Caring for your vinyl
Out of all of the music sources we enjoy, vinyl demands the most care. It’s really the only format that still uses physical contact to play (with the exception of the humble cassette tape, but we’ll resign that to history for now). Each time the stylus travels though the record groove, wear and tear is taking place which means that in order to enjoy records for as long as possible, we need to exercise a reasonable level of care. Dirt and dust are easily transferred to the record surface, and a buildup can quickly start to degrade both the sound and longevity of your albums.
Let’s start with what your records should be doing when you’re not playing them. Ideally they’ll be standing upright and not lying flat. Storing them flat will cause them to warp over time and become unplayable. Keep them in a clean dry place, out of sunlight or direct heat and high humidity.
Keep your records inside a dust sleeve and then inside their cover. A pro tip here is to drop your record into the sleeve vertically with the opening facing up, and then slide it into the cover horizontally. This will help to prevent the record from slipping out when you pick up the sleeve.
If your records come with paper sleeves, it’s a good idea to upgrade these to polyethylene versions. Paper offers less protection to your records and will leave tiny flakes over their surface, leaving you with more cleaning to do. Static means that the paper sleeve will also happily stick to the surface of your record, leading to scratches as it slides in and out. Our Mobile Fidelity record sleeves are a great option here.
Having a proper system for holding your records when they’re not in use is a great idea. There are many forms of crates or stands available that will prevent your precious vinyl from sliding across the floor and falling out of their sleeves. Find something that suits your decor and can be extended as your collection grows. If you want to keep your record easily accessible and off of the floor, the Soul to Sole Tui record browser will do the job nicely.
This part should be fairly obvious. Handle your records only by the edges or by the centre label. Oil from your fingers will transfer to the surface and then attract dust.
The recommended way to remove a record is to slide your hand into the sleeve, put your index, middle and ring fingers on the label with your thumb on the outside edge. You can then slide it out without touching the surface. You can even use your middle finger through the centre hold for extra control.
Now that the record is out of its sleeve, the best way to move it is by holding the edges. ideally you’ll only be moving it between the protection of its sleeve and your record player. Minimising the time it’s out in the open will limit the amount of dust that’s able to settle onto the surface.
Once the record is sitting safely on the platter, it’s a good time to give it a quick clean. An anti-static brush will easily remove any dust from the surface and it’s a good idea to use this both before and after each time the record is played. Brush along the grooves and work from the centre to the outsides. Keeping dust particles off of the record surface will also help to increase the life of your stylus. Brushes don't have to be expensive to do a good job, like this Mobile Fidelity cleaning brush.
For heavier duty cleaning, you can perform a wet clean by hand. Record cleaning solution is preferred to tap water which may contain mineral deposits that can damage the records surface. Dilute the solution with distilled water and apply it to your records with a microfibre cloth and then dry with a separate cloth.
If you have a bigger vinyl collection, then a cleaning machine could be the way to go. These work by spinning your records through a cleaning solution with cleaning pads removing the more persistent dirt. If that’s not quite enough, then you can step up to a vacuum machine. These are similar to the regular cleaning machines, but with the addition of a vacuum to remove the used cleaning fluid and dust from the record surface. A little more costly, but also very effective.
Another source of record wear is your stylus. A dirty and worn stylus will wear your records, and dirty records will wear your stylus, so there’s certainly motivation for trying to keep everything clean and dust free. A stylus cleaner will remove dirt, but be very careful when doing this. The stylus is very delicate and is easily damaged.
The lifetime of a stylus depends on how many records you play and their condition, but a rough guide would be around 800 to 1000 hours for a diamond tipped stylus. If you’re not sure of the condition of yours then play on the safe side and replace it.
Once the stylus is clean, it's time to take a look at the cartridge. The cartridge alignment or tracking weight will have a bearing on record wear. A bad alignment, could mean the stylus is dragging along the walls of your record grooves causing premature wear. Similarly, a tracking weight that is too heavy can cause undue wear. Make sure your cartridge is setup correctly for best audio performance, and also to look after your records. Soundline can help you with this and any turntable you purchase from us comes already correctly set up for you.
If you follow this simple advice your record collection should provide a lifetime of enjoyment. A lot of time and effort (as well as money) can go into building a collection so it only makes sense to care for it. The team at Soundline have spent many years of building their own collections, and are only too happy to offer some advice on how to get the most from your vinyl.