How to Clean Vinyl Records

It’s one of my biggest pet peeves: I’m listening to a record, my favorite song comes on, and about halfway through… it skips. Unfortunately, when you buy used vinyl, it comes with years of wear and tear. Sometimes the scratches just can’t be fixed. But there are ways to clean your vinyl to prevent further damage, and it’s important to take extremely good care of new vinyl as well. Dust builds up so easily on records, and larger particles can cause scratches and affect the sound quality of the record. I did some research on how to properly clean vinyl and wanted to share some tips, as well as a recipe for a homemade cleaning solution that the majority of the articles I’ve found swear by.


vinyl record cleaning brush

First and foremost, if you have records, you should have a record cleaning brush.  I ordered this one online, but you can also find them at some record stores.  These brushes are a quick and easy way to clean your vinyl before and after you play it. The carbon fiber bristles are static resistant and eliminate fine dust particles. To use it, spin the record slowly while holding the brush gently over the vinyl.

how to clean vinyl records 2

Make sure you clean the dust off of the brush in between records, too. When you’re finished playing a record, use the brush to clear any dust off of it and store in an anti-static, non-scratching sleeve like the one pictured below (these can also be found online or in record stores).

protective sleeve

I’ll be honest, this is the first time I’ve cleaned my records. As a result, some of them needed a deeper clean. You can purchase record cleaning solutions, but I decided to make my own using a tried and true method I found online. This works for removing fingerprints and dirt and grime that the brush can’t effectively remove.

homemade vinyl cleaning solution

The ingredients: Distilled water, isopropyl alcohol, and a couple drops of laundry detergent free and clear of fragrance or dyes.

It’s important to use distilled water because it doesn’t contain any natural minerals that could be harmful to the vinyl. It’s also recommended to use at least 90% isopropyl alcohol.  When making the mixture, I used a ratio of 6 parts water to 1 part alcohol, with the exact measurements below:

12 oz distilled water

2 oz alcohol

2 drops free and clear laundry detergent

Add the ingredients to a spray bottle and shake well.  To clean the vinyl, spray the fluid on the record, avoiding the label.  Use a microfiber cloth to gently wipe the vinyl in a circular motion.  Flip it over and repeat.

homemade vinyl cleaning solution 2

I was amazed with how effective this was – even some of my most worn records look brand new again!

record player

how to clean vinyl records

+ Do you have any tips for taking care of vinyl? Let me know in the comments!

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8 years ago

This was a great post! imjust curious about your record player…..ive been looking to buy a crosley but have heard they are not great players, do you like yours? Would you recommend one?

Kelley McDonald
3 years ago
Reply to  Courtney

Crosley’s are absolutely horrible little plastic machines, worse than the portable players people bought in the 1950-60s.

8 years ago

Awesome! I really want a record player now!

8 years ago

Love this guide! I bought my bf a record player for Christmas so we’re still just figuring it all out – but we definitely love the quality of sound it emits. We have a Crosley, I was nervous after reading so many mixed reviews but I think it works pretty well!

Warm Regards,

8 years ago

Courtney: Though they look really cool, Crosley’s are not great record players. They come with pretty sub-par needles, not diamond ones, and they have a ceramic cartridge which should be magnetic. To avoid including a pre-amplifier, they use the ceramic needle cartridge which puts a lot more pressure on the vinyl. I bought a Crosley when I was young and naive and I really regret it. It doesn’t do the music justice; it sounds pretty bad and it grinds your records. I’ve heard audio technica makes a good quality entry level record player, I have a used JVC that’s connected to a surround sound system circa 2003. I wish there were companies that made record players as cool looking as Crosley’s that were still high quality but as far as I know there aren’t. I’d recommend visiting your local record store for a good used (vintage!) one or going with the audio technica LP60. I hope this was helpful.

8 years ago

But I love the cleaning and care tips Julia!

8 years ago

You definitely have to delicately handle these type of records. Thanks for this post

I really love this and will try this the next weekend.

8 years ago

Hannah- Thanks so much! I look into your suggestion! I’m glad you told me that!

8 years ago

This is so helpful! Thanks Julia! xx

8 years ago

This article is great. I didn’t know it was possible to revive a record but my Smokie album feels better than ever. Thank you <3

8 years ago

Can this mixture safely clean off mold and mildew? Stored them in my basement for years and this is what happened

John Burgeson
8 years ago

Hi Julia — Glad to see you’re playing vinyl LPs. I wash mine much like you might wash dishes, under running warm water and with a dishcloth, using a gentle circular motion. After a good rinse, they’re in the rack to dry overnight. If tried several other techniques, but that seems to work the best because it gets rid of both dust and greasy fingerprints. This will also take care of mold, although for a serious fungal issue, you’ll have to resort to a mild bleach solution. Experiment on a less-treasured LP first. But you really need to replace that toy record player with a real turntable, a stereo amp and a good set of bookshelf speakers. I know it’ll mean a cash outlay, but maybe with a good used amp and a new table and speakers , you might be able to get a first-rate stereo for $400 or so that will last you for decades.

8 years ago

Thanks for the tips! I just got into vinyl collecting and was getting nervous since California weather right now creates a lot of floating dust. and Omg today I just got the Fleetwood Mac album from this record store! :D

8 years ago

Very nice tips! Thank you! I was just thinking how to bring my parents’ vinyl records back to life! The recipe seems very easy, even for lazy people like me! Greetings!

Will Noyes
8 years ago

I have a tremendous vinyl collection with 45s and 33,s. Can,t wait to start reconditioning especially my favorites. I have a stack record player that also plays VCRs and cassettes. Have it gone over about every thre3 years. Thanks for your formula.

Will Noyes
8 years ago

Good news on TV, 10-1-15 about the resurgence of vinyl records. Will hold on to mine for the best music of many generations. I was at PSU on 1951-55 and collected many 45s for 0.10 cents each.

7 years ago

Hannah, avoid the at-lp60. While a solid player, spend a little more dough and go with the at-lp120. It comes with an adjustable counterweight and anti-skating. It’s by far the best entry level TT on the market. It’s not “audiophile” quality, but it’s more than adequate for casual listening/appreciation.

7 years ago

Thanks for the amazing tips, finally i found a way to clean my records and to play them again. I got so enthusiastic on cleaning and listening to them again.

7 years ago

Had some records fall into my lap that have been in an attic for a very long time. Any recommendations on cleaning them?

George Conlow
7 years ago

Over the years (now71) I moved from Philadelphia to Atlanta to Concord CA. During this time a cardboard moving box was containing misc. LP’s was packed away and forgotten. I recently discovered them but the ants or termites beat me to them, eating away at the covers and leaving their messes on the records. Is there any place that will clean them? I believe this project is beyond me. What do you recommend?

7 years ago

The crosley player will damage your vinyls more often then a better piece of equipment as well as reproduce the sound from the vinyls in a way that doesn’t represent the true quality of a vinyl. You don’t need an expensive record player to have great sound. your vinyl has no pitch control, anti skate or a weighted tone arm. Look these terms up and i promise that you will agree. (Specially pitch control). with the crosley, your sound quality will be about the quality of an mp3, and at that point, you might as well just plug in your ipod as its way more convenient. Just want you to have the true experience that’s all!! remember you dont need expensive equiptment, but find a record player that has the features i mention. You can find some second hand used gear from the 90’s for around 100$ and they are usually units that were around 800$ new.

7 years ago

Really interesting. I thought that alcohol will damage the vinyl records. I am going to try though. Thank you for sharing this great idea. Greets!

7 years ago

Funny, the person with a record player without a weight on the tone arm or capabilities of a good needle cartridge is telling everyone how to take care of vinyls, while admitting its their first time as well…. Just saying it seems like you have absolutely no experience yet you are trying to teach people…..? Where is the logic? Sorry for being honest.

7 years ago

Also, iso alcohol is abrasive. I wouldn’t use it on any valuable record, just like i would never use it to clean nice glass. Given, many records have little value and i guess in that case it is not a big deal.

4 years ago
Reply to  Bwest

false. iso alcohol is perfect for cleaning records. 3 parts distilled water, 1 part iso (90% or higher) and a couple of drops of wetting agent (Kodak Photo-Flo for example) is the standard formula (equivalent to the Discwasher formula from the 1970’s). You can use hand wash dish soap as a wetting agent if it is free from oils and fragrances and colors (NEVER use machine dish washing stuff – ever).

The guy is right on the formula even if he/she is showing a crappy Crosley in the photos.

7 years ago

I bought a record player just the other day at Sam’s Club; it’s one in which you can record audio cassettes and records onto CDs. I’ll still keep listening to my records, though!