Whether you’re new to the vinyl game or have been at it so long that you refer to your collection as “he” or “she”, one things for certain, if you want to enjoy your records years from now without them sounding like a bowl of Rice Krispies, there are a few techniques you should follow when it comes to the handling, cleaning and storage of your vinyl. We present the Groove Vinyl Record Care 101 guide.
You should handle the disc by the edges and labeled surface only and avoid touching the playing surface whenever possible. If at all possible, it would be best if you handled the record exclusively from the outer edges to prevent any transference of skin oils. Unfortunately records don’t yet offer the same touch identification that your iPhone does so leaving your fingerprints all over them won’t do anyone much good. It’s also been recommended elsewhere that wearing thin, clean cotton gloves is advisable however if you’re at a point where you’re handling your collection with thin, clean cotton gloves you probably are not reading a guide titled Record Care 101 (unless you happen to be a magician or civil war general).
As with most things in life, you can spend as little or as much time as you want on an activity and the results will reflect the effort. If your disc looks to be in fairly decent shape with only a light amount of dust visible, a quick pass over with a good carbon fiber record cleaning brush will serve you well. How do you use a carbon fiber brush you ask?
So that’s the basic cleaning for relatively well-kept records. Unfortunately, as any avid collector knows, this won’t cut the mustard for the goodwill and garage sale finds that haven’t seen the light of day since the were last taken for a spin at a LSD fueled swingers party in ’72. Those discs will require a bit more TLC in order to bring back to serviceable condition and to remove the grime, oils and acids from yesteryear. Here are the basics to accomplish this.
The two methods above should cover all your basic record care needs. If the time spent cleaning records is beginning to feel like a part (or full) time job, then there are some more industrial minded options available however our recommendation would be the Spin-Clean MK2 Record Washer. Using this bad boy you can knock out a days worth of crate digging in short order and leave yourself enough time to actually listen to the music!
If you’ve made it this far and followed the first two steps, you’re off to a great start in the care and maintenance of your records. Nail this last step and one day, long after you’re gone, Brandi and Jarrod offspring might be duking it out with cyborg housed consciousness of Dave Hester for a chance to buy the storage locker containing your record collection! In all seriousness though, proper storage of your records is paramount in ensuring long life and playability. Let’s do this.
First things first. If you’ve bought some recently remastered 180g vinyl or even if you have some decades old first edition original in cellophane (opened mind you), the first thing you should do is remove it and throw it out. Shrink wrap will actually shrink over time and if it’s still wrapped around your precious vinyl, it will warp the jacket and possibly the contents. Replace this shrink wrap with (shameless Groove Vinyl product plug incoming…) our Vinyl Jimmy Hats Premium Outer Record Sleeves which are copy-safe (meaning they won’t stick to your album cover) and fit like OJ’s glove. Ditto goes for any paper inner sleeves which will scratch your records every time you take them out for a spin. As we aren’t yet in the inner sleeve game, we’d recommend using Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab Master Record Sleeves which are excellent inner record sleeves (just don’t tell them we said so).
Once you’ve double bagged it, it’s time to stick it in… the shelf, you pervert.
Shelf rule #1: Never stack your records on their sides
Shelf rule #2: NEVER stack your records on their sides
Your records (assuming you want them to remain flat) should always be stored in an absolutely vertical position. If you stack them horizontally, eventually the outline of the record will begin to show through the jacket (otherwise known as ring wear). Ring wear was actually the inspiration for our Vinyl Jimmy Hats as we noticed an improperly stored record jacket resembled a foil-wrapped condom (luckily we still had that one in our wallets from senior prom for comparison purposes). To further reduce ring wear it’s also a good idea not to pack your shelf too tightly. Some collectors have also taken to storing their records outside of the record jacket (still within an inner sleeve and both jacket and album within the outer sleeve).
Another important consideration in the storage of your records is the environment. If you’re going to be listening to your Bing Crosby Christmas album you had better make sure your albums aren’t stored anywhere nearby before you start roasting chestnuts on an open fire unless you want the ultimate compilation album (and by compilation album we mean, all your albums melted together into a giant clump of vinyl). Under ideal circumstances, your collection should be stored between 65-70 degrees (21 Celsius) with a relative humidity of 45-50%. Avoid rapid changes in temperature. Also, keep your albums out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat (such as heaters, vents and the aforementioned fire). Also, beware of high humidity (sorry, no steamy shower turntable collections) and water as these will cause mold to grow on the album jackets. The only way to remove mold from album jackets is physically cutting it out so if you’re not careful you’ll end up with album t-shirts and, if left unchecked, album wife beaters (apologies to women for the derogatory slang term for tank tops).
Lastly, you should do your best to store your records in a dust-free environment. This is accomplished by keeping your collection in a somewhat airtight container such as a cabinet with doors or in sealable crates. Apparently Ikea didn’t get the memo so if you’re like us and storing your collection in an Expedit or Kallax, there is always the Vinyl Jimmy Hat Magnum which features a 3.5″ flap to keep those dust bunnies at bay (not to be confused with Playboy Bunnies who can do whatever they want to our record collection).
So there you have it folks, Record Care 101. It might seem a bit overwhelming but if you really want to be enjoying your Record Store Day 2016 scores during Record Store Day 2036 (assuming John and Sarah Connor didn’t drop the ball) then following the simple tips above will keep your wax in NM or VG condition for decades to come.