Vinyl Record Cleaning Machines

We are often asked what concentration of Vinyl Clear will produce the best results. The answer depends on the state of the vinyl and the cleaning method used. Below is our guide, like all thing’s vinyl, we suggest that you use it as a starting point and experiment to find what works best for you.

Despite the many different cleaning techniques available, all wet vinyl record cleaning follows the same basic process:

  1. The use of fluid to rehydrate the dust, which is 95% dry skin.
  2. Removing the rehydrated dust.

Rehydrating the dust.

Water (when we say water we mean pure de-ionised water, anything else will leave a residue on the surface of the vinyl) is needed to rehydrate the dust, the problem with water is that it has a surface tension which stops it penetrating deep into the finer records grooves. Used on it's own or with alcohol, it will just sit on top of the grooves. Unlike other vinyl record cleaners, Vinyl Clear contains highly effective non-ionic wetting agents that change its dispersion characteristics so that the fluid reaches parts of the vinyl that other cleaners simply cannot reach. We call this effect 'Deep Track Cleansing".

That’s why Vinyl Clear is the industry standard vinyl record cleaner. And one of the reasons it was chosen by Abbey Road Studio’s sound engineers.

Removing the debris.

95% of the stuff that clogs record grooves is dust, or dry dead skin. Once rehydrated, this dust needs to be removed from the vinyl. It can be physically removed by a brush or cloth, sucked off using a vacuum, vibrated out using ultrasound.

Different ways to clean vinyl records.

No one cleaning method is perfect, if it was we'd all be using it. Time, cost, convenience as well as cleaning efficiency are all factors. Most of us will use a couple of methods, and all have their merits. Dry cleaning, with a brush, is only something we would use prior to playing a record as it can only dislodge any surface debris. Wet cleaning is far more effective. Below we have given a brief description of the types of wet cleaning methods currently available and their strengths and weaknesses.

A recommended dilution of our standard Vinyl Clear and Concentrate fluids is also provided as a guide for the different types of record cleaning methods available.

vinyl clear microfibre microfiber supersoft cloth

Cleaning with a brush or microfibre cloth.

This is the way most of us clean our records most of the time, spray the vinyl with cleaning fluid and clear with a brush or cloth. It’s cheap and easy and will typically remove 80-95% of the dust in one clean. That's why it's good to maintain records with regular cleaning and the Vinyl Clear Kit is an effective,  quick, no fuss way to clean and restore the high fidelity of the original pressing. This 'spray and wipe' method of cleaning is perfect for the vast majority of record lovers. Even deep seated or stubborn debris can be removed with additional cleaning/playing cycles or a more aggressive (if using a microfibre cloth) cleaning of the record. Vinyl is strong stuff, you can't do any damage to the playing surface with a clean audiophile quality microfibre cloth.

Vinyl Clear Fluid strength 100%
Vinyl Clear Concentrate strength 10-15%

This is where things get a little more complex. A record that sounds clean on one turntable might sound terrible on another. Confusing? This is mainly because of the compliance of the cartridge and the profile of the styli.

Cartridge compliance is like the suspension on a car, high compliance carts are lightly sprung, and very 'bouncy', low compliance carts have less spring. They both provide a different platform for the stylus. The merits of both are much debated and not really a subject for this page. So let's focus on the stylus, which after all is in contact with the vinyl.

Most styli are elliptical in shape, it's a cheap effect and popular shape. It's downside is that it tends to sit on the groove and for the purist in pursuit of extracting all the sound, that's just not good enough.

Many more expensive styli, especially those laser cut to an HE or SAS profile are very sensitive to debris that sits deep in the grooves. That's why audiophiles, with expensive equipment or exotic, sensitive styli might also own a record cleaning machine or RCM. They are looking for the small marginal gains that will make the difference and compared to an RCM the 'wet and wipe' method can be slightly less effective. Mainly because it uses less fluid to rehydrate the dust and relies on the cloth or brush dislodging the debris and that dislodged dust adhering to the brush/cloth to be removed.

So let's look at the RCM options going from cheapest to the most expensive.

Cleaning with a spin cleaner (£35 - £80).

There are several spin cleaners available. Simple in operation, they are a LP record sized bath that the vinyl is immersed into, the record is then spun around and is brushed clean by two brushes that are attached inside the bath. A spin cleaner is the next step up from a cloth/brush clean and should give a more consistant result as the vinyl is immersed in the fluid and any debris removed by the brushes sinks to the bottom of the bath. That said spin cleaning can be a time consuming and messy process but should remove 85-95% of dust in one clean.

Vinyl Clear Fluid strength 50%
Vinyl Clear Concentrate strength 5-10%

Cleaning with a Vacuum style cleaner (£250 - £1,200).

Pro-Ject, Okki-Nokki and Nessie are all examples of vacuum vinyl record cleaning machines. Looking a bit like a large turntable the record is fixed onto the turntable, which spins, fluid is applied and then brushed and/or vacuumed off. A good solution for anyone who wants a more professional record cleaner. The downside is that they can be expensive and noisy. Expect a vacuum cleaner to remove 90-95% of dust with one clean.

Vinyl Clear Fluid strength 33%
Vinyl Clear Concentrate strength 5-10%

Cleaning with an Ultrasound cleaner (£375 - £3,500).

Like the spin and vacuum cleaners, the record is immersed into a bath of fluid, unlike all the other cleaners the dust is removed by vibrating the fluid using ultrasound. This dislodges any dust attached to the vinyl without the use of a brush. This is the method favoured by music professionals and acknowledged as the way to restore vinyl to the ‘best it can be’ condition. Another benefit is up to 6 records can be cleaned at one time. Typically an ultrasound cleaner will remove 90-99% of dust with one clean.

Vinyl Clear Fluid strength 25%
Vinyl Clear Concentrate strength 3-6%