Record cleaning- you're doing it wrong!

Discussion in 'Turntables' started by guest110, Nov 18, 2015.

  1. guest110

    guest110 Super Member

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    For another group, I was asked to put together a series of comments on record cleaning. I thought I'd share excerpts from it with this forum, fully knowing that it will be controversial with some who swear by their methods. Keep in mind, they are my opinions as a former Biochemist and as a lifelong audiophile. However, I'm coming from a good place, with the objective of encouraging record lovers to treat their vinyl records well so they can fully enjoy their unique quality and preserve them for future generations. Heck, I might even come across one of your records in a used bin someday.

    Part 1: "Forget the fancy commercial cleaners..I use a drop of Dawn in water"
    You're doing it wrong!
    The active ingredient in most dishwashing liquids is Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate, or SDS (also referred to as “Sodium Laurel Sulfate”, or generally “alchohol sulfates”). This is a detergent with a charged, anionic headgroup (the sulfate). It is typically present in dish soap at 10%-20% concentration, the rest being perfumes, various alcohols and amines, colorants, occasionally antibacterials (e.g. triclosan) and, of course, water. Many people will use a drop of this detergent with distilled water as their cleaning solution. While it does an effective job, the introduction of a negatively charged compound promotes issues with static charge on the cleaned record. This can be heard as pops and clicks when playing and also causes the surface to attract dust and particles, exasperating the condition. Furthermore, the non-detergent additives in the mix (e.g. alcohols and amine oxides) are not desirable and do not completely rinse off the surface (If you doubt this, smell the record after cleaning with a perfumed detergent – your nose can detect the molecules left behind, even after pure water rinsing). Unfortunately the residual detergent and charge left behind have no odor. As an example, SDS is the primary ingredient in cheap shampoo and you can feel the frizz after washing with it as the charge is introduced, even after extensive rinsing. This is countered in the subsequently applied “conditioner” they sell you, which always contains cationic detergent alcohols to neutralize the charge and leave the hair feeling “soft”. Since people rarely follow record cleaning with a cationic or quat wash, they end up with a charged surface.

    "Then how do I do it right?"
    Simply use a non-charged (neutral) detergent. There are many to choose from but the most readily available are Triton X-100, Nonidet NP-40 and Tergitols. You buy them in 100% solution and must mix with water slowly to get them to dilute. Make a 10% stock in distilled water and store in a soap bottle. Use at a final concentration of 0.1 to 0.5%. Hence, a 100 ml bottle of 100% will last a long time.
    Don’t just take my word for it: This is the only type of detergent recommended by the Library of Congress and preservation specialists for vinyl records, and now you know some of the reasons why.
     
  2. guest110

    guest110 Super Member

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    Part 2: Glue
    “I deep clean my records with wood glue”
    You’re doing it wrong!

    Many enthusiasts have discovered that a film of wood glue can lift away grime and actually restore the playing surface on badly soiled records. While this is true (I have tried it), it comes at a cost to the integrity of the vinyl. Titebond II wood glue is typically the product of choice in this method. This product is primarily polyvinyl acetate and people erroneously believe that since it is a “vinyl” polymer, everything is OK. Firstly, vinyl acetate leaches out the protective plasticizers embed in the vinyl record during manufacture. These plasticizers contribute to the vinyl’s pliability, strength, and frictional properties. Second, PVA glues contain a high amount (5g/l) of salt, in the form of Ammonium Chloride. This can leave mineral deposits in the grooves. Thirdly, and most importantly, this glue formula is an acid. It has a pH of 3. Acid is a great cleaner, but it does so by “etching” surfaces, particularly plastics. In fact, artists often use acids like vinegar (also an acetate with pH 3) to produce designs on plastic. Worse yet, in the glue cleaning method, this acid is left on the record overnight. Do you really want to do this to your records? Do you think an etched surface will play well as the needle passes across it?

    "Then how do I do it right?"
    Skip the glue. Use a neutral detergent wash with mechanical application (e.g. a soft brush like a paint applicator or those found on RCMs) and follow with a distilled water rinse.
     
  3. bluesky

    bluesky Addicted Member

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    I've only cleaned one LP in 55 years. I used beer. It didn't work.
     
  4. Catcher10

    Catcher10 Prog-tastic!

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    Seems like I would need a "permit" to buy this stuff......Triton X-100, Nonidet NP-40 and Tergitols :).....I am interested in the best way to clean vinyl, seems regardless of what solution you use, you have to pull a vacuum to get the best results....I struggle knowing I have to spend $600 for one of these machines.
     
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  5. guest110

    guest110 Super Member

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    You can find Triton on Amazon. You can also make your own vacuum wand and shop vac rig (and used nitty gritty 1.0 RCMs go for about $250) or just rinse well and dry by hand.
     
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  6. guest110

    guest110 Super Member

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    Part 3
    “I clean my records with simple alcohol”

    You may be doing it wrong!
    Alcohols are great solvents. Isopropyl alcohol is the most widely used in record cleaning and is often included in commercial solutions. Other common alcohols are Ethanol and Methanol (or a mixture of the two called Denatured alcohol). Addition of alcohols to cleaning fluids has several advantages, as oil removers, dispersants, antibiotic/preservatives, and drying agents. So why are they bad to use on records? They aren’t really, it just depends on how they are used. First, alcohol should never be used at concentrations greater than 10% and contact time on the record surface should be minimized. Otherwise, they have been shown to leach out plasticizers that are part of the vinyl matrix (discussed earlier, and the main reason record preservationists are against their use…..remember, they are very good solvents!). Second, only purified stock solutions (95% or greater) should be used, not the household “rubbing alcohol” (isopropanol) or Vodka (ethanol) as these contain unpurified water, breakdown products, or other ingredients that can leave behind residues. Finally, most inks dissolve in alcohol so you have to be careful of your labels.
    “How do I do it right?”
    Avoid alcohols or use them at low concentrations made from pure stock solutions. Minimize the time they spend on the surface and keep them off your labels.
     
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  7. ooba tooba

    ooba tooba Super Member

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    Perhaps you could provide the link to your method like you did in the other thread Vince. People like pictures:)
    Also, @Catcher10, contact hi*ball about the vacuum wands he makes. Under $40 and very well constructed!
     
  8. hi*ball

    hi*ball Records & Coffee Subscriber

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    This is interesting, because most people who make a home brew typically do a ratio anywhere from 2:1 to 6:1, distilled water to isopropyl alcohol. But you're saying no more than 10:1 is the safest for records?
     
  9. Smitty43

    Smitty43 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I mix a drop of dawn and rubbing alcohol with 95% distilled water and do a 2nd rinse with just distilled water with a VPI 16.5 and never had a problem. Is this bad and am I screwing up my LP's if so I have been doing this for a long time the wrong way:crazy:
     
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  10. ooba tooba

    ooba tooba Super Member

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    Also, I hold a soft bristle toothbrush at an angle to the vinyl with the solution on, and spin it by hand (as if the tb were the stylus, over the entire record and then reversed) anyone tell if a soft paint pad might be better? Less harmful?
    /I actually feel kind of silly typing that, but I do have some dearly treasured records
     
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  11. Bootbox

    Bootbox AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Not a big fan of the abrasive click-bait thread title, thanks for the tips though.
     
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  12. guest110

    guest110 Super Member

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    Like I said at the onset, people have methods that work for them and they are reluctant to change. You are not screwing up your lps. You are risking having issues with static on your records though. It becomes less of an issue with the RCM and extra rinse as you are very efficiently removing most traces of the detergent which is why you may not be experiencing any static problems compared to someone who merely washes and air or towel dries. That said, why not use a better, neutral detergent? It can't be cost as the DIY stock is much less per ounce than Dawn.
     
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  13. guest110

    guest110 Super Member

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    me neither...that was from one of my kids. Sorry. Should be titled "you can do it better!" . Maybe the mods can help with this.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
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  14. hi*ball

    hi*ball Records & Coffee Subscriber

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    I have been using the paint "cut-in" pads on my DIY RCM for a long time now with excellent results. And the fact that it is wide enough to cover the whole record makes the scrubbing process much faster.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  15. illini

    illini The Past is Alive

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    Nitty Gritty forever...
     
  16. guest110

    guest110 Super Member

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    How soft is that toothbrush? It would be nice to have a hardness rating on the bristle material and compare that to the hardness rating of the vinyl record. Also, as HiBall points out, it's far easier to cover more surface area with a pad.
     
  17. cubiclecrush

    cubiclecrush Well-Known Member

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    So, the LoC talks about using Tergitol 15-S-7.

    Other recipes talk about using a combination of S-3 and S-9.

    Do you have thoughts on this Vince?
     
  18. guest110

    guest110 Super Member

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    Yes. Minor differences in the average size of the non-polar chains can effect solubility so use whichever you can get and can work with. 3,7, and 9 are all "lower" tergitols and should be fine. Minor differences in micelle size and other properties will not effect record cleaning. Important thing is that they are non-ionic (Union Carbide made some anionic Tergitols, I just don't know their designation so check before buying). There are other Tritons as well, not just the 100 (though it is the most common). If we had a specific compound we were attempting to solubilize, we could be more selective, but grime is so vast!
     
  19. hi*ball

    hi*ball Records & Coffee Subscriber

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    As a chemist, what is your opinion of Kodak Photo-flo? (That is what I use as my surfactant)
     
  20. guest110

    guest110 Super Member

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    Photoflo is a mixture of mainly Propylene glycol and a smaller amount of octylphenoxy polyethoxyethyl alcohol. Guess what the latter essentially is? Triton! The former is not really necessary (it's what keeps things moist, making films look and rinse spot free). A real rip off in terms of price per ounce compared to DIY detergent IMHO.
     

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