Restoring Old Vinyl Records

The Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia started on 18 March, to ‘flatten the curve’ of the Covid-19 spread. Similar to what is happening everywhere else. Today, we are in the ‘Conditional MCO’ phase where certain businesses are allowed to operate as long as they observe the new ‘norm’ – like ensuring appropriate distancing between employees, sanitisation of work places, monitoring body temperature of staff and customers etc.

Anyway most people are still stuck at home – which is not a bad thing – families get to spend time together, people are trying out new recipes, (or starting to learn to cook). With technology people can still go shopping – online of course, and it’s great to see businesses especially the small ones embracing technology – getting onto online selling platforms. People are also starting new hobbies – things that they wouldn’t have time before – gardening, making online videos on YouTube, TikTok and so on.

Well here’s one hobby you can look into as well – start a new vinyl record collection!

Mine was by accident – Dad had all these old records that he loved. And when he passed like 10 years ago, I told myself, I will one day restore them. Took me 10 years because I only had a career break recently plus a bigger house = space. So I finally did it!

Cleaning Old Records

Well – the kit you need depends on how many records you are looking to clean. I have hundreds. And can you imagine – my Dad gave away most of his records already and yeah the remaining is still in hundreds…

The Manual Way (and Cheapest)

Tools needed

  1. Vinyl record brush
  2. Cleaning solution
  3. Lint free cloth to wipe dry records

Pretty basic instructions

  1. Get rid of the dust and static – use a vinyl record brush. I would recommend to get a record cleaner kit which usually comes with the brush and cleaning solution.
  2. Spray the cleaning solution for part of the records that looked bit dirty. If you haven’t clean the records in a long time like in my case – there are no parts that are not dirty!
  3. Wipe clean after spraying – circular motion
  4. Rinse and dry the record – I use a dish rack for this. Some cleaning kits come with drying cloth – what I do is I let it air dry for a bit on the rack, then I use the cloth to wipe dry whatever water is left
  5. Very important – once dry, store the records properly. Make sure you use good quality anti-static sleeves.

If you’re looking at just a handful of records to clean and also to just do ‘run and maintain’ on and off of a few records at a time – the manual way works just fine. I would recommend the following brushes and cleaning kits.

Vinyl Record Brush/Cleaning Kit

Record Washer (Mid-range budget)

If you don’t want to spend a whole lot of money but you have a large number of records to clean, I would recommend buying a record washer. 

There are a couple brands out there – I bought Spin-Clean and I highly recommend it.

  • Easy to use/handle
  • Affordable
  • Washes 33, 45, and 78 records
  • With the washer, you deep-clean both sides of the records at the same time
  • Kit includes cleaning solution, and two lint-free towels (the towels are pretty good and yes it matters!)
  • A few seconds of spinning and cleaning and you are ready to wipe your records dry!
  • Each cleaning session can clean 20-50 records – so the solution supplied can last you for a bit since you only use between 1-3 capfull depending on the solution concentration supplied with your kit.

Record Cleaning Machine (High End)

I looked at these options too. But looking at the prices, I decided nah – not for me. I am definitely NOT THERE YET. But if you can afford it – and you are passionate about records and you have loads and loads of them to clean – why not? 

Note that not all the machines are fully automated – the lower price Record Doctor machine in the list below for example, requires you to turn the records manually but for the price and still deep cleaning solution, it does have a lot of fans. 

Storing Records

A number of my Dad’s album covers were in bad shape but the worst part is their inner sleeves. So I decided to invest in new ones. I don’t know – what  I see is that in most cases, the original sleeves don’t seem to be so great – so maybe if yours look ok, for those very special albums, you may want to consider upgrading the sleeves to better quality ones anyway.

Inner Sleeves

Whatever it is – if you are buying sleeves – like in my case where it’s not a choice – I think it’s mistake to go for cheap sleeves. You can of course choose the no brand Made-in-China option – a set of 50 to 100 for really, really cheap prices. But after all that effort in cleaning the records etc, please don’t ruin them by storing them in cheap sleeves.

I would recommend Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab inner sleeves. They fit my records nicely. These are three-ply, anti-static sleeves.  I would have also considered Diskeeper Audiophile sleeves too but I couldn’t get them shipped here. Anyway – happy with my choice – and in fact, I bought more after that. 

Outer Sleeves

I bought outer sleeves too – the art prints on the jackets are just as valuable so you should invest to protect that. I got also the Mofi outer covers together with the inner sleeves. But when I ran out, I decided to buy the slightly cheaper Big Fudge sleeves – it’s a good alternative.

Missing My Dad

Cleaning the records, didn’t feel like a chore – it was quite therapeutic (strange but true). And I felt somehow connected to my Dad – as I go through his different albums. Surprised as well at some of things he used to listen to.

Anyway – another thing I had to buy was a turntable. Yes – this is not a cheap hobby. And I discovered setting that up requires skill too – anyway that’s another post for another day…

Happy cleaning everyone!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.