Wet cleaning records can be a chore but it’s one that has potential to provide dramatic improvements in sound by removing dust, grime and other unwanted residue from the surface of records. Investing in a record-cleaning machine changed my listening experience. Originally it was easier to just find the record I wanted to play and drop the needle but now, in an a dual effort to preserve and clean my discs, I wash before I play. Home-brew recipes for record cleaning solutions are published all the time and some of them may be just fine. I’ve even tried a few but still find that the commercially available cleaners outperform any DIY recipe.
Sleeve City sells this popular product in a number of sizes but with a gallon being only $24.95, a safe bet is to buy in bulk and it will last you quite a while. Depending on how you clean your records and which system you use, a little bit will go a long way. A good cleaning brush is important for lightly scrubbing the surface of the vinyl, making sure it gets into the grooves where enzymes dislodge stubborn dust particles. Phoenix 2 is pretty much an all-purpose cleaner and works well with a VPI or Nitty Gritty.
Developed by Nitty Gritty, Pure 2 is an all-purpose formula recommended for just about any type of cleaning other than 78’s. Unlike the Phoenix 2 formula, Pure 2 contains a small amount of alcohol that, they claim, will “more effectively clean your Lp’s and 45’s.” The Pure 2 solution is a bit pricier but Nitty Gritty offers a group of cleaning products that are to be used in conjunction with Pure 2 for the best results. In my experience, I found the Pure 2 solution to be a very effective cleaning agent and it pairs nicely with any of the Nitty Gritty vacuum cleaning systems.
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab Super Record Wash has been a long-time favorite, as are most products from MoFi labs. This alcohol free formula “incorporates non-toxic, natural degreasers and dirt solvents in combination with quadruple-distilled, hyper-pure water base.” The purity of ingredients means that everything will either evaporate or be removed with a cleaning system. You can’t go wrong with MoFi.
If you don’t have a vacuum system for cleaning records, that’s not a problem. MoFi has a product developed for this use case and even works well in a pinch if you aren’t at home. No rinsing, no vacuuming, just as quick application of the fluid helps “dissolve dirt and grunge, then evaporates, taking all the residue with it.” MoFi One Fluid is new to me, I have yet to use any but reviews are positive and people seem to like it. At $24.99, it’s affordable and since it comes from MoFi, it’s backed by a reputation of excellence.
Preservation of recorded media is part of owning records, if you intend to enjoy their sound well into the future. If the above products aren’t your style and you’re looking for a more scholarly undertaking, the Library of Congress has a few articles discussing the handling, storage and cleaning of audio materials. Further scientific publications from government and peer-reviewed journals can be found at the Conservation Online (CoOL) site, an online resource for conservators operated by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC).
Records won’t clean themselves and they may get dirty even left unplayed. Clean records make for more enjoyable listening.