning fluids sound different.

Anyway, here's how I do it. (I don't have a $90,000 turntable like Fremer does, so my method is a little less involved). This is one of my favorite rituals. (All links are offsite to commercial sites; standard disclaimers apply.)

  1. Put record on Record Doctor III machine.
  2. Clean record with Disk Doctor brushes and fluid. Apply a few dots of fluid to the record, and scrub in a motion following the grooves until it's foamy. Scrub around the record four times. Be careful not to get the record label wet, and don't push too hard.
  3. Vacuum the dirty fluid off with Record Doctor III machine. Repeat cleaning process for other side.
  4. Moisten record with distilled water and wash out the grooves with a second, clean Disk Doctor brush after.
  5. Vacuum record again with Record Doctor III machine.
Caveat one: don't expect instant miracles. It often takes repeated playings to get the deep-down dirt, mold, and whatnot out of the grooves. Keep your stylus clean and dust-free. If the fluid and brushing and vacuuming doesn't get all of the dirt out the first time, it will have loosened it and enabled it to be worked out by the stylus.

Caveat two: some records are pressed with noise, and there ain't a thing you can do about it.

I hope this helps, and do enjoy your new collection.

posted by the matching mole at 8:00 AM on June 4, 2006

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