Best Practices Record Cleaning

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

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  1. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    The contaminants that seem to be the worst, and hardest to remove, are cigarette (or other) smoke, as well as old fluids, whether they were "record cleaning fluids" that weren't effectively removed by earlier 'cleanings' or other stuff that was wiped on the record, and over time, glued the particulates into the grooves or are themselves a form of contamination that creates groove noise.
    The enzymes are those purpose-marketed for record products: I used Walker's Prelude stuff for a number of years and eventually transitioned to an easier (and in my view), more effective two step process: AIVS No. 15, followed by a reagent rinse. (Frumkin, who started the company, was, like me, a lawyer; according to the lore, he worked with a chemist to develop the formulae and then sold the company to Jim Pendleton who has an engineering background).
    As to what's actually in the bottle, couldn't tell you. As to how effective it is (and I don't get paid for this), letting the enzyme-based fluid soak, agitate, soak, and vacuum, has proved to be very effective in getting rid of stuff that other purpose-sold record cleaning fluids didn't effective remove. (The soaking and agitating as well as the rinse step are essential). For what it's worth, though the ultrasonic cleaners I've owned can do a marvelous job - giving you a very quiet, static-free record with almost zero effort, they didn't tackle some of the problem records mentioned below.
    I've tried a range of different fluids (not all) and there seem to be a number of factors at play; breaking the surface tension of the fluid, to let it migrate into the grooves, how well it cleans (based on results in listening), how easy it is to remove- I remember when I used to detail my own cars, most of the detailers used 'Dawn' detergent as a 'stripper' to remove layers of old wax, etc. to begin to prep the finish for work. So, a 'standard' detergent seems a bit much for several reasons- maybe too harsh, it foams, and may be more difficult to remove.
    I've tried to get more information from a few of the fluid suppliers and they are usually 'mum' about the secret ingredients- not that I'm either gullible or a skeptic: I know serious archivists that swear by Photo-Flo and distilled or deionized water. Or use the formula on the LOC site based on Tergitol. I also had the impression that while alcohol might be a decent solvent, one of its chief virtues was its evaporative ability. I'm not against using an alcohol-based cleaner.
    I'm not claiming some 'inside' knowledge- in fact, I'd love to learn more (and have been spending some time doing the research, though I am not a chemist). My conclusions are based in large part on my experience using a variety of machines, methods, fluids , cleaning thousands of records in just the last several years and the biggest learning curve for me was not, as I said, claiming to hear the flugelhorn better on a record after using one cleaner vs. another, but struggling to clean some valuable records that still still suffered from some form of contamination-- that sounded like groove damage-- even after repeated cleanings. Some of these did clean up after cleaning them using a combination of different fluids, methods and repeated cleaning, including the use of ultrasonic machines. No one of these cleaning methods or fluids or machines achieved those results standing alone, even with repeated cleanings using one method, machine or fluid. Which leads me to the conclusion, purely based on empirical evidence from my efforts, and listening to the results (which were not subtle- the difference between noise, distortion and what I call the sound of 'groove chew') that a combination of methods is more effective in eliminating* than one method alone. As I said at the outset, I have no agenda, am pretty agnostic as to products, machines and the like. At bottom, I'm trying to come to grips with all this, and get a better understanding of it- and to share what I've learned.
    *Not all records will clean up even with all these efforts. Some are just damaged or noisy- either because the vinyl was noisy to begin with, or the records were damaged beyond salvaging through cleaning.
     
    Cassius, Tommyboy and 1970 like this.
  2. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    The difference isn't in the fluid application but in the removal of the contaminated fluid from my perspective- otherwise, agreed, even with the Monks, which has a fluid application system, I apply the fluids manually; it's the vacuum part that makes the difference in my estimation.
     
    HiFi Guy likes this.
  3. Analogman

    Analogman Well-Known Member

    I have in all likelihood cleaned as many or more as well................I too have wasted a ton of money, early on, on packaged record cleaning solutions and concentrates which were no better than the "home made" solutions I use now
    Your experience is whatever you choose to perceive it to be
    I don't want, nor am I prepared to argue with that; it's a losing game
    You're going to "believe" whatever you wish to believe

    That being said, nothing you have indicated here changes the facts and realities of science and basic chemistry
    Everything you have said to me is however 100% anecdotal and circumstantial at best
    (and I have not said once that my home brew was better than what any of you guys are buying, NOT ONCE; all I have said is that you are paying a lot of money for what is nothing more than a placebo effect over what you can make for yourselves for pennies on the dollar and obtain results that are just as good if not better, THAT'S what I have been saying))

    Some people speak as if one must be an MIT grad to have any grasp of what is required to clean plastic, or that some great scientific insight is required to find out what is required and how to mix the very basic chemicals required to do so; might have been the case 40 years ago, but today, thanks in large part to the internet alone, that is hardly the case
    What makes it even more entertaining to me is that even with that great resource of objective, quantifiable and verifiable information and data available today so many are still drawn to the bright and shiny ad copy of the snake oil salesman

    To be clear, I also want to point out that I do NOT suggest the use of "dish sop" as a principle for the cleaning of phonograph records

    What I DO suggest is that it is an essential ingredient, one of several, to formulate any effective cleaning solution, be it "home brew" or "commercial" (as you put it)
    "Dish soap" is simply the generic moniker for the type of detergent required to do one of the several jobs a successful solution must be able to do, and do well, in order to clean plastic
    It is readily available, off the shelf, in the form of "Dawn", my "soap of choice"
    It's contribution to the formula as far as percentage is small, but again, essential, and I am quite certain that it exists in your "store bought" products as well (the active ingredients) but
    I will never be able to "prove" that to you because the makers of your preferred products, for some inexplicable reason(s) (wink wink) refuse to list the ingredients in their potions
    As "commercial" record cleaning solutions are not a food or medical (health) product, and most of them are NOT flammable, they are not subject to the scrutiny of the FDA or any other governing agency as for requiring them to list their key or active ingredients

    I take, and will adamantly defend the position that if there were anything truly "special" or exclusively specific required, ingredients wise, to compound and sell these well marketed bottles of what is mostly water, the "manufacturers" would have no problem printing them on the label
    Coca-Cola does it, Pepsi-Cola does it, the drugs companies do it, a box of cake mix has it, OTC drugs do it...............my point is, that if any of these wonderful, over priced bottles of magic potions really had anything to them then the "manufacturers" would have no problem whatsoever doing so, as it is the RECIPE, meaning the quantities (amounts, percentages, volume and more importantly processing (if any) that makes any formulation or compound a proprietary one, NOT JUST the raw materials
    And more importantly than that fact, it is the "recipe" that determines the final outcome as far as efficacy is concerned

    I can "tell" you (more accurately, direct you to the irrefutable material) with the aid of well established science and facts why my solution works; how it works, why it works, what parts of it do what and why..................down to the very last detail
    Can you do the same with the commercial formulas you prefer? Beyond citing me the maker's ad copy and claims?
    I don't think you can, because you have NO IDEA what's even in the stuff you're shelling out good money to buy (although I already know what 98% of it is by volume). yet you are willing to tell me that it's better than what I use o_O

    And as for the now recurring "enzymes" theme; please explain to me how a protein, a biological catalyst, works in cleaning records (unless, as I previously queried they are covered with grass stains or blood etc)

    I'm done with this one; do as you like, believe what you like, as long as you're happy about it that's all that matters
     
  4. Analogman

    Analogman Well-Known Member

    I just posted; I'm out of this one

    Your quote above is all I'm going to read of your tome; in addition, the reference to the "cigarette smoke" was all I needed to validate my decision; straight out of the pages of of the "sales pitches handbook"...........sorry

    Have a wonderful evening :tiphat:
     
  5. stenway

    stenway Forum Resident

    Location:
    FL, USA
    ways/suggestions to drying a record without touch it after an DIY Ultrasonics bath???

    this guy spin the record with a strange machine... I looks like a heavy spin, maybe dangerous for the record.
     
    Grant likes this.
  6. batman144144

    batman144144 Nocturnal crime fighter/audio enthusiast.

    I'm hoping some of the more experienced vinyl enthusiasts can help me out here. I've heard conflicting claims about record cleaning solutions with alcohol. I've heard some claim that alcohol will damage the plasticizer in the vinyl, as well as damage the high-frequency information on the album and even cause sibilance. Conversely, I've heard that alcohol will only do any damage if it's left on the surface for several minutes, and that, in fact, any chemical in your solution runs the same sort of risks.

    My question is, have any of you actually had any damage caused to your vinyl by an alcohol solution?
     
  7. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SLEAZY SOUTHAMERICAN CAVEMAN

    I wouldn't let alcohol get anywhere near my vinyl, other than the little there may be on the 80% distilled water/20% window cleaner mix I've been using for the last 20 years.
     
  8. Grant

    Grant Now let that bass fall in! Oh yeah!

    Location:
    United States
    Why would ammonia, a common window cleaning agent, be better than alcohol?
     
  9. Grant

    Grant Now let that bass fall in! Oh yeah!

    Location:
    United States
    I'm intrigued with using an ultrasonic bath for records. but, how expensive are they?
     
  10. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SLEAZY SOUTHAMERICAN CAVEMAN

    Because it is a hell of a surfactant and not aggressive on plastics. Cheap as chips to boot.
     
  11. Grant

    Grant Now let that bass fall in! Oh yeah!

    Location:
    United States
    I'll try a few drops of straight ammonia added to distilled water.
     
  12. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SLEAZY SOUTHAMERICAN CAVEMAN

    Use window cleaner 20%/distilled water 80%. Of course rinse abundantly with distilled water afterwards. A few drops won't cut it; never damaged any records in 20 years and they're so clean the stylus collects nothing. Never use my brush.
     
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  13. batman144144

    batman144144 Nocturnal crime fighter/audio enthusiast.

    Check out this guy from Ameoba Records in San Francisco. He uses straight isopropyl alchohol. I almost wonder if Amoeba Records will demand he take this down.
     
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  14. Grant

    Grant Now let that bass fall in! Oh yeah!

    Location:
    United States
    I just wonder about all those other ingredients they commonly put in window cleaner, like Windex.
     
  15. Grant

    Grant Now let that bass fall in! Oh yeah!

    Location:
    United States
    I've used 91% isopropyl to clean records, and it doesn't do a damn bit of good. It may look clean, but I doubt it takes the dirt off. The visual isn't everything.
     
  16. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    Lot's of fluid formulas used to contain a little bit of alcohol, and some still do. I don't think a quick exposure to some alcohol as part of a solution is necessarily harmful to vinyl, but you don't want to soak the record in it for any length of time. I also don't think alcohol is necessarily the best solvent for a lot of the material that plagues records. It does evaporate pretty fast, which is good. My recollection is that Jim Pendleton, the guy who owns Audio Intelligent, offers both types of fluids. If you call him at Osage Audio (I think that's the company name), he's pretty accessible. Are you mixing a home brew or looking for a commercial fluid?
     
  17. Vinyl Addict

    Vinyl Addict Forum Resident

    Location:
    MA

    Really? I figured it would work well. Is it because it evaporates too fast to soak in?
     
  18. macdaddysinfo

    macdaddysinfo Forum Resident

    Are the fluids that go in the vpi vacuum machines not good..?
     
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  19. JBStephens

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

    Location:
    South Mountain, NC
    I use 100% plain clear ammonia to clean 78's. Not diluted at all. But you do need a vacuum record cleaning machine. Do not use "sudsy" ammonia. Of course the ammonia you buy at the supermarket is already diluted. Pure ammonia (as used in freezers) will kill you.
     
    Grant likes this.
  20. Mike 33

    Mike 33 Active Member

    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Hi guys,

    Have a look at the GT SONIC professional ultrasonic cleaners.

    One can set temperature and timer, though out of the box it is a full manual process.

    You have to DIY a construction to get 1/4 of the record in the bath but at €179 (my brother in law payed for it) it seems to work wonders.

    The fluids my brother in law uses are distilled water and a fluid to break the surface tension of the water.

    Temparature at 45C and 2 min. per 1/4 of a record before a manual turn, basically a 8-10 min. process per 2 lps.

    When done with the cleaning process the record is dried with a HAIRDRYER with ionisation function, dryer to be used at modest levels.


    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2016
  21. batman144144

    batman144144 Nocturnal crime fighter/audio enthusiast.

    I'm really just wondering about whether alcohol is harmful because I hear opposite claims. I've heard people say it deadens high frequency information. I think all of the solutions I've used over the years have contained alcohol. I used to use Discwasher D2 and D3 back in the day. Today I use mofi fluid...I think it's the One-step...but I add a bit of alcohol so that it evaporates more quickly. Since I don't use a vacuum or a rinse stage, I don't want to leave a lot of sludge at the bottom of the groove. I actually spray the solution onto a vintage Discwasher brush. (I've heard the RCA version isn't the greatest.) I'll clean one side of vinyl like this probably three times or so to get the job done. Even after doing one side like this, the brush is just barely damp because of evaporation. Seems to work fine.
     
  22. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    I'm speculating a little here, since I'm not a chemist but:
    a small amount of alcohol diluted with other fluids (in your case, a commercial "one-step") is probably not going to harm a vinyl record but I'm wondering why you think it is beneficial in your case? The commercial fluid presumably contains some surfactant/detergent which is going to reduce the surface tension of water to penetrate the grooves--one of the things that alcohol can help do in a home brew mix;
    You said you've added the alcohol mainly because it evaporates quickly--suggesting that using it leads to a quicker drying time?
    If you aren't using a vacuum machine, the biggest issue I see is that you are applying fluid, wiping it with the Discwasher brush and using small fluid amounts, your record appears dry. The evaporation of the alcohol will still leave on the record whatever sediment or contaminants your fluid mix has loosened, so the real question is whether you are able to get that fluid/contaminant mix off the record without a vacuum machine. You'd probably hear this if the loosened stuff is still on the record after it fully dries. (It might even sound worse, which is why a badly cleaned record can be noisier).
    If it were me, I would do a rinse step, using some kind of "pure" water (distilled, deionized or water that has undergone multiple purifying steps); you can do this without a vacuum machine, using microfibre cloths.
    Obviously, a vacuum machine would take it up a few notches and there are inexpensive 'kits' to make the cost of the machine less painful.
    My biggest concern, generally, is leaving any kind of fluid on the record and even if the alcohol itself evaporates, the rest of the fluid mix, with loosened contaminants, will remain. Thus, the rinse step.
    I'm not sure if I answered your question directly- will the alcohol as you presently use it harm the record? I suspect not, in very small quantities, if you remove it. But, for the reasons I described, I'm not sure it is a very effective cleaner. I was told that the original Monks (the granddaddy of record cleaning machines) was used with vodka-- but the formulation of fluids has changed over time, partly due to the commercial aspects and partly due to use of things like enzyme-based cleaners.
     
    Grant likes this.
  23. Grant

    Grant Now let that bass fall in! Oh yeah!

    Location:
    United States
    My guess is that you just spread it, and the dirt around, then the the alcohol evaporates and still leaves the dirt. If you don't have something to lift up the dirt and remove it, you're wasting your time.
     
    Vinyl Addict likes this.
  24. Grant

    Grant Now let that bass fall in! Oh yeah!

    Location:
    United States
    The stuff they sell in the stores still has a high enough concentration of ammonia to make you woozy and cause your lungs to fill with fluid. If it weren't for that, I can't see why it wouldn't make an ideal record cleaner.
     
  25. jsternbe

    jsternbe Forum Resident

    Location:
    Knoxville, TN USA
    You can get a 6L ultrasonic cleaner (a good size for LPs) for about $140 on amazon or lots of other places. A 1 rpm or 0.5 rpm motor can be bought for about $25 at a place that sells parts for amateur robotics. That is what I used, along with some PVC pipe, all-thread, etc. The whole thing was less than $200 and does a fantastic job, especially when also used with a simple record vacuum.
     
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