Not everyone can afford a record cleaning machine to keep their vinyl clean, so here are a few safe, effective and inexpensive record cleaning methods.
But first lets start with what not to use to clean your records. Isopropyl alcohol is often cited as a good cleaning agent for vinyl (never for your lacquer 78’s – isopropyl alcohol will melt them). What I have read is that the downside of this liquid is that it strips away the microscopic coating on the grove walls and floor.
Rinsing with tap water is also a poor idea as you run the risk of damaging the label and most tap waters contain impurities like chlorine that may damage your records.
Also, my reading leads me to believe that most of the liquid record cleaning products are not a good idea. Most leave residue that builds up and ultimately damages your records.
A good quality microfiber cloth is non-abrasive and tends to draw dust towards it and away from your records. Go with a brand name like 3M as they tend to have fewer fibers that can dislodge and actually make your record worse.
A brush like the Audioquest is a good alternative as the fibres can reach into the groves and release particles. In additions, the anti-static feature helps release unwanted debris that is clinging to your records due to the excess static.
Update – my Facebook friends at LP and Turntable Enthusiasts are recommending the Decca Carbon Fiber brush as the best brush. These are experienced vinyl fanatics, so I tend to put a lot of stock in their opinions. That said, the key is to have a brush that specifically states that it is anti-static.
A final option I would suggest is an anti-static gun such as the Zerostat. This is especially useful for new records that build up considerable static as they are removed from their sleeves for the first time. Try using the Zerostat in tandem with a microfiber cloth.
Update #2 – cleaning is important, but once you’ve cleaned your records, it is important to store them in an anti-static inner sleeve. these can be purchased on-line reasonable inexpensively. I mentioned these in the post about caring for your vinyl collection.
Update #3 – a number of people mentioned record cleaning machines. While those mentioned were inexpensive relative to the machines that cost more than $1,000, these machines are around $200 which for some is still a bit on the expensive side. I’ve added these machines to the post on record cleaning machines.