Despite being one of the most formidable formats known to mankind, vinyl records have a propensity for attracting dust and grime. Between late-night listening and Sunday morning sessions, once new and shiny vinyl can start to show some serious wear quicker than expected. Not to mention those rare gems pulled from the crate that haven’t been properly cleaned … maybe ever? Fingerprints, dust, static, scratches — all create unwanted noise on what is supposed to be the audiophile’s format of choice. The cracks and pops, once so endearing, can easily become audibly unbearable. Furthermore, oil from your hands can eat at the surface of vinyl, bringing the value of a record down. Follow these guidelines on how to clean vinyl records and you won’t have to worry about dust or fingerprints.
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Steps to Clean Vinyl Records
- Remove dust and static with a record brush.
- Inspect the record for visible blemishes.
- Spray cleaning solution on problem areas.
- Wipe clean using circular movements.
- Store vinyl records properly to prevent future problems.
Optional: If your record is particularly grimy or mold, then we recommend you wash it with warm, soapy water and let it dry before you start step no. 1.
1. Remove dust and static with a record brush.
Just like sweeping before mopping a floor, removing dust and static before using a liquid solution will make your life much easier. Use long, gentle brush strokes with a designated tool to make sure you are removing detritus without harming the vinyl surface. There are plenty of brushes out there, but we can personally vouch for the Audio-Technica AT6013a.
2. Inspect the record for visible blemishes.
Under a soft, bright light, view the surface for any discolorations, smudges, and fingerprints. These problem areas will need some love and attention. Sometimes, the entire record may need a scrub. If that’s the case, wash it with warm, soapy water and let it dry, then start back at step no. 1.
3. Spray cleaning solution on problem areas.
Once you have identified sections of a vinyl record that require intensive cleaning, directly apply a cleaning solution. Be extremely careful to avoid touching the label with liquid of any kind, as this can cause the epoxy to loosen and the label to discolor.
Cleaning solution recommendations: Many collectors debate which vinyl record cleaning solution works best and which ones to avoid. There are plenty of options to choose from, including a dedicated solution such as VPI record cleaning fluid, concoctions such as the soapy mixture used by the Library Of Congress, or literally just Dawn dish soap (go with the blue kind over green) mixed with water. We can recommend Near Mint Vinyl Record Cleaner, which you can learn more about in our side-by-side test of popular homemade and professional cleaning solutions.
4. Wipe clean using circular movements.
Once the cleaning solution is on the surface of the record, apply pressure in circular movements with a clean microfiber or cotton cloth. This will help rub away the blemishes. Be sure to avoid the label at all costs — these can get damaged depending on the cleaning solution you are using.
5. Store vinyl records properly.
Make sure your records have a sleeve and are being properly handled by the edges or label at all times. Check out our guide for the most comprehensive review of how to store vinyl records.
Products Featured in Our Guide
For those that need to clean a lot of records, consider buying a vinyl record cleaning machine like the Okki Nokki. They will significantly reduce the time needed to clean each record. Fair warning: These machines are typically very expensive, though the return of raising the grade of the record might be worth it for those looking to sell records.
- Audio-Technica AT6013a Anti-Static Record-Cleaning Brush
- Near Mint Vinyl Record Cleaner
- Okki Nokki Record Cleaning Machine
Article originally published in 2018. Last updated in 2021. Steven Williams and Russ Ryan contributed to this guide. Video shot by Sam Harrison and hosted by Russ Ryan, who is also a co-founder of Near Mint. Thanks to Audio-Technica, Okki Nokki, and Chillhop for providing the gear and music to help Discogs create the video.