Best Practices Record Cleaning

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Bill Hart, Nov 4, 2013.

  1. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    It seems to me in the short time I've been actively posting here (as opposed to lurking to glean info on vinyl pressings), that questions constantly come up about record cleaning- the gear, the fluids, the brushes, techniques, etc.
    I thought it might be helpful to 'crowd source' a list of best practices that we might put together as a sticky.

    I am happy to start, as long as you appreciate that I claim no great authority in this, other than years of experience, and thus invite input from all of you who have experienced the travails of the process. If we could keep this in some numbered order, and perhaps at some point edit or reorder the points as they emerge, that would be great (and beyond my pay grade on this site).

    I would probably start here and am happy to add more when I am less tired:



    I.Equipment
    A. Commercially available machines
    1. Vacuum machines
    a. Most vacuum type machines employ a similar basic design: apply fluid to a record and use some sort of arm, wand or other 'pick-up' device that employs vacuum suction to remove fluids from the record surface. Common machines include the VPI, the Nitty-Gritty and others which are variations on a theme. One variation is a so-called 'string' or point contact vacuum style cleaner, which uses a continuous string of clean 'thread' at the end of a narrow vacuum head that looks like a tonearm; these machines, like the Keith Monks, Loricraft and others, offer the benefit of a 'fresh' vacuum contact being exposed to the record surface at all times, compared with a 'wand' type vacuum arm, which touches and spans the the entire surface of the groove area at once. The 'string' type cleaners are slower in operation, since more time is involved for the vacuum head to traverse the record surface. Proponents of these believe that they clean better and are far less likely to contaminate the record surface, because a 'wand' type cleaner is continually exposing the same 'velvet' lips, again and again, to record after record until eventually replaced. If you use multiple fluid steps, see below, the 'string' type machines can require considerable time, because you are repeating the cleaning and vacuuming process multiple times for each record.
    Even among 'wand style' vacuum machines, there are differences- some have full platters, others only support the record at the label; some offer additional features including fluid dispensing through an additional arm, reverse motor direction, or even no motor at all- you manually spin the record during cleaning and vacuum cycles.
    b. "Spin-clean" fluid bath type cleaners-


    2. Ultrasonic

    B. DIY

    II. Fluids

    III. Brushes, Pads and Applicators

    IV. Techniques and Best Practices

    V. Additional Helpful Hints and Accessories

    VI. User Comparisons of Different Machines, Techniques and Results
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2013
  2. Bubbamike

    Bubbamike Well-Known Member

  3. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    Yep, that's very good, I've read it before it is very informative, I think it focuses more on the fluids and chemistry which is a huge part of it, but I'm not sure it covers everything I outlined. If folks think so, I can save myself (and others) much time. If you were suggesting that this be linked to as part of the fluids/chemistry, I'm good with that too.
     
  4. rxcory

    rxcory mastering connoisseur

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge, Bill. I keep my records clean but am not convinced I'm doing it the best way or getting optimal results. Looking forward to the next installment.
     
  5. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    I'll keep going for now, and see if others respond favorably as well.
     
  6. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    I.Equipment
    A. Commercially available machines
    1. Vacuum machines
    a. Most vacuum type machines employ a similar basic design: apply fluid to a record and use some sort of arm, wand or other 'pick-up' device that employs vacuum suction to remove fluids from the record surface. Common machines include the VPI, the Nitty-Gritty and others which are variations on a theme. One variation is a so-called 'string' or point contact vacuum style cleaner, which uses a continuous string of clean 'thread' at the end of a narrow vacuum head that looks like a tonearm; these machines, like the Keith Monks, Loricraft and others, offer the benefit of a 'fresh' vacuum contact being exposed to the record surface at all times, compared with a 'wand' type vacuum arm, which touches and spans the the entire surface of the groove area at once. The 'string' type cleaners are slower in operation, since more time is involved for the vacuum head to traverse the record surface. Proponents of these believe that they clean better and are far less likely to contaminate the record surface, because a 'wand' type cleaner is continually exposing the same 'velvet' lips, again and again, to record after record until eventually replaced. If you use multiple fluid steps, see below, the 'string' type machines can require considerable time, because you are repeating the cleaning and vacuuming process multiple times for each record.
    Even among 'wand style' vacuum machines, there are differences- some have full platters, others only support the record at the label; some offer additional features including fluid dispensing through an additional arm, reverse motor direction, or even no motor at all- you manually spin the record during cleaning and vacuum cycles.
    b. "Spin-clean" fluid bath type cleaners-[folks who use these should chime in here]


    2. Ultrasonic
    These are the newest breed, and use ultrasonic cleaning (fluid agitation) combined with a hot air drying system. The Audio Desk Systeme was the first commercial unit (but see below re DYI) and after several years on the market, has been 'debugged' of various issues that plagued early versions. It uses a fluid additive to distilled water in the 'bath' and operates using 'wash rollers' to apply the fluid to the disc during the wash cycle. The KL Audio unit is an even newer commercial competitor, dispenses with the need for any fluid additive (you just use distilled water) and has no rollers or other applicators. In both, you simply pop a record in the top slot, like a toaster, press a button (both have adjustments for duration of cleaning cycle; only the KL has an adjustable length drying cycle) and do nothing until the machine finishes the process. Both machines are pricey. There have long been proponents of ultrasonic in the DIY arena and at least one of those is now being commercialized as well. Benefits over vacuum- far less 'manual labor'; downside- largely one of cost.

    B. DIY
    The DIY machine arena is filled with everything from simple adapters to mount to a sink faucet, to homemade vacuum type cleaners that emulate a VPI or Nitty Gritty but employ a conventional household 'hoover' or vacuum cleaner to elaborate contraptions that use commercially available ultrasonic cleaning vats (meant to clean metal parts, like jewelry), adapted for record cleaning purposes. One key is protecting the record label, and even there, commercial and DIY alternatives exist, which can be a simple as a plastic cover placed on both label sides, and bolted together to act as a handle for the record during the wash 'cycle.' Whether to use 'tap' water is covered under 'Fluids,' below.

    II. Fluids
    This field has grown exponentially over the years, from simple alcohol/water based fluids to more sophisticated fluids- a number of manufacturers now supply complete lines of record cleaning fluids, ranging from simple one-step solutions to multi-step fluid processes. (Keep in mind that every additional fluid 'step' requires an additional step of cleaning and removing before proceeding to the next step, so the multi-step processes are more time consuming and labor intensive).
    There is an excellent thread posted [here-link] sometime ago which addresses the chemistry of record cleaning fluids.
    In general, the objective is to wet the record with some agent that allows it to capture the 'dirt' or grime that has become embedded into the record over years of use (and abuse) and enable the cleaning process to remove that- often through vacuuming, sometimes, simply with the application of a water 'wash' step.
    In recent years, enzyme fluids have become popular as a first step to 'break-up' the deposits in the grooves, typically followed by other cleaning fluid and 'water' steps to remove the enzyme and complete the cleaning process. Brands include: AVIS, MoFi, Walker Prelude and []. Each have their proponents.


    III. Brushes, Pads and Applicators

    IV. Techniques and Best Practices

    V. Additional Helpful Hints and Accessories

    VI. User Comparisons of Different Machines, Techniques and Results
     
  7. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    I.Equipment
    A. Commercially available machines
    1. Vacuum machines
    a. Most vacuum type machines employ a similar basic design: apply fluid to a record and use some sort of arm, wand or other 'pick-up' device that employs vacuum suction to remove fluids from the record surface. Common machines include the VPI, the Nitty-Gritty and others which are variations on a theme. One variation is a so-called 'string' or point contact vacuum style cleaner, which uses a continuous string of clean 'thread' at the end of a narrow vacuum head that looks like a tonearm; these machines, like the Keith Monks, Loricraft and others, offer the benefit of a 'fresh' vacuum contact being exposed to the record surface at all times, compared with a 'wand' type vacuum arm, which touches and spans the the entire surface of the groove area at once. The 'string' type cleaners are slower in operation, since more time is involved for the vacuum head to traverse the record surface. Proponents of these believe that they clean better and are far less likely to contaminate the record surface, because a 'wand' type cleaner is continually exposing the same 'velvet' lips, again and again, to record after record until eventually replaced. If you use multiple fluid steps, see below, the 'string' type machines can require considerable time, because you are repeating the cleaning and vacuuming process multiple times for each record.
    Even among 'wand style' vacuum machines, there are differences- some have full platters, others only support the record at the label; some offer additional features including fluid dispensing through an additional arm, reverse motor direction, or even no motor at all- you manually spin the record during cleaning and vacuum cycles.
    b. "Spin-clean" fluid bath type cleaners-[folks who use these should chime in here]


    2. Ultrasonic
    These are the newest breed, and use ultrasonic cleaning (fluid agitation) combined with a hot air drying system. The Audio Desk Systeme was the first commercial unit (but see below re DYI) and after several years on the market, has been 'debugged' of various issues that plagued early versions. It uses a fluid additive to distilled water in the 'bath' and operates using 'wash rollers' to apply the fluid to the disc during the wash cycle. The KL Audio unit is an even newer commercial competitor, dispenses with the need for any fluid additive (you just use distilled water) and has no rollers or other applicators. In both, you simply pop a record in the top slot, like a toaster, press a button (both have adjustments for duration of cleaning cycle; only the KL has an adjustable length drying cycle) and do nothing until the machine finishes the process. Both machines are pricey. There have long been proponents of ultrasonic in the DIY arena and at least one of those is now being commercialized as well. Benefits over vacuum- far less 'manual labor'; downside- largely one of cost.

    B. DIY
    The DIY machine arena is filled with everything from simple adapters to mount to a sink faucet, to homemade vacuum type cleaners that emulate a VPI or Nitty Gritty but employ a conventional household 'hoover' or vacuum cleaner to elaborate contraptions that use commercially available ultrasonic cleaning vats (meant to clean metal parts, like jewelry), adapted for record cleaning purposes. One key is protecting the record label, and even there, commercial and DIY alternatives exist, which can be a simple as a plastic cover placed on both label sides, and bolted together to act as a handle for the record during the wash 'cycle.' Whether to use 'tap' water is covered under 'Fluids,' below.

    II. Fluids
    This field has grown exponentially over the years, from simple alcohol/water based fluids to more sophisticated fluids- a number of manufacturers now supply complete lines of record cleaning fluids, ranging from simple one-step solutions to multi-step fluid processes. (Keep in mind that every additional fluid 'step' requires an additional step of cleaning and removing before proceeding to the next step, so the multi-step processes are more time consuming and labor intensive).
    There is an excellent thread posted [here-link] sometime ago which addresses the chemistry of record cleaning fluids.
    In general, the objective is to wet the record with some agent that allows it to capture the 'dirt' or grime that has become embedded into the record over years of use (and abuse) and enable the cleaning process to remove that- often through vacuuming, sometimes, simply with the application of a water 'wash' step.
    In recent years, enzyme fluids have become popular as a first step to 'break-up' the deposits in the grooves, typically followed by other cleaning fluid and 'water' steps to remove the enzyme and complete the cleaning process. Brands include: AIVS, MoFi, Walker Prelude and []. Each have their proponents.
    There are also any number of 'home brew' solutions that use various ingredients, from Tergitol or Photoflo, toalcohol (isopropyl) to various combinations mixed with water. A good general primer on the use of home brew fluids can be found in the practices of the U.S. Library of Congress guidelines for archival practices, see [link].
    Whatever approach is used, the ultimate objective is not only to remove the dirt, grit and contaminants on the record, but to effectively remove all traces of the fluid(s) that may otherwise remain on the record. A badly cleaned record can be worse than one not 'cleaned' at all, particularly if the fluids, their application or removal causes damage or leaves a residue. Thus, most wet cleaning processes involve some sort of 'water' bath to wash the records and remove cleaning fluid residue.
    Water- from 'tap' water to distilled to various grades of so-called 'lab' water that have been purified to remove minerals and other potential contaminants. The water is often used as part of the mixture for some fluids and as a final step in removing the fluids. Fluid (or water) removal is the chief function of the vacuum machines. The ultra sonic machines use forced air drying along with 'wipers' to squeegee the water and dry the record surface. DIY users will often dry using a towel or microfiber cloth to dry and let the record 'air dry' much in the manner of 'dish-rack' drying of dinner plates.


    III. Brushes, Pads and Applicators
    The objective is to apply the fluid and not to 'scrub' since that risks grinding any contaminants further into the record surface. A variety of brushes, record cleaning fluid applicators and pads are commercially available designed for the task; DIY alternatives include everything from cloth towels (paper towels have the potential to scratch the record surface), microfiber cloths to general purpose brushes or cotton cosmetic pads. The use of brushes and applicators is described below, in "Techniques and Best Practices."

    IV. Techniques and Best Practices
    The Hippocratic oath applies here in spades; first, do no harm.
    Other considerations include a clean, well-lit work space (remember, this is 'work!) and a 'work flow' arrangement of your cleaning gear that maximizes efficiency and reduces your fatigue, particularly if you are going to clean large numbers of records at one sitting.
    I recommend some sort of work surface that enables you to: remove the record from the jacket/sleeve and set those aside, allows you to examine the visual condition of the record before cleaning and enables you to 'dry brush' the record, using a commercially available carbon fiber or anti-static brush to remove surface detritus before you advance to the 'wet' cleaning step and then go to the 'wet' cleaning process, with plenty of room for cleaned records to fully dry before re-sleeving. (More on re-sleeving, below). Dry brushing as a first step also has the advantage of cleaning off surface debris that would otherwise contaminate your wet clean brushes and record cleaning machine platter. An old, unused turntable is ideal, but anything that allows you to spin the record manually on an even, sturdy surface is fine. (You obviously have to keep the surface of this 'turntable' clean as well, or you are violating the first principle- doing no harm).
    If you are using multi-step fluids, make sure you keep them in the same order, so you don't inadvertently use the wrong fluid step in the sequence.
    Vacuum record cleaning machines (and even the drying function of ultrasonic machines) tend to be noisy. Since the vacuum machines require your active involvement in the process (unlike the ultrasonic devices, which enable you to walk away from the machine once the cleaning process commences, you are also going to suffer some hearing fatigue).
    Vacuum machines that have fluid reservoirs and dispensing facilities can complicate things when using multiple fluids- they generally don't have the capacity for multiple fluid steps. (I also have some concerns about leaving fluid stored in a machine, particularly if you change fluids or cleaning processes at a later point, so, my personal view is that machines with fluid dispensing capabilities are largely unnecessary).
    Keep your applicators and the vacuum 'lips' of any wand type machine scrupulously clean- otherwise, you are violating the 'do no harm' oath. Grit on a cleaning applicator or vacuum wand will scratch and damage the record surface. I use a clean toothbrush for the vacuum wand and since I use applicators, rather than brushes, I scrape them with a plastic ruler. (I perform these steps repeatedly during the cleaning process, to ensure that I am not applying a contaminated surface to the record when purporting to 'clean' it.). If you are using applicators, rather than brushes to apply fluids, these will soak up a considerable amount of fluid; you need a drain tray for your applicators once you clean more than a few records, to avoid spillage and drips.
    Vacuum machines can generate a static charge on the record in the drying process- thus, most manufacturers recommend a limited number of 'spins' in the vacuum process. I am not afraid to use a fair amount of fluid in each step, so long as I am not wetting the record label. The trick with vacuum machines is that they tend to be more effective in removing the higher volume of fluid, but as you vacuum dry, the remaining smaller amount of fluid left on the record becomes the hardest to effectively remove. (I think this has to do with the surface tension of liquids as well as the strength of the vacuum itself). Thus, I prefer a multi-step fluid process when using vacuum machines, if only to displace one fluid with another- until you wind up with pure water as a final step or two. Thus, if there is some residue left on the record surface even after vacuuming, it is theoretically just water, not a chemical fluid. I tend to stay away from 'tap' water, given the mineral content and at a minimum recommend distilled or reverse osmosis water, which you can buy in a grocery store. Reagent 'lab' water can be purchased in bulk, but, at least in the U.S., will not be shipped to residential addresses, given the potential for unlawful use in illicit drug making. If you buy in any sizeable quantity, including a simple gallon jug, you'll probably want a smaller container to use for actual application. Various so-called non-leaching ( 'no' BPA) plastic jugs and bottles can be purchased online relatively inexpensively.



    V. Additional Helpful Hints and Accessories

    VI. User Comparisons of Different Machines, Techniques and Results
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2013
  8. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    My first cleaning fluid would destroy a microfiber brush. I assumed it was the alcohol. I have never heard anyone else post about this. It seemed to make the fibers of the brush stick together. I have sense kept the two always apart.
     
  9. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    I.Equipment
    A. Commercially available machines
    1. Vacuum machines
    a. Most vacuum type machines employ a similar basic design: apply fluid to a record and use some sort of arm, wand or other 'pick-up' device that employs vacuum suction to remove fluids from the record surface. Common machines include the VPI, the Nitty-Gritty and others which are variations on a theme. One variation is a so-called 'string' or point contact vacuum style cleaner, which uses a continuous string of clean 'thread' at the end of a narrow vacuum head that looks like a tonearm; these machines, like the Keith Monks, Loricraft and others, offer the benefit of a 'fresh' vacuum contact being exposed to the record surface at all times, compared with a 'wand' type vacuum arm, which touches and spans the the entire surface of the groove area at once. The 'string' type cleaners are slower in operation, since more time is involved for the vacuum head to traverse the record surface. Proponents of these believe that they clean better and are far less likely to contaminate the record surface, because a 'wand' type cleaner is continually exposing the same 'velvet' lips, again and again, to record after record until eventually replaced. If you use multiple fluid steps, see below, the 'string' type machines can require considerable time, because you are repeating the cleaning and vacuuming process multiple times for each record.
    Even among 'wand style' vacuum machines, there are differences- some have full platters, others only support the record at the label; some offer additional features including fluid dispensing through an additional arm, reverse motor direction, or even no motor at all- you manually spin the record during cleaning and vacuum cycles.
    b. "Spin-clean" fluid bath type cleaners-[folks who use these should chime in here]


    2. Ultrasonic
    These are the newest breed, and use ultrasonic cleaning (fluid agitation) combined with a hot air drying system. The Audio Desk Systeme was the first commercial unit (but see below re DYI) and after several years on the market, has been 'debugged' of various issues that plagued early versions. It uses a fluid additive to distilled water in the 'bath' and operates using 'wash rollers' to apply the fluid to the disc during the wash cycle. The KL Audio unit is an even newer commercial competitor, dispenses with the need for any fluid additive (you just use distilled water) and has no rollers or other applicators. In both, you simply pop a record in the top slot, like a toaster, press a button (both have adjustments for duration of cleaning cycle; only the KL has an adjustable length drying cycle) and do nothing until the machine finishes the process. Both machines are pricey. There have long been proponents of ultrasonic in the DIY arena and at least one of those is now being commercialized as well. Benefits over vacuum- far less 'manual labor'; downside- largely one of cost.

    B. DIY
    The DIY machine arena is filled with everything from simple adapters to mount to a sink faucet, to homemade vacuum type cleaners that emulate a VPI or Nitty Gritty but employ a conventional household 'hoover' or vacuum cleaner to elaborate contraptions that use commercially available ultrasonic cleaning vats (meant to clean metal parts, like jewelry), adapted for record cleaning purposes. One key is protecting the record label, and even there, commercial and DIY alternatives exist, which can be a simple as a plastic cover placed on both label sides, and bolted together to act as a handle for the record during the wash 'cycle.' Whether to use 'tap' water is covered under 'Fluids,' below.

    II. Fluids
    This field has grown exponentially over the years, from simple alcohol/water based fluids to more sophisticated fluids- a number of manufacturers now supply complete lines of record cleaning fluids, ranging from simple one-step solutions to multi-step fluid processes. (Keep in mind that every additional fluid 'step' requires an additional step of cleaning and removing before proceeding to the next step, so the multi-step processes are more time consuming and labor intensive).
    There is an excellent thread posted [here-link] sometime ago which addresses the chemistry of record cleaning fluids.
    In general, the objective is to wet the record with some agent that allows it to capture the 'dirt' or grime that has become embedded into the record over years of use (and abuse) and enable the cleaning process to remove that- often through vacuuming, sometimes, simply with the application of a water 'wash' step.
    In recent years, enzyme fluids have become popular as a first step to 'break-up' the deposits in the grooves, typically followed by other cleaning fluid and 'water' steps to remove the enzyme and complete the cleaning process. Brands include: AIVS, MoFi, Walker Prelude and []. Each have their proponents.
    There are also any number of 'home brew' solutions that use various ingredients, from Tergitol or Photoflo, toalcohol (isopropyl) to various combinations mixed with water. A good general primer on the use of home brew fluids can be found in the practices of the U.S. Library of Congress guidelines for archival practices, see [link].
    Whatever approach is used, the ultimate objective is not only to remove the dirt, grit and contaminants on the record, but to effectively remove all traces of the fluid(s) that may otherwise remain on the record. A badly cleaned record can be worse than one not 'cleaned' at all, particularly if the fluids, their application or removal causes damage or leaves a residue. Thus, most wet cleaning processes involve some sort of 'water' bath to wash the records and remove cleaning fluid residue.
    Water- from 'tap' water to distilled to various grades of so-called 'lab' water that have been purified to remove minerals and other potential contaminants. The water is often used as part of the mixture for some fluids and as a final step in removing the fluids. Fluid (or water) removal is the chief function of the vacuum machines. The ultra sonic machines use forced air drying along with 'wipers' to squeegee the water and dry the record surface. DIY users will often dry using a towel or microfiber cloth to dry and let the record 'air dry' much in the manner of 'dish-rack' drying of dinner plates.


    III. Brushes, Pads and Applicators
    The objective is to apply the fluid and not to 'scrub' since that risks grinding any contaminants further into the record surface. A variety of brushes, record cleaning fluid applicators and pads are commercially available designed for the task; DIY alternatives include everything from cloth towels (paper towels have the potential to scratch the record surface), microfiber cloths to general purpose brushes or cotton cosmetic pads. The use of brushes and applicators is described below, in "Techniques and Best Practices."

    IV. Techniques and Best Practices
    The Hippocratic oath applies here in spades; first, do no harm.
    Other considerations include a clean, well-lit work space (remember, this is 'work!) and a 'work flow' arrangement of your cleaning gear that maximizes efficiency and reduces your fatigue, particularly if you are going to clean large numbers of records at one sitting.
    I recommend some sort of work surface that enables you to: remove the record from the jacket/sleeve and set those aside, allows you to examine the visual condition of the record before cleaning and enables you to 'dry brush' the record, using a commercially available carbon fiber or anti-static brush to remove surface detritus before you advance to the 'wet' cleaning step and then go to the 'wet' cleaning process, with plenty of room for cleaned records to fully dry before re-sleeving. (More on re-sleeving, below). Dry brushing as a first step also has the advantage of cleaning off surface debris that would otherwise contaminate your wet clean brushes and record cleaning machine platter. An old, unused turntable is ideal, but anything that allows you to spin the record manually on an even, sturdy surface is fine. (You obviously have to keep the surface of this 'turntable' clean as well, or you are violating the first principle- doing no harm).
    If you are using multi-step fluids, make sure you keep them in the same order, so you don't inadvertently use the wrong fluid step in the sequence.
    Vacuum record cleaning machines (and even the drying function of ultrasonic machines) tend to be noisy. Since the vacuum machines require your active involvement in the process (unlike the ultrasonic devices, which enable you to walk away from the machine once the cleaning process commences, you are also going to suffer some hearing fatigue).
    Vacuum machines that have fluid reservoirs and dispensing facilities can complicate things when using multiple fluids- they generally don't have the capacity for multiple fluid steps. (I also have some concerns about leaving fluid stored in a machine, particularly if you change fluids or cleaning processes at a later point, so, my personal view is that machines with fluid dispensing capabilities are largely unnecessary).
    Keep your applicators and the vacuum 'lips' of any wand type machine scrupulously clean- otherwise, you are violating the 'do no harm' oath. Grit on a cleaning applicator or vacuum wand will scratch and damage the record surface. I use a clean toothbrush for the vacuum wand and since I use applicators, rather than brushes, I scrape them with a plastic ruler. (I perform these steps repeatedly during the cleaning process, to ensure that I am not applying a contaminated surface to the record when purporting to 'clean' it.). If you are using applicators, rather than brushes to apply fluids, these will soak up a considerable amount of fluid; you need a drain tray for your applicators once you clean more than a few records, to avoid spillage and drips.
    Vacuum machines can generate a static charge on the record in the drying process- thus, most manufacturers recommend a limited number of 'spins' in the vacuum process. I am not afraid to use a fair amount of fluid in each step, so long as I am not wetting the record label. The trick with vacuum machines is that they tend to be more effective in removing the higher volume of fluid, but as you vacuum dry, the remaining smaller amount of fluid left on the record becomes the hardest to effectively remove. (I think this has to do with the surface tension of liquids as well as the strength of the vacuum itself). Thus, I prefer a multi-step fluid process when using vacuum machines, if only to displace one fluid with another- until you wind up with pure water as a final step or two. Thus, if there is some residue left on the record surface even after vacuuming, it is theoretically just water, not a chemical fluid. I tend to stay away from 'tap' water, given the mineral content and at a minimum recommend distilled or reverse osmosis water, which you can buy in a grocery store. Reagent 'lab' water can be purchased in bulk, but, at least in the U.S., will not be shipped to residential addresses, given the potential for unlawful use in illicit drug making. If you buy in any sizeable quantity, including a simple gallon jug, you'll probably want a smaller container to use for actual application. Various so-called non-leaching ( 'no' BPA) plastic jugs and bottles can be purchased online relatively inexpensively.



    V. Additional Helpful Hints and Accessories
    A. Re-sleeving: if you are buying old records, re-sleeving is probably a good idea; no point in sliding your nice clean record into a grotty old sleeve. To the extent the sleeve has 'artifact value, keep it; just use an aftermarket sleeve to protect the record. There are diverging opinions on aftermarket sleeves- the 'high end' ones are often made of some sort of synthetic/paper compound and questions have been raised by some whether these can 'leach' onto the record surface over time and cause damage. For that reason, some users prefer paper sleeves. I find paper leaves detritus and prefer so-called 'rice paper' sleeves; I've been using these a fairly long time with no apparent problems. You can buy 'audiophile' sleeves at the usual online vinyl retail outlets, or through supply houses that cater to packaging of all sorts.
    B. Outer Jacket Protection- I have been protecting the outer jackets of valuable records with poly type outer sleeves; I also separately 'bag' posters, and the original inner sleeve (if it has 'artifact value'). This makes for a bulkier overall package, but seems to protect the various elements of the record and its packaging.
    C. I usually let a record air dry even after it has been dried in a machine, to avoid enclosing a potentially 'humid' record in a sleeve and jacket.
    D. Cleaning after play- I will sometimes re-clean records after play, particularly if they have seen some abuse over the years (cigarette smoke is like glue, and even after one cleaning, some records can 'gunk up' your stylus as it plays through the grooves. I have heard sonic improvements as a result of cleaning again, after first play of an otherwise 'cleaned' record.
    E. Although scrubbing isn't advocated for the reasons described above, I have found with some records that a gentle scrub, with a soft applicator (I use the Walker Prelude applicators) may be necessary; be judicious- you don't want to damage the record.
    F. Static- a bane of vinyl record enthusiasts. No one cause or solution exists. It can start with the relative humidity of your room, whether you are charging the record as you remove it (particularly from a paper inner sleeve); shoes on carpet can charge your body and you can be contributing to the cause. A little moist 'breath' into the sleeved record before removal can help. Anti-static brushes may or may not help. I have a Zero-stat gun, but find it to be strong ju-ju and would only use it as a last resort. There is a technique of 'charging' a record brush using the Zerostat that can make the brush attract more stuff from the record, but I don't think this, itself, reduces the static on the record. In the northeastern US, the problem is exacerbated during the winter, due to lower relative humidity and some household heating systems.

    VI. User Comparisons of Different Machines, Techniques and Results
     
    hvbias and LCK like this.
  10. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    I'm gonna stop for now, if others want to contribute in certain areas, particular on Spin Clean, DIY, User Experiences with different machines, fluids, techniques or whatever, go for it. I'm happy to edit into the main text if you just want to post separately, or you can carry forward the main text with your inserts.
    Best,
    bill
    (And nothing i wrote is 'in stone'- it's my experience, so if you have additional thoughts, or different views, go for it. No pride of authorship. I just thought it made sense to have all this in one place, if there is consensus and this doesn't become a fractious topic.)
     
  11. 5-String

    5-String Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sunshine State
    Great job, Bill this IMO should be a sticky thread. It is very helpful to both newcomers and experienced users.

    I just want to add my little "helpful hint" to the above.

    Before I put the record on my VPI cleaning machine, I use my carbon fiber brush to remove dust to a point where you can see a thin line of dust across the record. Then I blast the line of dust with compressed air. This does miracles.
     
  12. ssmith3046

    ssmith3046 Forum Resident

    No hearing fatigue using my Okki Nokki. They run cool and have a powerful vacuum that won't make you go deaf.
     
  13. raferx

    raferx Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vancouver, Canada
    This is a great thread, big thanks to all contributing here. I just replaced my very aged carbon-fibre record brush with a new Hunt EDA MK6 brush and I can't believe what a difference the new brush makes. I know I shouldn't be surprised (duh, super-old brush vs brand-new one), but to see (and hear) the difference it makes is another lesson learned: replace your cleaning brushes every year or so.
    [​IMG]
     
    Rhapsody In Red likes this.
  14. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    I invite others to contribute, fill in the blanks or suggest additional text. I will be happy to edit if we crowd source enough additional material to make it worth the effort, then clean it up, add the hyperlinks indicated and perhaps at that point, post a final draft and see if the PTB (Powers That Be) will make it a sticky. Thank you all for your contributions so far.
     
    raferx likes this.
  15. roscoeiii

    roscoeiii Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Chicago
    Great stuff. Subscribed.
     
  16. raferx

    raferx Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vancouver, Canada
    +1
     
  17. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    For CDs ..5 inch format. Heavy breathing .. Tissue. Looks bad Benzine. Vinyl... table spoon isopropyl , teaspoon bottled water...stir in cup .. administer with artist brush..dry off with Cotten Cloth.
     
  18. Wonderful thread and most timely. Decades ago I owned a NG 1.5, but had to sell it. Since then I've been cleaning my LP's manually, until 2 years ago when I bought the Spin-Clean washing system. I was and continue to be quite impressed with its performance. I use a dual-method when cleaning with this manual system. One contains distilled water and the supplied cleaning liquid. Another contains distilled water only. I let the LP's air-dry and do not use the supplied cheesecloths. This does(can) leave some watermarks, so it's certainly not the best system to use. However, for the low entry-cost it's an indispensible tool and I can certainly honestly recommend it.

    Fast-forward to today. I recently purchased the Nitty Gritty 2.5Fi RCM and am waiting for the enzyme cleaner and a new brush to arrive. There was some delay from my supplier, but I hope to have it tomorrow. I'll start with the recommended supplier provided procedures and then refer back to this thread as to other methods used with this type of RCM. Looking forward to hearing from NG owners and their observations and cleaning rituals.

    I also replace the original inner sleeves (keeping any that contain graphics/text), and discard plain paper sleeves. The MoFi inner sleeves have been my goto product and I continue to use them. There is a new inner sleeve from MA Recordings that is made from synthetic fibers and I would like to try them, although they are slightly more expensive than the MoFi ones. For outer sleeves and single LP's I use a 3mil sleeve that I get from my local record shop. He usually just gives me a roll of 25 sleeves as I give him a good amount of business, and have sent many people his way through the years. I still need to source for sleeves that can comfortably hold gatefolds. Suggestions here are welcomed.;)
     
    alexpop likes this.
  19. Jim in Houston

    Jim in Houston Forum Resident

    Location:
    Houston, TX, USA
    not really sure if I understand the format of this post but I'll add my regiment to get it "on the record".

    1st, background: When I came back to vinyl in '07 I got a Hunt brush, much better than the Discwasher I had. I then bought the Disc Doctor fluids and brushes and used those on towels on the kitchen counter. I found you had to mix the cleaning fluid much thinner than the 50/50 mix recommended and had to do at least two distilled water rinses to get good results but my records sounded better than ever.

    Next I tried the Audio Intelligent 3-step fluids with Mobile Fidelity brushes used on my old Sony turntable. These were expensive and very time consuming but yielded better results than the DD brushes and fluid.

    Soon after that I bought a KAB EV-1 manual record vacuum and began using it to dry the discs after the AI cleaning, this was a huge improvement. But still so time consuming, 3 washing and drying stages on each side and then the clean side goes down on the platter. If you had a warped record the fluid would go under the record and you had to start all over again. Cleaning a dozen records was breaking my back and when it came time to buy more fluids I made another change.

    I bought a Spin Clean. There was no way I was ever going to get through my entire collection at the rate I was going. So I bought a 5-Gallon box of Reagent Grade Pure Water and a Spin Clean and I was off. SO now my regiment is:

    I fill the SC with the reagent grade water and add the 3-caps of SC, insert the record, 3 revolutions one direction, 3 the other, allow most of the fluid to drain off the record into the reservoir and then onto the EV-1, about 5 revolutions then flip, 5 revolutions on side 2 and a wipe around the rim with a microfiber cloth, dab any drops of water off of the label and then onto a beach towel on the dining room table and repeat 12 times (because that's how many LPs fit) then re-sleeve with Sleeve-City inner and outer sleeves, Take a break, listen to some clean records and then do another batch. Takes about 35-40 minutes to do 12. I can do 36 with one batch of water. The great thing about the EV-1, like the Nitty Gritty cleaner, is that it vacuums from the underside and the platter only contacts the label, never the playing surface of the record.

    My records come out clean as a whistle with no residue, no static, black and shiny. There is considerable grunge in the bottom of the SC when done, especially on new records. My biggest gripe is the cheap rollers, the rubber spacer that the record rides on sometimes flips and the record hangs up but I've never had it damage a record.

    Now that my collection is done I'm actually considering an ultrasonic cleaner so I can do records as they come in and so that I can go through my collection again as I play them.
     
    Bill Hart likes this.
  20. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    John, when you say you use a 'dual method' with the Spin-Clean, does that mean two of the units, one for the rinse only as you described?
     
  21. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    Jim, I'm agnostic as to format, i can cut and paste your contributions into the relevant parts of the framework I devised. Thank you for contributing....
     
  22. Yes.
     
  23. 5-String

    5-String Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sunshine State
    Very nice picture! It made me order a Hunt brush, which I always wanted to try :righton:
     
    raferx likes this.
  24. raferx

    raferx Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vancouver, Canada
    Cool! Yeah, I wanted one for awhile, but every time I tried to order it online, shipping to Canada either almost doubled the cost, or whoever was selling it online wouldn't ship here, so when I asked Audio Vision in SF when I was there last week if they had any in stock and they did, I was pretty happy. You won't be disappointed.
    –R
     
    5-String likes this.
  25. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    Ultrasonic is just too expensive for me but my brief recommendations with respect to vacuum RCM cleaning after honing my technique for a few years and cleaning about 4,000 records would be:

    1) One stage cleaning won't get a record really clean. Might get it cleaner but it won't get it clean.

    2) Don't skimp on fluids. This applies to the first stage cleaner as well as the water you use. Buy the best first stage cleaner you can and buy the best water you can. I've used about half a dozen first stage cleaners plus experimented a bit with DIY (a waste of time and money IMO) and there has been a huge difference in their capabilities. You're probably looking at a maximum of 25 cents a record with the best commercial first stage cleaners on the market. Personally, I'd rather clean a record once properly and pay a bit more than try to save 10-15 cents a record and have to clean it 3 or 4 times.

    3) The water rinse is NOT just a rinse. It is, in fact, a huge part of the cleaning process. Which is why the quality of water is so important. I have access to ultrapure water, fortunately at no cost, but if I didn't, I would gladly purchase Type 1 Reagent Grade water to clean my records with. Costly? I guess compared to store bought distilled or RO, but considerably better and when purchased in bulk no more than 2-3 cents a record. I don't think that's costly. Reagent grade or ultrapure water is a very aggressive solvent on its own, which is why it cleans, as well as rinses records so well. Absolutely no residue at all.

    4) Alcohol is unnecessary to clean the vast majority of records (as in probably 99%). I've used alcohol based cleaners in the past. In my experience, they've been less effective than the non-alcohol based first stage cleaners I've used for the past 3-5 years. I do keep a bit of isopropyl alcohol around to clean very sticky substances from the few records I find with that kind of grime, but it's a rare record that sees any alcohol here, not because I am afraid of damage but simply because it is not an effective cleaner IMO.

    5) With the first stage cleaner, soak time matters. Very dirty records can be resurrected and play perfectly with longer soak times. Sometimes fluids need a bit of time (10-15 minutes in extreme cases) to really do their job.

    6) The fluids are what is really important. All an RCM does is suck the fluid off the record. Not really rocket science. An RCM can be very basic.
     
    garmtz, The FRiNgE, VinylRob and 2 others like this.

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