If you have a collection of old or new vinyl records, you will understand the importance of keeping them clean and dust free. Even with a budget record deck, the difference in playback quality can easily be greatly improved by cleaning your favourite LP’s. But no matter how carefully you put a record away, over time dust somehow finds it’s way into the inner sleeve. And each time the record is played, this dust will damage the grooves if not removed. The question is how do you clean vinyl records safely?
Cleaning solutions can leave a deposit in the grooves. Even a weak soap and water solution can leave a slight covering when it dries. A carbon fibre brush can be used before & after playing. Or a specialist cleaning cloth. But either of these record cleaning methods involve touching the record surface. A non-contact method of dust removal is by a vacuum cleaner, but that won’t clean to the very base of the record groove.
But as any self-respecting audiophile knows, the less physical contact anything has with the face of the disc, the better and most cleaning methods require some kind of rubbing or brushing. In an ideal World, the only item to touch the surface of a record should be a stylus.
However, one new method is the use of an Ultrasonic Cleaner. This ticks all the boxes with regards to non-contact with the surface of the record and they can be cleaned very thoroughly without chemicals. Microscopic dust particles are cleaned from the very bottom of the record groove.
What is an Ultrasonic Cleaner?
Without going into too much nerdie technical detail, Ultrasonic cleaning is achieved by producing millions of microscopic air bubbles in a tank of water, generated by a transducer that transmits the ultrasonic sound through the liquid. These tiny bubbles reach breaking point and implode giving incredible cleaning results by dislodging the build-up of dirt and grime that is normally impossible to remove by hand. The most popular use for an Ultrasonic Cleaner is for jewellery, although the range of other applications is extensive. Ultrasonic cleaners are often used by Dentists, Vets, Tattoo studios etc, for cleaning instruments after use. Garages use them for cleaning carburetors. More on ultrasonic cleaning here.
For the best ultrasonic cleaning results with vinyl records, the water should be warm (not hot). As you can see from the photograph sent by our customer, the LP is suspended over the tank so that the faces of the disc pass through the water. It’s a little “Heath Robinson” in this case, but the principal works very well and the residue of dirt and silt in the bottom of the tank clearly shows that Ultrasonic Cleaning is one of the best ways to keep vinyl LP’s clean.
“I’ve just done a temporary lash-up with wood, a couple of halved rubber washers and BluTak. I’ll make something a little less flimsy in the next few days” – Robin, Hull.
“The photo shows the deposit in the tank after cleaning 27 records. I’m really surprised there’s so much as all the records had been cleaned by a vacuum record cleaner previously”.
The machine used by Robin is a 6Ltr model which is the smallest model that has the required tank depth to be able to submerge the face of the disc under water. Also this model has a de-gassing function that gives maximum ultrasonic cleaning.
I contacted the customer to ask how he was getting on with the cleaner after 1 year. Below is the reply:
My support / spindle is still very basic but improved sufficiently for me to leave it at this (example photo attached); I’m not going to try motorising the spindle.
I usually put five records in at a time, the maximum with these separators – balsa circles with rubber ‘O’ rings glued on which protect the record labels from getting wet – soak the vinyl for quarter of an hour or more while the cleaning fluid warms up to 33 degrees centigrade and then turn the spindle one fifth of a revolution every minute for fifteen minutes on the gentler cleaning setting. Then I suck the records dry using my old vacuum record cleaning machine, without any rinsing. This process means it takes half an hour plus the soak to complete the five records. The fluid I use is L’Art du Son solution plus some Kodak Photo-flo to wet the vinyl properly.
The improvement over just using the vacuum cleaner is very noticeable and I am completely sold on the value of the ultrasonic tank for the listening experience. The improved sound demonstrates a remarkably thorough cleaning, far better than anything else I have experienced and it’s reassuring to be able to see the muck accumulating at the bottom of the tank. I wouldn’t be without the ultrasonic.
Thanks for your enquiry. I’m well and truly satisfied.
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