7 steps to care for old records and make them last

July 29, 2015

Vinyl records manufactured after 1960 are generally better-made than their predecessors, however, and many have lasted more than 40 years without significant sound degradation. Here are tips on keeping your records in good shape.

7 steps to care for old records and make them last

Vinyl LPs and shellac records (78s) last a long time in storage, but repeated playing wears them out. Many phonograph cylinders, early hard-rubber records, and 78s, are still playable after more than 100 years — though all show some signs of aging.

1. Store records carefully

Records should be stored vertically. Use strong shelves and keep your records away from heat and moisture.

2. Handle records properly

  • Putting your hands on the record's grooved surface will leave behind oils or sweat that, in turn, can attract dust or promote mould growth.
  • When removing an LP or 78, tilt the sleeve so that the record's edge slips into the inside of your thumb and lets you place your middle or ring finger on the centre hole. (You can place your thumb in the centre hole of a 45, however.)
  • Hold records with both hands, fingers along the edges, when positioning them on the turntable.

3. Replace old sleeves

  • Although those old paper record sleeves can often evoke a sense of nostalgia with their images of ancient albums and promotional offers from bygone eras, they are usually not made of acid-free paper and will eventually disintegrate.
  • The resulting dust will invariably wind up in the grooves of your records, where it could impair playback or cause other problems.
  • A more preferable, though clearly less sentimental, choice is the use of antistatic, polyethylene or HDPE (high-density polyethylene) inner sleeves; which are quite affordable.
  • You can also replace them with plain-white acid-free paper sleeves, but steer clear of any sleeves made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC); they emit gases that can adversely react with vinyl records.

4. Take off the shrink wrap

  • Be sure to remove all plastic shrink wrap from the outside of your LPs.
  • The wrap will continue to shrink over time and will eventually warp the record inside.
  • If you want to protect your album covers, a far better solution is a protective outer sleeve made of clear polyethylene or acid-free paper.

5. No more broken records

  • When it's time to return a record to its jacket, make sure the opening of the sleeve is facing up (as opposed to facing out, which may have been the preferred positioning during your teenage years to expedite removing the record from the cover) so it's flush against the top of the album cover.
  • This will prevent albums from accidentally sliding out of their jackets and crashing to the floor when you go to play them.

6. Keep them clean

Keep your records clean; this include cases and inside labels.

7. Dust off your turntable mat

  • Why go through all the trouble of cleaning off your records only to be undermined by a dusty turntable mat?
  • Be sure to wipe down the mat in your record player with a dry, lint-free cloth each time you get ready to play a freshly cleaned album.
  • Some turntables use felt mats, which are considerably more challenging to clean.
  • They should be vacuumed off, if possible, but never wetted.
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