Shiny Clean Records

How to Clean Vinyl Records

Those pops and clicks you hear while spinning your favorite records may not always be an intentional part of the production. Dust, scratches and fingerprints from years (or sometimes months) of handling and listening accumulate to add “noise” while listening. There are many different ways to remove these unwanted distractions from your listening experience depending on your budget. Examine your records and determine what type of cleaning it requires. Is it simply dust and dirt or is it fingerprint oils and grime? We break down the most effective methods of cleaning your records to help you maintain the quality of your collection.

Vinyl Cleaning Brush

One of the cheapest ways to clean your vinyl is with a carbon fiber brush. These brushes are able to gently penetrate the grooves to remove any dirt, hair or dust that may be clinging to your record. Look for brushes that are anti-static and electrically conductive, so you can proactively protect your record from attracting dust.

Many audiophiles will brush clean their records every time they play it. If that is too much for you, we recommend brushing your records before your very first spin of a record and then periodically over time depending on storage conditions. Many times, newly pressed records are not clean before they are shipped and can contain dirt and other debris from the production facility. Brushing your newly purchased records ensures a premiere first listening experience.

Vinyl cleaning brushes will cost anywhere from $10 – $30. We’ve chosen our favorites below:

AudioQuest Anti-Static Record BrushBoundless Audio Record Cleaner Brush

How to Use Vinyl Cleaning Brushes

  1. Begin by placing your record on your turntable and turning the power on.
  2. Hold your brush at a 90 degree angle above the record, allowing the record to spin beneath it.
  3. Gently begin brushing your record from the inside grooves to the outside grooves. Be sure to follow the groove lines until you have cleaned the entire surface once or twice over. DO NOT press too hard or you run the risk of damaging the grooves.
  4. Flip record over and repeat. Be sure to avoid touching the cleaning bristles with your fingers, as the brush may trap your finger oils and transfer them to your records in future uses.

Stylus Brush

Another important cleaning regimen that is often overlooked is cleaning your stylus or your turntable “needle”. Over time, your stylus picks up the trapped dirt and oil from your record grooves; if not cleaned properly, it may get damaged and need to be replaced entirely.

Using a stylus brush on your turntable needle is another cheap and easy way to make sure you aren’t adding more dirt and oil to your records every time you spin them. We recommend incorporating this into your vinyl cleaning routine. Stylus cleaning brushes will cost anywhere from $10 – $15. We’ve chosen our favorites below:

Boundless Audio Carbon Fiber,
Anti-Static Stylus Cleaner Brush
Vinyl Buddy Carbon Fiber,
Anti-Static Stylus Cleaner Brush

How to Use Turntable Stylus Cleaning Brushes

  1. Align your cleaning brush directly underneath the stylus.
  2. Gently brush back and forth repeatedly to remove any dust or dirt.
  3. When finished, place the brush down with bristles facing upwards to avoid contamination with any other surface.

Cleaning Solution and Microfiber Cloth

If you’ve tried brushing your vinyl and stylus and are still hearing those pops and crackles, it may be time to wash clean your albums. There are many so-called “tried and true” solutions that many enthusiasts have claimed over the years including isopropyl-based cleaning solutions, but over time those may wear out the protective coating on your vinyl.

Using a cleaning solution is the ideal way to remove any oil or smudges on your records. It’s best to pair your cleaning solution with a microfiber drying cloth like those used for waxing cars. To get the best bang for your buck, many retailers bundle their cleaning solutions with a cloth (and sometimes a brush) for around $18 – $30. We’ve chosen our favorites below:

Boundless Audio
Record Cleaning Solution + Cloth
Big Fudge Record Care System
(Cleaning Solution, Cloth and Brush)

How to Use Vinyl Cleaning Solution and Microfiber Cloth

  1. Wrap the cloth around your index finger and dip it slightly into the cleaning solution. Just enough to wet the tip.
  2. Place your finger in the center of the record and run the cloth clockwise along the grooves until you get to the edge.
  3. Reverse your direction and follow the grooves counter-clockwise toward the center of the record. Be sure to keep your finger flat, as you don’t want your nail to scratch any part of the record surface.
  4. Use a dry part of the cloth to remove any excess liquid on your record.
  5. Repeat if necessary.
  6. Rinse the record with deionized water to remove any residue. Deionized water ensures that none of the water impurities remain on your record surface. You can purchase deionized water at any pharmacy. You can also purchase some on Amazon.

Spin Wash Cleaning System

If you’re looking for a less time-consuming method of cleaning your records than a cleaning solution and cloth, but don’t want to spend the money for a vacuum system, the Spin-Clean record washer could be the ideal solution. The washer itself is basically a cleaning basin that contains two cleaning brushes on each side allowing you to rotate the record in and out of the cleaning solution. A simple dry cloth finish and an air dry will deep clean your stack of records on a budget.

There are many variants of the Spin-Clean system and many vinyl enthusiasts have actually built their own or use their sink. However, we don’t recommend any of the cheaper alternatives as they typically cut back on the quality of the cleaning solutions or the actual build of the basin. We truly believe that the Spin-Clean system is well worth the cost. Usually, the Spin-Clean system retails for $125, but we’ve seen it drop as low as $70.

Spin-Clean Record Washer
MKII Deluxe Kit
Spin-Clean Record Washer
MKII Limited-Edition Kit, “Clear”

How to Use Spin-Wash Cleaning System

  1. Assemble the machine according to the product instructions.
  2. Fill the basin with distilled water up to the indicator line. We highly recommend distilled water over tap so that you do not leave any impurities on the surface of your record.
  3. Pour about a cap full of the Spin-Clean washer fluid over top of the brushes. Now you’re ready to begin cleaning!
  4. Insert your record between the brushes until the edges sit nicely on the center rollers.
  5. Rotate your record clockwise and counterclockwise (we prefer 2-3 rotations each) until clean.
  6. Remove the record and gently dry it using a circular motion along the grooves with the Spin-Clean drying cloth.
  7. Place the record on a clean surface to air dry. We prefer using a dish rack, but you can also place on top of another microfiber cloth if you have extras laying around.

Record Cleaning Machine (Vacuum System)

The easiest and most effective way to clean your vinyl collection is with an automated cleaning machine. These machines can be quite expensive, especially if you are a casual collector. However, they have the benefit of saving you an extraordinary amount of time if you’re bulk cleaning large amounts of records. If you regularly purchase bulk amounts of used records, it will be well worth the investment.

The vacuum cleaning system works by clamping in your record by the label and rotates your records incredibly fast. The combination of suction and concentrated cleaning solution physically pulls all of the oil and grime off the surface. Typically, only two rotations (forward and backward) are needed to completely deep clean your records. Basically, the machine quickly brushes both sides of your record while giving it a bath in the concentrated cleaning solution—the quickest and most thorough route out there.

These systems are expensive and they range from $500 – $700. We’ve chosen a couple of our favorites below:

Pro-Ject VC-E
Record Cleaning Machine
Pro-Ject VC-S2
Record Cleaning Machine

How to Use Record Cleaning Machines

  1. Assemble the machine according to the product instructions.
  2. Place the record on the platter and tighten the clamp. Do not over tighten.
  3. Start spinning the record and apply a good amount of cleaning fluid to the surface (around 6 – 8 mL)
  4. Gently apply the fluid to the entire record with the brush similarly to how you would use a carbon-fiber brush.
  5. Let the record rest for about 30-60 seconds to allow the cleaning solution to do its magic.
  6. Place the vacuum arm above the record and turn on. The record should be thoroughly cleaned with one to two rotations clockwise AND counterclockwise each.
  7. Flip the record and repeat.
Scroll to Top