Cleaning Vinyl Records. Frequently asked questions...

"Why does my Turntable Stylus keep getting clogged up?"

Have you recently cleaned your vinyl records and found that although they look clean they still sound dirty and your stylus keeps getting clogged up? There is a simple answer as to why this happens.

Is your experience of cleaning vinyl records anything like this? We got our all our old vinyl albums out and researched about cleaning them. We bought a Vinyl Record Cleaning Fluid Kit, one with the micro fibre cloths, but just can't seem to get them clean. They look pristine, but simply won't play as the stylus seems to keep getting fuzzed up. There mostly appears to be nothing big on the stylus, but there's obviously something there as the albums sound awful. It's not scratches as the vinyl records were well cared for and always looked after. We have watched many record cleaning videos and followed them to the letter and have cleaned and re-cleaned, but to no effect.

If so there are a couple of important points to remember as any Vinyl Cleaning Kit will only bring records back to the condition they were in; it can’t magically repair any structural groove imperfections. That said if the stylus is getting fuzzed up then that’s a sign that there is still dust in the grooves.

"Should I wet or dry clean my vinyl records?"

Using a dry brush is ideal for ‘pre use’ cleaning as it’s quick and easy but it won’t remove deep down dust in the way that a wet clean does. That said, every time you wet clean a vinyl record it is possible that your stylus will become dirty. This is especially true of audiophile high-compliance rigs as the stylus sits deeper in the record groove. This is why high-quality record cleaning kits include a bottle of stylus cleaner. You should find that the problem reduces after each cleaning cycle. Depending on how dirty the record was, the volume of dust collecting on the stylus should reduce by 50-75% after each playing. Not only will you see the difference the cleaning has made to the record you will also notice a marked difference in the audio quality, with less clicks and pops.

So the best way to restore your vinyl records to that ‘as new’ condition is to wet clean them and then play them. Repeat this cycle and you will notice the difference in audio quality. You may be lucky first time, but if not you just have to patient knowing each cycle the record is getting cleaner and cleaner and your stylus less and less dirty.

"Previously, any wet cleaning fluid used with microfiber towels has gotten rid of the dirt, but after drying, my records don't sound clean until they've been played a few times. I always get a lot of "splodgy" sounding ticks, as if the stylus is dredging up something the fluid has left behind. Is this something that vinyl clear would remedy? "

The reason that you get the 'splodgy' sound after cleaning is because the fluid isn't re-hydrating the dust in the grooves sufficiently to have it removed by the micro cloth. The quality of the fluid and the micro cloth will make a big difference. That's why you'll hear a significant difference when using the Vinylclear kit, but to be honest, there is till the possibility that some dust could remain after the process.

It's for this reason that we include a bottle of stylus cleaner in most of our kits. And yes regular playing is the best way to  keep records cleaner for longer.

We would always recommend using a number of cleaning methods to keep your vinyl in perfect condition. For example a carbon brush for every play use, Vinylclear once a month and a spin record cleaning machine (the Knosti is a cost effective option) for a six month or yearly clean.

"On the internet there are warnings against using alcohol to clean records and even distilled water. Does your product contain either?"

Alcohol has been used as a drying agent in many vinyl record cleaning formulas for over 50 years and there is no reliable evidence that records are damaged by it. The majority of the scientific evidence supports this view.

The IPA debate is quite complex as there are many different types of alcohol such as Isopropyl, methanol, ethanol that are used a part of vinyl cleaning products and many different formula and concentrations. It’s a topic that’s debated at length in the forums.

Vinylclear does contain a small percentage of isopropanol alcohol as a drying agent. It also contains pure type 1 deionised, not distilled water. Distilled water is often not as pure as the deionised water that we manufacture using our own state of the art equipment. We have supplied many thousands of kits, worldwide for over 10 years and have never had any feedback that the product is anything other than a great cleaner.

Lenco Turntables, QVC, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and the Guardian offer Vinylclear to their readers, having compared it to other the products in the marketplace.  The home of vinyl, Abbey Road Studios sell record cleaning kits made by us, so we don't think it is a coincidence that most of the internet noise on the subject of using isopropanol is created by suppliers of vinyl cleaning products that do not contain it.

'Why are my vinyl record grooves still dirty after cleaning?'

There is not a simple answer that question because it depends on the age of the vinyl records, how they are stored, how often and how they have been cleaned and the hi-fi equipment used. But, that said another cleaning cycle, then playing the record should make a significant difference. Also use the stylus cleaner as it’s possible that some debris could collect on it.

Vinylclear tends to remove between 85-95% of debris during a cleaning cycle. Every time a record is cleaned more debris (and the harder to remove debris) is removed from the vinyl record grooves. Not surprisingly, no cleaning process is 100% efficient and Vinylclear is no different.

The problem is that typically dust is 99% human skin, unless you have pets, if so they will also have left their ‘dust’ on your records! It’s this dead and dry skin that collects in the grooves and the longer it is there the more likely it is to stick. This makes it harder to remove. That’s why dry brushing using a carbon fiber brush is less effective at removing deep-down dust than using a fluid.

When you use the Vinyl Cleaning Fluid this old skin re-hydrates and loosens sufficiently for it to be dislodged. Typically, this is done using microfiber cloths to wipe the majority of it out. That said it’s possible for some of what remains to be collected by the stylus during the next play

Another reason for records not being completely clean after being cleaned is if this is the first time they have been wet cleaned.  That’s because they may still retain some of the mould (record pressing) release compound. Again most of this should be removed, but some could remain.

The best way to ensure perfect play records is to clean them and play them often.