The immense popularity of music streaming has also, ironically, helped bumper vinyl sales. It turns out that the ease of listening to music these days, from services like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Youtube, has actually cultivated a desire for people to have an analog listening experience. They want to physically hold, place and play a record, and then ultimately collect it; a growing vinyl collection can actually be shown off as decor.
A proper vinyl collection requires more care that storing CDs or, of course, digital music files; and there are a few fundamental things that every vinyl enthusiast, whether they have a large or small collection, should know. That way their records can sound great and last years to come.
Keep your collection cool and dry. Vinyl is, in layman’s terms, a type of plastic material and thus needs to be taken care of accordingly. To preserve any time of plastic you want to keep it in a cool, dark and dry climate. If the room where you’re storing your records is too hot or humid, they are more prone to bending or warping and thus can’t be played.
Never stack your records. Stored upright like books. There’s a reason why you rarely see records stacked on top of each other: it’s not good for them. It doesn’t matter whether they’re in their jackets or inner sleeves, stacking your records can lead to warping. The weight of each record puts unneeded pressure on the records, which can cause them to crack or bend. It’s not great for the album artwork on the sleeve, either.
Don’t touch the surface of the records. All of the musical information of record is stored in its grooves and anything, especially your hands, can affect the playback of the record. If you want the best possible sound quality, you should only handle the record by touching its outside edges or its inner label.
Don’t leave records out. A record should live in its sleeve and jacket, meaning the only time it should be out is when it’s playing. The idea is that this minimizes the chances or dirt and dust from getting into the record’s grooves.
Inner sleeves aren’t overkill. While polypropylene sleeves are probably better than paper sleeves (more durable, better protection, last longer), an inner sleeve serves an important purpose no matter the material. It prevents the record from shaking or scratching while inside the jacket, while also keeping out dust and other things that could potentially hide inside the record and affect its sound quality. Basically, don’t throw out your inner sleeves. And replace them when ripped, damaged or lost.
Place — don’t drop — your records back in their inner sleeves. When you’re done listening to a record, you want to place it back into its inner sleeve and jacket as carefully as possible. Quickly dropping it back in can damage the record as well as the sleeve.
Dry clean your records. Using a carbon fiber anti-static brush — like this one from the Turntable Lab — to clean your records is important and easy. It safely gets in the record’s grooves to get rid of dust and other particles that could impact sound quality. To properly clean, spin the record on the turntable and have the brush resting lightly on top. After a few seconds, carefully drag the brush off the record. (Here’s a helpful instructional video.) In an ideal world, you should use a brush to clean a record before and after each use.
Wet clean your records. Wet cleaning your records involves using a cleaning fluid — like this one from Pro-Ject — and a micro-fiber cloth, with the goal to remove dust, dirt and even fingerprints from your records. It takes more time than the dry brush method, but it gives the record a deeper clean. To clean, simply spray the solution on the record, wait a few seconds for it to seep into the grooves, and the dry the record by using the micro-fiber cloth and following the groves around. (Here’s a helpful instructional video.)