By Don Lindich
Week 16, 2020
Q. What do you recommend for cleaning vinyl LPs?
-C.K., Zephyrhills, FL
A. Good record cleaning devices start under $50 and go up into the many thousands of dollars. My favorites range between $40 and $1,000.
First up is the Allsop Orbitrac 3. To clean with it you put the record on the supplied non-slip pad, spray it with the included record cleaning solution, then put the Orbitrac brush into the record hole and rotate it around the record – hence the name, “Orbitrac.” It is easier to use and more effective than a simple brush and record cleaning solution, and the rotating design ensures the entire record surface is cleaned. The Orbitrac 3 lists for $59.99 but can found online for under $40.
The Spin-Clean Record Washer is my next recommendation. It is remarkable because it cleans records as well as almost anything out there, but it starts at $79.99. The Spin-Clean has a trough that contains a record cleaning solution, brushes in the trough that are immersed in the solution, and rollers on the edges. Put the record in the Spin-Clean and rotate it a few times. The brushes and solution clean the grooves deeply, and the dirt and grime settle on the bottom of the trough so they don’t contaminate the next record. After cleaning you dry the records by hand and place them aside to complete the drying process. For effective, cost-efficient record cleaning, the Spin-Clean is king and my most frequent recommendation. I recommend the Deluxe Kit for $124.99 because it includes ample cleaning solution and drying cloths.
The $299.95 Record Doctor VI vacuum record cleaning machine is next up the pecking order. Now in its (obviously) sixth iteration, the Record Doctor VI is not only one of the most affordable vacuum cleaning machines, it is one of the nicest. Using a brush and lots of cleaning fluid, you rotate and scrub the record, aided by the Record Doctor VI and its smooth roller bearing. Then you flip the record over, turn on the vacuum and rotate the record to suck the dirt and fluid out of the grooves. Repeat for the other side and you are finished. Once you have one of these it is impossible to go back.
If you have read the preceding two paragraphs and mentally paired the Spin-Clean with the Record Doctor VI, you are smart indeed because it is a great combo. Use the Spin-Clean to give your records a deep immersion scrub, and then put them on the Record Doctor VI to dry them. It is less work than scrubbing on the Record Doctor and dries much more effectively than a cloth.
At the top of the heap is the $970 Kirmuss KA-RC-1 Ultrasonic Record Restoration System. This system rotates your records in an ultrasonic cleaning bath of distilled water and a small amount of alcohol for several minutes, then you remove the records, spray and brush them with a surfactant, then repeat the process. After the last application you brush a bit of surfactant on the record and the process is complete. Kirmuss recommends you repeat the process up to six times, depending on the condition of the record being cleaned. It is time consuming to repeat several times, but the process is relatively easy. When you are finished your records will shine like the sun, and you will definitely hear details and depth coming out of them that you never knew existed.