Vinyl has made a big comeback. Despite the arrival of CDs, MP3s, and now digital streaming, people still love the warm musical tone and satisfying tactile qualities of LP records.
However, they do require a little more tender loving care. By learning how to care for vinyl records, you can maintain your collection and enjoy many years of use.
Caring for vinyl records isn’t all that difficult. It just requires some intentional action and planning as you use and store your collection.
You need to make sure that you keep them free from dust, debris and moisture, and you need to store them properly to prevent warping or breakage.
And, obviously, you need to handle them with care and avoid scratches.
Caring for your Vinyl Record Collection
This article will tackle how to care for vinyl record collections. We’ll go over three care recommendations that’ll help keep your LPs happy.
Let’s get started.
1) Clean your LPs:
Cleaning is an important part of caring for your vinyl records. LPs play better when they’re free from dust and grit. Protective sleeves and dust covers can help, obviously, but dirt is inevitable, especially if you play them regularly.
Dust and dirt not only reduce sound quality, they can lead to degradation and scratching.
Additionally, it’s important to master your cleaning technique. If you use the wrong cleaning product or cloth, you can cause damage!
Use a Mild Cleaning Solution:
Make sure that you clean your vinyl records with a mild cleaning solution.
Caustic soap can wear down the grooves, and some cleansers will leave a residue behind.
Use a mild soap and water solution, or diluted rubbing alcohol solution. Those are your best bets.
There are some dedicated vinyl record cleaning kits that do a wonderful job, like this bristle-based one.
What About Spin Cleaners?
Spin cleaners are an easy-to-use option that minimizes the potential for scratching, and I recommend them. It’s too easy to cause an unintended scratch when cleaning by hand. This is a good one.
Use a Soft Cloth or Chamois:
If you don’t want to get too complicated, you can just clean carefully by hand. To avoid scratching, use a soft, microfiber cloth or chamois to wipe away dust and grime. You’ll want to wipe in a circular motion, going with the grooves on the record.
Do not wipe from the center outward.
There are some amazing microfiber vinyl record cleaning brushes available too. Be sure to search around and find something with decent reviews.
2) Store Your Vinyl Records Safely
Step two in learning how to care for vinyl records is storage. You must store your LPs effectively. Storage damage is usually permanent and irreversible; there are many things that can damage vinyl records.
That said, it’s actually quite easy to keep records in tip-top condition if you anticipate disaster and store them well.
Keep Your Vinyl Records in Their Sleeves:
The most common type of damage for vinyl records is cracking and scratching, and that’s usually caused by improper storage. You must always store your records in protective sleeves.
If you’ve lost or misplaced the sleeve, find a generic one, it’s important. There are plenty of inexpensive paper record storage sleeves out there, so you have no excuse!
Another important vinyl record care tip: pay attention to heat and cold. Store your collection stored at a constant temperature.
Heat (particularly from direct sunlight) can warp vinyl, making the record bubble and wave. That’ll ruin it. I’ve seen witnessed some very nice records get totally ruined with just a few hours in the sun.
Keep your LPs cool and dark to avoid bowing, warping, and other damage.
Vinyl Record Storage Boxes:
Keep your vinyl collection stored in a proper case or box, and always store your collection vertically.
Do not stack them flat on top of each other, and try not to let them lean too much. Their combined weight will damage grooves and cause warping over time. It’s practical anyway: vertically-stored vinyl is easier to browse through.
Here’s an example of a pretty good and affordable vinyl record storage case. I like that it closes up. You can also go for an open, bookshelf-style holder.
3) Handle & Play Them Properly
Part of proper vinyl record care is proper handling and playing. You already know the basics (don’t drop, don’t scratch), so I won’t bother with the obvious.
Instead let’s focus on some handling basics that’ll prolong the lifespan of your LP collection.
Use A Quality Needle / Stylus / Cartridge:
Have you recently replaced the needle on the stylus of your record player? The stylus is one of the main things that’ll wear out, and a bad or dull needle can damage perfectly good records.
They aren’t difficult to replace, so there’s no excuse not to. You can often replace just the needle / stylus portion, or the whole cartridge itself can be upgraded; it depends on your model. Audio Technica produces a pretty good cartridge.
Consider Upgrading Your Turntable:
A quality turntable will ensure your records are played properly, without excessive skating or too much weight on the grooves. A cheaper turntable may save you a few bucks to start out, but might cost you hundreds in replacement vinyl.
You’ll also benefit from better sound, better ease of use, and extra features (like USB compatibility for digitizing your collection) so I recommend starting at least in the mid-range price point. This gem by Audio Technica is one of the best turntables to start out.
Here’s our guideline on budget turntables if you’d like a more in-depth review and comparison.
Vinyl record care also means you need to be aware of damage that can take place as you’re playing. Skipping and ‘stuck’ needles are really bad news for your record.
If you hear that happening regularly, you’ll want to get the player fixed or outright upgraded. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself replacing your LP records pretty regularly.
Record players with anti-skate technology are great for preserving your collection.