How To Clean Vinyl Record Collections

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

So, you have a collection of vinyl records, but you’re not sure how the cleaning process goes? Don’t worry, because it’s not as complicated as you might think.

However, there are some things you should bear in mind before you start. In this article, you’ll learn everything there is to know about it. So, let’s see how to clean vinyl record collections.

How To Clean Vinyl Record The Ultimate Guide

Why Clean Vinyl Records?

Some people think that it’s not necessary to clean vinyl records. They figure that, since vinyl records are kept in their sleeve, there’s no need to clean them. Well, that’s not exactly the case. Vinyl records definitely require an occasional cleaning.

By keeping your records clean, you will actually prolong their life. Over time, a lot of fine dust and smut tends to gather on those tiny furrows on the records. It may not be visible, but it’s there.

And because of this, records can sound bad. Some of them may even go inaudible if they aren’t properly kept. And not only that the sound will be affected, but the quality of the record can be compromised permanently.

One more thing to bear in mind is that there are several ways to clean vinyl records. None of those methods should be considered the “right one”, because it all depends.

And know that cleaning the records also affects them in a bad way. Vinyl records are very sensitive, and even the slightest contact can jeopardize the sound quality.

Over time, vinyl tends to “show” i.e. to lose a bit of its original quality. Records will start to crackle, or skip a little bit.

However, the damage made by cleaning is practically insignificant compared to neglect. Therefore, the worst thing you could do to your vinyl record collection is – never clean it. But if you clean your records from time to time, they will last for a long time.

Why Clean Vinyl Records?

General Overview              

First of all, learn some general tips about cleaning vinyl records. If you’re a complete novice when it comes to this, these tips will set you up for what’s to come.

  • You should never experiment with an unproven cleaning method.
  • Always use a carbon fiber brush to clean the record – before and after playing.
  • Don’t expect high-quality sound unless you have a high-quality sound system.
  • If you purchase an old, worn out record, don’t expect to return it to its original condition – it’s practically impossible.
  • If possible, get yourself a record cleaning kit; it’s fairly inexpensive, but highly useful.
  • Never keep a record outside a sleeve, unless it’s not on the turntable.
  • If your turntable is in poor condition, or your stylus is corrupted – it will damage your vinyl records in no time.
  • You shouldn’t use rubbing alcohol to clean your records. It will take away their shine, and damage every 78-record you have.

These are just some basic tips on how to get started. Be sure to all the advice imprinted on your memory, so that you don’t make any beginner mistakes. Now, you’re ready to move on to the actual cleaning process. Let’s go.

Cleaning Vinyl Records

Cleaning Vinyl Records      

When you sit down to clean your vinyl records, there’s one very important thing to remember. And that is – take your time. Vinyl records are delicate, and any kind of force will potentially damage them irreparably.

Always know that cleaning a records isn’t just – getting the dirt off. It’s much more than that. Cleaning vinyl actually means – improving it for later use.

When cleaning vinyl records, you are, in fact, retrieving some of their lost quality. This is why it’s very important not to rush things and allot enough time to cleaning your vinyl record collection.

Let’s see what the basic steps of cleaning vinyl records are.

1. Keep The Records Clean.

The most important thing is, of course, to keep your vinyl records properly stored. If they are kept outside their sleeves, in “unhealthy” conditions, it will ultimately affect their sound quality.

Furthermore, keeping vinyl records clean doesn’t only include proper “storage”. It also includes proper handling of vinyl. So, be sure not to touch vinyl records with dirty hands – and avoid touching the grooves.

The grooves are those tiny furrows on the records, where sound is recorded. To put it simply – that is the “memory” of the record. And it can easily be damaged. That’s why you should only touch the outer rim of the record, not the sides.

Keep The Records Clean.

Imagine a vinyl records like a hot plate. To avoid getting burnt, you only touch the rim of the plate. Apply the same principle when handling records.

Hands should be kept clean because our skin contains various chemicals. These chemicals are, in fact, oils and acids. They can damage the vinyl by corrupting the surface of the record.

By holding the rims of a record, and not touching the grooves, you will keep the sound information intact.

2. Clean New Records as Well.

You might think that it’s not necessary to clean a record you’ve just bought. But actually, you should clean those records as well. First of all, you never know how the record was transported in the first place. This is a great way to make sure it’s clean.

Also, every new record is coated in a special compound, that’s necessary for the whole printing process.

But in order to get the most of a new record, you should clean this compound. Just make it a living practice to clean every new record before you put it on the record player.

Cleaning With a Vinyl Vacuum Cleaner

If at all possible, be sure to use a vinyl vacuum cleaner. The drawback of these devices is that they are pretty expensive, and they make a lot of noise. But they are the best for cleaning vinyl records.

On the other hand, these specialized vacuum cleaners are used for large record collection, which number thousands of items. If you have a smaller record collection, or cannot afford a vinyl vacuum cleaner, don’t worry. There are other ways of cleaning vinyl records.

Cleaning With Soap And Water

In addition to cleaning records with a vinyl vacuum cleaner, you can also clean them with soap and water. It a fairly inexpensive method, but of course – it has its drawbacks. The problem is that even the best soap will leave a little bit of residue.

Cleaning with Soap and Water

And also, it’s never beneficial when you make direct contact with the grooves on the record. But it’s definitely much better than no cleaning at all.

This is how you should clean vinyl records with soap and water:

Step 1: Before you apply the cleaning solution of soap and water, blow off the dust and dirt particles from the record. It’s best to do it with a carbon fiber brush, because it’s very effective yet safe. Be sure not to force the brush onto the record – don’t press hard and don’t get the brush between the grooves.

Instead of the carbon fiber brush, you can use a cleaning cloth for cell phone screens or glasses. Use the cloth to gently go over the record, and follow the path of the grooves – clockwise or anticlockwise.

Step 2:  Mix a little bit of soap with warm water. Don’t use a lot of soap, because it will leave a residue. Also, don’t use hot water. Although hot water cleans the dirt much better, you risk damaging the record. Use water that is warm enough for the soap to dissolve – that’s enough.

Dish soap is a great choice. Use a little bit of it, mix it with the warm water and stir until the soap dissolves.

Step 3: Find a very soft cloth to clean the record with. It is very important that you use a really soft cloth – like the one for polishing cars. Avoid kitchen rags, parts of old clothes, etc.

Step 4: Dip the cloth in the cleaning solution you made, but don’t soak it. It should have enough liquid to leave some of it on the record. However, the liquid shouldn’t drip. That’s considered too much.

With gentle movements, follow the grooves on the record, applying the cleaning solution as you go along. Assume the same motion as you clean each record, and don’t make any sudden changes in direction. That way, you will minimize potential damage.

The best way is to first apply concentric clockwise circles. Start from the center of the record, where the first grooves are. Then, slowly move outward. Then, you can go counter-clockwise, starting from the outer rim to the center of the record.

Step 5: The label of the record should stay dry. If you accidentally put some liquid on it, be sure to dry it out with the dry part of your cleaning cloth.

If the cleaning solution becomes very dirty before you reach the end, make another one. There is no point in using a dirty solution – you will only smear the dirt onto the records yet to be cleaned. Also, if you use a new cleaning solution, use a new, clean part of the cloth.

Make as many new cleaning solutions as necessary. Remember, the most important thing is to actually clean the records – not just to “get the job done”. If you don’t clean the records properly, you will soon have to conduct the cleaning process again. This may be time-consuming, so it’s best to avoid it altogether.

Step 6: When you finish cleaning the records with your solution, be sure to rinse them as well. For rinsing, it’s best that you use distilled water. You may hear people saying that they use demineralized water – and some do. But this is not good. Always use distilled water to keep the records away from much damage.

While rinsing your records with distilled water, make sure that there is no soap residue left. It is especially important to remove the entire residue from the record grooves.

Step 7: Now it’s time for the drying part. For this section of the cleaning process, use two completely different cloths. This is important because you don’t want to touch the vinyl with your bare hands. The two cloths should be soft and completely dry.

Take one cloth and grab one side of the record with it. Then, take the other cloth and start drying the record. Don’t make any sudden movements – just go gently and take your time. When you’re finished with one side, flip the record over and repeat the same method.

Cleaning With Professional Cleaning Liquids

Today, there are many professional cleaning liquids you can use for your records. However, it’s practically impossible to go through all of them, because there are so many.

Some of them are great, but some of them don’t give the desired results, and can even damage the vinyl.

Cleaning with Professional Cleaning Liquids

If you want to clean your records with a liquid, be sure to give it enough research. The product you want to purchase should have good testimonials.

Also, it should have some kind of guarantee, so that you have something to land on in case your records get damaged.

Finally, the best way is definitely to consult a vinyl professional. It can be a friend who is well-versed when it comes to vinyl records.

 Or, it can be a record store owner with a lot of knowledge on the subject. But the most important thing is – not to rush things and go for the first product you come across.

Additional Advice What Not To Do With Your Vinyl Records

Additional Advice What Not To Do with Your Vinyl Records

  • Never drop the record needle with your hand. Your hand is shaky, even if you don’t see it. And with placing the needle, you must be extra careful. Therefore, the proper way is to always use the cueing level to play a record.
  • Never stack your records. This way of keeping them will also damage vinyl over time. Always keep the records side by side, in an upright manner.
  • Allow your records some breathing room. They shouldn’t be kept tightly next to each other.
  • Never clean your vinyl records with household products. It can be very dangerous, and you risk damaging the vinyl for good.


Vinyl is a kind of material which doesn’t require a lot of cleaning. If you’re wondering how many times you need to clean your records – don’t worry. You don’t have to do it every year. You don’t even have to do it every two years, for that matter.

It all comes down to these two questions:

If you’re careful enough, and you keep the records properly, you’re safe. Be sure to clean the records when you buy them, and when they really get dirty.

It can be when you’re moving house, or find some records in a dusty basement. Otherwise, cleaning vinyl records shouldn’t take place that often.

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.