Precision Aqueous Cleaning of Vinyl Records

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Bill Hart, May 20, 2020.

  1. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    [​IMG]

    Anyone who has spent time here, or on other audio fora, has seen all kinds of methods, equipment and processes for cleaning records, from simple low cost techniques involving little more than the kitchen sink to fairly elaborate set ups involving expensive record cleaning gear. One area of potential disagreement is the lack of a consistent measure of what "clean" really means and the inability to assess results other than on a subjective or anecdotal basis.
    There is some science to this in terms of measuring particulate matter and residue, as well as standards for water purity; another area that poses some trouble is assessing what is in the various chemistry that is offered, much of which is considered proprietary and how one chemical may interact with another in the cleaning process as well as with the record itself. Many times, what we are left with is a "sounds clean" assessment based on playing the record. Some of us have compared various commercially available record cleaning fluids, arrived at one that seems to work without leaving apparent residue and going with that.

    Neil Antin, who was a technical authority for NAVSEA, the organization responsible for, among other things, maintaining critical systems for the U.S. Navy, such as oxygen systems for submarines, takes us through a in-depth examination of the cleaning process based on "mil-spec" standards used for precision cleaning of critical systems. There is a lot packed into Neil's analysis, starting with definitions of cleanliness and how it is measured. Rather than suggesting one "best" method for cleaning, Neil takes us through the processes involved in the manual cleaning of a record and studies each step from a chemical, materials compatibility and cleanliness analysis. Much of the learning here can be applied to vacuum record cleaning machines and ultrasonic cleaning devices. Water and air filtration are examined, along with methods to evaluate results. Whether you read this paper and adopt some or all of the methods outlined, or use it to better inform the processes you currently use, there is a lot of value here in understanding the "why" of the cleaning process which helps explain the "how" of it. Neil's observations in Precision Aqueous Cleaning of Vinyl Records are an invaluable contribution to the field and I'm honored to publish it.
    Here is the article introducing the piece, which can be downloaded in its entirety from the article: Precision Aqueous Cleaning of Vinyl Records - The Vinyl Press
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2020
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  2. puroagave

    puroagave Forum Resident

    Location:
    So. California
    Bill thanks for doing this, I downloaded Neil's paper and at first blush its looks well-researched. I see he also uses the vinyl stack and ultrasonic combo, mine has been an invaluable workhorse for that last several years I couldn't live without mine at anywhere near its very reasonable cost.
     
  3. Fdee

    Fdee Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Thanks Bill, looking forward to reading it.
    Record cleaning discussions tend to be polarizing on both virtue and technique, keen to see a Neil’s investigation into it.
     
  4. Phil Thien

    Phil Thien Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    I've only skimmed it but plan to read it more in-depth this evening, thanks for sharing!
     
  5. UTP

    UTP Active Member

    Location:
    Rotterdam
    Thank you! I've been looking at various RCM's for a while to replace my knosti disco. But it's like shopping for a new cartridge... Can't see the wood for the trees.

    And this:
    is exactly what I'd like to learn. So I guess I've got some reading to do.

    Thanks!
     
  6. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Location:
    Katy, TX
    Ok, thanks for the post. I didn't read the article but I did fully read the paper. I'm used to reading these kinds of papers. I used to work for a defense contractor and am more than familiar with reading documents of this sort. The paper is a bit lacking in an area of concern is that the concept of what precisely is clean enough for playback. An elliptical stylus is used as a reference as the author notes an assessment of beyond the plunge of an elliptical point requires the availability of an electron microscope. A lot of us here use higher end cartridges with Shibata or MicroLine tips, so while I think the paper is fully valid for the elliptical cartridge owner, it's insufficient for owners with higher profile stylus tips. I'm not suggesting the information isn't useful, just lacking more in-depth quantification. The author is retired military so, it's more than understandable that his access to the appropriate instrumentation is limited. But, it's unfortunate that this aspect couldn't be fully explored.

    Something interesting I did take from the paper is 35% of found contaminant on a record is diamond dust from stylus wear. Not a lot beyond that. The quantification is simply stated. Some contrast between a record with numeration of playthroughs would have been helpful in assessing the build up of diamond dust help determine the frequency of cleaning your records.
     
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  7. ggergm

    ggergm Down with crappy lite beer and its viruses

    Location:
    Minnesota
    Wow. A scientific approach to record cleaning. Thanks, Bill. Downloaded.

    I've called record cleaning fluids voodoo juices for years because of they require blind belief and acceptance, along with a good measure of chanting, dancing and the casting of spells to work. I'd love to have some studious research behind the cleaning process instead. Clouds of incense only take me so far.
     
  8. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Austin
    I've asked Neil to register here to engage in direct discussion. My understanding is that Neil himself is using Soundsmith cartridges- not sure what stylus shape. That diamond dust figure comes from the Weiler paper, the same one that was the starting point for Mike Bodell's stylus wear article (and something we poked around at in discussing Ray Parkhurst's wear experiment in that thread, but Ray was not in a position to analyze the debris coming off the record). Yeah, having an electron microscope would be nice, eh? I think Neil did offer some tips on checking cleanliness. Thanks for your thoughts, @vinylontubes.
     
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  9. AudioAddict

    AudioAddict Well-Known Member

    Bill: A very useful study done in a professional fashion with plenty of caution signs (LOL). Liked the explanation of vinyl physical composition (pp. 54ff) and the discussion of alcohol as a cleaning agent with pluses and minuses. Neil knows his field and this provides a lot of information that can debunk claims commonly made. Interesting that he stresses manual procedure and find that the US information at the end particularly helpful as it provides specific values for cleaning levels.
    Would love to know what SoundSmith cartridge he prefers. Am thinking of having my 103R re-tipped and improved by them.
    Here is a similar post by a gentleman on this site that also has a scientific nature:
    A (Very Long) Primer on Record Cleaning Fluids
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2020
  10. Phil Thien

    Phil Thien Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Why do the photos on pages 7 and 8 seem to reflect phonograph grooves with a flat bottom and two perpendicular sides?

    I've seen photos like that before (maybe the same ones), am I looking at the photos incorrectly or something?
     
  11. pacvr

    pacvr Active Member

    Location:
    Maryland
    Not sure were you are getting the assessment that the paper establishes cleanliness based on the plunge of a simple elliptical stylus, personally I use the Soundsmith Carmen which is a hyper-elliptical, the Soundsmith Paua that has a Contact Line, and a Ortofon 2M Black with Shibata. The discussion in Section I historical, the debris that Shure analyzed >50 years ago is reflective of what can build up over time, which is different then what will be found when trying to establish initial cleanliness. Section XI of the paper presents a cleanliness level that is an industry standard and is based on remaining residue and particles based on size and quantity; and these criteria are independent of stylus shape. The whole context is to first establish a cleanliness level, and then try to maintain it as best possible. As I said in the paper, the range of soils that can be on a record is very varied which is why I tried to grade the initial condition of the record in Section IV to determine how much chemistry is required. There is such a wide variation in what can be on the record, that the only way to get best playback fidelity is to obtain best achievable cleanliness in the hopes that the critical side wall grooves will be free of as much debris as possible so that the very fine high frequency details can be revealed and not distorted or missed entirely.

    But in relation to your last assessment, how many plays before reclean is required, that was not the objective of the paper at this time. In the paper I present two existential questions - What is Clean? and When is a Vinyl Record Clean? I tried to answer them both, but you pose a third - When does a Vinyl Record Need to Be Reclean? The number of variables involved gets pretty complicated since VTF plays a role in how fast the stylus wears, has prior chemistry embrittled the side wall ridges, what is the chemistry of the vinyl record which is at best only a guess (but the repress material is not great), what if the user allows the stylus to wear excessively, and what if the user is incorrectly using brushes doing more harm than good. For a high pressure oxygen system, once cleanliness was established, if the cleanliness could be maintained, then there was no reason to reclean. The initial cleanliness level established enough margin to avoid recleaning; which is what I proposed in Section XI. If the diamond dust and may be PVC dust being formed is less than 1 micron, then this being about 1/10 the smallest side wall ridge definition is likely of no consequence. But for now I leave that as the dangling proposition.

    Neil
     
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  12. pacvr

    pacvr Active Member

    Location:
    Maryland
    The flat sections are where they sliced the record so it be viewed by the SEM.
     
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  13. wownflutter

    wownflutter Nocturnal Member

    Location:
    Kokomo Indiana
    Ooops, posted in the wrong thread.
     
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  14. Phil Thien

    Phil Thien Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    Yes, I was looking at the photos incorrectly.
     
  15. bluesky

    bluesky Forum Resident

    Location:
    south florida, usa
    Thank You !!
     
  16. pacvr

    pacvr Active Member

    Location:
    Maryland
    If you read my above post I use the Soundsmith Carmen which is a hyper-elliptical, and the Soundsmith Paua that has a Contact Line. Otherwise, I am not intentionally stressing the manual procedure. It is provided so that anyone of any economic status can get to a clean record, and it works very well for me; will I someday move to a vacuum-RCM or UCM, TBD. Some of the cleaning systems discussed using both vacuum-RCM and UCM, easily exceed the cost of many systems. So, the paper is intended for multiple audiences, the first half is for those that may be just beginning and then the second half is for those that have been in the trenches much longer and they will take away different info. As far as the various Cautions, guilty as charged, too many years trying to make things "sailor-proof", and asking "what possessed you to do that" :)
     
  17. AudioAddict

    AudioAddict Well-Known Member

    Enjoyed your fine work and have been back to the paper now twice in order to improve my understanding. Again, it provides very clear substance in an area that is fraught with confusion and manipulation. As an example, a number of posters on this site believe strongly that no lubricants are used in vinyl composition. You point out that these are injected into the composite and they are, of course, required in order to free the record from the mold. Since they then will appear, to some extent, on the surface of a new record several of us believe they are an issue with cleaning new records. Compare Justin Time's discussion of this issue in the link supplied in my post above.
    Keep supplying us with your excellent data and know that your efforts are much appreciated by those of us that benefit from this site's ability to publicize such fine efforts.
    BTW, am much in need of a vacuum-RCM now as my manual RCM is not friendly with arthritis. Sadly, most are unavailable at this time. Perhaps Covid-19 is making the vinyl community more preoccupied with cleaning...or, perhaps, we all just have time.
    Thanks again.
     
  18. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    Good read so far, I completely agree with the static and brushes section. Seems to confirm my understanding of the matter.
     
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  19. pacvr

    pacvr Active Member

    Location:
    Maryland
    Thank-you for the compliment. As far as a vacuum-RCM, I just checked Music Direct Music Direct | Vinyl Records, Turntables, High End Audio Equipment & Accessories and Elusive Disc Elusive Disc | Hardware, Accessories, SACDs, Vinyl LPs, DVDs and More | elusivedisc.com and they both show VPI vacuum-RCMs in-stock, and Audio Advisor Audio Advisor, Inc. appears to have the lower cost but high value Pro-Ject VC E vacuum RSM Pro-Ject VC E Record Cleaning Machine-Audio Advisor available.

    Take care,
    Neil
     
  20. pacvr

    pacvr Active Member

    Location:
    Maryland
    To All,

    Thank-you for your acknowledgements. Please feel free to ask any question regarding the paper, I will do my best to respond. However, please understand that as a new member to this site, all my posts have to first be reviewed by a moderator, so my response can for now be delayed for up to 12-hrs.

    Take care,
    Neil
     
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  21. AudioAddict

    AudioAddict Well-Known Member

    Neil: Thanks for the check. Yes, I bought the VC-E and returned it because it is flawed -- the vacuum output faces the lower portion of the record and defeats the idea of a smaller spindle. It is also poorly made. The larger VC-S Alu is unavailable.
    The VPI machines are just too expensive. Have two of their Prime tables and they are superb. But will not willingly spend $1500 to get the larger VPI that does both directions (absolutely essential). The Okki Nokki One coming out soon appears to check all of the boxes but it appears that September is the earliest it will appear over here.
    Find it odd that in this time of distress by many audio companies that they do not retool to provide vacuum RCMs but perhaps the system is under stress.
     
  22. CMT

    CMT Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    So, I read the entire 85-page piece, which I found interesting. Thanks very much to the author.

    However, I kept thinking the average person isn't going to go to all that trouble. It would be nice to have a summary that suggests how best to approach cleaning records (based on the very detailed and persuasive information here) for those of us likely to, by default, use the tools at hand.

    Just to take one example: The article makes it clear that everyday dish soap isn't the best choice for cleaning records. But, if that's all that's around or easily available, are some types better than others because of ingredients they use or don't use? Is there a particular brand that's better than others?* If you must use dish soap, are there implications for rinsing different from those suggested using the optimal detergent choice? Or, say, if you don't have or can't afford a dedicated brush for scrubbing records, what sort of readily available item would be the best make-do substitute, again based on the very detailed and persuasive information here? Etc.

    *Yes, a brand is recommended, but it's a comparatively expensive brand that has to be ordered and shipped from a specialty house and comes in containers much larger than most people will ever need for cleaning records. I mean among brands likely to be available at Kroger's or Safeway, or Whole Foods that the average person would also wash their dishes with. Perhaps no such lesser-evil-among-evils brand exists?

    I'm embarrassed now after reading this to admit to the method of cleaning records I've used for 40 years, but it's worked for me. Yes, it involves dish soap**. :)

    **Although I relatively rarely "wash" records at all--only in cases where the record looks clean but is nevertheless very noisy, or in cases when there's clearly something visible on the surface--as I find records nearly always quiet enough if always cleaned on the turntable before and after each play with the old Discwasher system (and I do buy used records frequently at thrift stores and used record stores, although shunning the crappy-looking ones altogether). After washing (or if just Discwasher-cleaned before play) they may never be clean by the objective standards outlined in this paper, but, if I can't hear the noise, then I'm really not too worried about it. The only thing is that the original Discwasher D4 fluid is no longer available, so I use a mixture of distilled water with a small amount of isopropyl acohol in it and a tiny bit of dish soap--very tiny. I admit that that formulation is based on Internet hearsay and not on anything scientific--which again is why it would be nice--to take another example--to have pointers on how to make the best D4-type cleaning fluid, based on the detailed, objective, and persuasive data offered in this paper.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2020
  23. pacvr

    pacvr Active Member

    Location:
    Maryland
    In Section II of the report, a pretty straight forward overview of the process is provided. But, the context of the paper is s a full wet process and as I tried to emphasize in the article I was not going to get into formulating cleaners. If you went over to the site referenced in Section VII that shows what is in household detergents, the ingredient list is impressive, and the formulations are constantly changing. The Alconox Liquinox product is readily available at a reasonable cost https://www.amazon.com/Alconox-Liquinox-Critical-Cleaning-Detergent/dp/B003FZAQKG?th=1 and I tried to address that a record that was quiet was not necessarily clean. Also, I am not a fan of applied cleaners/brushes that do not have a follow-up final DIW rinse, because the risk of residue build-up is high. Some years ago I used similar to the Disc Washer, the Mobile Fidelity brush that has the benefit of replaceable pads. But now once I establish cleanliness following the wet-process, I use no brushes as addressed in Section VI of the paper. However, if you are satisfied with what you what you have, then there is the old saying if it's not broke, don't fix it, and I respect that, and with that thinking Disc Washer, replacement D4 fluid in a spray appears readily available and quite cheap "RCA D4+ Discwasher Vinyl Record Cleaning Fluid Refill 1.69 fl. oz. (50mL)" from www.parts-express.com! . I am not endorsing this product, other than advising that it is available; there is no MSDS and I do mot know what is in it. FYI - I did for a while use a lensing cleaning solution that was safe for coated optics that had a full MSDS and ingredient list with the Mobile Fidelity brush the same way you would use the Disc Washer, and I found that it ultimately caused more problems than it solved - which is why I explored the whole wet cleaning process, and how I got to where I am today.

    Take Care, Neil
     
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  24. CMT

    CMT Forum Resident

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    Interesting. What problems exactly did using a brush cause? Primarily the residue build-up you mention? I have a modest LP collection compared with many people here--about 700 discs. I typically listen to about four a day. While, naturally, I listen to some more than others, any individual disc probably gets played no more than two or three times a yea, if that, and many are played maybe once in several years. There are, of course, discs that get played very seldom--say once in ten years or more. Can residue build-up really be that big a problem for any particular disc?

    Not trying to be disputative or play devil's advocate, just trying to look at it from a practical perspective. Thoughts much appreciated.

    As for the detergent. It's $30.06 for that container as compared with $4 or so for a small bottle of Dawn or something, which is likely to be prohibitive for a lot of people, but I get what you're saying about detergent formulations being undisclosed and changeable.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2020
  25. pacvr

    pacvr Active Member

    Location:
    Maryland
    Thanks for the feedback, yes with the vacuum output directed to the record, its just recontaminating the record and you are dead-on that fwd and backward operation is critical to good cleaning. I was surprised to see the cost of the VPI Cyclone had jumped, the last I checked last year it was about $1100. Like yourself I have a VPI turntable, its a modified TNT - I added an 1/4" aluminum constrained layer plate and now at almost 100-lbs with 2 arms its a beast, and like yourself - its superb - there is a picture of it at the VPI Forum, Customer Pictures, VPI TNT One of Kind. Otherwise good luck with your hunt for a vacuum-RCM.
     

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