How To Clean A Record Needle The Right Way

William Cramer by William Cramer | Last Updated: June 16, 2020

​People come to a vinyl record for many reasons, but most of them desire to experience the excellent quality of sounds that this retro style gives listeners.

However, to help your record player ‘live’ longer as well as protect it from being damaged, maintenance is necessary.

So if you own a phonograph, keep reading on to see handy tips on how to clean a record needle.

How to Clean a Record Needle: All You Need to Know

What Is A Record Needle?

As usual, we had better gain a complete understanding of what we will dig deep into before learning how to clean a record needle.

To know what a stylus is, there is a need to figure out something called phono cartridge.

In fact, this part has different names, for example, magnetic cartridge, pickup, or phonograph cartridge.

It is a special device generating electrical signals from other forms of energy. The manufacturer uses this magnetic cartridge in the playback of vinyl records on your turntable.

That pickup contains a permanently mounted or removable stylus, in other words, a tiny tip – normally a precious stone such as sapphire or diamond have responsibility for coming into physical contact with serrated grooves on the record’s surface.

While the needle is tracking, a cantilever is vibrated to produce electrical magnets in the phono cartridge.

Those signals are finally amplified and transformed into sounds thanks to your loudspeaker.

Why Does Your Stylus Need Cleaning?

A lot of users often complain about the terrible noise after a long time of use. That surface is noise is avoidable as long as you keep your record player clean.

Nevertheless, in some cases, it might appear as the consequence of static electricity, your damaged vinyl record, or the dirty needle

As we mentioned above, the main purpose of removing dirt from the stylus is to prolong the life of both phonographs and the records as well as to offer you greater experiences.

Hence, if you dust off the needle on a regular basis, you could prevent the 2 biggest problems which are the harm to your vinyl, and playback troubles.

Serious Harm to Your Vinyl

Dirt, dust particles, and many kinds of debris will be caught and stay between the groove and the needle when playing.

Consequently, it will wear down little by little every time you make it work accelerating the damage. In the end, you have to say goodbye to the clarity.

Playback Troubles

Honestly, there is no magnetic cartridge that could generate beautiful sounds once it is covered with gunge. If you want a clear and pleasing sound, you should make sure that grooves and the needle closely contact to each other.

Debris and dirty substances will prevent them from working together leading to scratchy and muffled sounding which does not have detail.

Otherwise, an unclean stylus often tends not to focus on grooves on your records, and that is the reason why it suffers from miss tracking.

To make it easier to imagine, let’s watch a short video below to see how stubborn gunge creates a devastating impact on your needle and records.

Why Does Your Stylus Need Cleaning?

Via: The Vinyl Factory

How Often Should You Do Cleaning?

After realizing the importance of keeping the needle in a hygienic condition, gramophone users usually come with a question – How often should you do the cleaning?

Well, the answer heavily depends on the how often you play the vinyl. In case you turn it on regularly, we highly recommend you to clean your needle at least once a week.

Meanwhile, the rate of dust accumulation is decided by how clean your records are.

Getting records clean before every play is the first and foremost step defending against a dirty needle. A small tip for you – learning how to clean vinyl records will help you deal with old ones in the right way.

Of course, there is no specific number on how many times you should do it, but pay careful attention to the stylus after several listening sessions, and you will get an accurate answer.

Also, the subtle accumulation – behind the needle tip – is likely to be missed, but might cause distortion.

How to Clean a Record Needle?

There are so many ways on how to clean a record needle. In this part, we will show you 5 main methods which are very effective in the cleaning task without inflicting any severe damage to your tiny stylus as well as the turntable.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

The first one will be a very cheap and popular method that you can find easily at any homeware and household item stores. As its name suggests, this handy scrubber could be used in 100 ways to remove different types of dirt.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

Okay, so let’s see how to clean a needle record with this small sponge.

#1: Step 1

Go to a hardware store or supermarket and ask for Magic Eraser produced by Mr. Clean. You would realize that this brand has a wide variety of cleaning products, including several magic erasers.

Find and choose ‘Magic Eraser Multi-Purpose Cleaning Pad.’ Forget the instructions and remember to keep the pad completely dry.

#2: Step 2

Cut the pad into smaller pieces. A matchbox is a good example in case you want to know about the size to divide.

Related How to Use a Record Player: It’s Just A Piece of Cake

#3: Step 3

Gently hold the tonearm up to place one of the divided cleaning pad under the needle. Note that the white surface should face up.

You will see there is a blue side which is not necessary because that has chemicals for the tough cleaning.

#4: Step 4

Now it is time to gently and slowly position your stylus on that cleaning pad.

#5: Step 5

Lift the tonearm up and gently put it down onto that small sponge. At this stage, you will see residue, dust, and dirt of the needle stick to the square pad.

To achieve a better result, move the cleaning item a bit to make use of a cleaner area.

Keep going with the lifting and dropping activities until there is no grime coming from the stylus.

However, try to avoid rubbing or scraping that item across the needle as it could be too tough a little which probably harm your sensitive device.

And that is all for this DIY approach. So easy and convenient, right? Now, let’s move to other 4 ways on how to clean a record needle.

Stylus Cleaning Paper – Green Stuff

Stylus Cleaning Paper – Green Stuff

This Green Stuff paper is a very long-lasting and fine abrasive paper made of aluminum oxide. To clear out stubborn dirt, you just need to move it under the needle gently.

Apart from being considerably effective in removing dust, it will not affect the tip since the diamond is extremely hard.

Unfortunately, it will not come highly recommended if it is a micro line tip that is found in the luxury pickups only. The reason is those kinds of cartridges are easily broken.

Degreaser And A Cotton Bud

When it comes to how to clean a record needle, you can take advantage of the degreasing fluid that you often use to clean vinyl records.

This idea originated with bathing the tiny tip in a special liquid helping you in dissolving dust into the solution that is absorbed by a cotton bud.

One advice for you is to ensure that your cotton bud will touch the tip lightly and vertically without making the needle move vertically and horizontally, for instance, backward and forwards, or side to side.

Moreover, keep all cleaning solutions, particularly alcohol-based products, away from cartridge internals to avoid the quick deterioration.

For the practical, watch the following tutorial video to understand the technique clearly.

Degreaser And A Cotton Bud

Via: Youtbe Channel – Origin Live

Professional Stylus Brush

Professional Stylus Brush


Using a specialized stylus brush is a traditional cleaning method which is strongly advised by the manufacturers.

To brush your needle, just gently and slowly move the tool across the tip in the same way that your record always spins.

If you do research, you might see that some needle brushes come with a cleaning fluid to make a cleaning kit.

Applying liquid cleaners is fine, but you must use them with extreme caution because those liquids can keep the cantilever and the needle separate by destroying the glue between them.

As a result, the interior might be affected due to the solvents.

Stylus Cleaner

Stylus Cleaner


For those who are afraid of potential risks caused by chemical cleaners and hard-bristled brushes, you can consider this type of stylus cleaner.

It is an advanced and modern polymer bubble which is both user and needle friendly. Importantly, it does not use fluids and dangerous brushing.

To deploy it, just gently lower your needle onto that surface, and then lift your arm lever. You can watch the tiny tip sink into the soft gel-pad, and all dirty substances are left behind when lifting.

Aside from preserving the stylus’s life, this method can protect the phono cartridge from the attack of harsh chemicals.

Additionally, stylus cleaners like this usually offer an accompanying glass to help you visually inspect for gunge. To gain the best result, you had better clean the needle after every session.

Those are 5 major ways on how to clean a record needle with easy-to-follow steps. In the next part, we will give extra tips for taking care of your stylus to make it stay with you for a longer time.

Additional Advice on Regular Maintenance

In fact, taking care of your stylus is quite similar to keeping your record player in good condition. So, let’s walk through the following tips together to check whether you know all of them. If not, it is time for you to fill in the gaps.

  • Keep your records clean. This is understandable, right? The needle directly contacts to the grooves on your records to ‘read’ the recorded songs, so the tip will be covered with dust if the record is unclean.
  • Regular do the cleaning. The best way is to inspect the stylus after a few listening sessions.
  • It would be great if your turntable has a cover. During each playing time and after use, you should cover the gramophone to prevent it from the prolonged exposure to dirt and debris. Keep in mind that when working, the tip and your record will generate static electricity which attracts a cloud of dust.
  • In case there is no cover for you, look for a soft cloth in order to keep the turntable, and the needle covered.
  • Never use your fingers to directly brush the needle since you could leave finger acids and oils onto the surface which reduces its life. Also, your stylus might be accidentally bent.
  • Use the recommended cleaning tools only. Do not take advantage of detergent or a toothbrush to clean your needle, especially high-end one. Instead, you ought to use a stylus cleaning brush and move it from back to front to prevent bending or to cause damage to the needle.


That is all for today. Remember to get your stylus clean after each listening time gently. No matter what approach you will choose, try to avoid making sudden movements and letting chemicals affect the interior.

Hope that with our simple tips on how to clean a record needle, you can preserve phonograph as well as have enjoyable listening experiences. Have a question? Do not hesitate to leave a comment below. Anyway, thank you for reading!

William Cramer, the founder of Fire Inside Music, started to learn music in 2012 with a piano. He has continued to level-up his playing skills and wanted to share his journey and knowledge with other beginners. He launched Fire Inside Music in 2017 to make playing music more approachable for everyone looking to master a musical instrument.