Simple, Safe, Cheap Record Cleaning
This is a simple, cheap and fairly safe way to clean a vinyl record. There is very little chance of damaging your albums. And, it's cheap because you can get your records clean with everyday household items.
Before you start cleaning, know this, soap and water is not the best way to clean a record for two reasons :
Even the best soaps leave a residue (so make due without it if possible) and;
It's better to minimize or avoid physical contact with the surface of the record.
But if you need to clean a record and you aren't too fussy, this will do the trick.
What you Need to Clean Vinyl Records at Home with Soap and Water:
Dish Soap (Not the best solution but it will do if you have dirty records and little cash)
Warm Water (Distilled and De-Ionized if Possible)
A Soft Cloth (Lint Free)
A Carbon Fibre Brush (Dry) or Cloth for Cleaning Bifocals
Step 1 : Remove Dust
You should remove dust and loose particles from the surface before any deep cleaning.
A carbon fibre brush passed lightly along the playing surface will do the trick.
The brush is not intended to enter into the grooves of the record.
The carbon bristles help disperse any static charge that will cause dust particles to stick to your record.
If you do not have a carbon fiber brush, try to find a cloth for cleaning glasses or cell phone screens.
Pass the cloth over the surface of the vinyl record gently in the direction of the grooves.
Be gentle. We don't want to push dirt into the grooves or drag particles across the surface of the album.
This is simply to brush off loose particles. For a deeper clean, we'll use some good old fashion soap and water.
Step 2 : Prepare the Cleaning Solution
This is just soap and water. But try cleaning your records with just the distilled warm water. All soaps and even most alcohols will leave a residue. That's not to say that you can't use any solution other than pure water - just use it sparingly and rinse well. If you do that, a little bit of soap to help break down some of the grease won't hurt.
Put the warm water in the bowl.
The water shouldn't be too hot.
Some vinyl record collectors will suggest using very hot water. While, yes, hot water does take off dirt more readily. We all have experienced that. Heat is not good for vinyl records. Even though the melting point of poly-vinyl-chloride may be well above that of boiling water. There really isn't any reason to risk your hands or your records with extreme conditions.
The water just needs to be warm enough so that the soap can dissolve easily.
Mix in a small amount of dish soap and stir. Use as little soap as possible. In fact, try not use any at all.
Step 3 : Clean the Record
The cloth you use to clean the record should be soft and absorbant. Do not use rags or old t-shirts.
The clothes used for polishing cars work really well. They only cost a few bucks, they are reusable and they can be found in any automobile accessories department.
Wrap the cloth over your index finger and dip your finger tip into the bowl of warm lightly-soaped water.
The cloth shouldn't be wet enough to leave any wetness on the record. Therefore, drying the vinyl record after cleaning should be a non-issue.
Now, gently rub your cloth-covered soapy finger over the vinyl record in a circular motion along the grooves.
Go in concentric circles clockwise from the center around the record until you reach the outside edge.
Then go in the opposite direction - counter-clockwise around the record spiraling inwards towards the label - like the stylus does.
Clean the record evenly.
Keep your finger tips flat. Do not use your nails.
Do not get the label wet. If there is some wetness on the record, just use a clean part of your cloth to gently absorb it then brush the record with your carbon fibre brush.
Step 4 : Repeat
Once your water or cloth is dirty, it's time to start again. Get a new bowl of warm soapy water and use a clean section of your cloth.
Step 5 : "Rinse"
Do one final pass using only the distilled water just to make sure there isn't any soap residue left behind.
If this doesn't work to your satisfaction or you have a large number of records to clean, use a professional record cleaning kit or record cleaning machine.
Keep in mind though, regular maintenance is the best way to keep a vinyl record collection in good shape.
For a complete summery on vinyl handling check the whole story here.