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If you’re an avid vinyl collector, you probably do all you can to keep your records in pristine condition. When it comes to cleaning, can vinyl records get wet?
Vinyl records can get wet, and water won’t damage them because they’re made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a water-resistant material. However, you should avoid exposing your records to too much water over a prolonged period. In addition, you should avoid getting the label wet.
The following sections in this article will explain the effect of water when it comes in contact with your vinyl records. I’ll also discuss some of the best ways to clean your vinyl records without water and the reasons behind this. Lastly, the article discusses how to dry vinyl records and what you shouldn’t use to clean them.
Table of Contents
What Happens if Vinyl Records Get Wet?
Vinyl records are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is a plastic. Plastics aren’t very absorbent, so most contact with water is harmless. However, polyvinyl chloride isn’t the only material used when making vinyl records.
If you get the label on your vinyl record wet, you may ruin it. The label is made from paper, which is very absorbent. The manufacturer probably used ink on the label, which will most likely smudge once it comes in contact with water.
In addition, the glue on the label might also begin to lift.
How To Dry Your Vinyl Records
It is best to use a microfiber cloth to dry your vinyl records. Microfiber cloth is lint-free and made from fibers that are extremely fine. They leave fewer fibers behind than regular cloths.
Here is the best way to dry your vinyl records:
- Gently shake your record to remove the excess water.
- Using a clean microfiber cloth, gently wipe (but don’t rub) your record.
- Allow it to air dry and only store it back in its sleeve when it’s completely dry.
How to Clean Your Vinyl Records
There are various ways to clean vinyl records, and if your chosen method involves water, it’s recommended that you use distilled water instead of tap water because the minerals in tap water could remain on the record after you dry it.
Let’s take a look at some effective yet gentle ways to clean vinyl records:
All you need for this method is some distilled water and a microfiber cloth. A microfiber cloth is essential because it won’t leave tiny pieces of lint on your records, and it’s soft enough not to damage the vinyl.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Dip your microfiber cloth into some distilled water.
- Wring out the excess water.
- Wrap the cloth around two fingers and gently wipe your vinyl record.
- Repeat this process for the other side of the record.
- Allow your records to air dry before storing them away.
Record Cleaning Solution
If your records are particularly dirty, distilled water and a microfiber cloth might not be enough to remove all the dirt and grime. In this case, a record-cleaning solution would be ideal.
You can buy record cleaning solution online or in specialty music stores. Lasermedia Professional Cleaning Solution from Amazon.com comes in a handy 8 oz (237 ml) spray bottle and will effectively remove dirt build-up from your vinyl.
If you decide to use a record-cleaning solution, here is what you should do:
- Gently wipe the record with a microfiber cloth to remove dust.
- Spray some record-cleaning solution onto the record and wait for two minutes. This allows the solution to work its magic on the vinyl.
- Wipe the solution off with a microfiber cloth, and allow the record to air dry before storing it.
Record Cleaning Kit
For a more thorough and professional clean, consider using a record-cleaning kit for your vinyl.
These kits come with several items, including:
- A soft velvet brush
- A lint-free cloth
- A bottle of record-cleaning solution
To use a record-cleaning kit, follow the same steps for using a record-cleaning solution, but use the brush to dust your records.
Record Cleaning Machine
This is probably the most expensive but effective method to clean your vinyl records. However, if you’re serious about preserving your vinyl collection for many years to come, it’s worth the investment.
These machines also offer protection for the label on your vinyl records. Amazon.com has an instructional video for those who don’t know how the Pro-Ject Record Cleaning Machine works.
Record Vacuum Wand
Another method for cleaning your vinyl is to use a record vacuum wand. These devices attach to your vacuum cleaner and help you to remove surface dirt and dust from vinyl. You don’t need to use water to clean your records if you do this, but you can go over the surface with water beforehand to ensure it’s 100% clean.
The Vinyl Vac 33 (also from Amazon) is affordable and fits onto most vacuum cleaners.
What To Avoid Using When Cleaning Your Vinyl Records
Now that I’ve discussed some effective cleaning methods for vinyl records, is there anything you need to avoid using?
You should avoid using the following substances:
- Acidic products. Acidic products (like white vinegar or lemon juice) are fantastic natural cleaners, but their low pH levels mean that they can damage the vinyl’s protective coating. However, this is usually only when they are used undiluted and excessively, but you should still avoid using them.
- Isopropyl alcohol. This product is an effective disinfectant and can effortlessly lift grime off vinyl. Unfortunately, like acidic cleaners, it can also remove your record’s protective coating.
- Abrasive cloths or sponges. If your vinyl is caked in grime, it can feel tempting to give it a thorough clean with an abrasive cleaning tool. Unfortunately, they can scratch your record, negatively impacting your music quality.
Reasons to Clean Your Vinyl Records
Cleaning your vinyl records can seem like a drag, but any avid vinyl collector will tell you that it’s vital.
Here are some compelling reasons to clean your vinyl regularly:
Vinyl Records are Valuable
Vinyl records can cost a lot of money and are often regarded as high-value and collector’s items. In addition, vinyl records have not been mass-produced for several decades now, and are now considered something special and vintage.
Gently cleaning them regularly can help preserve them for many years to come.
The emotional value of those records is exactly why you should take care of them. After all, who knows, you might be able to pass the records on to your children one day!
Read this article if you want to learn more about why you’re supposed to clean your vinyl records.
Vinyl Records Attract a Lot of Dust
Vinyl records are non-conductive, which is why they’re often charged with static electricity. This static charge can be a severe problem for the quality of your vinyl records, as it can affect the sound of whatever you’re playing.
Objects with a high static charge attract a lot of dust. As you probably already know, dust on records will settle into the grooves and can affect the sound quality. Moreover, a large accumulation of dust can cause permanent damage to your vinyl records.
You can buy the Anti-Static Vinyl Record Cleaner Brush on Amazon.com. This tool cleans vinyl records and helps eliminate static charge simultaneously. The brush can clean dirt without scratching the records and is made with conductive synthetic fibers. You can read more about how to remove static from vinyl records in this article that I wrote.
Dirt Build-Up Can Scratch the Record
Any debris on your records can cause scratches, eventually leading to crackling sounds and skipping in the music. That’s why keeping your vinyl records clean and handling them with care is vital. You might not even notice that your vinyl records are dirty until you clean them.
Using protective sleeves is an excellent way to minimize the amount of dirt your vinyl records can come into contact with, but it’s impossible to keep them 100% clean at all times. Regular cleaning is advised if you know how to do it without damaging your prized vinyl records.
Cleaning Helps Maintain the Audio Quality
Vinyl has a distinctive scratchy sound, but excess dirt or dust can exacerbate it and negatively impact the record’s sound quality.
It’s good practice to give your record a quick dust before placing it back in its protective sleeve. Record sleeves are usually tight-fit, and they can press any dust or dirt into the record.
What To Do if Your Records Were Left in the Rain
If you have accidentally left your vinyl records out in the rain, it’s not the end of the world. The only part likely to be damaged is the paper label in the center.
Here’s what you should do after discovering your records were left in the rain:
- Gently remove any visible dirt or vegetation.
- Using a clean microfiber cloth, gently wipe the record until it feels dry, avoiding the paper label.
- Gently pat the label but don’t wipe it, as this could smudge the wet ink.
- Allow your record to air dry in a well-ventilated place.
Can Mold Grow on Vinyl Records?
Mold can grow on vinyl records. Plastics are very durable, but mold can grow on them when they are continuously exposed to a lot of moisture.
Although plastic is very durable, it’s not advisable to allow mold to grow on your delicate vinyl records. The additives in plastic usually aren’t as durable, and the mold can cause them to break down. Mold is more likely to grow in the grooves of vinyl records, making it impossible for your record player to play the music on it.
You can prevent mold formation by always gently drying your vinyl records if they get wet. You should also avoid storing them in a humid environment.
The good news is that vinyl records can get wet without sustaining damage; however, this doesn’t mean you should be careless with your valuable pieces around liquids either. While you can use a bit of (preferably distilled) water to clean vinyl, you shouldn’t expose the material to too much moisture, as you’ll raise mold growth. Mold can end up destroying your vinyl records altogether.
There are also other ways to clean vinyl records, including with a vacuum attachment, microfiber cloth, and record-cleaning machines. You can also clean the records with different substances, like specifically-designed cleaning solutions.
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