A paraphrased convo with my dad:

Me: “I’m having a tough time finding a record cleaning kit thing – the disc washer solution with the brush and cloth.”

Dad: “Take the one you gave me for Christmas.”

Me: “Umm…you haven’t used it?”

Dad: “I still have the one I had 40 years ago. If you take care of your records, you don’t need to use that stuff very often.”

Touche, dad. Touche.

With all the albums you’re bound to pick up this weekend, some vinyl will be in less than stellar (but still playable) condition. Fear not! With a little TLC, you’ll still get some decent spins out them with some post-purchase / pre-play care. In addition to taking care of your discs, preventative maintenance on your turntable is key. I’m not talking about dismantling your deck on the dining room table. Simply, replacing this with that; cleaning that with this.

These suggestions are time sensitive in that you’ll need to do some digging to locate the items. Over the past couple’a years, I’ve had no luck finding any of the items in stores, and only slightly more luck finding them online. I’ve included links below to all the items I refer to and some other useful bits. If you order by tomorrow, April 13, you’ll likely have your stuff in time.

First, the turntable and slip mat. Most decks come with a rubber or acrylic platter. If yours doesn’t or if the platter is in bad shape, consider replacing or adding a slip mat. A slip mat doesn’t just insure the needle makes good contact with the disc. Its other purposes are to guard against static interference and to absorb vibration. I prefer rubber over felt slip mats, though cork slip mats are becoming more common. I ordered one last spring and it works fine.

Next, the cartridge. It’s gonna get dusty. After you’ve sleeved your record and before you drop the lid down on your deck, clean your stylus. Every time. I got hip to this tip a few years ago:

 

I found using a cotton swab to dab the solution onto the tip of the stylus prevented it from running down the tone arm. Probably a good idea to keep liquid from dripping into places meant to be kept dry. Now, on to the records themselves.

A paraphrased convo with Val Camilletti from Val’s Halla Records in Oak Park:

Me: “Do you have a record cleaning kit thing – the disc washer solution with the brush and cloth.”

Val: “You don’t EVER put liquid on a piece of vinyl! I know your father DID NOT teach you to do that…what’s the matter with you?”

Me: <blink>

Touche, Val. Touche.

Going back to the original topic, though – you’re going to pick up vinyl that’s beat up. It will need to be cleaned. I posted a few methods (including Val’s – which involves a diaper and Ivory soap) and a demo of a fancy-schmancy tool called the Spin-Clean Record Washing System below.

Val’s suggestion, like all suggestions do, calls for a lint free cloth (pick these up at an auto parts store – they’ll be with the car wash stuff). Mix a couple drops of good old fashioned Ivory dish soap with one gallon of warm water. Don’t go overboard with the soap – you run the risk of leaving a residue. Lay out a few of the cloths on a flat surface. With a damp cloth and working from the outside to the inside, gently wipe down both sides of the disc. Be careful when you get near the center – don’t let the label get wet. With a dry cloth, gently wipe down both sides of the disc and lay it on the dry cloths to air dry. It won’t take very long to dry and, if you’re doing more than 3 or 4, a dish rack may come in handy. Be sure they’re completely dry before you sleeve them.

You may pick up an album with caked on crap. If you’re are contemplating using a toothbrush to remove whatever gunk is trapped in the grooves, STOP. Watch this:

 

The Spin-Clean Record Washer System Starter Kit is $80. If you anticipate cleaning 30 or more records, consider buying the Complete Kit for $125. It includes the same apparatus, but greater quantities of cleaning solution and accessories. Oh, and stay away from your sink. I’m serious. Someone suggested cleaning an album by running it under the tap. If this is you, I’ll confiscate your turntable.

The final suggestion is to replace the sleeves. If they’re paper, they’re undoubtedly decayed and brittle and folded at the corners. A pack of 100 paper sleeves will run you about $20 ($25 for a pack of 100 plastic sleeves).

Give these methods a try. If you buy the Spin-Clean device, let me know how it works and if you think it’s worth the investment.

Your pal,
Ryan A.