A (Very Long) Primer on Record Cleaning Fluids

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Justin_Time, Aug 17, 2005.

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  1. Justin_Time

    Justin_Time New Member Thread Starter

    Dallas, Texas USA
    A (Very Long) Primer on Record Cleaning Fluids

    Upon urging by some members, I have collected, revised and expanded my recent SH threads on record cleaning fluid (RCF). The information is re-cast here as a primer to provide a basic understanding of how RCFs work. Such chemical information is sadly missing from most discussions on RCF which too often leave us mystified or, far worse, badly misinformed. The alcohol scare is a good example of a resilient myth that is particularly misleading because it contains an element of truth. It is not my intention, however, to vilify or endorse any particular RCF. I only hope that a better understanding of RCF chemistry will enable you to select the best product available and to use it effectively and safely on your own. Finally, a few words about myself. While I make no claim to be an expert on RCF or Vinyl, the discussion below is based on my years of experience working in Surface Chemistry R & D and caring for my own LPs. Note: If you loathe long technical discussions, feel free to proceed directly to the summary at the end.

    The Vinyl

    LPs, also known as Vinyls, are made from an eponymous polymer (lower-case vinyl) also known as PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Like many thermoplastic materials, vinyl requires many additives during its manufacturing to give it the desired physical properties. These additives represent only a small portion of the overall formulation. Common additives include stabilizers (metals such as barium, calcium, cadmium, lead, zinc, etc.), colorants (dyes) and plasticizers (softeners).

    Plasticizers are softening agents that give vinyl its low-temperature flexibility. They are of particular interest in record cleaning because, unlike stabilizers and dyes which are chemically bound to the polymer, plasticizers are simply mixed within the polymer matrix. The most common plasticizers are phthalate esters (derived from naphtha, a polyaromatic fraction of crude oil). Phthalates used in vinyl are large, polar molecules which have no significant vapor pressure (minimal loss by evaporation). They are, however, soluble in alcohol or surfactant solution (!). A loss of plasticizer renders vinyl brittle and susceptible to further mechanical damage.

    The Contaminants

    Even a pristine Vinyl still sealed in its jacket is covered with a thin layer of mold release, a lubricant used to ease the removal of the record from its mold after stamping. The chemical composition of this mold release varies but it is traditionally a lubricant of medium molecular weight. Modern mold releases are polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE or Teflon) in liquid or dry form.

    Used Vinyls have a host of other contaminants which are less well defined. The most common contaminant is dust, on the Vinyl surface or imbedded in the Vinyl grooves. Dust can be of two origins: skin-cell debris and fine particles of dirt and sand. Other contaminants are finger prints (skin oil), adhesive (label glue), cigarette smoke and materials of unknown and sometimes surprising origins.

    Ideal Properties for Record-Cleaning Fluids

    An ideal record cleaning fluid (RCF) must possess the following properties:

    1. An RCF must be able to “wet” the Vinyl surface. Wetting ensures intimate contact between RFC and Vinyl without which cleaning is impossible. In Surface Chemistry parlance, the fluid must have a low or zero contact angle on vinyl. In layman terms, the fluid must “spread” on the vinyl surface rather than bead up. Most polar organic solvents such as alcohol and chlorofluoro alkane tend to wet vinyl. Water does not unless it contains a polar organic solvent or a surfactant—familiar surfactants are soap and detergent.

    2. An RCF must “penetrate” tight spaces within the Vinyl groove. If an RCF cannot reach the contaminants in those nooks and crannies, it cannot remove them. (Remember how dirt ground into a fabric is far more difficult to launder than surface dirt?) To squeeze through these micron-size spaces within the Vinyl grooves, an RFC must have a low surface tension. The smaller the pore size, the lower the surface tension required. (Think of surface tension as an indicator of how easily a liquid droplet can be deformed and squeezed through tight spaces). Water containing a sufficiently high concentration of an effective surfactant has a low surface tension and can access all areas. Alcohol, pure or diluted in water, has a moderate surface tension and cannot access the smallest pores. Pure water has a high surface tension and is kept out of all tight spaces in the grooves.

    3. An RCF must be able to “dissolve” contaminants on contact. Polar solvents like alcohols can; water cannot unless it contains alcohol or surfactant. With alcohol/water mixtures, the amount of dissolved contaminants varies with the type and amount of alcohol that helps disperse them throughout the water. A surfactant removes organic contaminants differently. At concentrations above the cmc (critical micellar concentration), surfactant molecules spontaneously aggregate into small spheres called micelles. Each micelle consists of a few to a few hundred surfactant molecules. Their polar heads are aligned outward to form the spherical surface of the micelle and allow it to be soluble in water; their hydrocarbon tails point inward to form the organic core that acts like a reservoir to “solubilize” a large amount of contaminants. The cmc of a typical surfactant in water ranges roughly from 0.01% to 0.25% by weight. Note: Diluting a commercial RCF below its cmc will yield poor cleaning due to high tension, poor solubilization and low foam. Consult the manufacturer for safe dilution. Below the cmc, a surfactant becomes merely a wetting agent.

    4. An RCF must be able to “transport” contaminants away from the vinyl surface. Dissolved organic contaminants are transported within the bulk of the liquid itself (by dispersion or solubilization). Dust and other solid contaminants are carried away mostly by froth or foam (a processed called flotation). RCFs that are the best foamers are also the best dust removers. They are, in decreasing order of foamability: surfactant in water (best), alcohol in water and pure water (worst).

    5. An RCF must not leave any “solid residue or thin film” behind after vacuuming. It is obvious that RCFs should contain as little solid residue as possible. But beyond that, all liquid components of the RCF should also be easily removed by vacuuming. While the bulk of RCF is vacuumed off the Vinyl surface, a small part of it is usually left behind as an “adsorption” film. How well this very thin film is removed by vacuum depends on it volatility.

    The Overlooked Role of Adsorption Film

    Adsorption complicates matters in the removal of RCF from the Vinyl surface. Whenever a liquid (RCF) comes into contact with a solid surface (Vinyl), a fraction of the liquid’s component, be it alcohol, water or surfactant, will “adsorb” onto specific sites on the solid surface via electrostatic attraction and/or hydrogen bonding. So, after the bulk of the liquid has been removed by vacuum, a small fraction of the water, alcohol, surfactant and other RCF additives remains on the vinyl surface as an adsorbed film consisting of several layers of molecules.

    If the adsorbed material is a highly volatile alcohol then it will quickly evaporate under vacuum before it has time to “leach” any significant amount of plasticizer. Adsorbed water does no harm to the Vinyl or the sound even if it remains on the Vinyl surface for a long time. On the other hand, adsorbed surfactant (with water) left for some time on the Vinyl surface can leach plasticizer. Some adsorbed surfactants can also lead to static noises when dry (same as static on laundered clothes in the dryer).

    Recommendation: Regardless of RCF used, rinse the freshly cleaned Vinyl surface with distilled water to re-dissolve adsorbed materials and then re-vacuum the Vinyl surface to remove as much residual materials as possible.

    Specific Record-Cleaning Ingredients and Contaminants

    It should be clear by now that no single fluid has all the properties of an ideal RCF. Commercial RCFs usually combine different ingredients to maximize cleaning and minimize damage. There are three typical mixtures. 1) Combine several alcohols with water to form a broad-spectrum fluid, which is capable of dissolving a broad range of contaminants. 2) Use surfactant(s) in water to provide deep cleaning (by solubilization and flotation). It should be pointed out here that the ability of a surfactant to solubilize a specific contaminant depends on the molecular weight and molecular structure of the surfactant itself. To tackle a broad range of contaminants, it is often necessary to blend several surfactants. 3) Combines surfactant(s) and alcohol(s) in water to clean a broader range of contaminants than either a surfactant or alcohol alone can.

    Other components may also be added (lubricant, preservative, static suppressor) but they do not attend to the cleaning process. I will spend the remainder of this primer discussing a few specific contaminants, typical components of RCFs and their potential harm if improperly used.

    Removing Mold Release

    As previously stated, modern mold releases for Vinyl are polytetrafluoro-ethylene (PTFE or Teflon), usually in liquid form. The presence of fluorine makes this a tough contaminant to remove. Even pure alcohols have limited effect on mold releases. Organic solvents of the chlorofluorocarbon type (CFC similar to Freon but larger) work best on PTFE: they can quickly dissolve the mold release but not the plasticizer because of large differences in molecular structure and volatility. CFCs such as trichlorotrifluoro ethane were used to remove mold release until they were banned because of their adverse effects on the air and the ozone layer.

    I am ambivalent about the need to remove mold release. On one hand, any organic material on Vinyl, even an exceedingly thin film, must be considered a contaminant and should be removed. On the other hand, mold releases are PTFE molecules, which are among the softest polymer extant, especially in comparison to vinyl. I seriously doubt that a thin film of such material would much effect on Vinyl sound—I am in the realm of educated guess here. Presently, environmental considerations rule out the use of CFCs, although it’s unclear whether larger and less volatile CFCs are as harmful as Freon.

    Leaching Plasticizers: How Bad Is Alcohol?

    This is easily the most confusing and misunderstood topic about RCF. First let’s get one thing straight: old Shellac records are incredibly sensitive to all alcohols and none should be used on these precious old records, period.

    Vinyl is not at all sensitive to alcohols but the plasticizer within the vinyl matrix is. Alcohols can slowly dissolve a plasticizer out of the vinyl thus rendering it brittle in the long run. This dissolution is, however, a slow process—the alcohol must first “wet” the vinyl surface, “enter” the grooves and finally “diffuse” into the vinyl matrix to dissolve the plasticizer. Each step of this process depends a great deal on the polarity of the alcohol and its concentration. When an alcohol is diluted with a lot of water, it quickly loses its ability (polarity) to dissolve plasticizer. A mixture of 5 to 15% IPA in water has a limited ability if any to leach plasticizer especially when the contact time is restricted to a few minutes or less.

    There are many legitimate reasons for using alcohol (or alcohol mixtures) as an additive in an RCF. 1) Alcohol leaves no film behind and thus has no sonic signature—this is a very desirable quality to some audiophiles. 2) Though inferior to surfactant, alcohol is still a good cleaner and will work adequately with new or moderately dirty records. It cannot remove deeply imbedded dirt or very sticky materials but it can handle a broader range of contaminants than a surfactant. 3) As long as the concentration of alcohol is low and the applied liquid quickly removed from the Vinyl surface with a powerful vacuum, an alcohol/water cleaner is perfectly safe.

    Are All Water-Based RCFs (with Surfactant) Equally Effective?

    No. Let’s first review the likely surfactants used in water-based RCF. Though surfactants are generally effective cleaners, this effectiveness varies a great deal with the surfactant type (head), its molecular size and structure (tail), and the type of contaminant. Nonionic and anionic surfactants are typical surfactants used in RCF.

    Common nonionic surfactants are alkyl phenol ethoxylated alcohols. They naturally come as a broad mixture (Poisson distribution) of molecular weights and, for this reason, can accommodate a wide range of contaminants. For the same reason, they—more specifically one fraction of the nonionic mixture—can readily remove the plasticizer as well. Nonionic surfactants also tend to adsorb more on Vinyl surface.

    Common anionic surfactants are alkyl sulfates, alkyl or alkyl aryl ethoxy sulfonates and alpha-olefin sulfonates in increasing order of detergency. Alkyl sulfates are traditional laundry detergents, which tend to lose their effectiveness in cold water and in the presence of hardness (calcium). This shortcoming is rectified in the newer alkyl ethoxy sulfates. Alkyl or alky aryl ethoxy sulfonates are powerful synthetic surfactants. However, the length and branching of their tails must be tailored to the contaminants. For record cleaning, these ethoxylated sulfonates are more effective as a broad mixture. Alpha-olefin sulfonates are one of the most powerful and flexible commercial surfactants available. They work well at all temperatures and even in hard water. They can accommodate a wide range of contaminants and are excellent foamers as well. Their effect on the plasticizer may be minimized with a careful selection of the molecular size. Finally, cationic surfactants traditionally used as fabric softener and hair conditioner may also be used as a static suppressor.

    Note: The effectiveness and safety of commercial RCFs vary vastly depending on the surfactant(s) used. But unless their compositions are revealed, evaluation is difficult and speculative.

    Are Water-Based (Alcohol-Free) RCFs Completely Safe for Vinyl?

    Not necessarily. The ability of all surfactants to leach plasticizer from Vinyl has been grossly overlooked. As discussed above, surfactant molecules aggregate into small micelles that are capable of solubilizing plasticizers in their hydrocarbon cores. This ability is enhanced by the lower surface tension which allows the surfactant solution to completely wet the Vinyl surface, penetrate deeply into the Vinyl grooves and diffuse into the vinyl matrix to contact the plasticizer.

    So, even without alcohol, an RCF containing surfactant—possibly all commercial RCFs—is quite capable of leaching plasticizer out of your Vinyl if the RCF is left on the record long enough. (I found in an unrelated work, that surfactant solutions in water can leach out plasticizer from rubber and PVC sleeves. I switched to Teflon sleeves to circumvent this problem).

    Recommendation: With ALL RFCs, it is of paramount importance to remove the cleaning liquid from the Vinyl surface a quickly and as thoroughly as possible with a powerful vacuum.

    When Is A Preservative Not A Preservative?

    Preservative is one confusing term in RCF! It may refer to a compound in the RCF intended for “preserving the Vinyl” or to a compound in the RCF used to “preserve the RCF” itself (e.g. EDTA, which as we will see later is strictly not a preservative). What a mess!

    The term Vinyl preservative is a misnomer. Vinyl is an extremely inert polymer that needs no protection from chemical or biological degradation. Like many polymers, however, it is susceptible to UV degradation with long-term exposure to sun light. But unless you intend to play your LPs in a convertible roadster, the UV effect is irrelevant. The term Vinyl “preservative” may refer to other functions: 1) to minimize the loss of plasticizer, 2) to replace the lost plasticizer, 3) to lubricate or protect the Vinyl grooves, and 4) to change the sonic character of the Vinyl grooves.

    Should You Use A Lubricant Or Preservative For Vinyl?

    I am intrigued by the benefits of such treatment but also concerned about its deleterious effects. First, with the proper RCF and cleaning procedure, plasticizer leaching is not a problem and requires no remedy. Second, it is very difficult to choose a lubricant or preservative without a sonic signature. Third, a film of lubricant or preservative in the grooves may be bad for the record in the long run. The electrostatic attraction or hydrogen bond holding this film to Vinyl is probably not strong enough to survive the tremendous stress of the needle against the grooves: the adsorbed film (a few molecules thick) could be quickly shredded into contaminants clogging the grooves. The study of thin lubrication film is a difficult and highly specialized area of Science (tribology) that I am not terribly familiar with so I leave it up to you to make your own decision. For me, without more information, the safest treatment for Vinyl is simply to clean it and leave nothing behind.

    If studies of the long-term effect of lubricant or preservative exist, RCF manufacturers should make them available to customers to ease their concern. After all, we each own hundreds if not thousands of LPs, many of which are valuable or irreplaceable and some of us are understandably reluctant to use mystery chemicals whose short- and long-term effects on Vinyl must be taken on faith.

    Is EDTA A Preservative?

    EDTA has also been called a preservative, i.e., a compound that preserves the integrity of the RCF itself. EDTA is a chelating agent: it preferentially binds with polyvalent cations such as calcium, magnesium, and iron and keeps them from interacting with other active ingredients in the RCF, interactions that can cause solid precipitation. EDTA is generally used in complex mixtures such as hand lotion, hair shampoo, toothpaste, etc. where interactions with even minute amounts of calcium (from hard water, for example), can cause undesirable precipitation. EDTA may be loosely called a preservative only in this chemical sense, though the term chelating agent is far more accurate. EDTA is not a preservative in the sense of being a biocide or an oxygen scavenger such as sodium benzoate, ascorbic acid or sodium bisulfite. It looks like we have another unfortunate misnomer here.


    Basic Concepts in Vinyl Cleaning

    Record cleaning is simple in theory but complicated in practice. Some basic concepts, chemistry and useful hints are summarized below to help you better understand the process and use RCFs effectively and safely:

    1. To be effective, a record cleaning fluid must possess many properties some of which are mutually exclusive. An ideal RCF must be able to “wet” the Vinyl surface (alcohol or surfactant), “penetrate” deeply into the Vinyl groove (surfactant), and “dissolve” or “solubilize” contaminants on contact. It must also be able to “transport” (foam) solid contaminants away from the Vinyl surface and leave behind after vacuuming no residual film that may affect plasticizer and sound. A good RCF must not leach plasticizer from Vinyl during cleaning either, a side effect that can render Vinyl grooves brittle and susceptible to damage.

    2. No single fluid can offer all desirable properties above. While water is the safest fluid to use, effective cleaning is not possible with water without additives. Most commercial RCFs include several cleaning agents—typically alcohol(s) or surfactant(s) or both—in water that provide the balance between deep cleaning and minimal harm to Vinyl.

    3. All cleaning agents (additives) have their advantages and disadvantages. Alcohols (in water) evaporate easily and completely under vacuum, can remove a wide range of contaminants (by dissolution) but are not very effective at deep cleaning. Surfactants (in water) can provide exceptional cleaning (by solubilization). This effectiveness, however, strongly depends on the surfactant type, molecular structure and concentration and can be contaminant-specific. Just like alcohols, surfactants can also extract plasticizer from Vinyl with prolonged contact. Unlike alcohols, surfactants can leave a sonic signature if the residual surfactant film is not completely removed.

    4. A carefully tailored mixture of several surfactants, or several alcohols or several surfactants and alcohols in water can offer a broad and deep cleaning without additional risk. When a minimal amount of surfactant is used (below its cmc), it serves only as a wetting agent, not as a detergent.

    5. The contact time between RFC and Vinyl should always be minimized to reduce plasticizer leaching from Vinyl by either alcohol or surfactant.

    6. All RCF ingredients adsorb on the Vinyl surface as a thin film that can be difficult to remove with vacuum. Unlike alcohols, adsorbed ingredients like surfactants are non-volatile and should be removed thoroughly with additional water rinse and vacuuming to avoid static and sonic changes.

    7. Proceed cautiously with Vinyl lubricant, preservative and additives other than surfactants and alcohols. While they may offer sonic benefits, their long-term effects—sonic and otherwise—are difficult to predict and seldom studied or documented.

    8. It is difficult to evaluate an RCF with unknown composition. Whenever possible, request a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for any RCF or household cleaner before using it. This is a good way to obtain the list of all the ingredients (active and inactive) and their potential hazards.

    Parting Shot

    It is my fervent hope this primer will provide you with the basic understanding to undertake the task of cleaning your treasured LPs with confidence and safety. As this piece was put together with some haste, your questions and help in pointing out the unavoidable deficiencies and errors will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.
  2. arnie35

    arnie35 New Member

    New Jersey

    As a minerals flotation specialist, I really have to say this is a superb exposition of the chemistry (and physics) of cleaning LPs. I don't like to brag, but I understood every word.

    TheeGory likes this.
  3. Ski Bum

    Ski Bum Happy Audiophile

    Vail, CO

    Thanks for your thoughtful and informative post. Are you familiar enough with the major commercially available RCFs to have a view as to their appropriate classification? For example, in my experience:

    1. Disc Doctor "Miracle Record Cleaner" is supposed to be mixed 2:1 with distilled water, foams substantially when "scrubbed" on the vinyl, and leaves a residue after vacuuming that requires thorough removal for satsifactory sonic results. The DD website says nothing about the cleaner's contents, other than that it does not contain isopropyl alcohol. The Cleaner is clear, viscous and feels vaguely soapy.

    2. Record Research Labs "Super Deep Cleaner" is supposed to be used without dilution, does not foam when "scrubbed" on the vinyl, and seems to leave little or no residue when vacuumed. RRL "Super Vinyl Wash" is supposed to be used without dilution as a rinse after the Super Deep Cleaner has been used and vacuumed. Neither seems to leave much residue, although the vinyl seems to get shiny after use of the Super Vinyl Wash (lubricant?). Materials posted by the distributor for the RRL fluids say that (a) they use a base of "distilled, quadruple deionized water," (b) the active portion of the cleaner is a "low level surfactant that is effective at lowering the surface tension, penetrating and lifting grease", (c) the surfactant is alcohol and phosphate free, (d) at least one of the fluids contains Trisodium EDTA, (e) at least one of the fluids contains carboglycinates as a vinyl lubricant and (f) neither fluid uses fotoflo/Photo Flo. The Cleaner is clear, viscous and feels vaguely greasy. The Wash is clear, not viscous and feels like water (perhaps, just slightly oily).

    3. VPI RCM Fluid does not foam and seems to evaporate quickly. It is clear, not viscous and feels like water.

    Any additional thoughts as to how your "Primer" can be of assistance in using (or not using) any of these fluids?
  4. Justin_Time

    Justin_Time New Member Thread Starter

    Dallas, Texas USA
    Yes. I am quite familiar with different RCFs and have used just about all of them. But I am in a terrible dilema. I want to disseminate general understanding without seeming to endorse or condemn any particular commercial product. The most I can say is that based on what it is, you can adjust the way you use it to maximize the cleaning and minimize the harm.

    You don't really need to analyze these products to tell roughly what they are.
    You can tell pretty much from the smell and feel. You know what methanol, ethanol, and propanol or IPA smell like and how fast they evaporate. Most synthetic surfactants (without perfume) have very little smell, just a faint sweet or slightly acrid scent. But they foam substantially. Lubricants will feel oily or viscous.

    If it contains surfactant, you should give it a final rinse with distilled water and vacuum. It it's an alcohol, scrub a little harder but do not let it sit too long on the record and skip the final rinse/vacuum.

    If it foams substantially, it contains surfactants well above its cmc and probably does not contain alcohol, which is a moderate defoamer. If it crackles after cleaning, it's usually an anionic surfactant. If it deadens the sound a lot, it is contains a nonionic surfactant and possiblibly other additives (based on viscosity).

    It probably contains a polar organic solvent and very little surfactant (as a wetting agent) or none.

    This is a water-based combination RCF containing no alcohol. As for phosphate, only outdated laundry detergents still uses it. RRL probably uses a very good synthetic surfactant that works at low concentrations (low cmc, less residue). Carboglycinate is a lubricant. You have to make a choice here. To remove all traces of the surfactant--it is still a residue that you'll leave behind despite the 4X distilled water--you should use an additional water wash and vacuum. But if you do that, you will remove some of the lubricant and not get the full benefit of it. I guess, you choice may depend on how you like the sound. Most RRL users love it: it's quiet. But some claim that it deadens the sound too much.

    As to the long-term effect of the lubricant, we can only speculate.

    If it doesn't foam and evaporates quickly, it is likely an alcohol-based cleaner.
  5. Justin_Time

    Justin_Time New Member Thread Starter

    Dallas, Texas USA
    Thank you for your kind words. Although my main area is in the applications of surfactants, polymers, and foams in Petroleum industry (oil field, refinery, pipelines and tankers) I did some R & D work on the effects of various surfactant structures in mineral flotation as well. I supervised in my labs a couple of pHD students from the Schools of Mines at Columbia University about 10 years ago. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed mineral flotation, especially the work of Professor Fuerstenau at UC Berkeley.
  6. Ski Bum

    Ski Bum Happy Audiophile

    Vail, CO

    Thanks for your response. You've given us much to think about.

    BTW, RRL makes a big deal about NOT using distilled water in connection with their products. They don't want to get the vinyl dirty with mere distilled water after using their quadruple deionized H2O. RRL definitely results in a "blacker" and quieter surface than the other cleaners I've tried; the legitimate question is whether something is missing as a result. I haven't spotted it yet, but I also haven't been using RRL for very long yet.
  7. MITBeta

    MITBeta New Member

    Plymouth, MA
    Thanks for the great write-up!
  8. audio

    audio New Member

    I don't understand this one. First of all, the ingredients of the Disc Doctor fluid are printed right on the bottle. Secondly, I've personally never had a problem with the DD stuff leaving residue. No offense, but I suspect you may be using the product improperly. Could you describe the process in detail....how you used the DD cleaner? Maybe we can get to the bottom of this.

    Furthermore...Tony(ALP), if you're reading this....how did the Abbey Road that I sent you(cleaned with Disc Doctor) stack up? Did it seem clean? Was there residue? Did it improve with a second cleaning? I need to know these things.....
  9. Ski Bum

    Ski Bum Happy Audiophile

    Vail, CO
    As DD mentions in its instructions, you have to go through at least two distilled water scrubs and rinses after applying and vacuuming (or wiping off) the DD solution. Those scrubs/rinses are to remove the residue. (DD produces a foam that is like soap; after you soap up in the shower, you don't just towel off - you need to use water to rinse the soap off). If you simply played the record after applying and vacuuming (or wiping off) the DD, you will have an ugly result. I have been able to satsifactorily remove the residue using a distilled water and final rinse according to DD's instructions, although I've had even better results using a final rinse of either (a) a mix of VPI solution and distilled water or (b) RRL Wash.

    In contrast, RRL Deep Cleaner does not foam up and seems to vaccum up with less residue, though I rinse with the RRL Wash in any event. The RRL process does, however, leave a lubricant on the record (arguably, a form of residue) which may or may not be to your liking.
    DJ Jaz likes this.
  10. lynnm

    lynnm New Member

    A most informative article

    A further question.

    You made no mention of flocculants in RCFs.

    I use The Spin-Clean Record Washer and fluid which contains a flocculant ( flocculants are chemicals that bind to materials removed from the vinyl and cause them to sink to the bottom of the fluid tank ). Presumably flocculants are unnecessary when using a vacuum system. Are their any upsides or downsides to the use of flocculants for those of us who do not have the re$ource$ needed to purchase a vacuum type machine?

    Thanks again for your excellent article!
    lazydawg58 likes this.
  11. -Ben

    -Ben Senior Member

    Washington DC Area

    Excellent summary!!! I agree with your entire post. Particularly the 4th point you made above. :thumbsup:
  12. mambo

    mambo New Member

    I thought you'd find your way here when I started reading all the surfactant stuff! :)
  13. mambo

    mambo New Member

    Justin, thanks for taking the trouble to collate all this information. A post like that takes time to write up.

    It certainly makes things clearer. As a non-technical person I wondered if you could tell me if there are any possible ill effects to using a combination of fluids. I will explain.

    Using VPI liquid is quick and easy wash and scrub with VPI, vacuum, rinse and scrub with water, vacuum and you're ready to go.

    Using DD fluid is more labour intensive. Wash and scrub with DD brush, vacuum, rinse and scrub with second DD brush, change vacuum tube, vacuum.

    As I buy more records than I can keep up with lately, I usually VPI quickly so that I can listen to them cleaned. When I get around to it, which can be several moths later, I then DD them. Rarely, I do the VPI wash, vacuum, rinse then the DD procedure one after the other.

    Are there any ill effects that you can think of as a combination of using the fluids on the same LP's whether it is after a period of time or one after the other?



    PS: I'm glad you decided to join us!
  14. Justin_Time

    Justin_Time New Member Thread Starter

    Dallas, Texas USA
    Using different fluids at different times...

    Thank you for your kind words. I actually owe a small apology to you and other readers for the excessive length. If I had more time to better edit this piece, it could easily be half the length but that would take twice the time.

    In principle, there should not be no problems using one fluid at one time and then another the next time There might be cumulative residue after several cleanings if you did not remove everything completely each time.

    As I recall, the VPI is probably an alcohol-based cleaner, so all you have to do is scrub vigorously during application to help dislodge contaminants and pull a very good vacuum to completely evaporate the solvent.

    The DD RCF contains several powerful surfactants so heavy scrubing isn't necessary. But you should use a final water rinse and vacuum to remove traces of surfactants left after each cleaning.

    For new or moderately dirty LPs, you may want to also consider the RRL Vinyl Wash (without the RRL Super Deep Cleaner). It also contains surfactant but seems to be easy to use and leave no noisy residue. It does also use a groove lubricant which makes the LP extremely quiet. Some people love this, others think it's an sonic artifact. Personally, against RRL's recommendation, I use a final water rinse and vacuum so I have no objection to the sound or lack thereof. If you like how the RRL VW sound, it would be a very simple fluid to use for all your LPs except the extremely dirty ones, which would require deep-cleaning with the RRL SDC first.


    PS: By the way, thank you for introducing me to this excellent site.
  15. LeonAlopecico

    LeonAlopecico Forum Resident

    Mexico City

    I've just seen this. Thank you, it is very helpful, ease my mind about using isopropyl alcohol with distilled water to clean my records.
    I have a question that maybe you can answer. I recently run out of alcohol, then i bought more, but this one smells different, more like a petrol derivated, not that kind of sweetish like the one before.
    Is it not isopropyl alcohol what i bought? I've read that exists different ways to obtain this kind of alcohol. Could it be that it is because was obteined by a different method?
    I'm not using it now because i'm not sure what it is.

    Thank you very much.
  16. rxcory

    rxcory proud jazz band/marching band parent

    Portland, Oregon
    Most informative. Thanks!
  17. the disc doctor

    the disc doctor New Member

    St. Louis, MO
  18. the disc doctor

    the disc doctor New Member

    St. Louis, MO

    The Disc Doctor's Miracle Record Cleaner is a biodegradable, non-hazardous formulation developed from first principles over an 8 yr. period of testing & evaluation. In accordance with federal regulations, the contents are listed on the bottle & instructions are provided with each purchase of fluid or application & are available for download from our website. The product is used as a 2:1 mixture of Cleaner & distilled [water suitable for use in steam irons is usually sufficient] or RO (reverse osmosis] filtered water. Either water source is used for the rinse step. A rinse is required to thoroughly remove trace residues of the ionic surfactants as very small amounts of these materials make a lot of noise under the stylus. There is no justification for buying laboratory/research grades of distilled or filtered water.

    The procedure was developed to afford the same level of cleaning whether fluids are removed manually with high nap pure cotton terry cloth or with a vacuum. The solubility of the mold release waxes in the materials commonly used in other products is what makes their results audibly inferior. More than 20 yrs of use by individuals, archives & institutions including the US Library of Congress validate the safety & thoroughness of the cleaning performed by this system. These materials safely & thoroughly clean vinyl, shellac, acetate, lacquer & Diamond Discs, leaving the surfaces highly resistant to mold & mildew growth. When users are having problems we ask them to call us & after a brief chat we figure out what they were doing wrong & get them back on track.

    Do not judge a cleaned disc by the first playback of a thoroughly cleaned disc,the 3rd playback is more likely to reveal the quality of the disc in hand. This is a result of the natural process of the stylus tracing a thoroughly cleaned groove & with a properly aligned stylus is not harmful.

    We left this list after a very brief presence in the early years due to the abuse of numerous members & I would not have even know about this exchange save for an email from a list member. Telling someone who's spend earnest time, effort & money to clean their recordings only to find out that the effort was audibly inferior often makes them angry. But that's not a reason to shoot the messenger. This level of cleaning affords an opportunity to re-evaluate arm & cartridge set for improved playback. Done correctly, properly handled discs will not need to be re-cleaned.

    If any readers have further questions they are welcome to contact by email/phone. I will not engage in a pissing contest online. With no intent to be rude or disrespectful, if you think you system is properly set up & can't hear the difference, then don't use it. No one in over 22 yrs has ever tried to return our materials because they didn't perform or harmed a disc when used as directed, though one fella years ago wanted to send it back because he thought it was to much work.


    Duane Goldman
    Gramps Tom and black sheriff like this.
  19. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    I've been very satisfied with Disc Doctor, Duane. It's a very fine product, and I've never considered not buying it again, even from my first bottle onward. I hope it's always made...
    Gramps Tom likes this.
  20. ArpMoog

    ArpMoog Forum Resident

    Who here makes there own ? I use a bit of 91% alcohol and dish soap the free and clear variety.
    Never had a problem.
    BuddhaBob and Darksolstice like this.
  21. Darksolstice

    Darksolstice Forum Resident

    Murfreesboro Tn
    I make my own, Distilled water, 91% isopropyl alcohol and a few drops of cascade, works great.
    BuddhaBob likes this.
  22. Even though you don't seem to think mold release will have a sonic impact, are there any cleaners you'd recommend specifically for cleaning new vinyl that also addresses mold release?
  23. black sheriff

    black sheriff Magic City

    I've used The Disc Doctor's Miracle Record Cleaner for many years. Great product. Thank you for posting.
    Gramps Tom likes this.
  24. LeeS

    LeeS Music Fan

    I wish I could say the same but I have found that the MFSL and Audio Intelligent chemicals do a much better job.
    ssmith3046 likes this.
  25. Wngnt90

    Wngnt90 Forum Resident

    I make my own...99% purity isopropyl alcohol, distilled water and a few drops of Kodak Photoflo
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