How to Clean Vinyl Records The Easy Way

Despite being one of the most formidable formats known to mankind, vinyl records have a propensity for attracting dust and grime. Between late night sessions, Sunday morning exhibitions and the commute from work to home (and back again), once new and shiny vinyl records can start to show some serious wear quicker than expected. Not to mention those rare gems pulled from the flea market that haven’t been properly cleaned…maybe ever? Fingerprints, dust, static, scratches; all create unwanted noise on what is supposed to be the audiophiles 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. Luckily, a solution is easily had. Follow these guidelines on how to clean vinyl records and you won’t have to fret about dust or fingerprints again.

Steps to Clean Vinyl Records

  1. Remove all dust and static using a vinyl record brush
  2. Inspect the record for visible marks and blemishes
  3. Spray cleaning solution on problem areas
  4. Wipe clean using circular movements
  5. Rinse and dry the record
  6. Store vinyl records properly to prevent future problems

Remove dust and static using a vinyl record brush

Vinyl 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 I can personally vouch for Audioquest’s Original Record Brush, which has served me well over the years.

Inspect the record for visible marks and blemishes

Vinyl Record blemish identification

Under a soft, bright light, view the surface for any discolorations, smudges and fingerprints. These problem areas will need some love and attention. Sometimes, especially when buying batches of used vinyl, the entire record may need a scrub.

Spray cleaning solution on problem areas

Once you have identified sections of a vinyl record that require intensive cleaning, directly apply a cleaning solution, for which there are many. 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 potentially discolor.

Vinyl record cleaning solution

Cleaning Solution Recommendations
Many are split on what 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, user-made concoctions such as the soapy mixture of deionized water and .5% Tergitol 15-S-7 used by the Library Of Congress, or literally just Dawn dish soap (go with the blue kind over green) mixed with water.
Check out a side-by-side test of many popular homemade and professional cleaning solutions here.

Wipe away blemishes and fingerprints

Once the cleaning solution is on the surface of the record, apply pressure in circular movements with a clean micro-fiber 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.

Rinse and dry the record

Using a controlled spray bottle or ninja precision and a sink, carefully wash away any remaining cleaning solution. Dry the record completely using a clean cloth, different from the one that was used to wipe away the blemishes, before getting ready to store it. At this point in the process, you’ll want to be careful not to leave any new fingerprints. Only handle the vinyl record by the edges or label.

Store vinyl records properly to prevent future issues

In general, make sure records have a sleeve and are being properly handled each time they are removed. There are other guidelines that will help you maintain a record collection. Check out our guide for the most comprehensive review of how to store vinyl records.

Discogs Vinyl Record Cleaning Kit

Overwhelmed? Don’t be. Discogs has a vinyl record cleaning starter kit in the merch shop that will provide everything you need to get started cleaning your collection. If you have any other recommendations, feel free to share them with the community in the comments.

Final Note: For those that need to clean a lot of records, consider buying a record vacuum or vinyl record cleaning machine. They will significantly reduce the time needed to clean each record. Fair warning though; these are typically very expensive. Though the return of raising the grade of the record might be worth it for those looking to sell many records.

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Steven Williams
Steven is a Discogs content strategist and indie radio host residing in Portland, OR. Formerly a member of P.H.C., a found-object free jazz collective, he now spends his spare time learning bluegrass tunes on the mandolin.
9 Comments
  • Oct 18,2019 at 05:10

    To those who ask “how does a record get dirty” I have to say that I can’t always buy well taken care of records. Wish I could post some before and after ultrasonic cleaning photos, I’ve recovered some disasters.

  • Jun 27,2019 at 21:19

    Why clean a record?
    The typical analogue vinyl record has around half a mile of grooves; any dirt or debris picked up as your stylus makes its long journey through your record will have an impact on sound quality. Also, just like a dirty or bumpy road will wear your car tires quicker, dirty grooves will inevitably make life harder for your stylus.
    Why clean a new record?
    It’s a popular myth that record manufacturers sell a pristine record hot off the press. New Records are contaminated with factory dirt, packaging debris, and release agent from the manufacturing process, not to mention a static charge able to make your hair stand on end!

  • Jun 27,2019 at 15:23

    completely wrong article as are many of the comments. In order of effectiveness it’s hand washing, Spin Clean, vacuum based system, ultrasonic. Thoroughly cleaning albums reduces a tremendous amount of background noise. New sleeves, especially Mofi and Diskeeper do a great job of eliminating most static. Have been cleaning albums with commercial fluids, currently using Tergikleen, with great results for over 40 years. Using a VPI 16.5 for the last few years and love the results. Whomever NeahkahnieGold is truly has no experience in cleaning albums and what the results can be. Spot cleaning and brushes that don’t get down into the grooves are worthless.

  • Jun 14,2019 at 16:12

    I am not sure I would do that the same way now but I remember being a club DJ for years in the 80’s and ending up regularly behind the bar to give a bath to a dirty record… Basically a trait of washing liquid and a shower under the warm (Not too warm) water tap, using a clean cloth to remove whatever was stuck to it, and drying it with a clean fresh kitchen towel. The process didn’t take long and when I think about it, I was doing that as relax as the bartender wiping dry her glasses… I was left with perfectly clean records, shiny, sounding great, free of pops and crackles. I was doing that only on 12″ extended 45rpm, not on the 33 Lp’s that are way more delicate.

  • Apr 27,2019 at 13:57

    You NEVER need to use a solution to clean records. I did this when I first started collecting vinyl and soon realised it was nonsense and more trouble than it’s worth.

    Use two lint free cloths. One damp/lightly wet with clean, maybe warm water. Wet the record in circular motion. Do not let the record dry by itself. Use the second, dry cloth in circular motion to dry the record. At worst you may have To play the record through once and give it one more wipe to remove any last residue. This is what i’ve Been doing for 20+ years. With great results. People trying to sell you cleaning solution are just trying to sell you stuff.

  • Oct 30,2018 at 15:48

    I use a vintage RCA discwasher record cleaning system. It works great.https://www.ebay.com/bhp/discwasher-vintage. It has to be the with the Black fiber material on the brush. Works much better than the new style.

  • Aug 9,2018 at 12:20

    How does the record get dirty?

    I tend to agree with Kaleidosmoker. I have been collecting records for 40 years. Pretty much always ‘new condition’. I have a good carbon fibre brush and always dust a record before playing. I handle the record carefully, with clean hands and by the edges (!) . After years of playing vinyl you get used to handling a record properly and it takes no extra time. The record is stored in a proper inner sleeve (bought if the record didn’t already have one). So, again, how does the record get dirty?

    Washing vinyl with solutions complicates the whole process tenfold! Solutions, like soap can have positively charged ions which actually attract dirt long-term; this means rinsing is important. Then, ideally the vinyl should be allowed to dry quickly – is any residue left behind?

    In my whole life, I have only washed two records which were very staticy. I used a good dishwashing detergent made with naturual stuff, with warm water and was careful about the rinsing, to rinse off all the soap. Luckily it was summer, a hot day, so with the help of a good cloth, it dried quickly. I was surprised by the results, but I wouldn’t want to do it often.

    Yes, I do have records which have been played for decades, hundreds of times, which do not need a wash and are in beautiful playing condition. I really do not ‘get’ the whole cleaning records thing . . .

    Playing vinyl is not as complicated as many would have you think. I believe it’t best to take care and avoid dirt, store your vinyl properly – keep dirty records away from your stylus and you should be fine.

  • Aug 9,2018 at 10:54

    Hey vinyl freaks, sorry to disagree but I am convinced many years now that cleaning solutions are harming vinyl. To cut a long story short instead of cleaning the record they do remove a small part of the superficial dust but the rest is being pushed deeper in the grooves and when they dry up they make a dirt film that in most cases can been seen on the needle when playing the record. If you try it you will see it. As years pass by and you don’t play the record grooved become swallow and dust with dried fluid becomes very hard to remove thus they are working the opposite way!
    Quite some alternative ways, you make check by entering “How to Clean Vinyl Records” in your browser… just remember the ones that use any kind of cleaning fluid are lame.

  • Aug 9,2018 at 06:15

    My current preferred cleaning method is Ultrasonic. Not too difficult and very effective.
    This thread will show you how.
    https://hifiwigwam.com/forum/topic/127148-homemade-ultrasonic-vinyl-cleaner/

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