Tips for Cleaning Record Albums by Thomas Rickert
You need four stations. Station one: a sink that is large enough, with a faucet high enough, to wet and rinse the record. The second station are two towels to wash the record; one is larger than the record and spread out on the counter to protect the record, the second is a smaller washcloth, preferably a microfiber cloth. You alternate washing a side with rinsing in the sink. You can use small amounts of ordinary dish soap. Not large amounts: small. Use barely lukewarm water. Heat isn’t good, but cold water is uncomfortable.
The third station is to pat dry (not rub) records. Gently pat dry the record, and the label; flip and pat dry the other side. Don’t rub; rubbing puts cloth fibers back into the grooves. Rubbing wet labels can ruin them.
The fourth station is to let the records air dry for a couple hours. I set my records on water glasses; I flip them every 20 minutes or so. Labels can take a while to dry; and so can the grooves.
Make sure you use a good dustbrush every time you play your records. Here are pics with comments.
STATION ONE: wetting the record prior to washing it. I try to keep water off the labels to the extent possible to avoid soaking them, which is bad. A little water won’t hurt, though. I use a down angle to help the water get into the grooves.
STATION TWO: With a towel underneath the record to protect it, use a washcloth, preferably microfiber, to wash the record. Swirl WITH the grooves, not against them. That is, be circular. BE GENTLE. Not much pressure. Grooves don’t like pressure. Let the water, motion, and soap (in small amounts) do its work. DON’T rub the labels. Go around them, circular motion.
STATION TWO cont’d: after you wash a record side, rinse it well, with barely lukewarm water. Then wash the second side. I usually wash and rinse both sides twice. On the final rinse, rinse both sides again, and take your time; make sure ALL the soap is rinsed off. Try to avoid soaking the labels.
STATION THREE: Put the fully rinsed record on a towel. Use another towel to pat dry first one side, then the other. Don’t rub. Rubbing puts detritus back in the grooves. I use towels that are soft but firmly woven to cut down on residue that can come off.
STATION FOUR: Let the records air dry for a couple hours. It takes awhile for all the moisture to evaporate from the labels and the grooves. I elevate the records on water glasses, flipping them after 20-30 mins or so. Don’t put the records back into the sleeves before they are dry. If the record sleeves are old, dirty, etc. consider investing in new sleeves. BONUS points for guessing all the records being washed here. When you play the record, make sure to use a carbon fiber dustbrush to get the last bits of dust off.