Best Practices Record Cleaning

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

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  1. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    Wait until you get obsessed with reducing stylus-groove friction after cleaning, which can make almost as big a difference in reducing mechanical noise from vinyl playback as cleaning can in reducing surface noise (and, inevitably increasing friction), not to make you further mental or anything!
  2. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Sorry, took a long coffee break :) I'll need a little time to write up some of my tentative conclusions and the next steps on Adventures in Record Cleaning. (TM).
    Chev- lay it on us, baby!
    I know you have been exploring lubricants, per that other thread where the chap from the UK (my apologies forgetting his name) raised some valid questions. What have you learned? Any downsides? My biggest immediate concern is fouling the stylus, but I suppose some of these effectively dry and still lubricate?
    As to going 'mental,' I thought that's our destiny- the nature of obsession, genius/flip side of madness sort of thing. (Not that I lay any claim to genius; to the contrary, any increase in knowledge on my part serves to reveal my ignorance, gaps in knowledge, etc.).
    Hvbias- any experience using a Monks or similar machine? Still on a learning curve with this thing, which is actually fun to use. Also makes you realize how compact most modern RCMs are.
    VinylRob and chervokas like this.
  3. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    I'm really just experimenting with the lube thing. Not enough experience to draw any conclusions -- it does seem to make a difference in terms of removing random ticks and pops which may be the result of fricition, not surface noise as well as surface scratch noises (perhaps in part by partially filling in the gaps); and most interestingly to me, lower or eliminate groove echo and vinyl whoosh -- and to me the more of the mechanical noise of vinyl playback you can remove, the better. But so far the most effective substances I've tried have always left stuff on the stylus and/or been a bear to apply while other things work excellently in terms of not shedding, but aren't equally sonically effective as the other solutions. That's what's driving me crazy -- I know there's an improvement to be had out there, and I can't quite find a satisfactory way to achieve it.
  4. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Alright, a few observations on cleaning machines to add to the information base:
    I never saw the need to buy a point nozzle machine- they seemed fiddly, slow and unnecessary. But, the more I experimented with the results between manual cleaning/vacuum dry and ultrasonic, the more I realized that I had a 'gap' in results: the ultrasonic was fine for new vinyl, or vinyl that didn't really need what I found to be a 'deeper' clean; but I had experienced situations, noted above, where after ultrasonic cleaning, the vinyl still needed to be manually cleaned- whether this is because the ultrasonic loosened, but did not completely remove, some strongly bound-to-the-groove foreign matter, or didn't reach that stuff, I found that I was going back, after an ultrasonic clean and manually re-cleaning the record, using brushes (MoFi pad) with enzyme (AIVS No. 15) and lab water, to get some old records to play well, without noise and distortion. And, in the process of doing this, I wanted to improve the manual cleaning/vacuum side of the equation.
    FWIW, and before you jump to the conclusion that I am encouraging you to go out and spend crazy money on a point nozzle machine, keep in mind that I was still using a VPI. And not just any VPI- but one of the oldest machines on the planet- one that had left the factory as a 16- these being, to my knowledge, the oldest version of VPI's first commercially available machines. (The unit had been converted to a 16.5 before I bought it, but it is truly older than most in use today, and speaks to the longevity of the product). 1
    The Monks, which is the granddaddy of the point nozzle machines, and according to the lore, of all commercially available RCMs, is a beast. (To borrow again from car world analogies, it is like having a pre-war Bentley sitting next to your modern passenger car).
    I'm not using the 'automatic' dispensing/brush system for applying fluid, but still doing that part manually, with a MoFi brush/pad and handheld dispenser bottle. That gives me more flexibility in the choice of liquids, doesn't require that I fill a reservoir or deal with the additional issues of the pump head/dispenser (though I have no doubt that it would work effectively- it is pretty simple and you can easily remove the clean fluid reservoir to clean it if you choose to change fluids- it is basically a Mason-style glass jar or whatever they call those things in Britain). The key, to me, is the vacuum side.
    I won't detail here how it works, since there are good explanations elsewhere on the Net, including on the Monks site. This style of machine has been around forever. I remember the first time I saw one in action back in the early 70's in Pittsburgh, at Opus One, who had a Monks in the main display room, near the sales counter, and provided cleaning services to store customers. I'm still in early days of the learning curve on using this thing.
    This thing is as old-school British engineering as it gets, and charming in a heavily built, industrial kind of way, which appeals to me. Thankfully, it does not depend on Lucas (a/k/a the 'Prince of Darkness') for any electrical elements which made those British cars of yore so utterly undependable. Otherwise, this thing has the feel of a 50's era British motorcar.
    The instructions are written in a manner in keeping with that- no diagrams, dense text that makes sense if you re-read it a couple times and figure out what the authors are referring to.

    I'm still in the early days of learning curve on using this thing- the platter spins extremely fast, is lightweight and stops quickly if you shut it off to allow a soak. As such, it requires a lighter touch with liquids, which due to centrifugal force, are flung outward and away from the label area, which, I gather is part of the design.
    The point nozzle works extremely effectively to get the liquids off the record surface. The vacuum force is very focused, in addition to having the added advantage of only cleaning a small groove area at a time with a constantly refreshing 'clean' nylon thread acting as a 'buffer' between the vacuum nozzle and the record surface. I was a little concerned that the thread was not moving along, but after lifting the bonnet, propping it up with the supplied 'stick' (all very old school British motorcar, yielding a view of a complex of plastic tubing, glass jars, and a German-made dialysis pump), verified that the thread motor was feeding fresh thread and that the waste end of things, where the soiled thread gets deposited in the waste jar, along with the dirty liquid, moved freely through the nozzle and arm tube.
    I have reduced the amount of liquid i am using, and have been experimenting with Monks-supplied fluids, including a 'mold-buster' (heavy pre-clean), their standard Discovery liquid for LPs, followed by a lab water rinse. (The last, as far as I know, is not mandated by Monks, but I want to avoid any sonic signature from the fluids). The biggest revelation, apart from the fact that the records cleaned so far on this old school monster are extremely quiet, is how quickly it works- I had been led to believe it was tiresome and time consuming. Perhaps, compared to a one button ultrasonic with built-in dryer, which simply allows you to pop in the record and walk away. But, we've already been there and I was back to slaving over a VPI anyway, at least for the old vinyl.
    I have not been using the ultrasonic as a 'finish' for now, and relying entirely on the Monks. Yes, I think it gets the records cleaner than a wand-type vacuum, owing to the design of the point nozzle. Yes, I believe that the concept of 'fresh' vacuum interface, in addition to the very focused vacuum head, is probably resulting in a cleaner end product, with the potential contamination issues associated with the 'velvet lips' being altogether eliminated. And, it is quiet to use, even in full vacuum mode.
    A little kludgey? Perhaps. I had a car with right hand drive, left hand shift and a center accelerator, from Britain too. It took a bit of getting used to.
    The Audiodesk is off to the US distributor for retrofitting of the so-called 'precision top,' which is supposed to minimize water spotting, one of my gripes that has been shared by many users.
    I am going to get a KL in here too, and give it a go. One of the things that appeals to me about the KL is that I can use reagent water in it, rather than relying solely on distilled water with the manufacturer supplied surfactant. (I haven't really heard a prominent sonic signature from the Audio Desk supplied surfactant, but I use less than a whole bottle for each tankful and change out the water every 70 or so records, a trick I learned from other earlier adopters of that device). In my early discussions with the US distributor, I was told not to use anything in the Audio Desk other than distilled water, of the type you can buy for a buck a gallon at the grocery store. And to use their supplied surfactant, to enhance the cavitation action of the machine.
    Conclusions: none yet. I'll try and report on my experiences and, as one broadcaster's tag line promotes, let "you decide."
    More on Adventures in Record Cleaning (TM) as it happens.

    In the decades I have used this thing, it has never once seized or overheated, which makes me wonder why some folks have non-fan cooled VPIs that shut down to prevent overheating. Some protection mechanism added to the motor system in later models? Maybe Mat can weigh in here.
    2 I had a pre-war British car- the owner's manual had instructions on how to remove the engine, adjust the dynamo, and other things that a modern driver would consider far beyond their zone of competence.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2014
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  5. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Cheap tip for brush and vacuum wand users: This is so embarrassingly obvious that I'm almost reluctant to share it, but here goes:

    As a receptacle for wet brushes- particularly those of the MoFi/Disc Doctor type- and for vacuum wands- if you are the type that swaps out wands between the clean and rinse steps- what do you do with the wet brushes and where do you put the wands to keep them clean while in use?
    Tip: buy some cheap butter dishes (in NY, they are referred to as 'butta' dishes)- you know what I'm talking about- glass rectangle larger than a stick of butter with a flat glass tray. Can be found in hardware, houseware stores for 6 bucks, new. Make sure you get ones with a flat top- because you are going to turn that sucker upside down and voila- if you bought one the right width, it is perfect for holding those cleaning brushes while in use, and drips go into the bottom of the glass (which used to be the top- remember, it is upside down). Now for the added bonus- the flat glass tray is a nice size for your vacuum wand assembly- so while you are on a cleaning cycle, you have a nice, clean receptacle to place these things on while in process. Easily washed, rinsed when done. Cheap and if not 'audiophile approved,' audiophile proven. :)
    Happy cleaning.
    VinylRob likes this.
  6. MikeInFla

    MikeInFla Forum Resident

    Panama City, FL
    I'm on a budget so I can't even afford a Spin Clean at the moment. But I normally use distilled water, a microfiber sponge and dry with a micro fiber towel. I've had some pretty ugly records over the last year including some with mold (and I didn't even know a record could GET mold). I'm pretty novice to the whole cleaning process but I also dump all the paper sleeves and replace with a poly sleeve from Sleeve City.

    I don't know how WELL it works, but I have been told for static use a dryer fabric sheet -- Now before you frown on this keep in mind I do NOT let it touch the vinyl because they are full of chemicals. What I simply do is a) put the record in the poly sleeve b) put the record back in the jacket c) drop a dryer sheet in between the sleeve and jacket. Does it work? I dunno but I bought a used copy of Boston's Third Stage that has enough static to raise the hair on my arms and 2 days later the static was gone.
  7. VinylRob

    VinylRob Forum Resident

    John Hart, Good read sir. Love the Lucas reference 'Prince of Darkness'. Have a dear friend from our school days who's Dad is British and couldn't resist dragging back everything from TR's to E type coupes and at the delicate age of sixteen had the hair raising rare pleasure of driving one of his twelve cylinder E types when the six carbs were tuned together! He spoke often of his lost skirmishes against the PoD.

    Never operated a Monk, they look amazingly well done...

    I chose fired porcelain sushi trays instead of the butter dishes for my Disc Doctor brushes but, same usefulness. We have a local place, Noble Fish that I can't resist, always fresh caught, and found the trays in their small market section.
  8. theron d

    theron d Forum Resident

    Baltimore MD
    Has anyone ever used the Mofi brush replacment pads on a VPI wand? Ie cut them to size? It looks to the be the same soft felt like material...(I think)?
  9. utahusker

    utahusker Forum Resident

    Southern, UT, USA
    I use them on a Clearaudio Smart Matrix machine, and they work great. Use a razor blade to trim around the slot.
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  10. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Well, those sushi trays are a little classier than my suggestion, but you are on the same page. BTW, I'm 'Bill' Hart, but yeah, British technology, gotta love it. Sort of Terry Gilliam Brazil if you know what I mean.
  11. VinylRob

    VinylRob Forum Resident

    I use the Disc Doctor velvet strip on my VPI tubes and they work great.

    Just make sure they have a chance to adhere properly before you expect them to sop up loads of record cleaning fluid. As with most things in life, follow the directions.

    Got mine at Acoustic Sounds for 17.50 USD for four. Like the Disc Doctor brushes and fluid as well.
  12. VinylRob

    VinylRob Forum Resident

    Sorry Bill. Where did I get John from?... Love Gilliam, love Brazil! same page.
  13. theron d

    theron d Forum Resident

    Baltimore MD
    cool thank you!
  14. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I have plunged ahead on the vinyl cleaning front. First, a pic of the suite of machines currently in use, to be followed by a description of a couple of things I'm trying. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2014
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  15. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I'm experimenting on a couple fronts- first, differences in ultrasonic cleaning duration. It does seem that running the KL for a full 5 minutes makes a noticeable sonic difference. Drying is limited to 2 minutes, with an occasional need for a 3 minute total drying cycle. Rather than use distilled water, I am using reagent grade lab water.
    Next, because I pre-clean all older or used vinyl before using the ultrasonic, i'm experimenting with the sonic signature of different fluids. I really like the AIVS No. 15, followed by a lab water rinse, for old grotty vinyl. This combo works extremely well on wand vacuum machines like the VPI (which I still have, just not shown in the photo above).
    But, I'm also curious to 'hear' what the sonic signature of various fluids is before a water rinse. (You can't really do this with AIVS No. 15- it should not be the final step and the manufacturer cautions against that).
    I have fresh bottles of Monks Discovery fluid- specifically intended for use with the Monks.
    I also just received some new fluid- it is an updated formula of the old Torumat cleaning fluid. It is labelled 'TM-8' but does not use the Torumat brand name. Brooks Berdan's shop is offering it.
    I also have some Hannl fluid on the way.
    I am interested in seeing how these fluids 'sound' (or don't).
    I gather most are used as one steps; indeed the TM-8 touts the purity of the water it uses, so rinsing in distilled or anything less than lab grade water would probably be a step down.
    Second, even if I am 'removing' the fluid through a water rinse, I'm curious to compare cleaning effectiveness v. sonic signature of the cleaning fluid standing alone. (And that assumes that the water rinse is really removing all artifacts of the cleaning fluid).
    Finally, I am going to experiment with washing a pre-cleaned record in the KL, but rather than drying it with the fan dryer, vacuum drying it on the Monks. This was prompted by a comment made on another forum by a well-known vinyl enthusiast who some of you may know as "Syntax." In theory, this could be the best of both worlds. The newest version of the KL eliminates the toggle switch and allows 0-5 minute settings, separately, for cleaning and drying cycles, so I can do a 'wash' only on the KL and do a point nozzle dry on the Monks.
    Yes, more work. But fun, interesting, and potentially instructive.
    What I've also learned is that among the various camps on cleaning- vacuum v ultrasonic, wand v point nozzle, etc. there also seems to be differing emphasis on the cleaning v vacuuming part. For many of us (me included), the key starts with effectively loosening (and eventually removing) the foreign matter that is sometimes glued into the groove; the focus here is on the effectiveness of the fluids. Another camp seems to place a great amount of emphasis on the effectiveness of the vacuum process, particularly among point nozzle advocates. The specific cleaning fluid, enzyme soaking, agitating, etc. seems to be of less importance. I have embraced all of these approaches- I believe in the value of enzyme soak and agitate for grotty vinyl, and in getting as much of the stuff off the record as possible, which is where a machine like the Monks really shines. (I haven't used a Loricraft, which is similar in concept).
    One of my goals is to determine the best overall method for records suffering from ground in, glued in grime. Another goal is to see to what extent sequence of methods makes a difference, as well as what the sonic signature is of some of these fluids. Finally, I'm going to try to explore whether there is a 'best' method, given all these variables, that doesn't require a massive investment in cleaning equipment and time.
    Frankly, I have found that the AIVS No. 15 followed by lab water rinse on a modest vacuum machine like a VPI 16.5 gets you to a pretty high level. I want to take that several steps beyond, and see what I learn. More as it happens (or not).

    Some of this can be done in a fairly controlled way, e.g. using duplicate copies of the same, new record. But, on older, user vinyl, every one has unique issues, given how it was handled, what contaminants it was exposed to, etc. I'm still trying to figure out an effective methodology for this.
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2014
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  16. WntrMute2

    WntrMute2 Forum Resident

    After using AIVS solutions (total of 4 steps) #15-> Enzyme -> Super Cleaner -> Ultra Water rinse x2 with good but not perfect results I am trying something different. I bought the two types of Tergitol recommended here and am as pleased as can be with the results. Records are stunningly clean, fingerprints are removed easily and it is cheap! Each quart was less than $25 shipping took 2 days from Brooklyn mixed with 2 bottles of Aqua-Fina, all in about $50 for a very long term supply. I have kept the 2 solutions separate as I wanted to evaluate what each one accomplished. I kept the 2 rinses as the recommendations are for a good rinse.

    What triggered my trying this solution(s) was that the Canadian Conservation Group is not TRYING TO SELL ME ANYTHING. All the manufactures are in business and are out to dismiss concerns with their mixes, tout their superiority, etc. While I like some of the formulated products, especially the AIVS line, no one will supply evidence that their product is better or even safe. We BELIEVE they tested their formulations but I challenge any of them to provide real lab data either to the safety of their product of the effectiveness. The MSDS for the Tergitol types is readily available, no record cleaner manufacturer will supply even that basic knowledge.

    Once again I will state any or all of them MAY be safe and effective but it is a leap of faith to believe they can really test their products. This is not to discount anyones choices or beliefs. Just my $0.02. (bored today)
  17. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Can you elaborate on the differences in your findings with respect to the two types of Tergitol? I know the Library of Congress includes that in its specified fluids, though they also add a qualifier with a nod to commercial products. I thought they used to recommend Photo-flo, but last time I checked, I don't recall seeing it mentioned in the LOC specs available on line.
  18. WntrMute2

    WntrMute2 Forum Resident

    The two types dissolve different things. The 15 S-3 dissolves water soluble material (polar) while the 15 S-9 dissolves oil soluble materials (non-polar). I do one then the other followed by two rinses. Photo-Flo was specifically recommended AGAINST use in record cleaning by Kodak. I used to develop a lot of film and it clearly stated that somewhere in the official Kodak material; maybe even on the label! Again I stress there may be nothing wrong with any particular fluid but I am leaning towards using something I know exactly what is in it and is recommended by 2 sources with no financial interesst. As a bonus, has it in easily dealt with quantities. I guess I just bought a pint of each not a quart as I posted earlier.
  19. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thank you Wntr. I am on a steep learning curve here.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2014
  20. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    One quick update on some the various methods mentioned in my post # 90 that I've now begun exploring. This involves taking a record cleaned, but not dried in an ultrasonic, and drying it on a point nozzle machine. The results are extremely impressive, both with respect to 'problem records' that previous cleanings by different methods did not address, and just to get that last iota of clarity from a cherished disc. Before you conclude that I'm only speaking to the 'ultra-lux' crowd, think about this: you could build a DIY ultrasonic fairly cheaply. (I haven't tried, but the V-8 guy came from the DIY world, as so many other products have). The biggest issue on that front seems to be drying. And what I'm suggesting isn't just a 'solution' to that problem but what may be an improvement over blow drying in commercial machines like the Audio Desk and KL. The point nozzle sucks the fluid out, rather than blow drying it off the record; in the process, I have to assume it is removing the foreign matter more effectively. Since you could conceivably buy a used Loricraft on the cheap (from all those people that gave them up for ultrasonics :)), this may be the best of both worlds.
    Time consuming, perhaps- a little more labor intensive than the 'pop into the toaster' approach of the commercial ultrasonic machines- yep. But, I'm really taken with this approach; not using it on every record, but on some of the problem children and some that I really want to hear at their absolute best.
    And there it is. Again, 'props' to the German audiophile known as 'Syntax' for suggesting this approach.
    Bill Hart
  21. Dentdog

    Dentdog Forum Resident

    I would like to pose a question here. Concerning water temperature and having some understanding of increasing cleaning effectiveness regarding increasing water temps. How hot is OK?
  22. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SUDACA ROƑOSO

    Buy sealed , don't clean and fugetabouit. My policy from now on. Sick of used records.
  23. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I can try, but keep in mind I'm not a chemist, and am learning some of this stuff too. Hot water helps clean things due to various actions that happen at a molecular level- what the contaminants bind with; the heat of the water enhances that process. See this general description, which has nothing to do with vinyl records, but is helpful,
    When 'washing' things, like cars or dishes, most people don't use hot water alone, but also some kind of detergent, which has a similar effect in terms of breaking down and being attractive to certain contaminants, which makes them easier to remove. There are detergents that are designed to work in colder water, and record cleaning fluids have various properties- to break down the surface tension of the water - so it goes into the groove rather than 'beading' on the surface, as well as properties that act like a detergent. Most of us, when using record cleaning fluids, aren't using hot water, but usually room temperature water- and the fluids are designed to work with unheated water. I suppose you might enhance the cleaning properties of these on vinyl by adding heat to the mix, depending on what the various surfactant/fluid consists of, but we often don't know-because it is not disclosed. (Also, heated alcohol could be a problem).
    As to vinyl records, I know the issue of heated water comes up in the context of ultrasonic machines; even without adding a 'heating element,' heat is generated by the transducers. I know that the KL I'm currently using heats the water if you run a number of records through it on a longer cleaning time; a reviewer at The Absolute Sound measured the water temperature after using the KL for a bunch of records, and measured the temps rise, which caused the records to flex. This apparently causes no permanent damage, but the flexing results from the difference in temperature between the vinyl sunk in the bath and the part of the record- the label- that remains 'cool.' (I think KL added some additional cooling to later units- I believe that coincides with the change in the control knob/switch configuration on the unit, but am not sure). Additionally, the guy that offers the V-8 ultrasonic machine- a sort of commercial DIY adapted from a generic ultrasonic machine, says his machine will allow heating up to 120 degree F and indicates that some users claim a benefit. (Don't know, haven't used that machine). An article on the subject by a San Francisco Audio Society also addressed the range of temperatures that were optimal for ultrasonic cleaning: http://sanfranciscoaudiophilesociet...ons-about-cleaning-lp-records-ultrasonically/
    Now, that may not directly answer your question, if you are talking about more conventional (non-ultrasonic) methods, but it gives you a starting point.
    In my current regime, the use of the enzymes probably does what hot water accomplishes to a large degree, and after a pure water rinse, I'm using an ultrasonic (the KL) which will, as mentioned above, add some heat to the water simply through continued use. I'm not sure it is a good idea to expose vinyl to considerable heat- and that's why I'm happy to wash dishes in scalding water, but reluctant to use hot water on my records. I hope that helped, in a round-about way. Probably worth spending some time getting a scientist to nail this down. One of the many things on my long 'to do' list.
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  24. cement_head

    cement_head Forum Resident

    Oxford, Ohio 45056
    I'm finding that more & more, new records do need a good cleaning, and probably extends their life.
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  25. Morbius

    Morbius Forum Resident

    Brookline, MA
    I sourced some 4 mil outer sleeves from Music Direct that perfectly fit gatefolds. $35 for a package of 100.
    Johnny Vinyl likes this.
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