Records can last for decades, preserving music for future generations if ownership includes an easy, affordable regiment for care and storage. Considering the following aspects of record care early on means collections can grow and maintain their quality from the outset. The easiest and best choice will be to invest in quality sleeves and shelves but other options are out there for a price.
Albums are like books when it comes to proper storage. Place them upright on a shelf, spine out. A small amount of lean is okay, but a dramatic imbalance will place more weight on some albums causing a warp. Never stack them.
Consider shelving carefully and plan ahead for expansion. On a standard shelf, records distribute the majority of their weight to the center, causing sag. Over time, shelves may break under strain, so choose something sturdy or something with shelves that are not very long (6 to 12 inch sections) is ideal.
Many collectors choose to sleeve their albums in clear, polypropylene liners to keep things tidy and free of dust. Another advantage to sleeving albums is in the fight against ring wear; the subtle imprint of the shape of a record into the jacket. First, remove the sleeve from the jacket, place it behind the jacket, and slide both into a protective polypropylene outer sleeve. Now, you have easier access to the wax and you’ve eliminated a majority of the possibility to scuff your album or damage the jacket.
Japanese or resealable sleeves are another option. Some collectors prefer these as they completely encapsulate a record inside a dust free environment. These sleeves are exactly like all others, except they have a small flap with a tacky, non-permanent glue that can be opened and closed. Resealable sleeves have a tendency to stick to anything, so keep that in mind when handling them.
Inner sleeves are notoriously cheap, even if they are designed and printed to integrate with the outer jacket. Typically made of coarse paper, they are nothing but trouble. These can be discarded – unless they are printed – for a higher-quality product that will protect the records surface and decrease static buildup. The investment is well worth it for any record in reasonable condition.
Things get dirty – it happens. Dirty records can be cleaned in a number of ways.
The first line of defense in many situations, record brushes gently sweep dust from the surface and grooves. Easy to come by, from inexpensive to cheap, you need one.
Liquid Cleaning Agents
Never use water to clean your wax. Ever. Liquid and vinyl don’t mix well, but some solutions have been developed to assist with debris removal. Using them requires a certain amount of practice, but their benefits can be noticed in some cases. Whichever solution you purchase will leave you with two options: following the instructions precisely or relying on the internet’s advice. Whatever you do, never use water alone and try your best to use products specially formulated for vinyl.
Record Cleaning Machines
Investing in a cleaning machine is a big purchase. You’ll find people that argue both for and against them. At a certain level of collecting, record cleaning machines make sense, but do plenty of research and understand what you’re buying before taking the plunge. Key factors to consider are the advantages of having a vacuum to remove liquid cleaning agents from your discs and the ability to have a machine automatically rotate a disc during cleaning. Machines come in multiple formats with options ranging from fully manual operation like a Spin Clean all the way through to devices that are fully automated and use ultrasonic technology to clean multiple discs at at time.
De-warping machines exist, but audiophiles argue that there is no use in trying to flatten an album that’s already damaged. Others stand by a record flattener just as they do a cleaning machine. Buying warped records isn’t the best practice, but if you make it a habit, your collection may benefit from a flattener.
Only for the OCD, or the passionately organized. Discogs.com is your best friend, it’s the wikipedia for music releases. Track what you own, buy and sell, and access a database of your personal collection whenever you want. The time required to catalog and existing collection can be daunting, so start early if you can.
In the End, it’s Only a Record
Get used to the idea that one day, you will drop a record. Probably an expensive one, or your favorite. In the meantime, implementing a system of storage, protection and care is easy enough to do. Check out the products available, decide how much you want to spend and start maintaining your records in a manner that will allow them to last indefinitely.