Owning a record player comes with a sea of joy but if you don’t keep up with maintaining it, it can quickly become a rocky journey.
Dust accumulation and neglect can cause sound distortion that affects your listening experience.
Regularly cleaning your record player will prevent damage to both your records and your equipment. Typically, this involves wiping your platter, carefully cleaning your stylus, brushing your records before and after each use, and scheduling deeper cleans for belt contact points.
While some steps of cleaning your record player can be fairly straightforward like using a microfiber cloth to clean the surfaces of the record player, there are other parts that are a bit more delicate.
Continue reading for a full explanation of how to clean each essential part of your record player, as well as gain insider tips on record maintenance.
Besides the fact that visually seeing dust and grime everywhere is not the most appealing sight, a dirty record player can also hinder your listening experience.
When dust particles become attached to crucial pieces of equipment, they can interfere with the playback and result in sound distortion. Imagine hearing awful crackling while you’re trying to wind down with some soft blues music; it’s definitely not first prize!
With brief frequent cleans, you can prevent this kind of interference and minimize how often you need to do thorough cleans. However, thorough cleans can’t be completely avoided since they are a part of maintaining a record player and preserving the sound quality.
When it comes to the main surfaces of your record, you can rest assured that things are pretty simple. You can use a soft microfiber cloth to wipe away any dust accumulation on most sides of the record player.
One of the things you should look out for is ensuring that you wipe the platter where your record sits while it is played. If this area becomes dirty, you run the risk of dust and dirt rubbing into the grooves of your record while you play them.
And as we know, record maintenance is extremely important for a smooth experience so if your platter is dirty, you could encounter some problems even if you are super diligent about cleaning your actual records.
In a perfect world, you would only ever need to wipe away loose dust but if your record player has gathered some dirt that won’t budge with a soft microfiber cloth, you may need to bring in the big guns.
By this, we mean that you can use a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a lint-free cloth to target those stubborn spots. As always, we recommend that you err on the side of caution by wiping gently before trying to scrub away at anything in a harsh manner.
The first thing you need to know about a stylus (needle) is that it is a delicate piece of a record player setup. In a way, it’s a bit of a contradiction. The needle is typically made out of industrial diamonds and is therefore made from an extremely hard material.
You would think that this means it is resilient, but the needle is so small that it is still prone to damage and wear, particularly slight bending if not handled correctly. So, whenever you are dealing with the stylus, do it with care.
The best way to safely clean your stylus is by using a special stylus brush to gently wipe from front to back a few times. Never wipe side to side as this could bend or damage your stylus. Make sure that you hold your tonearm so that it doesn’t move around or touch your turntable while you clean the stylus.
If you struggle to hold the tonearm in place while you clean, you can always unscrew your headshell from the tonearm so that it’s separated from the turntable. This will give you more control over how you access the needle.
Most stylus brushes come with a cleaning solution but if you don’t have a cleaning solution, you can also use a little bit of rubbing alcohol for a more thorough clean. And lastly, sometimes it can be helpful to keep your audio system turned on, but on a low volume, while you clean your stylus.
By doing this, you can use the audio to gauge when you are making contact with the needle and you can also use the sound as a way to hear when you are perhaps being too rough and need to soften the pressure.
Of course, this is only helpful if you opt to keep your headshell connected to the tonearm while you clean.
If you’re looking for a quick way to clean the stylus, or if you’re curious about the sound of your finger across the diamond being amplified, you may be tempted to use your fingers to clean the needle. However, this is generally not recommended.
Even if you do so very gently, wiping your finger across the stylus will leave behind natural oils from your skin. These natural oils could exacerbate the issue of dust collecting on the stylus and could end up making your life even more difficult.
The same thing goes for blowing on your stylus. There isn’t any harm in a little bit of air, but if you by mistake spit on your needle while blowing on it, you will just encourage dirt to stick to the needle even more.
A dirty turntable belt and a worn turntable belt are two different things but if you are struggling with a dirty point of contact for the belt, you could be experiencing similar issues to a worn belt.
This could be sound distortion or slipping. If you think your belt may be worn, be sure to check out How To Repair a Record Player – DIY Tips to Fix to find out how to replace it.
If you’re just needing to clean the area, gently remove the belt to expose the motor pulley. Then you can use a cloth with some rubbing alcohol to wipe away any dirt or oil that may be interfering with the turntable belt.
Having a clean record player is fantastic but if your records are dirty, you still won’t be out of the woods. For crisp amplification, you need to make sure that your records are pristine.
We recommend investing in an anti-static record cleaner brush that you should use before and after each play of a record.
This will ensure that the record is always clean when it is played and when it is stored. In addition, the anti-static quality of the brush will reduce dust accumulation.
There are plenty of other ways to clean your records. Some options are as simple as a soft microfiber cloth and others can be as advanced as a record cleaning machine. We’ve already gone to the liberty of mapping out all of the safest and best options in How To Clean Vinyl Records Safely & Without Damaging Them.
Since dust accumulation is a well-known issue for record players, most designs come with a built-in dust cover. This dust cover should be lowered down and used to cover your record player whenever it isn’t in use.
You don’t need to worry too much about trying to use the dust cover while you are listening to your collection but if your record player has one, we highly recommend using it as soon as you’re finished listening to your album.
The dust cover may not prevent all dust from sneaking in but it plays a huge role in being part of the line of defense.
Making time to maintain your record player correctly is always worth it in the end. From ensuring the best listening experience to promoting the longevity of your equipment, it’s a habit that everyone can benefit from.
It can be as easy as wiping the external parts with a soft microfiber cloth and regularly cleaning your stylus. Cleaning your records should also form part of this maintenance and with the help of a convenient anti-static cleaning brush, it can be completely painless.
With clean records and a clean record player, you’ll be all set to melt into the classics. Happy listening!
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Trent is a music lover, musical instrument player and passionate audio afficionado.