Vinyl Record

Learn different ways to clean and help preserve your vinyl records (33 1/3 rpm , 45 rpm and 78 rpm).

I once had a collection of over 500 vinyl records, many of which were 78s. The following is the process I used to keep them clean. Over several years, I did digitize the vinyl as part of my research and history writings about members of my family. I later donated my collection to a university.

It might sound simple but keeping your records clean is the easy, inexpensive method of preserving your vinyl. There are three commonly used methods for cleaning this type of record.

Vinyl Records: Using A Commercially Available Cleaning Solution

  • A quality disc cleaning solution is inexpensive and helps to protect vinyl discs. The best way to clean records is by buying a commercially available record cleaning solution such as Last or Discwasher D4 (Discwasher IV is what the Library of Congress recommends), which usually comes with an applicator brush.
  • First, lay the record on a clean flat surface, such as on a soft towel on a table or place the record on the turntable platter. Note: If you decide to clean your records while they are on the turntable, make sure to secure the tonearm so it doesn’t accidentally swing across the record as you are cleaning it, and do not apply too much pressure on the platter as you can damage the bearings. Also, pay attention to not getting any record cleaning fluid on the platter or turntable finish.
  • Follow the directions on the bottle, but generally, you apply the liquid to the applicator brush and not on the record itself.
  • Take the brush, place it on top of the record, and turn the platter counterclockwise to work the dirt loose.
  • Look at the brush; you should see some dirt or lint on it, so carefully remove it and go another round cleaning the record until no more dirt or crud appears on the brush.
  • Since alcohol is the primary ingredient of most record cleaning solutions, the record should dry pretty quickly, but let it air dry before flipping it over to clean the other side or placing it back in its sleeve.
  • Before you flip the record over, make sure the surface or platter is clean since the dirty, unclean side was there.

Cleaning Vinyl Records with Vacuum-type Systems

The process is simple; liquid record cleaning machine (RCM) fluid is placed on the record, and a hand-held brush is used to scrub the grooves, working the fluid into the deepest recesses, bringing contaminants into the solution. However, the key to the process is the vacuum, which removes all traces of fluid, leaving no residue and a scrupulously clean surface.

The vacuum record cleaning machine is, without a doubt, the most effective method of deep-cleaning LPs, and VPI is the leader in both price and performance. A vacuum cleaning system is a good investment if you can justify the expense (depending on how many records you own). Examples of vacuum cleaning systems are the nitty-gritty or the VPI, which get to the bottom of the groove. It works exactly like a record player:

  • You place the record on the platter and clamp it down like any VPI turntable.
  • Then you squeeze some cleaning fluid from a bottle onto the rotating record/platter and apply a brush.
  • You hold down on the brush; the record rotates beneath it.
  • Now you swing over a spring-loaded vacuum “Tonearm” assembly which spans the record and then flip on the vacuum switch.
  • The suction lowers the mechanism to the record, and again, the record rotates underneath it.
  • All water and debris are swept up through a slot running this arm’s length.


Exercise the utmost care when cleaning an LP. LPs are pretty resilient, but even the most minor scratch can produce popping or hissing noises, and once you’ve damaged the vinyl, it can be difficult or impossible to repair. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, ask the staff at your local record store or do some research online.

Vinyl Records: Using your solution

A generally accepted recipe for cleaning your vinyl is as follows:

  • Three parts distilled water (triple distilled, de-ionized).
  • One part is Isopropyl alcohol, 70% commonly available, but 91% preferred lab-grade.
  • If possible, a few drops of photographic wetting agent, Triton X-100, Triton X-110 or Triton X-115 or Monolan 2000; do not use Kodak Photo-Flo, which is” reputed” to leave a residue (though used by some). Recommended is 12 drops per gallon or 2-3 drops per liter, though some use up to 8 drops per liter. If you add too much, the fluid gets sudsy on the record.

Follow the process outlined with Cleaning of 78s, Edison Diamond Disc records, and Shellac records.

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