Keep your vinyl records safe, sounding great, and retaining their value with this simple guide!
Like anything you own, your records need care and attention if you want them to remain in good condition. If you’re a keen record collector, you know just how quickly a record can go from Mint to Near Mint and all the way down to Very Good+!
The good news is that there are a few solid rules that will keep you on the right track in keeping your wax in stellar condition, perfect for listening or preserving.
Let’s get started:
Dust and Dirt Leads to Scratches
When you play a record you want it to sound as good as possible, but you also want to protect your record from elements that can build up over time.
Records can be charged with static, particularly if the inner sleeve is made of paper or cardboard, this means it attracts dust, hair, and dirt like a literal magnet. One way you can avoid this is by utilizing anti-static inner sleeves with your full collection. They are perfect for protecting your record and if we can say, they look darn good too.
Even with anti-static sleeves, the odd bit of dust might find its way onto your record. Either using an anti-static brush or microfiber cloth will be ample in wiping these away- and this is a must for keeping your records in their best condition. Failing to do so will begin the inevitable scratches that will build up to degrade both the quality and grading of your record, which is precisely what you don’t want to happen!
Should you come across a record in need of some TLC, there are lots of options available, ranging from sprays and cloths, all the way up to expensive purpose-built record cleaning machines. Hey, you’re on a budget and looking to clean up that copy of Abbey Road you got down the car boot sale? Then a basic spray with brush and cloth will be more than ample. An example is this care kit from AM Clean Sound- whose products are slightly above bargain basement prices but provide reliable, well-designed kit. Well worth the few extra pounds!
IKEA Kallax is your friend
Storing your records is a pivotal part of owning a record collection. You spin an album a few times a month, sure, but the rest of the time- where does it live? We have some recommendations.
In addition to the previously mentioned inner sleeves, we swear by Blake Sleeves. These are outer, super thin, crystal clear sleeves that protect your albums from dust, wear and tear (and give them a fantastic retail feel even after you’ve went through the shrink wrap!) – Unlike other materials, these don’t make your albums feel bulky with yellow-stained covers you might find in old school record stores.
Finally, stacking your records risks warping and even cracking, so make sure you store your records vertically, just as you do books. Invest in some decent storage. Whether you love or hate IKEA (or just tolerate them for Swedish meatballs and jam) their KALLAX range really is the gold standard for LP storage.
In good sleeves and shelves (as long as you’ve put them together properly!) you can feel confident your records will come to no harm.
Align and Monitor your Turntable
There’s a big difference between being cheap and being good value, and there are countless stories about cheap kit damaging records. The resurgence of vinyl has seen turntables sold almost everywhere, often marketed more as a novelty. But while you might be grateful to that Crosley briefcase turntable for (re)igniting your love of vinyl, your records won’t be grateful if you keep using it. These units are often cheaply made, meaning lower quality sound, and usually have a much heavier arm, meaning more wear on the records.
If you are serious about vinyl — and if you are reading this, then you probably are — upgrade your kit as soon as you can. This needn’t be expensive, entry-level turntables from TEAC or Audio Technica offer impressive quality and can be cheaper than the novelty turntable you are replacing.
And, as well as using a good turntable, make sure you use it properly. Always let the turntable stop before placing or removing a record to avoid scratching the bottom surface. And never manually place the arm, since this can result in accidental scratching, always use the turntable’s need drop function.
And, finally, make sure your arm is properly balanced. It takes a bit of time and trial and error, but you will learn a lot about the sound of vinyl and how your setup will affect it. The vinyl factory has a great guide on how to adjust the balance.
Once you are set up, that wipe with an anti-static cloth, and browsing through your shelves of LPs, will soon become an enjoyable part of the experience, and you won’t even realise you are helping your records enjoy a long life.