Keeping your records as clean as possible is the key to hearing the music at its best. There is nothing better than playing a record that’s clean and listening to it for the first time. However, over time your record can become dusty and it just doesn’t sound the same. Vinyl records attract dust like a magnet, especially if you have pets in your home. Have you ever seen the morning sunshine through your windows and seen all the little particles floating through the air? All of these little particles can land on your record and get embedded into the grooves while playing them. The stylus shoves little particles into the grooves like a plow and although very hard to see happening, you can hear it in the sound quality over time.
Have you ever put a record on and seen nothing on the record thinking it was clean, then halfway through a song it starts to skip? You run to lift up the tonearm and see no scratches on the record but then on a closer examination you can see a small dust bunny on the stylus. Where did that come from? The grooves may have had too much to plow and the stylus picked up too many particles from the record grooves and it could no longer track or it just could have been a particle that floated down onto the record when you were not looking. Let’s have a look at a dirty record.
Here you can see that there is nothing that should affect the sound while playing the record.
So how do you deal with this dreaded issue and just get back to enjoying your music? You’re going to have to invest some money into keeping your records clean.
There are machines on the market that you can buy but are very costly. They can range from $500 used and upwards to $700 new. If you’re a huge collector and don’t mind paying that kind of price, I have been told that they work really well.
I have tried many methods to cut my cost down, just to name a few:
Now let’s cover what you can use for cleaning products. There are lots of cleaning products on the market that will do an amazing job and I have tried lots of them but over time I found I was using too much and it was starting to cost me too much money. With I quick scan over the internet and looking at different homemade solutions I came up with one that really works for me:
¼ isopropyl alcohol
¾ distilled water
2 drops Sunlight dish detergent
You must use distilled water because tap water has small particles that can harm your records.
The alcohol will evaporate very fast and leave little residue.
It is a good practice to rinse after using the cleaner with distilled water to remove any other residue that may have been left behind. Once the record is dried I always put it into a brand new jacket. If you use the same jacket, you are risking putting dirt back on the record that is in the old jacket. By doing this you should not have to do a deep cleaning again for a long time. The jacket liner that you use is up to you.
***Magnified record photos provided by www.squickycleanvinyl.com ***
Over the years of collecting Records I have noticed many variations on how people grade their records and how they price them for sale. Many factors come into play, (The condition, pressing, supply and demand, just to name few.)
Every person I met has their own way of picking out what’s good for their collection. Some don’t mind the jackets not being in the best shape as long as the record is playable. while some people will pass over a record if it has the slightest imperfection. No one can say to you that you’re wrong in your reasons why you may pass over or pick up a record. At the end of the day, you’re the one that is buying the record for your collection to enjoy.
One thing that should never be considered when grading a record is the age, age has no factor on the condition of a record. However, it does on the value of a record. If someone tries to sell you a record and they say to you “It’s in great shape for being 30 years old….”, That is the wrong way to grade a record. Records are not really that hard to find and most likely if you put the effort into finding another copy of that particular record, you’ll find one in a lot better condition. This kind of grading usually happens at home yard sales. People have noticed that over the past years record sales have climbed every year and started looking through their basements,and grandparent’s basement, to find records to sell. There is nothing wrong with trying to sell records. However, the buyer should understand what grading is and why.
When I first started collecting, I bought 20 Beatles records, The jackets were in horrible condition and the Records were scratched and scuffed up. The seller sold them to me on the fact that they were old and the Beatles, I was new to collecting and they never collected records their selves. Both of us were in waters that we knew nothing about. I took the records home thinking I made a great deal. Once I tried them on my turntable, I realized that all I had was some cool looking records that sounded horrible. After that day I decided to better educate myself on what to buy that would sound the best on my system and what my budget could afford.
This is how I grade my Records.
Mint (M) The only kind of Mint record is an unopened one. Even some unopened records that are old may not be Mint. Some records from the 60’s were shipped with no inner sleeve and over the years could have sled around in the jacket causing damage. More recently pressed records would be Mint. Many Dealers may not even give a Mint grading because they may believe no record is truly Mint.
The jackets must have no seam splits, no creases as well as no cut-out hole. You will come across unopened Records with cut-out holes, I don’t think of these Records as Mint.
Near Mint (NM) Basically any new record, that is opened and has all the signs of a Mint Record. The record will look shinny and not played. The jacket will look clean, with no signs of handling.
Very Good Plus (VG+) Now this is where a lot of people start to have their own opinions of differences. Very Good plus records will show some signs of use and may show some signs of wear on the jacket. The record may have a slight scuff from the inner jacket, This will not affect the sound while playing. You may see some ring wear on the jacket but only a small amount. There may also be a small scratch, The scratch must not affect the playing. You can do a finger nail check to see. To do this take your finger nail and carefully see if you can feel the scratch. If you can then it’s too deep and will catch on your stylus. While playing a VG+ record you should have no surface noise.
Very Good (VG) This is the area that I stay away from. Generally these records are only worth ¼ of a Mint record. The record may play through with no skips but will have slight surface noise with visible scuffs and scratches. However, you may not hear them other then in the soft music playing areas on the Record. The jacket may have corners bent. Signs of wear and seams maybe split. Writing on the jacket or record label and the label may show signs of water damage. You may see a small warp but doesn’t affect the play-ability.
This shows a record that shows signs of jacket scuffs and a few scratches. However the Record plays great. Some of the older records could handle more then the newer ones on the market now.
Good (G) This Record will show signs of heavy playing, meaning the cartridge was putting to much weight down on the record making the grooves of the record wear away. The record may not skip but you will hear a lot of pops and ticks from visible scratches. The jackets may have heavy wear or writing. If the record is an easy to find record, I would look to buy a better copy. These records could be useful in other ways, if you can get them cheap. Some people make crafts out of them or if the jackets are in okay shape, they may frame them for display. Generally these records are priced at a dollar.
Poor (P) These records have no value. They are cracked beyond playability. You may see heavy mold, warped and water damaged. These records are considered garbage.
Remember collecting records is something that should be an enjoyable experience. This is how I grade my records and how I choose what I think is a fare price to pay. Everyone is different.So at the end of the day, you and the seller must be happy on what is fair. If you both can’t come to an agreement you’re better off walking away.