Cleaning Your Records? – A How To Guide, or or ‘the Toilet seat that played Punk’


How the hell do I clean the crap off this record?

I regularly visit a site called the Pama Forum where like-minded old fat and balding geezers (and some handsome younger types) discuss everything from rare Ethiopians sides to even rarer cuts to Golden Snake.

I recently asked a question about cleaning some of my records and here are those very same questions and the answers and then the ensuing discussion.

Finally as usual it breaks down into rudeness and suggestions of ideas for musical toilet seats, but before it gets quite that indulgent I think it makes for informative and interesting reading.

Many of these guys are full time record dealers and all are avid and very serious collectors.

Washing Tub Plates, Not Dub Plates!

Me

Believe it or not, and I know it sounds mad,… to date I have only ever cleaned records if needed as they come into me, and never since, some of the tunes I first collected or the most played ones are beggining to suffer from mildew and muck growing on wayward fingerprints or something like it…, one a Gregory 12″ I was playing last night to see if I wanted to include it on my next play list was skipping because of it and I know of a few others in similar states, I can’t avoid the obvious any longer, I need to get cleaning.

If a 7″ record is dusty before play I don’t use any sort of hand held device, preffering the ‘rub it pon mi belly’ method, which has seemed to suffice given the cleanliness of my T-Shirt (generally), Lps just have to suffer, even the surface area of my belly isn’t that big! . . . but, with this mildewing, growing muck on fingerprints issue, I need to get busy with the Cillit Bang or equivalent and I’m here to ask for youse guys suggestions…

If I list what my requirements are, perhaps you might share your knowledge and experiences..

1. Something to clean old 78s with, a product? A method? Must be safe and non destructive long term (also, what not to clean them with). Steve Barrow once told me that a mate of his used Fairy, hot water (not too hot) a bristle scrubbing brush, and left them to dry in the plate rack!) really???!!

2. Something for Lps, 45s and 12s to restore them if second hand and mucky/old muck and even, is there anything that shifts that oily crap on so many Jamaican represses? (ie, the Dealers’ and eBay Emperor’s best time saving friends)

3. Something for maintaining generally, ie, where things are clean(ish) to keep them clean and preent this ‘growth’ I am finding, which is probably a result o where they are stored (ie the attic, and no particularly to Phil I say, and yes it’s VERY upsetting, I do not currently have an option, – small house). I want something that will work easily and quick, as sometimes I only discover the need as I’m cuing up the next tune..

4. Further recommendations, a Cleaning and anti static brush, Isopropanol Alchohol, the PVA glue clean method?

Basically I’m wanting to put a little kit together that will maintain my collection, with as little effort (and expense) as possible.

Thanks all in anticipation of your help…

mikey Mike Murphy

Musical Traces Blog
J.L.A.
Studio Idler / Johnny Clarke
Bigmikeydread Reggae Radio
mike@orangestreet-webdesign.com

Door Peeper

IMHO forget all the fancy machines and solvents.
Fairy in warm water (fully cover the label) run round in the direction of the grooves with a small block of acoustic foam, rinse in clean warm water and stand to air dry in a record rack.
That’s been my method for 20 years now and I’ve clean every record that comes through here.
Nasty sticky bits can be cleaned off with Surgical Spirit first.
I’ll now wait for Martin to disagree!! Great big lumps of it round the back…………..
http://www.reggaereggaereggae.com

enthucol

1. Something to clean old 78s with, Steve Barrow once told me that a mate of his used Fairy, hot water (not too hot) a bristle scrubbing brush, and left them to dry in the plate rack!) really???!!

Thats the method Joe Broussard is seen using to clean 78s in ‘Desperate Man Blues’

Quote:
2. Something for Lps, 45s and 12s to restore them if second hand and mucky/old muck and even, is there anything that shifts that oily crap on so many Jamaican represses? (ie, the Dealers’ and eBay Emperor’s best time saving friends) 

3. Something for maintaining generally, ie, where things are clean(ish) to keep them clean and preent this ‘growth’ I am finding, which is probably a result o where they are stored (ie the attic, and no particularly to Phil I say, and yes it’s VERY upsetting, I do not currently have an option, – small house). I want something that will work easily and quick, as sometimes I only discover the need as I’m cuing up the next tune..

Warm water a tiny spot of washing up liquid (I mean tiny) in a glass on warm water and a tooth brush works for me, for more stubborn marks (Grease/glue etc) cigarette lighter petrol or Isopropanol Alchohol again with a toothbrush (Preferably not the one you use for your teeth!) and dry with a soft towel, same method works for mould spots etc, but do not get the labels wet!

Quote:
4. Further recommendations, a Cleaning and anti static brush, Isopropanol Alchohol, the PVA glue clean method?

See; Cleaning records with wood glue

Mick H

The tepid soapy water works best. And I agree about using other agents for really bad records, but dilute with water.

Jmatherton

Most records will benefit from immersion in tepid soapy water as recommended above. I use Ronson lighter fuel (squirt it on, rub off with hanky or J cloth using circular motion) for tougher stains, and isopropwhatsit to get rid of real clag.
BUT NEVER NEVER NEVER use the isothingy alcohol on 78s – I did once and it takes the surface right off, leaving them a dull matt grey.
I don’t know if EMI still market Emitex cleaning material but I suspect not.

Matty J

IMHO, unless you have something that really gets into the grooves, you’re only doing half a job.

My method is soak ‘em in the bath in warm tepid water with a trace of surfactant (fairy, bubble bath, anything like that). Certain labels bleed colour and should not be soaked, but 95% are completely unharmed by a soak.

Get a new paintbrush, either real or quality plastic bristle, and ‘paint’ a bar of soap. Not cheapo plastic brishes as the bristles are larger and have angled sharp ends that might possibly cause groove damage.

Hold the record and run the bristles point first round the record in the opposite direction to playing for about ten ‘strokes’, you should get a small lather forming. If, at this point you flick the foam off the brush onto the basin, you may be quite surprised at how off-white it has actually become, hence my initial observation.

When both sides are cleaned, rinse under the hot tap and drain off in a plastic or hot powder coated vintage record rack, but do not allow to dry completely.

Finally use some toilet paper folded into a pad to dry off the remaining water and polish off the surface to remove prints. Once the paper becomes damp, it won’t remove surface prints, so fold over a new layer and continue. Dab any moisture off the labels, don’t rub.

Allow to dry in free air. Reserve the paintbrush for future use, do not allow the wife to Dulux the back door with it.

The benefits of using this method are best possible sound, in that everything that can be removed from the groove is removed and the surface of the disc is restored to its best possible lustre and prints are effectively cleaned off. The one potential down side of this is that you also clean out the scratches, so a deep groover that had previously been partially filled in with mud may sound worse.

I’ve been doing this for 20 years or so, and this often improves the playability of records purchased from dealers that look reasonably clean. I clean pretty much everything I keep in this way, and most of the pricier stuff I sell, although I don’t sell very often. Records cleaned this way don’t develop mould spots, although it’s important that the labels are allowed to fully dry before sleeving in any poly-lined inner or outer.

I have an ultrasonic bath as well (I worked for 9 years for a company that made them), but I don’t use it as it is (even) more fiddly and time-consuming and does not produce better results than the paintbrush method described above.

Also worth mentioning is the use of label-remover on records. This must be the Limonene type as made by DeSolvIt amongst others.

I recently picked up a copy of the Warrior 12″ re-cut by Johnny Osbourne that had been kept in a taped sleeve and one side had sellotape glue all over the first 12mm on one side. This wasn’t removable by the water method above so, after testing the label remover on a worthless Top Deck single and finding that it didn’t erode the surface or audibly degrade it, I used the label remover with the paintbrush as described above, and the sellotape glue lifted like magic from the grooves. Listening to it or looking at it, you’d never know that it had been virtually unlistenable 5 minutes beforehand.

I was at one time thinking of making a machine to automate the cleaning process, but never got round to it.

Matty

Edited by Matty-J, Nov 11 2010, 12:38 PM.

http://www.ideasfarm.podomatic.com http://www.bluntbeats.com

Johnny Dollar

I had read you should take a mix of disstilled water and alcohol. The distilled water is needed because of the chalk in normal water, which can lay down in the grooves while drying. The alcohol makes shure that the record drys fast without arrears.

Any opinions to that? i have never try this, but i think the fact of the distilled water is plausible.

Rude Pete

Johnny Dollar
Nov 11 2010, 01:01 PM
I had read you should take a mix of disstilled water and alcohol. The distilled water is needed because of the chalk in normal water, which can lay down in the grooves while drying. The alcohol makes shure that the record drys fast without arrears. 

Any opinions to that? i have never try this, but i think the fact of the distilled water is plausible.

That’s what I use…. isopropwhatsit* diluted with de-ionised water….

* isopropyl alcohol

Dubmart

If you haven’t got a cleaning machine you really don’t know what you are missing, yes the above methods “clean” records, but they are absolutely inferior to a vacuum based machine and an enzyme based cleaner, a cleaning machine is an essential item for anyone who collects records seriously, you can’t cut corners!

With regard to 78s the number one rule is to avoid solvents.

There are already a few threads on this if you do a search.

Nov 11 2010, 01:01 PM
I had read you should take a mix of disstilled water and alcohol. The distilled water is needed because of the chalk in normal water, which can lay down in the grooves while drying. The alcohol makes shure that the record drys fast without arrears. 

Any opinions to that? i have never try this, but i think the fact of the distilled water is plausible.

Tap water varies depending on your location, (mine is full of limescale), but it all caries impurities, I use purified water, it doesn’t cost much more than distilled.

Me

Thanks so far all, interesting how we have all created our own methods, sort of seperately and together at the same time…

I knew the avoid solvents issue with 78s.

One reason for asking you guys what you think is to cross check my current methods and think about better ways to do stuff, in my case mianly cleaning old stuff just bought and full of crud.

One of the suggestions above I tried and have stopped, namely using any brush capable of cleaning off any grime on 45s or indeed Lps, I find having done run off groove tests that a brush, particularly a toothbrush abrades the surface with small marks, this has to degrade sound reproduction. Vinyl’s just too soft I think for this sort of treatment.

In short 78s are really very robust, and having started collecting them more I am amazed at how poor the surface can look, and how good the sound quality yet can be, the grooves are very deep. Vinyl is not as robust and I worry that my/our efforts at cleaning them could be cleaning dirt out in the short term, and yes they’ll immediately sound better, but actually we could be degrading the record that sits under that dirt pre-clean to some extent.

Also, though I use it, I also have doubts and worries about using toilet paper. I have noticed that toilet paper, designed to rapidly degrade in water (for obvious bye bye the sewage reasons) breaks apart quickly and leaves minute fibres in the grooves, this surely can’t be good practice, unless you clean them out later of course with say a final clean of Iso Alchohol. ( I don’t do this though)

I have also used Paper towells to avoid the quick degrading of the ‘ toilet paper method’ but think (best guess) that kitchen towell is more abrasive than toilet paper. though it leaves less fibres behind.

Towells? – Similarly, I can’t help but worry over this method too, they’re not soft enough in this household, the wife can’t stand Lenor!!

I have used toothbrushes and very hot water (no not boiling), with generous Fairy liquid on 78s with excellent results, avoiding water on any labels (45s, Lps or 78s), though finding that labels don’t seem overly bothered about getting a little water on them. Making certain to rinse off any residue of the Fairy liquid, rinsing in clean water, directly under the tap avoiding the labels. The water is good in our area, so not too much mineral to worry about (I think!).

My method on Lps and 45s is to get a bowl of hot water, drop two small (and I mean smaaaaaaallll) drops of Fairly or similar in, stir, and to dip the toilet paper (yep the one I’m not sure about) into the water, running in the direction of the grooves, a number of times, checking the slight resultant froth on the edges of the paper for grey, an indication of dirt. Then once done using more paper in clean water, or running under the tap carefully to rinse. then drying off either by pressing down onto kitchen roll, or wiping with dry toilet paper, though I’m now avoiding this method for the fibres issue mentioned above.

ONE OF MY BIGGEST WORRIES IS – Are there any truly long term affects on vinyl by something like Fairy, ie, we only know in the short term that there seem to be no ‘issues’. Long term Fairy rot is a future I dont’ want… also are Alchohols truly safe in the long term, any Chemists amongst us?

Also, when cleaning dirt off using a method that implies scrubbing or movement of any kind you are then abrading the surface for a short time with the very stuff you are trying to clean off, a little like creating a very mild wet and dry sandpaper and rubbing it over your records. However short term this is, surely it too must have some affect, and on records that you really care about, or feel in some way a custodian of, in that they are truly rare. This worries me too. Mike Murphy

Musical Traces Blog
J.L.A.
Studio Idler / Johnny Clarke
Bigmikeydread Reggae Radio
mike@orangestreet-webdesign.com

Rude Pete

I use lint free cloths to apply my solution, and then a final rinse with de-ionised water and air dry.

Door Peeper

Vinyl is only a kind-of plastic in the end and we happily smear Mr Sheen or other gunky cleaners all over car bumpers and table tops so I’ve never been too worried about a bit of Fairy especially as I always rinse well.
I never get bog paper near records as not does it break down very fast when wet but is made from very poor/cheap/recycled paper and very fibrous thus leaves tiny hairs on the record.

upsetter fc

The key to dish washing soap for records is a non-ionic sufricant, basically shampoo. It’s desigined to rinse off and will not leave a film like soap. Toothbrushes can be used on 45s, but only soft-bristled and don’t “scrub” the 45. I only use the toothbrush to spread the Ivory soap and water which helps the brush loosen the surface dirt. Drying is done with a washcloth, since it absorbs and holds water.

The Library Of Congress has a webpage on record preservation.
And here is an old usenet article on cleaning 78s. Tighten Up Brooklyn
Needs a new home
Rescheduled Tunnel One radio show on WNYU for May 11. 9-10:30 EDT.

Dubmart

Mike Murphy
Nov 11 2010, 02:42 PM
ONE OF MY BIGGEST WORRIES IS – Are there any truly long term affects on vinyl by something like Fairy, ie, we only know in the short term that there seem to be no ‘issues’. Long term Fairy rot is a future I dont’ want… also are Alchohols truly safe in the long term, any Chemists amongst us? 

Fairy, although great for cleaning your dishes is far from ideal as a detergent for records, they add all sorts of things to it and unless you are rinsing extremely thoroughly, or using a vacuum you will be leaving residue behind.

I’ve yet to see any evidence that dilute isopropyl or similar solvents are strong enough to attack PVC or release the plasticizers, etc., and know that some people use industrial strength solvents without apparent damage.

I use an enzyme based cleaner because it is better than either solvents or detergents, though there are occasions when the other approaches are the best option.

One other thing, pre war 78s can be made from all sorts of ingredients, so if anyone has a pile of Blues they feel the urge to clean, be very, very careful.

Matty-J

Well, I’m sure we all individually think we have the best method, so there’s not much more to be said on that score unless we’re going to do some scientific record contamination, clean records using the different methods, and then some blind listening tests to sort it out – anyone up for it !-)

My two comments would be:

Yes, toilet paper does leave small fibres behind, but only really ‘decomposes’ or sludges up if you’re using the posh stuff for all those of you with sensitive botties. El cheapo, like Asda’s pastel shades works perfectly well and will hold together excellently, you do have to shop around to get the right stuff. Kitchen towels are usually rubbish and surprisingly water-repellant to start with, so they don’t dry really effectively.

The fibres that are left behind are easily cleaned off using a standard dry cleaning pad, like the old Musonic or Stanton types, or if you’re really particular (tee-hee), a Groovac (groove-vac) will be fine. In any event, a clean dry record means they’re not going to stick around and even your stylus will remove the remaing few without damage. By the way, properly doped black vinyl is much more resilient than shellac and is less easily damaged.

Toothbrushes are useless for cleaning anything other than the flat surface. The diameter of the brush is considerably greater than your stylus, and it won’t therefore penetrate the groove and remove any of the crud that is causing stylus deviation and resultant noise, hence my suggestion regarding real hair brushes or quality plastic paintbrushes.

Matty http://www.ideasfarm.podomatic.com http://www.bluntbeats.com

Me

Matty that’s interesting regardin your brush filament diameter point, and point taken, I’ll be trying it now, also wondering what that enyme based cleaner is you use Dubmart? I’d like to try that as it seems a very good option.

Also, given the mention (Upsetter FC)of preferably using an easy rinse non ionic surficant, could you indeed use Shampoo do you think? what do you use?

I’ve found Groovac’s entirely useless, at least i did 20 years ago…

Door Peeper
Nov 11 2010, 03:08 PM
Vinyl is only a kind-of plastic in the end and we happily smear Mr Sheen or other gunky cleaners all over car bumpers and table tops so I’ve never been too worried about a bit of Fairy especially as I always rinse well.

Though, really we dont expect our car bumpers or table tops to store audio and reproduce it at quality over any length of time, or at all for that matter…

Make a nice art project though, ‘the curtains that played Bach’, or ‘the Toilet seat that played Punk’… Mike Murphy

Musical Traces Blog
J.L.A.
Studio Idler / Johnny Clarke
Bigmikeydread Reggae Radio
mike@orangestreet-webdesign.com

Door Peeper

Indeed not, but the basic process is the same for moulding a car bumper or stamping a 45.
I’d like my bog seat to play ‘Here We Go Again’ or of course the old school playground josh ‘Yellow River’. Great big lumps of it round the back…………..
http://www.reggaereggaereggae.com

Dubmart

I use L’art Du Son cleaner, a small bottle costs £30, but will make up 5 litres of fluid depending on your preference.

Door Peeper

Being tee-total and knowing nothing about alcohol ‘L’art Du Son’ sounds like a bottle of posh French wine to me!

Fang Sheng

http://www.verygoodplus.co.uk/showthread.php?t=21250&highlight=glue

jmatherton

With reference to DP’s musical loo seat:
…or ‘Royal Flush’ by The Skatalites, ‘Jericho Chain’ by Rolando Alphonso, ‘Stop That Strain’ by Keith & Tex or perhaps something by The Floaters?
I’m intrigued by the reference in a previous post to a “worthless Top Deck 45″. Which one would that be, pray?

Me

Nice Stop That Strain,, perfect… and yes even scratched to crap a Top Deck single must surely be worth something, I’d buy it just to have one on the label, as of yet I do not own one yap produced original.

Skajam 66

I use velvet to clean mine. First I spray on isopropyl alchohol and work the record around in a circular fashion. You can feel when the velvet pile engages into the track. Then I do the same with distilled water and a different piece of velvet. Finally I dry them with a soft cotton cloth.

Uncle Fee

Yo,

All very interesting methods…………….me, i just chuck ‘em in the washing machine or dishwasher…….. :sc:

Bless Up
Fee :cool:

Aeon23

Mike

I posted these a few years back on here thought I’d revive them for the new members of this forum

Traditional Record Cleaning Process
Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Now you know why they are called plates :bgrin:

Madame Streggae

I remember these images. Brixton, wasn’t it?

Aeon23

Where else :-) in the UK that is

Madame Streggae

Old Barry over at Downbeat Records could be seen doing this too.

enthucol

but generally in the store rather than on the pavement

postscript

The above is intended as a helping hand to those who want to keep their audio media in tip top condition, though, on second look it also appears to be a warning to all.  Collecting records can get to be a full time affair!

Thanks finally to all that contributed…. happy collecting… believe it or not, I’m pretty sure my facination started with this little beauty below in the late 60s and early 70s. Quality was pretty bad, tunes to be found for it somewhat limited, but… you could scrub the hell out of the records without ruining the sound reproduction at least!

I consider that this was my first ever record player...

~ by bigmikeydread on November 18, 2010.

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