Best Practices Record Cleaning

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

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  1. Coricama

    Coricama Classic Rocker

    Location:
    Marietta, GA
    Thanks, I'll do it!
     
  2. VinylRob

    VinylRob Forum Resident

    JBStephens, are you a chemist? I would be interested where you have acquired the information that alcohol is safe for cleaning PVC record grooves. I ask, lacking technical knowledge that it would not do irreparable damage in the long term. From my personal experience though I have read folk tale elixirs being concocted by those on the cheap for decades, having never needed the inclusion of alcohol to clean any age or grime level of record in my collection, I guess I wonder, why take the chance? I do work in the automotive industry as a designer in plastic components and upon consulting our resident plastics chemical engineer about the use of alcohol on PVC record grooves, was recommend against it due to possible degradation. He made the point that the fine grooves could easily have plasticizers leached away and become less durable by alcohol over time. Do you have any knowledge of this, as I would prefer to error towards the side of caution?

    Here is some interesting reading under cleaning:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinyl_disc_records_preservation
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2014
  3. Paul K

    Paul K Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    I use the Spin Clean and usually after actually washing the records using mild detergent if they are used. No detergent if they aren't.
    Spin Clean about 7 times each direction...then VPI 16.5 the records clean.
    All records come out sounding great.

    If this doesn't jive...too late! I am getting wonderful results!
     
    Millington likes this.
  4. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    A 15-25% alcohol solution applied to the vinyl for a matter of seconds, not minutes, and vacuumed off has never, in my experience of years of doing this, damaged a record. You may or may not need any kind of solvent to clean a record, particularly one that's not too dirty, but having a solvent and a detergent that also helps the fluid to spread, works for me because it seems to help with different kinds of dirt and I like the speed with which the alcohol based solutions evaporate. FWIW, years ago a member here posted this primer on RC fluids: http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/a-very-long-primer-on-record-cleaning-fluids.58986/
     
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  5. VinylRob

    VinylRob Forum Resident

    Yep, I have had conversation with Justin_time about this and other aspects of his excellent piece of work. All totaled though, leaves me like a cat in a room full of rockers, in that it should not cause harm... but it appears there are differing professional opinions in the air yet. Thanks chervokas, I think I will continue to abstain and error toward the side of caution.
     
  6. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    Thanks for the link. I've been using 70% isopropyl as a first wash for a few months now. Having the vacuum functioning on the VPI 16 means it's seconds on the LP, then a quick vacuum. So far no problems. No question that a final rinse with distilled water improves the sound, "blackens" the background. With the bulk of the records I clean there are usually fingerprints and other oils on the surfaces of the LPs, trapping dust. But I'll see how much diluting the alcohol with distilled water slows down the cleaning process.
     
  7. JBStephens

    JBStephens I don't "like", "share", "tweet", or CARE. In Memoriam

    Location:
    South Mountain, NC
    I'm not a chemist, just a sound engineer who works with albums . What I use, and the results I get, are the culmination of 15 years of working with vinyl. If someone comes up with a method that's cheaper, faster, and easier than the way I'm doing it now, I'm all ears.

    If alcohol damaged records, I wouldn't use it.
     
    Robin L likes this.
  8. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    As that primer also notes surfactants commonly found in record cleaning solutions -- alcohol based or not -- as well as in household detergents that you might use -- also hold the potential to leach plasticizers. The only choice that's going to alleviate all your fears is washing with water alone. The right dilution of the right alcohol and/or surfactants, short exposure times, and vacuum drying will be fine. I don't know that anyone has ever pointed to a case of a record damaged by any such solution and process.
     
  9. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    Personally, as I've said so here and on a few other forums a few times before, I don't have major concerns about alcohol causing record damage with limited time exposure in terms of cleaning. Longer term exposure would probably concern me somewhat I suppose.

    That fact is (at least for me) that I've experimented a fair bit with high purity isopropyl as a cleaning agent in varying ratios with DIY formulas for record cleaning and simply found it to not be very effective as a cleaner. As such, it doesn't surprise me that the most popular and, by most accounts, most effective commercial record cleaners (at least in the opinion of users who have used multiple fluids, both commercial and DIY) use very little or no alcohol.

    High purity alcohol seems to be very popular as a record cleaning agent among the DIY types but in my experience, I've found it to be a pretty lame cleaning agent.

    As such, my records see no alcohol unless they have serious amounts of particularly sticky substances that would benefit from the degreasing effect that alcohol has. And I would stress "serious amounts" as my experience is that an effective, high quality, non-alcohol surfactant based first stage cleaner will do a much better overall job in cleaning than one with alcohol on the vast majority (say 95-99%) of records.

    Just my opinion of course, but one based on wet cleaning about 5000-6000 records at this stage.
     
  10. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    My homebrew has both about 15% alcohol and a surfactant, no reason you have to make it an either/or choice of type of fluid, and, in fact, having a surfactant is essential with an alcohol-based solution because without it the solution won't spread or penetrate the grooves.

    Cranking up the amount of surfactant to detergent levels, is another thing, as is a detergent-only solution with no alcohol. Both work well in my experience but I like something with more than one cleaner in it, and something that evaporates fast like an alcohol based solution.
     
  11. blakep

    blakep Forum Resident

    No problem. Everyone should use what they want to. I think your two cleaner idea is a good one and in my experience one that uses both surfactants and enzymes has proven to be the best of the bunch for me (and what I continue to use) and much better than surfactants and alcohol.

    FWIW, I don't view fast evaporation as a positive in this situation. If the fluid evaporates too quickly before it can be vacuumed off it is literally going to cement detritus and residue further into the groove making it more difficult to remove. So, in the end, I prefer a first stage cleaner that will not evaporate so that it can be left on really dirty records for a more extended period of time to dislodge and suspend dirt so that it can then be vacuumed away. Fast evaporation is simply not conducive to that.
     
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  12. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Well, sure, but I've never had a solution evaporate that quickly. I mean we're talking about something that's 85% water. It just evaporates more quickly under vacuum. I haven't tried and enzyme cleaner on records, but I bet that's good for oily fingerprint type of stuff, which is probably most of what you're trying to wet clean with a used record. I could imaging that if your soaking a record for some minutes in the solution, you might not want alcohol, although prolonged exposure to some surfactants apparently can be just as bad in terms of plasticizers as alcohol. Lots of options out there and people can and should use what they're comfortable with and what works best for them. It's just worth noting that detergents and solvents like alcohol and various surfactants, each have pluses and minus, and each in the right concentrations with short exposure should be perfectly safe.
     
  13. cement_head

    cement_head Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oxford, Ohio 45056
    Coricama likes this.
  14. cement_head

    cement_head Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oxford, Ohio 45056
    I just use a SpinClean - can't afford a vacuum machine. All my albums go from new sleeves to the SC to a MoFi sleeve. Occasionally a carbon fibre brush just before playing. Keeps it mostly clean.
     
  15. Jim in Houston

    Jim in Houston Hyperactive!

    Location:
    Houston, TX, USA
    You should really consider an EV-1 from Kabusa.com in conjunction with the Spin Clean. $169 is a small price when spread out over the number of records you can clean and the improvement over air drying.
     
  16. cement_head

    cement_head Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oxford, Ohio 45056
    Thanks! That looks like a great item for my Xmas list.
     
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  17. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    It's been a while since I updated this thread. First, I want to once again thank everyone who contributed to this thread so far. Second, I haven't yet done the promised consolidation of postings (with judicious editing, principally to eliminate my own redundant posts of the 'template' as it evolved), my intention being to credit those who contributed if and when there is a consolidated 'essay' on the subject that can be turned into a 'sticky.' Perhaps, for now, the thread should continue to evolve and stand, unexpurgated and 'un-stickied.'
    In the meantime, a couple new points. For those of you who are using 'wand'-type vacuums (and perhaps this has value for any vacuum-type machine), I have a little trick for dirty, or old, used records that seems to make sense, both in theory and practice. Sure, you can dry brush the loose foreign matter from the surface before starting a wet clean, but as we know, the wet clean (and in my experience, the soak and agitate using enzymes/surfactants) really does the trick to loosen the long-embedded stuff, whether it is micro-grit, or simply the effect of cigarette (or other) smoke that functions like glue. What always bothered me was wet soaking and agitating, knowing that some of this foreign matter, once loosened from the grooves, could be further ground into the record surface in the process of 'cleaning.'
    So, with that (long) preface, the trick is to wet clean, soak and mildly agitate, if at all, vacuum, and then do it again with your preferred cleaner. Now the surface is arguably cleaner, and better prepared for a more vigorous agitation as part of a second wet clean. (Granted, one alleged downside of the wand-type vacuum is that it has the potential to catch foreign matter on the wand lips and drag that around during the remaining revolutions of vacuum, an issue which my 'trick' doesn't really rectify and which I want to address further, at a later time). The chief benefit here isn't just a 'double clean'; it is a mild clean that 'prepares' the record for a more vigorous cleaning, permitting you to work from a cleaner record surface when you wet, soak and agitate the second time. The objective is to prevent grinding loosened foreign matter into the vinyl surface as part of the cleaning process.
    Obviously (or maybe not so obviously), the above should be followed by some type of clean water rinse, whether you are relying on distilled, reverse osmosis, or reagent water. And, in case I didn't mention this earlier, to clean the wand lips between every vacuum- to brush off any foreign matter than may have lodged on the 'velvet' and can turn that vacuum wand into a 'weapon' unto vinyl.
    More later. I'm going to be experimenting with some additional cleaning methods and equipment in the next few weeks.
     
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  18. VinylRob

    VinylRob Forum Resident

    Good comments as always Bill. I too like the deep soak and agitate, first wash on the grimy ones!

    On the old topic of alcohol use (beyond the listener)... If I'm not mistaken Duane Goldman A.K.A. the Disc Doctor (and my personal favorite solution), has a PHD in Medicinal Chemistry and Masters in Organic Chemistry and does not use alcohol or recommend its use on records. (He could have easily include it in his products, if he thought it were needed, and safe) Can't find the article that he was commenting in, but looking...

    Happy Listening
     
  19. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    As some of you know, I've become obsessed with the impact of record cleaning methods on sound quality, and rather than take the reviewer's word for it, I've plunged fairly deeply into various methods. I've also set aside another room in my house as the 'clean room.' (No Hazmat suit and rubber gloves yet, but perhaps rubber walls would be more appropriate). Anyway, a few pictures of the current 'in process' process.
    [​IMG]
     
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  20. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
  21. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
  22. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
  23. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    I'll update with a description of what I've been doing, and what's to come, once I've had more coffee!
     
  24. hvbias

    hvbias Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeast
    Nice setup Bill!
     
  25. csgreene

    csgreene Forum Resident

    Location:
    Idaho, USA
    Hey man, try CDs!!

    :D
     
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