Vinyl care 101
For the record: How to take care of your vinyls
Words— Kate Dingwall
So you've spent years accumulating an enviable spate of vinyl records. You've got new editions of Radiohead and worship at the alter of an original Prince LP. You've amassed an impressive collection via flicking through crates on crates, bartering with pals, and haggling with hipsters at thrift shops. Your vinyl set-up is far more advanced than that pastel Urban Outfitters suitcase-turned-record player: you've got extra speakers and a suave turntable. You scoff at a Spotify playlist: crisp, OG vinyl is the preferred backdrop to everything and anything. So, that considered, ask yourself: are you taking care of these prized records correctly?
A vinyl collection requires a little more TLC than your Apple Music library: cared for incorrectly, they can disintegrate. And considering the music history squirrelled away in vinyl, well, it might be time to take a little more care of yours. So put your favourite record on, get reading, and follow the below tips for taking care of your vinyl.
Handling your records
Get your grubby paws off the grooves of your record! When you grab the data grooves, you're letting in all the oil and product your skin has soaked up into them. If your fingernails graze them, well, you can risk scratching the record and affecting the tracks, so handle your records by the edge or by the inner label/centre portion.
Cleaning your records
A scour of the internet will unveil a host of different ways to clean your records (toothpaste is one, though we're not going to be the first to give that a go). For a few tried-and-true tips, stick to dry and wet cleaning. To dry clean, use a carbon fibre (carbon reduces the static on the vinyl) brush to lightly clean out the grooves, ridding dust and dirt from them. Ideally, do this before and after each play, and be sure to give the brush a good clean every once and a while. Wet-clean more infrequently—think of it as a deep clean for records. Take record cleaning fluid (see Amazon), water (preferably bottled/distilled) and soak a micro-fibre cloth. Wipe down, then dry with another microfibre cloth.
Take care of your turntable, too
Don't forget to care for your turntable as well. Remember that carbon fibre brush? Use it to wipe down the needle of the turntable frequently - it'll collect dirt and dust that can cause records to skip. After 3,000 hours of playtime (if you listen an hour a day, that means every 3-4 years is a reasonable estimate) replace your needle. Any record shop worth its salt will have one, and will be happy to walk you through how to switch it.
Storing your records
Hint: Any old bookshelf won't do. Records require a clean, dry place, away from humid heat or other extreme temperatures (read: storing your records in your bathroom or on your porch will bring adverse outcomes). The change in temperatures will warp the records, bending them out of shape and rendering them unplayable. If this does happen, your local record shop can advise on ways to remedy a mild warp, but it's better to avoid it in the first place. IKEA or Amazon both stock storage units designed specifically for vinyl (and many are low-cost), but if that's not an option, just store them vertically. Leaving a record flat or horizontal can cause it to warp over time (though it's okay if you're just plopping one down on a table for a short period).
Above all, please, we're begging you: always keep your records in these sleeves. Some like to decorate with records: the crisp black circles may seem like great decoration pieces. If that's the route you're going for, opt for cheap-and-cheerful records from the dollar bin or thrift shop: leaving vinyl out of its sleeve will bring on dust and deteriorate the groves.