Cleaning Records - the cheap way!

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~ I'm a record-collector, and find that old records sound a heck-of-a-lot better if you clean them. Dirt, FAR more than scratches, makes old records sound bad. I could "bore for England" about cleaning records, and here's my chance! Years of experience talking here..

There are various devices you can buy, about which more later. However, I do 7" singles for almost zero cost, likewise really grubby LPs (which are machine-cleaned afterwards).

Whaddya need?
A washing-up bowl that you don't use for anything else - try your local pound-shop!
A brush. Must be real bristles, not nylon or whatever. A shoe-brush is good, and available. New! If you can find a stiffish clothes-brush, that's even better - bigger, easier to hold. Bristles should be stiffish, so it "digs-into" the grooves.
Detergent - washing-up liquid if you must, but "pure" detergent is better, has no gungy additives. Available on e-bay, I forget the name, a small bottle lasts for years.
Rubber gloves - household type, thick is good, you can use hotter water.
Hot water
Time
Records!

Momentary digression - some things are less tough than vinyl, and won't damage records. Bristle brushes are one, human fingernails are another. Lumps of stuff on records can safely be removed with your fingernails. Also hot water WON'T warp a record. In the case of thin LPs, they bow / curl under a hot tap, but then spring back into shape (i.e. flat!). Try it on one you don't value, and believe your eyes.. Labels are usually impervious (and get cleaned too..) but watch out for labels that are damaged, bubbled, or stuck on by amateurs (groups used to stick on labels, and fold & stick sleeves, in early days - The Exploited, and 10,000 Maniacs for example.) On the other hand, real sixties record-company labels are tough, and bonded-onto the vinyl while it's still hot.

Right! Fill bowl, about 2/3 full , and as hot as you can stand to keep your gloved hands in. As it fills, add ONE DROP of washing-up liquid, or two drops of pure detergent (it comes in a dropper-bottle). TINY amounts, otherwise you'll end up with detergent left in the grooves, then on your stylus - which is bad. Shove the detergent foam off the surface of the water, it doesn't help.

Grasp record - thumb on top, fingers underneath. Your hand is going to be the Amazing Human Turntable. By "walking" your fingers underneath the record, you rotate it. This works particularly well in rubber gloves. With the record at least half-submerged, rotate it (your rotating fingers are in the water)and scrub the grooved part with your brush. Scrub at the area that's partly submerged - going below the surface of the water, and just back out again - this gets the dirt off and into the water. Go round about 3 whole rotations. Angle the brush so that bristles are "digging into" the record (which gets down into the grooves - we're cleaning it, not grooming it!). Take it out of the bowl.. Then, turn on hot-tap, and run hot water all over the surface, which gets detergent and residue off. Repeat for the other side - though if you don't care about the b-side, save yourself the bother!

Put record in something, to dry. The old wire-type record racks (for singles) are super for this, but your own plate-rack you put washing-up in after it's washed, will do. Leave for however long it takes to get properly dry.

Replace the water every so often -perhaps about every 20 or so records. You'll notice the water goes brownish! Run brush under hot-tap sometimes, to keep it clean.

If you live in an area with cruddy water (it's about 30% chalk where I live!), leave records for a couple of hours, and then take the last of the water off with kitchen towel or micro-fibre cloths. That avoids leaving residue from the actual water on the record - the residue collects into the last few drops of water during drying, somehow!

This procedure will get the record nice and clean - no machine will do it better, on singles.
If you're lucky, and the record was undamaged under the grime, you've got a record that's good as new. Even awful-looking, beat-up ones are likely to play, and be enjoyable, between crackles. Very few singles are totally beyond use.
For LPs, you have gotten the worst off, but there's probably further improvement possible - I have a (kit-form) Moth record-cleaning machine, that I've had since the 80's, but the Okki-Nokki machine looks good too. They come with instructions, but my one tip is, get the Okki Nokki goat-hair application brush, it's the perfect thing for scrubbing the record with as it rotates on the machine. Don't use expensive fluid, use a 5-to-one mix of distilled water and 99%-pure Isopropanol (alcohol). There is no need to add detergent to the mixture.

These days, new records sometimes have a film of "releasant" on. This spoils sound and clogs stylus.New LPs can be cleaned on record-cleaning machine, or the Spin-Clean device is good, for getting off this thin film of annoying stuff.
The other cleaning device, the Knosti Disco-Antistat, is good for singles, only about as good as hand-washing as described above. If you're even more obsessive than I am, you can hand-wash then use the Disco-Antistat (same fluid recipe as above). You can "scrub" the record backwards-and forwards (then move it round a bit, and repeat..) to get a great result.

And that's about it - welcome to good-sounding records, and very rarely having to clean your stylus! Records are easier to clean than your stylus is....

 
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