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hobbyists's views for hobbyists
Record Cleaning Machines -
KMAL - Loricraft -
DIY Liquid - Storage


© Rudolf A. Bruil - Page first published on the www on November 3rd, 1999

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Using the Keith Monks Record Cleaning Machine, the Loricraft PRC, the Knosti/Disco Antistat, do the cleaning by hand, or construct an effective and safe cleaning device yourself...


CLICK: What does the Record Cleaning Liquid do?



My Keith Monks Record Cleaning Machine has cleaned
over 30.000 records. That is more than 60.000 sides.
Not counting the many records the previous owner
did clean with this machine.
As a hobbyist and a collector I offer to clean records for other collectors.

Professional Record Cleaning For Hobbyists.

I have spoken to many record collectors. What struck me was that many have invested in cartridges of $2000 and even $3000 or $7000. But they do not own a proper record cleaning machine.
If you are new to the game, or your record collection is growing, you better invest in a Keith Monks or a Loricraft or other machine working along the same principles and then start saving for the esoteric cartridge and phono cables.

 I have also overheard talk (and have read comments) of collectors who think that cleaning a record for longer than two turns is a waist of time. Do they have to catch a train?
An important aspect of listening to analog sound is that the actual engraved signal should be as good as can be. The actual signal is far more important than tape hiss, the noise of the vinyl or a few ticks.

There is much you can do to improve the signal by using a Stabilizing Weight, a Stabilizing Ring, a better cable... but most important is cleaning the record first and remove the debris (which has been collected during many years of use) out of the groove in case of a vintage disc. Or clean a new record as well to discover its full sound potential.

The Keith Monks Record Cleaning Machine (KMAL) is one of the world's best devices for cleaning records and keeping them in excellent condition.
The Loricraft Record Cleaning Machines (PRC) work along the same principle devised by the late Percy Wilson, but they omit the stationary brush and the motorized unwinding of the buffer thread. The advantage is that the Loricraft machines are about half the price of the Keith Monks.

With machines that are constructed along the principles of Keith Monks, extraordinary results can be obtained if an effective cleaning solution is used. Not only dirty records can improve, but also many old records from the vintage era and from the early days of mono can successfully be cleaned and regain in many cases a lot of their former splendor.

The Advice Of Experts

You read all sorts of advice on the internet about what the best record cleaning machines are in case you want to buy one.
Web pages with headings like "The 5 best record cleaning machines" and "The 8 best cleaning machines for vinyl records" are published, written by experts. Well, that is what they say they are.

Let me tell you, there are roughly 4 categories of cleaning machines. There is the cheap and practical Disco-Antistat if you do not have the money to buy a more sophisticated machine. Then there are the machines that work with a suction arm that vacuums the entire record surface in a few revolutions. In this category there is a variety of machines, ranging from the cheap and loud Okki Nokki to the expensive machines made by Clearaudio and VPI. Then there is the system that cleans the groove with ultrasound. In essence this should be a good method if it were not for the necessity of letting the record drip-dry.
A couple of months ago I received a mail from a music listener. He had spent a large amount of money to buy a record cleaning machine that works with ultra sound. His problem was that after letting the record drying he heard background noise caused by the residue of the cleaning liquid in the groove. The same he would hear if using a Knosti. So I advised him to buy a Loricraft or a Keith Monks Record Cleaning Machine. These are the best machines. I have not heard from him since. I presume that he currently plays perfectly cleaned LP records.

Do Newly Pressed Records Need Cleaning?

YES, also newly pressed records can be cleaned so the residue left in the groove, the pressing oil/fat included, will be eliminated. New does not always mean clean!
Recently a complete set of Haydn Trios (completely new) was offered to a friend and we discovered that the sound was not as clear as on the Philips set I own. After cleaning the records thoroughly, the piano had its defined sound and the string instruments now sounded harmonious and refined.

Tip: Never buy a sealed LP, or more records in a sealed box or gatefold cover. "Factory sealed" does not necessarily mean "impeccable". There is no guarantee the disc is MINT. You may come home and open the blister and be surprised: thin vinyl, small scuffs, badly pressed vinyl, etc. And what will the seller answer when you tell him that the record you bought from him was not OK? When I am in a shop and see a sealed record, I ask the attendant or shop owner to remove the plastic so we can check the surfaces together, or I just open the plastic myself so I can check the surfaces myself. Recently I bought a sealed opera box and a wooden box with vintage recordings. The dealer took of the plastic, and yes, there was a spot on one of the sides of the opera issue and there was a tick in one of the recordings. And both boxes were factory sealed!

The cleaning liquid should have optimal proportions of distilled water, industrial alcohol and the exact number of drops of an industrial detergent, a very good (pure) washing detergent and/or a wetting agent. 

NOTE For cleaning 78 RPM shellac records never use alcohol but just distilled water. You can visit the web sites of the 78 RPM specialists.

Not every cleaning liquid on the market will give maximum results. There are several well known commercial record cleaning formulas from different manufacture that contain some sort of grease in order to put a thin layer/film of "grease" over the surface of the LP. The aim is to let the diamond tip glide easily over the walls of the engraved vinyl groove. It should be a very thin film though. These formulas do their work right if that is the effect what you ask. But generally they do not deep clean the groove as a pure cleaning liquid does. The "greasy" solutions can be applied with some success only if the record was thoroughly cleaned first. Just think of this: when washing your hair... do you use a shampoo with built in cream rinse? A "fatty" cleaning liquid will add width to the micrometers that represent the engraved signal but also to the structure of the vinyl. And that can be heard!

I have also experimented much with LAST record preservative applied after a record had been cleaned. LAST record preservative makes the stylus ride smoothly in the groove. And that is what you can hear because the edgy sound of for example digitally recorded strings can get a more friendly character.

Of late I experimented also with L'Art du Son cleaning formula applied as sole liquid. You can use it succesfully with records that are already quite good. But "burned in" dirt and debris will not easily go away with this liquid. It was clear to me that for some older records there should be a "clean" cleaning first with a purer formula. Tip: Leave the record in the open during the night, supported by a short cardboard tube. The record can be washed again with L'Art du Son. In all cases your ears should be the determining factor as there can be a clear or subtle difference "before and after". See also WHAT DOES THE CLEANING LIQUID DO.

NOTE On the web one can read about the benefits of this treatment solution. There are also reports on the fact that the deluted solution becomes troubled if stored in a plastic container. So there is the advice of using a glas jar. However I found that a glas jar does not prevent the liquid from getting opaque. So the best thing is to make a small portion each time, just enough for the number of records to be cleaned in a session.


Professional Cleaners:
To Grease or Not To Grease...

It is best if the cleaning liquid does contain no grease at all. The molecular structure of fat can coincide with the size of tiny engravings of frequencies. More so it prevents the direct contact of the stylus with the groove wall.
Playing a completely clean groove will even out very tiny holes in the vinyl as the needle tip reaches a high temperature (900 to 1200 degrees Celsius) and that for a very short time when riding the groove. And that effect is appreciated by many vinyl lovers. It goes without saying that the needle tip should be clean and dry as well. You can use the same cleaning formula for the cartridge tip. Apply it with a soft brush first and than clean the actual diamond tip with the special LAST brush.

Furthermore the grease (or whatever additive is used by manufacturers of special liquids) smoothes out the information in the mid band and the mid-high register as if the tiny diamond tip is skipping some information. The effect is that the attack and the transient response are somewhat hampered.

Also the application of special, more or less volatile, liquids which put a thin layer between needle tip and vinyl groove can have this effect: the high frequencies are sounding "nicer and refined", but the attack of instruments can be less clear. A problem with these liquids is also that they are not easily applied evenly on the record's surface.
Only after cleaning the completely dry record has been played entirely, the cleaning with grease containing liquid or one of those special liquids like LAST Record Preservative can be applied, only of course if you really want to! Because it can depend on the record. Some fierce sounding Mercury LPs sound much better with Record Preservative. You yourself have to judge whether you use such a product on all records.

Improving the Signal by Playing and Washing.

You can play a record immediately after a wash. However it is better to wait some time (an hour) before playing the record. After a day the record will sound even better. It is important that the vinyl is completely dry. The molecular water drops should have evaporated completely. The vinyl should regain its hard structure.

If you give the record a second wash after playing, you will notice that the signal will improve even further. An extra improvement can be obtained by playing the record once again but now with a spherical diamond tip, and then wash the record again.

The grease prevents this improvement. Do not forget that the engravings are mere micrometers. The improvement is hardly or not at all reached when using a Knosti / Disco Antistat basin, as only vacuuming the surfaces will rid the groove of dirt and grease completely. And you should know that if the groove of a second hand record is severely damaged, because the previous owner played it with a worn needle, than only slight improvement can be reached.


The System: Brush, Thread and Pump.

Keith Monks's ingenious machine cleans the record by applying the cleaning liquid via brushes on the record which is spinning at about 80 RPM. Dirt and grease will gradually be solved and will float in the liquid.
A vacuum pump which is connected to the special arm will suck the record completely dry. The Loricraft PRC omits the brush and the little motor that releases the buffer-thread from the spool. But the Loricraft is less costly.

In order not to damage the record a thread acts as a buffer between the record's surface and the white Teflon nozzle at the end of the arm. The drawing shows its functioning. The unwinding nylon thread is guided through a thin copper tube to the end of the arm. There it is inserted into the white Teflon nozzle.

Together with the dirty cleaning liquid, the thread is transported by the suction of the pump and lands in the jar with discarded cleaning liquid. The suction arm is driven by a belt and moves slowly, starting at the label and moving towards the periphery of the record.


What Thread?

The best option for a buffer thread is the nylon thread as it was originally used by Keith Monks. It came from England and was The Celebrated Talbot No. 30. Not solid but the braided type. This make is no longer available. Many owners of Keith Monks and of Loricraft machines have been experimenting to find a solution.

Polyester is not the best alternative, but always better than polyester mixed with cotton as cotton absorbs the liquid and expands and this obstructs the suction. At one time I used a very thin thread of polyester that I doubled, wound on an old spool using an electric drill. That double thread worked fine.

One negative aspect using the Talbot thread came to light when the thread was confronted with the rough edge of a 1950's record and the thread was massed up at the jar and I had to solve the obstruction.

Doing some experiments can do no harm. Always try on an old record as with some threads the vinyl could probably be damaged. The best option is to find a manufacturer of nylon thread or just ask Keith Monks or Loricraft.

Often I have been looking for a nylon thread to be replaced in the Keith Monks RCM. When my small stock of Calibrated Talbot nylon thread would soon run out, I went looking for an alternative again. A few years ago I had bought a large spool of green nylon thread at a haberdashery shop, tried the thread and was not too happy with the result. But that was before I installed the new KNF vacuum pump. Some time ago I discovered that the jar for the used fluid was not properly sealed and I solved that problem. Now I wound the green nylon thread on a small spool and installed it in the machine. I found that it worked wonders and that it was transported very well through the tube. This is the wire: Red fish 210D/2 which is 0.25 mm thick and is available in a variety of colors. The color is of no importance of course.

Guiding the Thread Through the Arm Tube

So, the original thread is not cotton because that soaks up the cleaning liquid and therefor it will be transported with difficulty into the discarded liquid jar. If you want to use the original nylon kind of thread, you can order it from Jon Monks, from Loricraft or from Russ Andrews.


1. First open the machine by lifting the top plate and secure it so it will not fall down on your hands. Unlock the screw at the side of the spool with thread so the spool can turn easily.

2. For the guiding of the thread you need a plastic tube that is long enough to make a bend and at one end is large enough to fit on the nozzle (more or less). You can make the other end fit to the copper tube from which the thread emerges by inserting a short piece of smaller tube (see the image). Another method is to take off the tube at the point where it connects to the nozzle. And insert it into the temporary (green in the image) tube.

3. Now you have a closed loop. The spool positioned underneath the arm, should be loose so it can turn freely. Switch on the pump and see to it that the thread is coming out of the thin copper tube. Unswitch the pump and disconnect the green tube. Then pull about one feet of nylon thread out of the copper tube.

4. Connect the armtube to the nozzle and switch on the pump. Then lead the thread into the nozzle. It will be sucked up and be transported in the arm back to the waste jar.

5. After a while the thread can be seen in the tube that connects to the jar. Switch off the vacuum pump. Unscrew the lid of the jar and check if the thread is coming through. Screw the lid on the jar and close the lid of the machine. Now take a cup which is completely filled with water and hold this under the nozzle and switch the pump on. The thread will easily be transported into the jar.

6. Lift the lid of the machine and fix (secure) the spool. You can start cleaning.

After the First Wash.

After the first wash, I apply -if necessary- a special cleaning liquid with a brush, by hand. This only if persistent grease (sometimes even glue) and other properties, need to be solved and removed. After that the record is cleaned on the Keith Monks Machine for a second time.
Records cleaned in this way will sound even better. A clean record will extend the life of the record and of the needle tip of the cartridge and will increase realism and will increase your listening pleasure.

A groove pictured before and after, images taken from the Keith Monks literature. Photo by Mr. Aalt Jouk van den Hul.

As with all equipment the effectiveness depends on its functioning. Therefore technical insight in its functioning, cleaning the brushes once in a while, emptying the containers in time, and finally mixing the best ingredients to obtain an effective cleaning liquid, these are all essential for the machine to deliver the best performance and give the best sonic results. I have a lot of experience regarding the cleaning of records. Do not hesitate to send me an e-mail if you want advice.

There are many record cleaning machines on the market. The Loricraft cleaning machine works along the same principle as the Keith Monks and is very effective and also less expensive than the Keith Monks. The VPI and Clearaudio have similarities and do work very well. They do not have a suction arm which moves from label to periphery, but have a long pipe with a slot which is put over the record and sucks the liquid and dirt in just in one or two turns of the record.

The Nitty Gritty machines follow the same principle. Zenn Audio in Singapore proposes a fast centrifugal cleaning machine (without dry suction via a vacuum pump). Recently a small machine is available on the market. It is the Cadence Okki Nokki. The platter, motor and pump seem to be sturdy and well working, though the pump is loud, but check carefully if you like the suction arm which has some rough felt around the mouth and could damage your vinyl. In my view that part should be improved and be made safer for your records.


The Simplest DIY Vacuum Cleaning Machine.

The simplest DIY Cleaning Machine consists of a sturdy record player (Lenco or Goldring) that can play at high speed (78 to 80 RPM), a nylon brush, a carefully constructed mouth piece with soft lining, a glass jar with screwable lid, plastic transparent tube, and an old vacuum cleaner or other effective pump. See to it that the hoses (tubes) are not too wide but have a reduced capacity so that the liquid does not enter the vacuum cleaner. Brushing at high speed and vacuuming at a low, convenient speed.

This is a simple way to clean records by hand and rinse them under the tap. Take care that the labels do not get soaked and damaged. This method is generally not advised as it leaves minerals and chemicals in the groove. However, it can be a first step when you need to clean records which are covered by colonies of mold (...).


Do You Own a Record Cleaning Machine and
Want to Improve its Functioning?


Maybe you can learn from some of the improvements I made on the Keith Monks Record Cleaning Machine.

1. Locate the machine in a separate room, an attic or in a (dry) garage.

2. Build a cabinet to place the machine on. Calculate the height of the cabinet in such a way that you can easily put a record on the platter without damaging it.

3. Build a roof over the machine and install a ventilator (fan) in it, connected to an exhaust pipe. The pipe should end in a hole in the outside wall, door or window.

4. Mount to the left and right of the ventilator above the machine two small 25 or 40 Watt bulbs. You can connect the lamps and the ventilator to the same switch so both will function when you switch the ventilator on before starting cleaning records.

5. Take the vacuum pump out of the Keith Monks Machine's cabinet and place it on a wooden base and decouple it with springs. Buy extra lengths of tube and wire to connect the pump.

6. Buy a new belt and improve the drying of the record. The suction arm should move slowly from the center of the record to the periphery. Many users complain about the fact that the arm skips a few grooves and leaves some liquid on the record's surface. The best thing to do is to use a new arm belt that you can buy at a camera repair shop where they also sell belts for movie projectors. Take the old belt with you and ask for a similar new one. In most cases they cannot supply a belt with the same thickness but just smaller. That will do the trick. Now the arm will move slower and will hopefully not skip part of the record. A reason that the arm skips can be caused by the fact that the motor does not have enough grip on the disc underneath the suction arm. After installing a thinner belt the drying of the record will take a bit longer. But who cares if one has a valuable record collection. So many times I read in threads and lists that a virtue of this or that machine is that it cleans in just X seconds. I do not understand those people. What is it that you want? Saving 30 seconds? Just do not start cleaning a record when you have to catch a train.

7. Check the functioning of the vacuum pump. Check the pump from time to time and clean the innards carefully and put everything back the same way you took the various parts out before you started to clean the pump.

The result is:

a. The exhaust prevents you from being exposed to the cleaning liquid which contains a high percentage of alcohol.

b. Because the pump has been placed underneath the machine and on springs, the machine does not vibrate and the platter turns in a silent way without the suction arm being moved by the vibrations. The effect is a smooth and even drying of the record.

c. The record is cleaner and it is also completely dry.


KMAL Machine Repair?

If you own an old Keith Monks Record Cleaning Machine and there is some problem with one or more of the functions of the machine, related to the pump, the suction arm, the thread or the small liquid pump, you can contact the firm on the Keith Monks website. The service of the firm is rather bad. Maybe you have to improvise. Furthermore the prices of the spare parts are relatively high. You better look for alternatives.

First of all for the nylon thread. The thread which is sold today is not the thread which Keith Monks used to sell to owners. The new thread is thin and deteriorates easily. Better find an alternative. And if you do not find what you need in local stores, you still can contact the manufacturer of the machine in England or you can contact Loricraft of course.

A new belt, for example, can be obtained from a camera repair shop which sells all sorts of belts for movie projectors and tape recorders. Or you can find a company on the Internet like Elexatelier in the US.

If you have a machine which uses the Lenco/Goldring variable drive and you need a new idler wheel, you can try to find one of the Lenco turntables second hand and remove the idler wheel plus attachment and mount it in your KM RCM. It should be an old Lenco that is not worth being restored. Old it should be because nowadays Lenco machines are in demand to be refurbished and mounted on a slate plinth by many audiophiles.

Or again you can try the Internet. There are addresses where you can have an idler wheel made to your specifications by sending the existing wheel and they will refurbish it (vulcanize).

It is not surprising that some day - after decades of service - the toggle switches do not work properly any longer, especially when you have cleaned 20.000 records (40.000 record sides). Various machines use different toggle switches in different configurations. Make a drawing of the existing wiring before disconnecting a switche and exchange it for a new one. The new switches should work exactly the same way as the original ones.

If a small liquid pump does not work any longer you can reconstruct a pump by using the parts of the original pump (choke), or search for a hand pump or some device you can use to construct the hand pump. Or make a pump as the drawings below show you on the basis of the old defect choke.

Initially I did repair the chokes but found it more convenient to just apply the liquid on the record's surface by using a small plastic dispenser. The extra advantage is that you can shake it before applying so the liquid will be well mixed.

If you want to repair the original vacuum pump, than you have to be ingenious and find a way to replace plungers, rubber rings and eventually make the small round "valves" yourself.
If you need a new pump, you can contact the representative of knf.com (KNF Neuberger, Germany). Several years ago I bought the KNF N022ANE. It is the pump featured in this image. It is perfect.

How to Clean the Tubes?

Push a small piece of cotton wool through the tubes using a flecible yet sturdy wire.


Second Hand Machines?

When buying a second hand Keith Monks Record Cleaning Machine you have to pay attention to a few important points. You must check if the pump is working and if it is not, you probably can detect what the trouble is. If the pump does not function at all and is irreparable, you should order a new pump with a similar capacity.

Next question when examining a second hand machine: Does the motor for the movement (rotation) of the arm work all right? If not, can you detect the cause? Maybe it is the belt. Or the little motor does not work at all. Then it probably should be replaced. In any case check the wires.

There is a third small motor for the unwinding of the nylon thread.

Keith Monks manufactured the twin machine shown at the beginning of this page and there is also the single machine. At one time a smaller, somewhat less desirable (in my view) machine was manufactured (picture at the right). Only if you can obtain that machine for just a few $$$, it is an option. You probably will use the parts and built these into a new cabinet which makes cleaning easier than the machine shown in the picture at right suggests.

What does the Cleaning Liquid do?

What does the cleaning liquid do? The cleaning liquid probably does not exist as there are many solutions possible and these are propagated by thousands of collectors. There are many different cleaners and as many different views on how to clean vinyl long playing records. At the end of the nineteen fifties, the problem of dirty records became more and more an urgent topic for the record collector. The stereo groove and the elliptical diamond had been introduced and these prompted many audiophiles to rethink the best way of how to achieve a as perfect a reproduction as possible. It was legendary audiojournalist and inventor Percy Wilson from Great Britain who started to consider using a machine for cleaning LP records. The aim was to restore as much as possible the physical aspect of a record. Hitherto the advice had been given to use a damp cloth, or even a flat, round white sponge like the Rimington. That worked all right when playing the old mono records with a spherical (conical) diamond tip which rides high in the groove.

With the increasing refinement of the vinyl compound, the cutting of a wider frequency band, dedicated cleaning became even more urgent. So record cleaning machines were constructed. In the beginning it was advised to use equal parts of industrial alcohol and destilled water. But various people started to devise and try specific liquids which were made up of various ingredients. Various brands have been marketed since. They all have their benefits and they all have their inadequacies as they are mostly not suitable to deep clean the groove so the signal is restored as much as possible.

LAST (Liquid Archival Sound Treatment) offers an array of products for restoring the groove of records which are still in relatively good shape: special liquids and brushes. Also Nitty Gritty and Knosti provide a relatively good clean. The same goes for L'Art du Son. They all want to retain the original sound of the record. These all have ingredients which make the diamond tip ride a smooth groove.

But if the groove is more than dirty and dust and debris may have been "burned" into the vinyl, these products hardly fulfill the promise that the groove is cleaned. That is why a thorough cleaning with a mix of water and alcohol may be undertaken first and then have the record treated in a second wash with these high end formulas, if you wish. But also here your ear is the best judge.
Make Your Own Cleaning Liquid.

Here is the formula which I have used already for many years:

2 liter distilled water
1 liter industrial alcohol (ethanol)
0.25 to 0.5 liter isopropyl alcohol
30 drops of liquid detergent and a few drops of wetting agent

The number of drops of detergent and/or wetting agent depends on the effectivity of the product.
Some washing detergents have lower values for ionic and non-ionic tensides. So some experimenting is necessary.
Wetting agents are manufactured by various companies:

Photo-Flo by Kodak, Mirasol 2000 by Tetenal, Ilfotol by Ilford.

Ask your camera shop.

You will get experience when you are cleaning many recods and you may adjust, or alter the formula of the cleaning liquid.

Another composition of the liquid which I use already since 10 years now is the liquid formula advised by Keith Monks initially in the 1970s. He advised to take equal parts of alcohol and distilled water. I add a few drops of washing detergent and the liquid is very effective and is less complex.

The alcohol should be of the industrial kind without any additive. This alcohol is cheaper than the medicinal type bought in the pharmacy which contains a small percentage of fat and is called 'spiritus ketonatus fortior'. Let yourself be advised by experts from the art supply shop or the paint shop. Take care because the isopropyl is very poisonous; you need ventilation.
And ventilation will also be to the satisfaction of friends who bring their records for cleaning.

If you cannot find the fat free alcohol, you may use the 'spiritus ketonatus fortior' type which is always less greasy than some commercial record cleaners with greasing additives. The addition of isopropyl is specifically advised if you cannot find the fat free alcohol. Be sure that the distilled water is really distilled water, the type you buy at the pharmacy, not the demineralized water!
NOTE Never use a glass cleaner or other aggressive product.

Use a large plastic container that is big enough to hold 4 to 5 liter. First put in the contents of two bottles (2 liters) of distilled water and add the drops of detergent. Shake very well. Than add 1 liter of the alcohol and if you wish a little bit of the isopropyl alcohol. And again shake very, very well. By shaking the container, the liquids will mix well and the detergent will foam. After you have stopped shaking the foam will go away after about 5 to 10 seconds. If it goes away immediately you probably have not added enough detergent. You will notice this when you put the liquid on the spinning record on the cleaning machine: the liquid does not spread evenly. So, add a few more drops more and shake again. But be careful not to put too much detergent.

Many formulas work with the Keith Monks machine. You can try whatever combination of ingredients and eventually adjust the formula according to your experience and the audible results you obtain. You can leave out the isopropyl altogether if you wish.
In general one wash will be sufficient to clean a record side. The result depends also on the time you leave the record spinning under the brushes.
If you use a Keith Monks or Loricraft, the time of the brushing of a record side should be about the same as the time it takes to dry one side.

If you use a different machine do take some time to brush the record. Do not forget to keep the record wet all the time while cleaning!



Playing Wet.

It is possible to play records wet with distilled water. It will lower surface noise during play. At the same time however the movement of the tip is somewhat reduced also. But that does not impair the sound too much.

What is important however if you play records wet, it is necessary to dry the record before putting it back into the sleeve and cover. It is better to clean the record after wet play. So that is where your vacuum cleaning machine comes in handy.

Playing wet is quite a hassle. Playing records using a special liquid like Lenco Clean (cleaning solution) is even more complicated and because of the viscosity of the liquid will impair the transient in the signal. There will be a reduced attack in the drum, the cymbal, the piano and other percussion instruments. I strongly advise against the use of Lenco Clean or similar product. There are other solutions to arrive at a reduced noise floor and a more controlled signal. Try a Record Stabilizer Weight or a Stabilizing Ring.


The Use of Turpentine and Sticker Remover: Stickers, Glue, Dirt.

Do not believe the so called expert who advises you to use a window or glass cleaner, or a bathtub product to remove dirt from the record's surface. Never use these products. Also do not use solvents, thinners, etc. for removing paint, glue or whatever is sticking to the vinyl.

There are only a few liquids that you can safely use: industrial alcohol, methylated spirit and turpentine.
Especially turpentine is useful for removing stickers (if you do not use a commercial sticker remover from the chemist's), and for dissolving and removing glue or a drop of paint stuck to the precious record.
What to do?
Go to the art supply shop and buy a brush. I use the Royal Talens 6 - 350. It is a relatively soft brush, but the hairs are sturdy enough to rub against any glue or drop of paint, or whatever is on the vinyl and needs to be dissolved and removed.

For removing stickers: dip the brush in turpentine, press the hairs against the bottle's opening to remove excess liquid and wet the sticker on the record cover with the brush. Leave it for several minutes. Then you can try to pull at a corner of the sticker and see if it detaches. If not, apply some turpentine again and let the sticker soak. It may be necessary to use just a little bit of force. But be careful! If the sticker can be taken off, the cover will show some residue. Just brush that spot once more and then use a paper tissue to wipe off the rest of the turpentine, sticker and glue. If a stickers is put over another sticker, you will have to repeat the procedure for each sticker. Turpentine should not be used on the jewel boxes of CDs!

There are stickers that do not soak up the turpentine because the surface is not porous, as is the case with "golden" stickers. These cannot be removed with any liquid and need some warm air from a hair dryer or should be held carefully over an open fire (stove). If it does not work, leave the sticker on.
Also be careful if you want to use turpentine on very old printed cardboard/Kraft covers, because it may dissolve and smear the old printing ink.

Turpentine can be safely used on laminated covers and actually most modern covers. If some of the turpentine is soaked up by the Kraft, cardboard or paper, just leave it, it will eventually vaporize. Turntable can of course be used on vinyl also. It is however greasy and you should clean the record very thoroughly again after serpentine has been applied.
I recently acquired a few first pressings of a vintage label. They had been advertised as being unplayed and unopened. However three of the five albums had been opened and glue of the sticker was smeared on the vinyl over a wide area. There turpentine possibly could help.

I soaked the brush in the turpentine and gently moved the brush over the large spot and let it soak. After a while I moved the brush again over the area, always parallel to the groove, waited again and repeated the action. The glue was dissolving gradually and nicely, and I could wipe it off with a tissue. After that of course I applied turpentine once again. All residue had to be dissolved and removed. This has to be done carefully and with patience. But the reward can be that the record surface will be neat and the groove can be played again, only of course after a few cleanings on the machine.

Another disc had a sort of debris in circles stuck to a wide area. I was not sure whether this could be removed or if it was not vinyl grain and the groove was really damaged by playing it with a worn needle. The only way to be sure was to apply turpentine with the brush. Again I moved the brush in circles. Very gently. Than waited some time and with the brush I could take off the residue of the pressing which was made 50 years ago. And finally I could use the tissue to soak up the rest of the turpentine. After that the disc needed two cleanings on the machine. Surfaces of the other discs were also showing some residue -they were first pressings that never had been played- and before cleaning the record on the machine it was the turpentine that helped.

That is why I generally do not buy factory sealed records. I only buy them if I know I can trust the seller and the record can be returned. 'Factory sealed' is definitely no guarantee that they are MINT. Actually they can be less than pristine. In some cases even the seller may shrink-wrap the item.

NOTE Always remember: Before cleaning a record on the cleaning machine, in the basin, or by hand, do always clean the record with a carbon fiber brush and if necessary with a soft velvet record brush before wetting and/or spinning the record. Get rid of all the dust and debris without applying force. And if this advice and these methods are new to you and you want to be sure that they work, try it first on an 'old' record. Once you have learned what you can and what you cannot do, you can start treating your precious discs.


Removing Stickers from Labels and Albums.


If there are stickers on the record label, I would advise you to leave them there and not to manipulate them, because the situation only can get worse. But if you insist...
Removing stickers can be done by using a special sticker remover, a solution which can be found in the drugstore or a specialized shop with office or art materials. You better try the effectiveness of this liquid on a dispensable record/record cover. Sometimes a label is easily damaged. Apply the liquid and let the sticker soak for some time. Then carefully try to lift the sticker at a corner. If it is not detachable, do apply some more liquid and take more time.

You can combine this method with the use of a hairdryer if it concerns a cover. The hot air will generally soften the glue so the sticker may come off easier. If it is a sticker on a label you can try the same liquid. Sometimes labels are made of hard plastic or gold. Those stickers may have a hard upper layer which makes soaking difficult. Then the hairdryer comes in handy. Place a cardboard roll (the basis of a wide packaging tape) on the label, around the sticker. Do not position the roll over the dead wax or over the groove. Now hold the hairdryer in the opening of the roll and blow hot air for a few seconds inside the roll. Check if the sticker can be lifted at the edge. Do this carefully. Do not use force. Then blow again for 5 seconds. Try to remove the sticker a bit more. And so on and so forth. You probably can also try the hairdryer method without the use of the sticker remover solution if the remover does damage the color of the label. But that can be a dangerous affair.

The special sticker remover liquid can probably also be used for removing ink. Try again on a dispensable record. I can not give you a brand name of the sticker remover as every country has a different brand name and probably a different composition of the liquid.

The use of a hair dryer is not necessary if lighter fluid is applied. Dan Prothero from San Francisco wrote:

"I use Ronsonol brand fluid and it quickly unseats most any sticker from any surface including vinyl LP labels. Just a few drops onto the sticker, wait 30 seconds, and it peels off neatly. Any residue is easily removed by wiping with a cloth that contains another few drops of fluid. Lighter fluid works on uncoated stickers the best, but it's worked for me on almost every sticker. If the sticker is metallic then the fluid obviously wont penetrate it from above, but it's likely you can get at it from beneath.... soak the sticker edges first, wait, then re-soak and start peeling towards the center. repeat the process until it's all off. don't rush it or you can pull up the paper with un-loosened adhesive. My dad collects stamps and he uses lighter fluid on his stamps to verify watermarks. It evaporates without a trace in about a minute. it has never damaged his stamps, and so it should be considered safe on LP labels too."

NOTE Always remember that I am not responsible for any accident or damage of a record or label if you experiment. Always let the record cool down gradually, never put a "hot" record or record label under the cold tap. You can use this method first with an old record that you would dispose of anyway. Do not do it on a collectible item without having experience and without knowing what the result will be. In most cases it is better to leave the sticker on the label. The success of this method also depends on the sort of paper used for a label.


Does Cleaning Damage The Vinyl?

Some people claim that cleaning a vinyl record will damage the groove. Somebody wrote in a forum that he had talked to people from a record company and these people said that a record should never be cleaned with liquids, even if these liquids have been specifically designed for vinyl record cleaning. But what if you have a really dirty record that you want to play and you do not want to damage the fine, polished diamond tip? Some people argue that these record producers want vinyl records to sound mediocre, so the CD will be more appreciated and the new SACD will count on new enthusiasts who have enough of bad sounding, romantically crackling records.

There is much turbulence going on when a stylus follows the groove. A record can collect small particles of dust and will get dirty in time. Before playing a record it needs to be wiped gently with a soft velvet brush or with one of these special carbon fiber brushes. Naturally these brushes are only effective if the record's surface is relatively clean.

A few months back there was a guy on the market who was selling a lot of old records. I overheard him advising a client. He said that the record should be cleaned with window cleaner. I corrected him and from now on he no longer advises his clients to use window/glass cleaner. Using glass cleaner definitely will ruin the vinyl. Never use that stuff, it takes of the shiny glow of the vinyl and gives persistent hiss and background noise. You easily can distinguish such a disc from a copy not being cleaned with aggressive glass cleaner.

And there is another possibility that a groove may be damaged. But that is during the cleaning process and you do not dust the record's surface with a carbon brush and get rid of dust and debris first before applying the liquid. Many people just put the record on the cleaning machine and start cleaning,. They forget that the dust and particles will be accumulated by the cleaning brush and will ride over the vinyl and in the groove, round after round. You can imagine what the result is.

Cleaning a worn record will show a bad groove to advantage. But playing the record after the cleaning process, and then cleaning it again, may actually improve the groove. Only of course if the groove suffered from dust and dirt. Not if it has been damaged by a worn stylus tip. Then a record can not be bettered.

The climate in the listening room has its influence also. Heavy smokers should not be invited. Heavy smoking is not advised. The record can collect greasy particles which float in the air.
Not carefully slipping the record in its sleeve after play will increase the possibility that it collects dust and gets dirty.
And as said earlier: the use of grease/oil during the pressing process in the factory is a necessity so the matrix and the vinyl record can be separated easily. But the fat or oil hardens when the record cools off. This hardened grease can give a ticking sound or a sound as if there is a bump or other unevenness in the vinyl. Especially in the nineteen seventies the application of the pressing oil or fat was not always done carefully. Many buyers and also the personal in the record shop thought that the records were damaged and traded them in and they were sent back to the factory.

If a record sounds bad even after cleaning, the groove must have been damaged by playing on a bad turntable. Or the plastic of an old inner sleeve may have been in contact with the vinyl over decades. Another possibiliy is that the record can never be improved because the vinyl is of bad quality and is not pure enough and contains a high percentage of filler material. Such a record can hardly be improved.

And last but not least, sometimes when pressing 180 gr. records, the matrices and the vinyl have not been heated enough and the vinyl did not "flow" during the pressing process. So the surface has a "bump" or can have "loose particles" which will be transported by the cleaning brush of the machine; especially if it is a sturdy nylon brush.

The only remedy to restore the signal of a dirty record is cleaning the record with cleaning solutions. And these should be safe! The cleaning solutions advised on this page will help you to restore the quality of many records, in some cases completely, in others only to some extend.

Do not forget to clean the brushes of your cleaning machine from time to time by letting them soak overnight in a basin with water and with ample washing detergent added. Rinse them thoroughly the next morning, and dry them with kitchin paper.

Does cleaning a record damage the vinyl? When did you stop washing your hair?


Replacement Brushes?

It is very important to use the right kind of brushes that scrub the record in a safe way. Some replacement brushes can be very costly. If you do not want to pay $ 50 for a replacement brush, I advise you to buy the supple Tonar Brushes or the Okki Nokki brushes which are made of pig's hair.

I have used the Tonar brushes with good results. In order to mount these in the grey holder of the KM machine, the thin black part of the brush has to be cut in height and the space has to be filled up. So these brushes will fit and can be clamped in the holder. If you are handy you certainly will find a way to mount these brushes. These brushes can be used for a long period just clean them from time to time.


Is it Possible to Repair a Seam Split?

Seam splits are a nuisance. They can get longer and longer and they can damage the record if the inner sleeve is not new and does not protect the rim of the record. The drawings show what can be done. Of course, it is not easy. But if you are handy, you will experience here too that practice can make perfect.
Take a long piece of 200 gr. paper or Kraft. The length should be a little more than the split. Fold it along its length. See to it that the paper stays folded. If you want to make it last forever you can cover it entirely with a piece of wide transparent adhesive tape. Then fold it again. Now cut the piece more or less to the needed size. Fold it again, so it will better remember the fold. Spread it out on an old newspaper and then put on the glue and smear it out.

Now comes the difficult part and that is slipping the piece into the inside of the cover. You can bend the cover somewhat and than put the piece in place. If you can get some help it will make things easier. Clamp the seem for some time.
This method works best with covers made of thin cardboard or Kraft. For sturdy, thick cardboard you could probably fold the piece that you want to insert over the edge of a ruler and than carefully move the ruler to the desired spot.


What if You don't have a Vacuum Machine?

This cleaning formula works also very well when using the DISCO ANTISTAT (Knosti) device, as friends and collectors have told me, and some have shown me. If you find the right balance of the ingredients you will notice that there will be hardly any residue, hence not much dirt does accumulate on the needle tip when first playing a record cleaned with this ingenious device.
To eliminate the residue to the max you should use a second basin (brushes included) just filled with distilled(!) water and rinse the disc after being washed in the first basin.

Do not think that by a few turns the record groove is well cleaned. As on a Keith Monks the record turns for about a minute, you should turn the record in the Disco ANTISTAT quite for some time. Here again your experience will tell you if the wash is too short or is effective.

Since isopropyl can cause leakage of the vinyl (as I am told), you should avoid cleaning with just isopropyl. But you can use it in a mix. Just add a small percentage to your formula. However the Library of Congress once proposed a mixture of 20% isopropyl and 80% de-ionized water. I tried that solution and it worked all right. A long time ago I was told that isopropyl was toxic, more than any other solvent.

But recently Dr. Pekka Keski-Rahkonen from Finland wrote to me: "I would like to point out that using isopropyl alcohol should not be avoided due to toxicity reasons. As per classification according to EU Directives 67/548/EEC or 1999/45/EC, the substance is not classified toxic, and is even used for skin desinfection purposes as a main constituent in "rubbing alcohol". In contrast, methanol, which has traditionally been used in "methylated spirits", is toxic and should be avoided."

I myself use both methanol and a small amount of isopropyl in the cleaning mix. In any case building an exhaust is no luxury. Even though I have returned to my original formula. By the way, the Library of Congress (LOC) have devised a new formula which I did not try, but looks rather promising viewing its ingredients.

The First Step


Whatever machine or cleaning device you use, it is important to take dust and other particles off the record before you start cleaning it with a liquid. If you use a Keith Monks or other high speed machine, put the record on the platter of the machine or on the platter of an old turntable like a Goldring/Lenco (which you may have installed for this purpose) with the B-side facing up. Then switch the machine on and dust the record with a carbon fiber record brush. Stop the spinning. Turn the record so that Side A is facing up. Dust off this side.

If the record does not have rough particles, dirt and dust, you may start the liquid cleaning process. Always put enough liquid on the surface and spread it around before spinning the platter. The liquid will prevent the record from being damaged by any left particles. If you start cleaning now, you will automatically do Side A first. And then Side B. So you will not get confused.

Another important thing is to clean the brush(es) of your cleaning machine at regular intervals. Dirt may stick to the brush(es) and eventually will harm the groove.

In case the dirt is really sticking to the vinyl and cannot be taken off with the carbon fiber brush, than you will have to gently clean the record under the tap first and dry it carefully with soft paper tissues. Do not exercise pressure and do not smear the tap water plus dirt over the record's surface, nor its label. Once you are satisfied with the result and have dried the surfaces with tissue paper you may start cleaning the record on the machine.

If dirt, glue and other unknown materials were not removed from the disc by the cleaning process, you can try other liquids like turpentine, benzene and methylated spirit for removing persistent dirt. These liquids will generally do no harm to the vinyl. Use a small brush to apply the liquid and give the liquid time to do its job. In certain cases you also may use cotton tips. After the dirt has been removed a paper tissue will absorb excess liquid. Then the record can be cleaned again. In case of the turpentine you may clean it more than once, or add an extra drop of washing detergent.

The Spindle Hole Diameter.

Some turntables have rather large spindles. And some records have spindle holes which are too narrow. Most of the time it is the paper label which is pressed at the edge into the spindle hole of the record.

You can 'create' your own spindle hole enlarger Buy a pair of small kitchen scissors with blades that are about 8 mm wide in the middle at the pivot (screw). Cut off one eye. Now you can fold the blades so that they shift further over each other. The cutting edges are now at the outside. Fold the two blade together so that they fit into the spindle hole.

Take the record in one hand and with the other you put the scissors blades into the hole. The blades will always adjust to the size of the spindle hole. Gently turn the scissors. The amount of pressure you apply will determine the extend of widening the spindle hole. In most cases a few light turns at one side will do.

Take care that the debris (paper, vinyl) is taken off the record. Do it with your finger. You can turn one finger nail in the hole and flatten/clean the edge and blow the debris away. Try if the record fits on the turntable without having to apply force. If it does not fit give the scissors another light turn.

I have been using this method for many years and it provides an even widening. This is to my knowledge the best way to go about and will give good results. Most of the time it is not the vinyl which is obstructing, but the edge of the paper label that will prevent the record hole to slide over the spindle.





Inner Sleeves.

After thoroughly cleaning the record, I put it in a new sleeve. Certain inner sleeves like the ones from Decca, London, Deutsche Grammophon and Philips can be very cautiously cleaned with a paper tissue and a few drops of methylated spirit. It takes some practice. In general though I use a new inner sleeve and slip the original one (if it has text and/or pictures) into the cover as well.

To avoid mold caused by humidity and to avoid sticking of plastic to the surface Philips used inner sleeves of thin, soft blotting paper, just a folded sheet, no glue, no flip back borders. That was in the 1950's. That was an excellent practice. Later the blotting paper was replaced by folded sheets of white paper, and for the more expensive series the sleeves were made of paper sealed inside plastic bags.
If you have 10" records without inner sleeves you can make these yourself by choosing a nice quality of coated paper, fold it and cut it to the right measurements so it will just fit into the 10" cover.

There are various inner sleeves available on the market and to my knowledge the ones manufactured today are of the not sticking kind. Also most sleeves from the nineteen seventies and eighties are of the right kind. The sleeves will not stick to the surface if both the record. Keep the sleeve clean. Do not use Lenco Clean or other fluids on your records when you play them. These liquids will put a thin film of sticky liquid on the record and on the inner sleeve, as you may have noticed. On top of that Lenco Clean restricts the movement of the needle tip and not only diminishes high frequency information and kills an excellent transient response. And the transient is just one of those valuable features of the analog LP which the CD cannot perform at all because of its restricted bandwidth.

If you want to play wet, than a preferred method is using distilled water. In all cases it is of importance that you clean the record on a cleaning machine after it has been played wet or at least see to it that the surface is completely dry before you put the LP back into the inner sleeve.
The quality of the sleeve is of the utmost importance. If you have very old records with sturdy cardboard covers that hardly allow you to insert a modern polylined paper sleeve, you could use the simple plastic Nagaoka variety of inner sleeves. The Nagaoka inner sleeves do slip easily into the old nineteen fifties/sixties cardboard covers. Be careful though. They are thin and with the record inside, they also slip easily out of your hand. It is far better to use the square double lined all plastic inner sleeves as used by Proac, Soundstream, and others.
For records from the nineteen seventies and eighties the modern polylined paper sleeves are excellent. They are less expensive.


Record Storage: LPs and 7 inch 45 RPM discs.

Many visitors of my pages do ask me about how to store their valuable records. There are various sites dealing with this subject. There is also advice from the Library of Congress who in 1959 published a research paper on the life expectancy of acetates, vinyl records and tapes. The conclusion was that records could maintain their quality for over a century and even tape had a rather long life if taken care of storage and maintenance.

Now, many decades later, one can only agree with the finding that records can have a very long life, provided humidity is kept relatively low, the room temperature is not too high (preferably under 35 degrees or even lower), records are kept out of the sun and heating sources can not radiate directly on the albums, and the records should be stored vertically and do not have room/space to bend. In hot climates they should be stored in a room on the north side of the house/apartment, and the shelves should have doors or venetian blinds. Rooms should have curtains.

Why keep records for more than one hundred years? Well, the LP has the extraordinary feature that its signal always can be reproduced because the information in the groove is analogous and has to be read with a mechanical device. One wonders if a century from now the CD still can be auditioned.
You have all the interest in keeping your records in good shape for at least as long as you live and as long as you will be able to play them.

To protect old, valuable albums and also gatefold editions, I use outer sleeves of transparent plastic. I use the thick variety which is supple, not the hard kind. There is also a thinner, less sturdy transparent outer sleeve available. The records are slipped into the sleeve from the top. This makes it possible to store the album and pull it out of the cabinet entirely without leaving the album on the shelve and holding just the plastic outer sleeve in your hand.

Some collectors have thousands and thousands of records.
The most efficient and cheapest way to construct shelves and cupboards is by using coated chipboard availabkle in various lengths at the DIY shop. You can choose 30 cm/12 inches wide or wider.

Make compartments of 33 cm wide and 33 cm high.
See the picture below and the following drawings.

Since the chipboard is only 30 cm (12 inches) wide (deep) you can glue/screw 3 cm of wooden strips to the outer panels facing the wall. Or you just have a wider chipboard and have it cut to the desired size of 33 cm or more.

You can construct your shelves also from MDF if you like. The plasticized chipboard however does not need primer and paint and the plastic layer is friendlier to the cover than the painted Medium Dense Fiber board is.

Instead of the vertical shelves you can make horizontal shelves on which other rows of horizontal shelves can be stacked if you collection is growing. You can build up to 6 rows of shelves. On the top you could place boxed sets of records.
These are all suggestions of course and may help you to reflect on the shelves you want to make yourself.

And if you are not handy or want to adept shelves to the available space in your listening room, you could opt for Ikea Bonde cases which present a practical and esthetic solution.

For 7"/45 RPM records also shelves can be constructed. But it can be a good idea to make containers of (birch) plywood, complete with a simple or luxurious grip. Long containers need extra reinforcement half way. The containers can be stacked and labeled.



© Rudolf A. Bruil - Page first published on the www on November 3rd, 1999

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by Rudolf A. Bruil and co-authors

Every so often you will find a link to the website of this or that manufacturer, shop, or designer. These links are there for you to inform yourself about interesting facts, products, views, etc. There ends my responsoibility.