So when did it become acceptable to clean your records?

Back in my youth, think Fragile, DSoTM era, the golden rule was you do NOT clean your records. A quick blow of surface dust when putting the record on the deck was it. The rule was your stylus was the best cleaner so clean your stylus every side (a quick brush with some IPA). Applying cleaning liquids to the surface was a no-no since they always left a deposit on the surface and using a mechanical brush to force the muck deep into the grooves was also out.

Things seem to have changed now. All the mags (and a lot of forums) are now big fans of the latest mechanical vinyl wash and vacuum device/system.

So what’s changed? Are the cleaning gadgets better now or did they have it all wrong back in the 70s/80s?

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I don’t remember it like that, though you’d have to take your records to be professionally cleaned as reasonably priced/sized machines weren’t available for homes. An example of such a machine was the early Keith Monks cleaner. Of course, few bothered to take their records to be correctly ‘washed’ and we all had to do with cloth, carbon brushes and zerostat guns at home. Applying liquid on a record at home was always a dodgy affair as most people (myself included) didn’t feel confident that the liquid gunk could be removed in its entirety, thus leaving the record worse off than pre-cleaning.

Home cleaning machines became ubiquitous in the 90s with reasonably sized vaccum machines from Nitty Gritty and VPI coming onto the market. Finally you could (presumably) wash and be assured to remove the liquid from the record surface. I used a Nitty Gritty for a while.

Things have gone a step further/better with the ultrasonic cleaners available since about 10 years. I’ve got an Audiodesk now, which does both sides at the same time and does a pretty good job.


So the machines have got better?.. the issues with the late 1970s offerings sound like they’ve largely been sorted. ISTR, 40 years ago, the price of a good cleaning machine was up there with the price of an LP12 so, as you say, most people went to a specialist.

Being a child (errr teenager!) Of the 70s I remember it much as wisesteve says
There were nasty brush arms that you could stick to your deck to sweep the record while it played…deffo no carbon brushes about then!!!
There was also zerostat and those funny velvet brushes that had a hole in for dampening with “magic” anti-static fluid
But mostly people were told…the stylus does the cleaning…and is the best cleaner


Ah yes, the Cecil Watts Dust Bug.

My dad had one on his Dual 1019 and expressed surprise when I didn’t want one on my new AR77XB. I had already been converted to the ‘green stuff’ which he couldn’t get. ‘Why would you scrape the diamond?’ etc.

Yes the machines got much much better.

If you really needed the record to be properly cleaned you could take it down to your local record shop where, if you were lucky, they had a Keith Monks cleaner and they would clean your record for 20 pence.

Record cleaning machines like the Keith Monks were expensive and it wasn’t until machines like the Nitty Gritty and VPI arrived that record cleaning machines at home became truly viable and affordable.

I remember those!

With hindsight, that probably explains why, on my brief return to vinyl, all my albums seemed crackly! :thinking:

In earliest days I used to use a velvet cloth and ‘dust bug’ (tracking device with a small brush and velvet roller IIRC - which I modified to prevent skating). Later I changed to a velvet pad in a holder that could be moistened with IPA, in conjunction with a piezo antistatic gun (a Bib product, half the price of a Zerostat). Later I changed the pad for one that included a fine carbon fibre brush along one edge.

Over time, with usage, the surface noise on my records increased, from in the best cases negligible when new, to quite intrusive on the most played. I attributed that to wear, one of my dislikes of the vinyl medium. After ripping all my LPs to make CDs to prevent further wear (and incidentally preserving the surface noise), I learnt through this forum that most of the increase in noise was probably not wear, but most likely due to ingrained dust. I wish I had been aware before ripping, as I would have bought a cleaner before doing that!

Further, I learnt that some noise on new records may have been residual mould release agent, that wet cleaning could also remove,

So my gripe against vinyl was removed - too late! (But that does not remove my preference for streaming digital from my own store.)

Not really. The top of the range stuff for vacuum machines (Keith Monks, Loricrafts) is still largely the same.

What happened is that now you have many options that are cheaper, not necessarily better.

Ubiquitous - and often used with a fluid (antistatic - apparently) which would apply itself detrimentally to the outer grooves.


That’s the fella.

We are straight back to the era of G-plan, Family Favourites and a roast on Sunday lunchtimes.

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A cleaner along the lines of a Nitty Gritty can be seen as a high-VFM turntable upgrade.

I tried one for a few days… then I noticed I could hear music coming from it! The brush was acting as a stylus! I decided the cross microphonics can’t be a good thing so chucked it.

Dad had an EMItex cloth, the original was yellow, then a new version like velvet bonded onto foam.
I had a Dustbug and graduated to a Decca Record Brush, two rows of carbon fibre which I still use.
I can recall washing records when there had been a leak over the store at youth club, a solution of Teepol, a toothbrush and rinsed with distilled water from squeeze reagent bottles.
In those days there were also Pickering phono cartridges with a brush on the front.

As a teenager in the 80’s I had a Saturday job in the Music and Drama department of Exeter library. I would sometimes spend 4-5 hours cleaning returned records with a machine whose name I forget but the principle was that it operated like a turntable with the ‘stylus’ being a slightly damp bit of thread itself would slowly spool as it ‘played’ the records.
I must have cleaned about 3,000 records with it.

Given the choice, why would you NOT want to play a clean record?
Imo, wet clean all of your records-period. Sounds better, prolongs the life of your cartridge.

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My dad had one of those Dust Bugs! We’re talking around 1970?? Maybe a Diskwasher as well. When I was in Uni - late 70’s to early 80’s it was a Diskwasher and Zerostat.

Today, I have an Audio Desk ultrasonic machine. It works REALLY well, but is more than I need. Cost per LP is crazy when amortizing the initial investment. I need to find friends locally who want to buy a share of it. That’s actually a great model - a few people getting together to share the cost of a nice machine. Step one is that I need to find friends.

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Sounds like that was the Keith Monks Professional Record Cleaning Machine.

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There were several issues cited at the time but mainly the solvent used left a chemical residue and the brushes pushed the muck and sludge into the bottom of the groove which the brush fibres were too thick to scoop out. So, yes, a clean record is better than a dirty record but the cleaning might actually make the vinyl more dirty than the start! IMHO, if the record is clean to start with then the stylus should do a very good job of keeping it that way.