How to Clean Vinyl Records With an Ultrasonic Cleaner

By Dan Eash

That old record collection is worth preserving.
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While CDs and MP3s are still the most popular formats, music lovers are rediscovering the warmth and naturalness of analog recordings. The Achilles heel of LP records has always been background noise and its effect on dynamic range. Those "tics and pops" when you play a record can be reduced, sometimes dramatically, by a good cleaning, and there's no better way to do so than with an ultrasonic cleaner. When water is agitated by high frequency sound, it's able to thoroughly remove dust, oils and other contaminants from your records.

Fill your ultrasonic cleaner. The tank of your cleaner should be deep enough to allow you to partially immerse a record without getting the label wet. Fill up the tank to this depth with pure distilled water. Distilled water is always best because it doesn't have minerals or impurities that will leave a residue on your records.

Degas your ultrasonic cleaner. Even distilled water can have trapped gases that reduce its effectiveness. If your ultrasonic cleaner has a degas cycle, run it now. If it doesn't, turn on your cleaner for about 10 minutes to degas your water.

Wipe off your records. To keep large particles out of your cleaning solution, wipe both sides of your records with a soft, lint-free cloth before putting them in the tank. Rotate the cloth around your records in a circular motion to get down into the grooves. You can also use a record cleaning brush, but don't use its cleaning solution if a bottle came with the brush.

Dip your records in the cleaning solution. Run your pen or pencil through the hole in the center until the record is centered, and rest the pen or pencil across the top of your cleaning tank. Turn on your cleaner and let the record stay where it is for about two minutes, then rotate your record to immerse the next section, keeping it there for another two minutes. Continue until you've covered the complete circumference of your record, then remove it from the tank and repeat the process with your next record.

Drip-dry your records in a clean dish rack. Carefully place each cleaned record in a separate slot of your dish rack. The distilled water will evaporate off the records and leave nothing behind.