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A shelf of several records stacked on their sides. The vinyls look worn.

How To Clean Vinyl Records

2-4 hours
Whether you're just getting into collecting records or have been listening to vinyl as your exclusive hi-fi audio experience for decades, knowing how to clean your records is crucial. Here, Abt's audio experts walk you through the process.
A young woman in a red turtleneck cleans her vinyls by hand with a microfiber cloth in her apartment
The resurgence in vinyl popularity is amazing, with audio lovers turning from lossy streaming to the experience of listening to LPs on a turntable. But everything needs maintenance (well, maybe not digital downloads) including your records. In fact, one of the most important times to clean them is the moment you first pull them from the sleeve. That's why we're diving into the intricacies of how to clean vinyl records. Different audiophiles will give you different methods of scrubbing your songs, but we'll show you some of the methods that walk the line of "effective" and "easy".

Why Clean Your Records?

If you're new to the world of turntables and amplifiers, it's a good question to ask. But when you drop the needle in the groove on any album, you'll be able to hear why. Cracks and pops aren't there to add ambiance—that's the sound of grime, dust, dirt and potential damage. And it's immediate: records come from the factory with a penchant for griminess. That's because new ones are contaminated with products like release agents and refuse (dust) from other machines. Then they're statically charged, which actually attracts dirt and dust. That means that your new album is going to need a cleaning the moment you unwrap it. Even well-stored ones should be washed, whether they've been on your shelves for years or you just found them in a second-hand store. And when it comes to how to clean your vinyl records, know that you have a few different options.
A close-up view of a record brush swiping across an LP

Brushes and Solutions

If you're hoping for the most cost-effective option for how to clean vinyl records, you'll want to equip yourself with cleaning fluids and solutions. You'll use tools designed to take care of surface dust and grime, though things that have settled deeper in the grooves will need suction from a record vacuum. That being said, using specific brushes and solutions is a great way to get started. To clean manually, we recommend you have a record brush, a specific cleaning solution and a clean, plush microfiber cloth.
  1. Brush the vinyl by hand to remove surface debris. Brush the record in a circular motion, following the grooves. Go easy on the pressure in order to preserve the grooves. Pro tip: Doing this helps keep dirt and dust particles away, and you can perform this step on its own every time you play a record.
  2. Some will say that if you're learning how to clean vinyl records, you can use certain household cleaning solutions and even dish soap. We don't recommend that (anything with isopropyl alcohol can cause damage) and instead suggest specialized cleaners. Follow the instructions on the bottle.
  3. Once you're finished, wipe it down with your microfiber cloth until it's dry. For a fresh finish, we recommend a new record sleeve-we recommend an archival sleeve, which is dust free and helps eliminate static charge. These are generally made using polypropylene, and can include an outer layer made of paper. Avoid using sleeves that are all paper, they are manufactured using wood pulp, which will abrade (scratch) the surface of the vinyl which will be relayed as noise during playback.
A record vacuum, notably the VC-S2. Available at Abt, call to order.

How To Clean Vinyl Records Perfectly: Vacuums

While you can use sprays and cleaners to take care of your collection's surface grime, it's important that you learn how to deep clean the grooves in your vinyl records deeply—that's where all the audible information is stored, and where you can hear those pops, cracks and imperfections. If your stylus keeps running over those same imperfections and unclean grooves, you could do permanent damage to your collection of albums just by placing the album on your turntable and running your stylus through your favorite tracks.
That's why we recommend a professional-level vacuum like the VCS2 record cleaning machine from Sumiko (available in-store). Models like this are designed to use vacuum-level suction to pull away deep-set debris. While they can be on the expensive side, they're an investment in the health of your sound system, just like a good amplifier or proper speakers. This product is even more important: without knowing how to clean vinyl records, your collection won't sound its best, and the longevity of your records will suffer.. Whether you have the VCS2 from Abt or another vacuum-driven cleansing system, the rules are likely the same: you'll probably use another cleansing solution, then a vacuum arm will travel through the grooves to eliminate stuck-on grease and grime. For a practical model, look for one that can handle different record sizes. That's an investment that can last a lifetime.

Record Cleaning Solutions

While there are many types of cleaning solutions available, to keep things succinct we will concentrate on three types: surfactant-based, alcohol-based, and a mixture of the two. Surfactant-based products clean via solubilization. This means the dirt, dust and grime will be effectively dissolved into the water, which can then be vacuumed from the record. Alcohol-based products clean very well, but do not penetrate as deeply into the grooves as the surfactant-based fluids. This is why a combination of both are often used. It should be noted that a de-ionized/distilled water rinse is required after any surfactant has been used. Alcohol-based products evaporate completely, but a vacuum should still be used to lift any contaminants off the surface of the vinyl. A final rinse in this case, while not technically required, is still a good idea in order to reduce static.

Am I Ready For A Record Vacuum?

Maybe you're getting started with your collection of LPs and are still building your sound system, and maybe that sound system consists of just a turntable and a wireless speaker. Everyone has to start somewhere, but the quality of your records is one thing that every audio lover can both appreciate and upkeep. If you still have questions about how to clean vinyl records, call our team of specialists at 800-860-3577. We can help you find the rest choice for your needs. Don't forget that we sell LPs too, from the newest albums to come out to older classics. And to take a deeper dive into audio components, check out our audio buying guides, all written by experts.