By Joseph Gregory
If you can take care of a pet rock, you can take care of your vinyl collection. It shouldn’t be a challenge, and most advice is a no-brainer, but there are certainly a few tricks that can prevent damage in the long run.
Here are the basics:
1. Don’t stack records: records are made of a polyvinyl chloride that is soft and malleable. The weight of stacked records and other weighted objects can deform the circular shape and distort the sound producing grooves that guide the needle, a problem that cannot be fixed. The best way is to sort them vertically, but be careful not to pack them too tight, as this will have the same effect you are trying to prevent.
2. Don’t leave you records next to a heat source: Like most plastics, vinyl has a low heat capacity and will begin to melt at temperatures rising from 70 degrees F. This means that heaters, ovens, microwaves, fireplaces, and other places that receive direct sunlight are poor places to shelve your records. I would suggest a bookshelf in a room with a moderate temperature.
3. Moisture is a vinyl serial killer: Once your record covers and sleeves get wet, they will start to mildew, and aside from smelling terrible, they will be worthless. If you are storing them in a garage, don’t store them on the ground or next to a water supply.
4. Don’t Leave your records out of the sleeve: The sleeve is like the force field on the Millennium Falcon, once the shields are down, all the knicks and scratches will add up and eventually render the record unplayable. Would you participate in a fencing match naked? Hopefully, you get my point.
5. Don’t play your records with a dull needle: Although cartridges can last several years, it is important that the needle remains sharp. Otherwise, as the needle dulls it will increase in surface area, and the effect is kind of like trying to jam something large into a small hole. As I explained earlier, once the grooves are compromised there is very little you can do to salvage them.
6. Be careful to whom you lend your records: Just as you wouldn’t lend your car to a random person you met in Compton, you should take similar precautions when lending records. Make sure that the lendee will care for your precious collection with the same meticulous care that you would. Small children, drunk friends, and crazy ex-girlfriends are a few examples of people you might want to think twice about lending to.
When it comes to vinyl a little tender love and care every now and then can go a long way. Serious damage is typically the result of long-time neglect.
For example, if you handle your records frequently, it doesn’t hurt to wipe them down with a fiber-less clothe (the type of cloth you would wipe your glasses with) and some gentle ivory soap; stay away from alcohol, sticky substances, and corrosives.
This will eliminate residue build up and dust particles that get trapped in the sound grooves. It’s particles as such that are responsible for those snaps and pops that most vinyl lovers live for; however, if not washed occasionally, your vinyl will sound like a bowl of Rice Crispies. This is also bad for your needle as the dust will collect on the tip.
With this being said, if you plan to store your records away for a long period of time, consider putting them in airtight boxes or purchasing poly-sleeves. Also, keep in mind that record covers are equally if not more valuable than records themselves so bent corners, wrinkles, scratches, and tears can seriously impact a records total value.
The best way to protect covers is to rack them vertically and to purchase poly-bags (European style record jackets). Finally, the best way to prevent damage to records is to take care when playing them. Be careful when changing tracks, try to handle them by the edges, return them to their sleeves when done, etc.
Alright, now that you know the ins and outs of record maintenance, you can sit back, relax, and get groovy.