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Spotless Records: How to Clean Vinyl Records with an Ultrasonic Cleaner

Audiophiles are forsaking the prevalent digital formats, such as CDs and MP3s, for the classic sound of vinyl records. The demand for first-edition vinyl records of jazz, blues and rock artists has skyrocketed over the last decade. As the demand for these high-value collectibles has risen, so has the demand for their upkeep and maintenance. In an interesting twist, a 21st-Century technology has enabled collectors to preserve these 20th-Century artifacts.

How it Works

Collectors can use an ultrasonic cleaner to remove the dust, oils and other particles that can affect the sound quality of valuable vinyl records, without the worry of warping or damaging the vinyl itself. The primary components of the ultrasonic cleaner are a tank to hold the cleaning solution (water and detergent) and a transducer attached to the tank. The transducer creates ultrasonic sound waves that in turn create microscopic bubbles in the water. When the bubbles make contact with the surface, they implode and wash away the contaminants.

clean vinyl record

Ultrasonic Cleaning and Vinyl Record Care

Ultrasonic cleaning can be much more effective in removing particles from the intricate grooves of vinyl records than cleaning by hand. The microscopic bubbles can reach into the finely etched grooves of records much more effectively than any cloth. The bubbles also do not abrade or wear down the surface of the record, as is the case with some cleaning cloths. Ultrasonic cleaners can also accomplish the task of cleaning records in a fraction of the time of most other methods.

vinyl record

Ultrasonic Cleaners and Vinyl Record Labels

One concern that collectors share about cleaning their vinyl records is preserving the labels. Paper record labels and the adhesives that attach them to the vinyl can come loose and dissolve in water. For those collectors attempting to preserve the labels on their records, they can use a dowel rod or pencil and insert it into the center hole of the record, then fill the ultrasonic cleaning tank up to the edge of the label.

After the machine has cleaned a section of the record, they can rotate the record and allow the machine to work on the next section. However, the user must be sure that the edge of the record does not touch the bottom of the tank, as the vibrations could carry through the vinyl and damage the record.

damaged vinyl record

Ultrasonic Cleaners and Damaged Vinyl Records

One precaution that collectors should take when using an ultrasonic cleaner is that the vibrations from the transducer could exacerbate any damage to their vinyl records. Although the vibrations in the cleaner itself will ordinarily not induce any damage to records that are in excellent condition, the action from the machine could worsen any cracking or warping that already exists.

Also, if the water temperature rises above 160° Fahrenheit, the hot water may damage or warp the vinyl. Make sure to set the unit thermostat below 140°F. Monitor the liquid temperature to make sure that it does not get too high since the cleaning process itself will raise the temperature.

Ultrasonic cleaners from iUltrasonic come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and price points. For collectors, the use of “sound” to make their records “sound” their best has been a “sound” investment.


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