How to Take Care of Your Old LP Vinyl Records

Like most aging hippies, I have a wickedly awesome collection of old LPs. Even though most of my vinyl LP records date back to the 60s and early 70s, they’ve withheld the test of time because of proper storage.

LPs, which is short for long playing are 10 or 12 inch vinyl records which were played at a speed of 33-1/3 rpm. These long playing records could hold up to 45 minutes of recorded sound which was an incredible improvement over the old 78s which at most, could manage about 5 minutes of music.

LP vinyl records were very easily damaged through both improper storage, improper use and mishandling. Keeping a collection of vinyl LPs free of damage meant paying attention to how the records and albums were handled.

Handling your LPs properly

Our hands are full of natural body oils and by handling a vinyl record directly, those tiny oils can work their way into the grooves of the record and attract bits of dust which can ruin the sound quality of the LP. This is why there’s only two acceptable ways of holding a vinyl record; by the hole in the center or tilted on the edge and held between the palms of clean, freshly washed hands.

For handling those valuable LP records in your collection, today’s conservators recommend wearing archival quality cotton gloves.

Storing your LPs properly

Storing vinyl records properly always meant returning the LP back to the wrapper and the sleeve before setting it back on the shelf. Throwing the record loose on a table or the floor increased the chances of scratching.

Scratching from dust and other materials aren’t the only way to ruin an LP. Because LPs are made of vinyl, they are very susceptible to warping from improper storage. Unlike today’s CDs, the only safe way to store an LP on a shelf is in an upright, on its “edge” position. LPs should always be stored upright on a metal shelf that is deep enough to prevent overhanging or in an record storage rack. The racks we used in the 60s were free standing metal racks which were specially designed to hold LPs in an upright position.

Keeping the records away from heat sources is every bit as important as to how they were stored. Storing records in direct sunlight, near heat vents or fireplaces, or even casually tossing an album on the seat of a car in the summer can ruin them for good.

Cleaning your LPs properly

Before playing a vinyl record, we always cleaned it first. Because records were statically charged, they would attract dust and other particulates in the air including soot from candles, smoke, and airborne kitchen grease. All these contributed to skips and tck noises while the album was being played, and could eventually lead to permanent scratching.

Cleaning before playing the record on a turn table is still sound advice. The easiest way to clean a record before playing is to wipe it down with distilled water and a soft, lint free cloth, applied in a circular motion. The cleaning should begin near the center grooves of the vinyl record and the cloth gently worked outwards in a circular motion. In addition to cleaning the LP before playing, cleaning afterwards is equally important to remove those dust particles before sliding the vinyl back in its sleeve.

In addition to keeping the vinyl record clean, keeping the stylus or “needle” of the turn table clean is also important. The needle should be cleaned on a regular basis and replaced when necessary.

Using these tips kept my LP collection in great shape even after 40 years of use. It should also help keep your collection of vinyl records sounding like new.

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