This is a guide to Record Cleaning Machines which I have used or own. All records need to be cleaned before playing as this will prolong the life of the stylus as well as the records sounding much clearer. Expensive Moving Coil cartridges do not have replaceable sylii. Dirt, dust and debris WILL damage stylii and the record. Do not rely on the advice of Linn for their Sondek LP12 where they do not recommend cleaning machines, Linn suggest playing dirty records then clean the stylus. They are wrong. Even brand new records can have stamper release agents and anti-fungal chemicals on them which can mar the true sound of the recording.
The Keith Monks, VPI, Moth, Nitty Gritty etc. Record Cleaning Machines all use the same principle of wet clean and vacuum dry. Some are more automated than others. I chose the Moth because their factory is only 15 miles from my home and they were the cheapest. I liked the idea of their Mark II where it has a clockwise and an anti-clockwise feature for cleaning stubborn debris. I chose the kit option where I had to make the cabinet myself. The instructions were quite straight forward and it works very well although very, very noisy. The price was 255GBP less a 10% discount via a special offer (now £335). They were very helpful and even told me how to make up my own fluid. This has saved me a lot of money as cleaning fluid from Moth and the other manufacturers is quite expensive particularly as I have 10,000 records. However, I have discussed cleaning fluids with Keith Monks and they do not recommend Isoproponol Alcohol, therefore I now use their formula.
I also have a Nitty Gritty 2.5Fi which came with a record collection and although it looks very nice it doesn’t have a reverse direction feature. The Nitty Gritty is $529 new and I think the Moth is better value and appears to have a more powerful vacuum and can easily clean 12 inch, 10 inch and 7 inch records. The Nitty Gritty can only clean 12 inch records. However, it is easier to use and has a semi-automatic pump for conveying the cleaning fluid to the cleaning lips. Unfortunately, the sealant under the fluid reservoir deteriorates quite quickly and has to be resealed (poor design by the American manufacturers). Also, the Nitty Gritty overheats after cleaning about 5 records and becomes so hot that it could warp the records. Therefore I cannot recommend the Nitty Gritty. I haven’t used a VPI so I cannot really comment on how good they are but as they are one of the most expensive they probably work very well but may not be as good value as the Moth. I have had records cleaned for me (before I owned my own machines) on a Keith Monks but there didn't appear to be a great deal of difference in the cleaness of the record from other machines. Therefore I can fully recommend Moth but NOT Nitty Gritty. However, the Moth vacuum arm has a tendency to twist when in the reverse function and by it's design can mark the record at the run-off groove. I have had to file and smooth down the edges of the blanking plug at the end of the vacuum tube to stop it damaging records. I have also stabilised the arm so it can no longer move.
Some records are so ingrained with dust and debris which is stuck fast to the grooves that more than one clean may be necessary. I tend to always clean a record before playing. I clean the stylus before placing it on the record. I check the stylus with a 30x magnifier and if there is debris on the stylus after playing I clean the record again. Sometimes it can take 3 or 4 cleans and plays before a record is perfectly clean. However, most records clean up nicely with just one clean. It is only those records with a sticky residue which can take more than one clean.
The Moth cleans the record of all dust and debris and afterwards I zap the record with a Zerostat gun to clear it of static. The results are excellent. However, any groove damage or scratches will still sound and there is nothing that can be done with these problems. As some records are more than 50 years old they are more prone to groove damage because some of the people playing the records didn’t fully understand the correct set up for the turntables, tonearms, cartridges and stylus, ie playing them at 8g . More modern records clean up nicely as most people were/are using decent equipment with correctly balanced tonearms etc. at 1.5g - 2g.
I only charge 1.99GBP for cleaning each LP and supplying a high quality poly lined inner sleeve (you do not put clean feet into dirty socks), 1.99GBP for 7" singles plus a new, white sleeve. Obviously the original inner sleeve will also be supplied with the record. (7" singles take more time to clean because Record Cleaning Machines are designed for 12" records and 7" records take more time to set up correctly).
The top of the range Keith Monks Omni MK.VII is currently £2,995 compared with the Moth at around £250. I will let you decide which one is value for money. In my opinion there is no difference in cleaning ability as long as you use the correct fluid and the machine has a vacuum of 20 inches of mercury. I am a qualified engineer and used to review, purchase and use vacuum pumps over a 28 year career in engineering design and management. There is no point having a very expensive stainless steel medical quality vacuum pump if it still only gives you 20 inches of mercury. It may be a lot quieter but is it worth spending thousands of pounds for quietness when it doesn't give you any more vacuum than a cheaper pump as on the Moth?
The most important item is not the cleaning machine but the fluid that is used.
Below is a photo of my Moth MKII Record Cleaning Machine. The record being cleaned is a 1st label Dark Side of the Moon.
Click on the link below for more photos of my Moth MKII which was made from a kit and to buy Record Cleaning Fluid.