Cleaning Vinyl Records! The cheapest and arguably, BEST way to get your vinyl COMPLETELY clean! I use this method. My personal variances on this method in blue.
This a down and dirty guide to liberating your records from all the gunk they may have acquired - all without any special fluid. I show you my method using soap, water and a record brush. Record cleaning is a lost art, but a necessity today, where most vinyl hasn't been played in almost 30 years, and is quite dirty.
I've tried a few different methods of record cleaning: The traditional fluid and brush method, and even vacuuming the surface, and nothing got all the gunk out. I would clean a record, play it, stop the record and find a trail of dirt.
Then I tried this soap and water method. I finally got ALL the dirt and grime off the records!!! With this process, I've been able to clean off records that were literally caked white with mold.
One quick note: The best cleaning in the world simply minimizes the amount of non-musical noise on an album. Instead of hearing dirt, dust, mold, scratches and grove damage, you'll hear scratches and groove damage. After cleaning, some albums will sound "perfect" and other will be absolutely terrible (large number of scratches, lack of high frequencies and groove damage [scratchy, distorted sound])
Step 1 Gather the items:
You'll need the following:
-A Basin of some kind
-Dish soap (any kind will work)
-A record cleaning brush/pad (Discwasher style) or soft bristle tooth brush
-A few washcloths
-A source of warm water
-A sink with faucet
-Records to wash
-A clean surface to put the records on (their cardboard sleeves)
-Rubber gloves (if your going to be doing a number of records at a time)
Put a small amount of soap (one quck squeeze should do it) in the basin, and then fill it with about 3-4" of warm water. To active the soap, stir it around with your hand while filling up the basin. Now place the basin on a counter top or other comfortable surface where your going to clean your records.
step 3 Washing the record
Put a record in the basin, and turn it around by moving the edge with the palms of your hands (as to not touch the grooves).
Once the whole surface of the record is wet, grab the record brush (I use an inexpesive soft bristle tooth brush) and get it wet. With one hand, hold the record (with your palm) and with the other, move the brush in a circular motion about 10 times. I like to do 5 counter-clockwise and 5 clockwise. (I do this a little differently - I use the brush, and brush vigorously, back and forth, within the grooves, in small areas as I turn the record in the soapy basin.) If you've got heavy grime, you might want to do more. just make sure not to touch the label. After one side is clean, flip it over and repeat. (If you do get the label wet, I'd advise to dry it ASAP so it doesnt ruin it or peel off.)
step 4 Rinsing
After you've gotten the record clean, put it in a sink and run some cold water (I use luke warm to get rid of soap better) over it, and turn the record with the palms of your hand. After one side is clean, flip it over and do the other.
After it's clean, turn off the tap and let the water run off.
step 5 Drying
Now that most of the water has run off, put a wash cloth in your hand, and grab the record with it. Now put another washcloth in the other hand, and grab the record. (I actually have a soft dish towel (not cheese-cloth) laying flat on a table to lay the record upon. That way, the back side dries as I wipe the record with another soft dish towel, in circular motions with the grooves, to get most of the water off - then flip and repeat)
With one had, hold the record, and with the other, dry it off. Once it's dry, flip it over and do the other side (which should be most dry by now).
Once the record surface is dry, put the washcloths on the labels and press against them with your hand. This should get the labels dry.
After the record is mostly dry, set it on top of it's cardboard sleeve, then place it somewhere and let it dry for several hours. (I prefer to set the record in a dish drying rack as you would with any plate, and let the deep grooves air-dry over night BEFORE putting it back into the inner-sleeve and into the jacket)
step 6 Storage and playback
I'd recommend that the record is stored in a sleeve (the paper jacket inside the cover). Paper is fine, but does shed over time, so your records might have a little bit of stuff on the surface. Later records (late 70s and 80s) have glossy paper and even plastic sleeves to prevent this, while records from the 50s might not even have a sleeve.
Either make sleeves out of wax paper (this will be a future Instructible) (I'd advise against the waxpaper as it can leave a wax residue that can end up on your needle (stylus)) or buy some paper or plastic ones (they can be found online).
When handling records, make sure to only touch the label and edge, because finger oil acts like glue and dirt will stick to it (I've seen many a used record with blotches of dirt in the shape of finger prints).
Unless you seriously mistreat them, you'll probably never have to wash your records again or even use cleaning fluid. Just get the stray dust off with a carbon fiber brush before playback, clean the stylus (with a stylus cleaning brush) (or this. It's what I prefer and lasts a lifetime! ), keep the turntable clean, and close the dust cover during playback.