Let’s Breathe Some Life into Those Dusty Old Disco Discs
Vinyl records sound better than any other musical format...it’s just a fact!
However, if they’re allowed to accrue dust and other debris, that luscious signature warmth will be marred by excessive artifacts like hissing and popping, ruining the listening experience.
What’s worse is that unless we do something about these nefarious buildups of grime, they can wear out the stylus on our players, causing them to sharpen and chew up our favorite records.
Don’t worry, though, friend. We’re not about to let that happen. Vinyl records are sacred to us, and we know you feel the same, which is why we’ve done the research and discovered the five best vinyl record cleaners you can buy.
With our vinyl collections gathering dust as we speak, there’s no time to waste. Let’s give the records that shaped our lives the TLC they deserve!
Top 5 Best Vinyl Record Cleaners
MY TOP PICK
If money’s no object, and you have a truly epic vinyl record collection to service, we highly recommend this iSonic ultrasonic record cleaner.
Featuring a motorized arm that can clean up to ten records at once, you’ll be able to storm through your collection in no time. Record store owners in particular will find this expansive capacity a huge time saver.
Understanding the delicate nature of the cleaning process, iSonic has endowed this machine with ambidextrous mounts, allowing you to set the arm on the same side as your dominant hand, so you can load and unload with care.
Hidden inside the P4875II+MVR10 are three industrial-grade stack transducers that emit incredibly high frequencies, stirring up a storm of purifying bubbles in the cleaning solution.
This is essential, as low frequencies cause more aggressive waves of bubbles. Each transducer is powered by a dedicated PCB ensuring a consistent output and an even clean.
Three ceramic heating elements warm the cleaning solution up to as much as 140 °F (60 °C) Which is far too hot for vinyl, so we suggest heating it to 95 °F (35 °C), then switching the elements off. That’s the perfect temperature for some deep groove cleansing.
Once your solution is nice and toasty, the mechanical arm spins your records at 5 RPM for 5, 10, 15, 20, or 25 minutes depending on the severity of the soiling.
You can simply go about your business and when the process is complete, use the included lab-grade kim wipes to dry your records off. Pretty sweet, huh?
- Capacity - Clean 10 records at once.
- Ultrasonic - cleans deeper than any other method.
- Ambidextrous Mounts - Fix the arm to either side to suit your dominant hand.
- Label Protection - Ring pads protect your labels from moisture.
- Automated - Dial in the cleaning time, and you're done.
- Price - A machine of this caliber doesn’t come cheap.
- Temperature - Goes well above the safe zone for records.
- Solution - The included cleaning solution isn’t too great.
Combining intuitive design and deep groove wet cleaning into one super vacuum, the VC-S2 has the power to strip even the most stubborn layer of sticky debris, and it couldn’t be easier to use.
Load up your dirty record on the small platter specially designed to prevent underside contamination, apply the cleaning solution with the included goat hair brush, tighten the aluminum clamp, and that’s that.
From here, the metal vacuum arm takes care of business, and we really mean that. In as little as two 30 RPM rotations, the record is positively twinkling and playback is silky smooth.
Using the rota control, you can spin your record clockwise and counterclockwise (once or twice a piece is recommended), an important tool for dislodging persistent grime.
Once this process is complete, the robust mechanical arm dries your record off for you, so forget about buying a separate drying station.
If we’re being picky, we’d appreciate a little more durability from the design considering the lofty price tag - it’s made of wood and dents pretty easily - but all things considered, the Pro-Ject VC-S2 is a revolutionary weapon in the war against hiss.
Do bear in mind; however, that this little box makes a big noise.
- Mechanical Vacuum Arm - Deep groove cleaning in seconds.
- Self Drying - Flip your records straight from the VC-S2 to your record player.
- Aluminum Clamp - Multipurpose clamp secures vinyl and protects label.
- Small Platter - Reduces underside contamination.
- Durability - It dents easy, so be gentle, folks.
- Price - It’s not cheap, but it’ll pay off in the long run.
- Noise - Record vacuums are loud.
We’d be gobsmacked if you haven’t caught a glimpse of this record bath before. In fact, we’d be floored if you haven’t seen it absolutely everywhere! This thing is by far the most popular record cleaner on the market.
Exuding simple elegance, this manual design braces your record safely using rollers while you spin it through the cleaning solution and a central brush clamp that wipes all the gunk away.
The rollers are removable and fit into three different slots in the dandelion-yellow base to accommodate 33, 45, and 78s. Simply give your record three spins clockwise and three spins anticlockwise, and that’s both sides clean as a whistle.
What really impresses us about this kit, on top of the foolproof simplicity of the design, is the cleaning solution. It really is a miracle tonic.
It dissolves particulate matter on your record efficiently, and due to its low viscosity, larger debris sinks to the bottom of the base, unable to find its way back onto your record as it spins through the system.
Our one issue with this design is that although it comes with a couple of really nice lint-free drying cloths, there is no drying station, an item often included in other record bath kits.
Besides that, this is hands down the best budget record cleaner for the average vinyl enthusiast.
- Price - One-tenth of the price of our top ultrasonic pick.
- Deep Groove Cleaning - It may be a simple manual design, but it gets deep!
- Cleaning Solution - One of the best in the business.
- Extra Accessories - Comes with drying cloths and record brushes.
- Best Seller - This is a tried and tested design.
- No Drying Station - You’ll have to find another way of air drying your records.
- Cleaning - The base itself needs a thorough cleaning every now and again.
If you like to keep things simple and don’t mind putting a bit of elbow grease into your vinyl maintenance, this full manual record cleaning kit will hit the spot. Let’s break it down accessory by accessory…
Kicking things off, we have the Big Fudge cleaning spray. This stuff is amazing! And we don’t just mean amazing for an included kit product. It’s a fantastic standalone cleaning solution, unbeatable in the industry.
Next, we have the gorgeous velvet anti-static brush. We’re a coddling lot when it comes to our record collections, but with this brush, your vinyl is in unbelievably soft and safe hands.
A few spritzes of the Big Fudge spray, a wipe with this, and surface grime, fingerprints, and dust are all gone.
And get this...the velvet brush has its own dedicated dust-removal brush, so you never transfer second-hand debris onto your records.
Last but not least, we have a stylus brush, ensuring your diamond shines bright and lasts longer. Arriving in a lovely little carry sack, this kit is a one-stop solution to your dirty record woes.
- Price - Great budget option.
- Cleaning Solution - It’s the best you can buy.
- Velvet Brush - Awesome surface cleaner.
- Stylus Brush - Keep your player in top form too.
- Only Surface Cleaning - Not for deep groove cleaning.
- No Drying - Nothing in the way of drying apparatus included.
If you’re just looking to augment your maintenance routine with frequent surface sweeps, this Boundless Record Brush is your best bet.
Oftentimes, carbon fiber bristles are too rigid and threaten to scratch records, but Boundless has got the stiffness just right.
Soft enough to leave your vinyl unscathed and firm enough to strip a troublesome surface layer of gunk, it’s an incredibly effective and affordable fix for excess surface noise.
As the bristles are highly conductive, we recommend using it on new purchases to neutralize that annoying static charge that sucks dust like a black hole.
Of course, there are plenty of capable record brushes on the market, but what makes the Boundless brush the best is the build quality.
They don’t shed a single bristle, not during the delivery process, not during the cleaning process...they’re just immaculately made products.
- Storage - The handle flips around and cradles the bristles to keep them clean.
- Dual Bristles - Don’t miss a thing.
- High Conductivity - Discharges static.
- Price - Won’t break the bank.
- No Deep Clean - Only designed for surface cleaning.
Best Vinyl Record Cleaners Buying Guide
We hope something on our list stood out to you, but before you make your final decision, let’s mull over some important information.
Type of Vinyl Record Cleaner
The first step towards squeaky clean vinyl and ultrahigh fidelity playback is to decide precisely what kind of cleaning you’re in need of.
As you’ve seen from our list, there are no shortage of different gadgets and gizmos to get the job done, so let’s quickly run over the key tenets of each one.
Manual Cleaning Kit
You can manually clean your records with a standard microfiber cloth, but if you really want to pamper your wax, you’ll need a velvet brush and a specialized cleaning solution.
You can buy full manual cleaning kits with everything you need to scrubadubdub those dirty disks, but it’s quite an arduous process, especially if you’ve got a ton of vinyl to get through. It is; however, the cheapest way to get the job done.
No matter which cleaning device you end up choosing, every vinyl lover needs to have one of these brushes with carbon fiber bristles. Used before and after each play to freshen up your records.
This is what’s known as preventative maintenance, as it will stop more severe buildups of debris, ensuring you rarely need to take more drastic measures.
Record baths are essentially specialized sinks with rollers, brushes, and pads. You fill them with distilled water, apply the included cleaning solution to the brushes, then place your record in and spin it through the system.
Record baths are a much more efficient way of tackling vinyl maintenance than hand cleaning, but they’re still manual systems. If you have a ton of vinyl you need to clean in one session, you’ll be spinning all day and night.
Record vacuums look like miniature turntables themselves, and that’s because they basically are, but instead of having a stylus and cartridge that pick up vibrations, it has a literal vacuum cleaner.
As your record spins away, the vacuum sucks up its winter coat of dust, hair, fibers, and other miscellaneous grime. Record vacuums can cost more than your record player, but they’re automatic and highly effective. Our only caveat is that they can be pretty noisy.
Cavitation (Ultrasonic Cleaning)
Many vinyl enthusiasts swear by ultrasonic cleaning for a spot of record maintenance, and to be honest, they are amazing bits of gear.
Shooting a constant barrage of ultrahigh frequencies into a cleaning solution, they create an armada of microbubbles that thrash gently against your records, stripping them of any contaminants, no matter how deep they’ve embedded themselves in the grooves of the vinyl.
Sounds awesome, right? Well, as is the way of the world, there’s a downside. Vinyl record-specific cavitation machines can cost upward of $1000.
Manual vs Automatic
Now that you’ve had the skinny on each cleaning system, we need to help you decide which is best for you by asking a few simple questions, the first of which is...do you want to manually clean your vinyl or have a machine take care of business?
Manual cleaning systems aren’t as efficient as you can only clean a single record at a time, but they put you in full control of the process, allowing you to focus on problem areas.
As full vinyl maintenance only ever needs to be done from time to time, many people choose to save some money and choose a manual record bath system.
Automatic cleaning machines such as vacuum and cavitation cleaners allow you to kick back, have a cup of Joe, and return once the job is done.
Surface vs Deep Groove Cleaning
The next question you should ask yourself is if you need a surface cleaner or a deep groove cleaner. Ideally, you’ll have both at your disposal, but one or the other is fine for the time being.
Brushes, and to a certain extent record surface baths, are surface cleaners. They dislodge all the gunk from the surface of your records but don’t quite penetrate the groves to do a full clean.
Ultrasound and vacuum machines are deep groove cleaners through and through. No matter how deep the dust digs, these bad boys get it gone in no time.
Some quality record baths should also be considered deep groove cleaners, but realistically, they’re not quite as effective as the premium options.
Next on the agenda...how many records do you want to be able to clean at once? If the answer is anything other than one, you need an ultrasonic cleaner.
These are the only cleaning machines that can accommodate multiple records simultaneously, making them a shoo-in for businesses or individuals with more boxes of records than you could shake a stick at.
Manual kits and record bath systems come with their own cleaning solution included, which is a lovely touch.
Not having to make separate purchases is incredibly convenient, but you may still want to do some research and shop around for the most effective vinyl cleaning solution.
Last but absolutely not least, you’ll need to consider your budget. This is where things get dicey. As fantastic as vacuum and ultrasonic cleaners are, they’re incredibly pricey.
You may find their efficacy and efficiency pays off in the grand scheme of things, but such a large price tag will send most vinyl lovers running for the hills.
If you’ve still got your heart set on one of these advanced cleaning solutions, you should be saving between $400 and $700 for a vacuum and around $600 to $1000 for an ultrasonic cleaner.
Record baths don’t cost nearly as much, so they tend to have the most appeal, but if you’re looking to go as cheap as possible, settle for a manual record cleaning kit for roughly half the price.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we say our goodbyes, let’s tie things in a nice neat bow by answering some common vinyl record cleaner queries.
What is the Best Cleaner for Vinyl Records?
The iSonic P4875II is technically the best, but that’s only if you're looking for a premium cleaning solution. If you’re after a vacuum cleaner, the Pro-Ject VC-S2 ALU cannot be beaten.
However, the Spin-Clean record bath has the widest appeal in our eyes and is the most affordable deep groove cleaning option.
Failing that, the Big Fudge kit is the perfect manual maintenance package, and the Boundless brush is the best surface cleaner in town.
Is it OK to Clean Vinyl Records with Alcohol?
While we fully condone having a tipple as you enjoy listening to your favorite records, we strongly oppose using your booze to clean your vinyl records. It won’t clean them as much as it will completely destroy them, so, yeah...don’t do it, folks.
You may have noticed that some specialist cleaning solutions contain trace amounts of isopropyl alcohol, but if we’re being honest, we’d also avoid those. If you’re stuck with an alcohol-based solvent, administer it as sparingly as you can.
How Do You Clean a Dirty Vinyl Collection?
It would be nice if you could take your vinyl collection to be professionally cleaned, but such businesses don’t really exist. Don’t worry, though. Cleaning your vinyl collections isn’t as difficult as you may think.
If you have a vacuum or ultrasonic cleaner, simply dust off your vinyl and let it do its thing. If you don’t have a cleaner, follow these simple steps…
- Remove dust and static charge with a record brush.
- Inspect records for imperfections.
- Spray cleaning solution on soiled areas, or wrap microfiber cloth around index finger and dip into the cleaning solution.
- Using small circular movements, wipe records clean with microfiber cloth.
- Rinse the records with clean, distilled water.
- Give records once over with fresh, dry microfiber cloth, then leave to air dry.
Can you Use Windex on Vinyl Records?
It may leave your windows looking immaculate, but trust us, you need to keep Windex as far away from your vinyl records as possible.
Not only is it full of harsh chemicals that leave nasty residues, it also contains a comparatively large quantity of isopropyl alcohol which is straight-up terrible for vinyl records.
What Can I Use to Clean Old Vinyl Records?
No matter how old your vinyl records are, you should always start the cleaning process by dislodging as much debris as possible with a vinyl brush.
Next, if you have a vinyl cleaning vacuum or an ultrasonic cleaner, you can load your antique vinyl on or in there and let it take care of the rest.
Otherwise, you can use a cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth to buff away any residue still clinging to the record.
Can You Use Vinegar to Clean Vinyl Records?
It may leave your record crate smelling like the backroom of a Long John Silver’s, but vinegar and vinyl are actually a match made in heaven.
Though vinegar seems as if it would be a little too harsh for cleaning your pride and joy collection, it’s actually 95% water, with only the last 5% made up of acetic acid.
If you want to give this a go, make sure you only use white vinegar, and remember, white vinegar is different from white wine vinegar, so make sure you get the right one. We recommend making a 50% white vinegar, 50% water solution.
After cleaning, it’s important you do a couple of passes with your microfiber cloth and fresh water to get as much of the vinegar as possible off the record, as in certain climates, acidic residue can promote the growth of mold.
Can You Clean Vinyl Records with Soap and Water?
At first glance, cleaning your vinyl with soapy water seems like a sure-fire way to destroy the collection you’ve been building for years in one fell sudsy swoop, but it’s actually a pretty great method for keeping your vinyl squeaky clean.
That’s not to say you should give your records a full-on bath; it’s a little more nuanced than that.
Once you’ve dislodged as much debris as possible with a carbon fiber brush, you can use a microfiber cloth and warm water with a small amount of soap (a teaspoon is usually enough) to deep clean your vinyl records.
Do bear in mind, though, that some soaps leave a residue, which we need to avoid in this scenario. It’s also imperative you avoid harsh soaps that contain bleach or other powerful chemicals.
Whatever solution you end up using to bring some bubbles into the equation, make sure you give your records a thorough rinse afterward.
How Often Should You Clean Vinyl Records?
You don’t need to adhere to a strict schedule when it comes to cleaning your collection of vinyl records. Rather, maintenance should be conducted on a ‘when necessary’ basis.
As long as your records are properly stored, you should only ever need to dust them off with a record brush before and after playing.
How do you know when your vinyl record needs a good once over? Well, there are three general rules of thumb when it comes to vinyl maintenance…
- Bringing a new record into the fold - Even if it’s a brand-new record, fresh from the plant, still sealed in its plastic wrap womb, you need to give it a full clean. New records have an exceedingly high static charge that acts like a beacon for every dust particle in a 10-mile radius. Giving them a clean before their inaugural spin helps to keep them clean and sounding pristine.
Of course, this applies to second-hand records too, but for different reasons. Second-hand records are more likely to arrive somewhat spoiled, so giving them a quick polish can help to boost playback quality and prolong your stylus’ service life.
- Visible surface contamination - If you can see debris on your record having already dusted with a carbon fiber brush, it’s time to bring out the big guns.
- Excessive surface noise - We all love the crackle and hiss of vinyl; it's a large part of the appeal, but there’s a line that if crossed can really detract from the listening experience. If you’re dealing with a lot of excess pops, crackles, and hisses, it’s time to give your record a thorough cleaning.
That about covers all bases, friends. Each of these record cleaning solutions is at the top of their respective games, bringing innovative design, excellent cleaning, and ultimately better sounding records to the table.
All you need to do is decide which suits your musical life most, sit back, and enjoy the buttery smooth playback of your favorite records.
Happy listening, fellow music lovers!