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How To Choose Inner & Outer Record Sleeves

Record sleeves: A complete guide to choosing inner and outer record sleeves to protect your vinyl records. Learn about the pros and cons of paper, poly...

Replacement inner record sleevesLearn how to best protect your vinyl records by choosing the proper inner and outer record sleeves. What are the best protective sleeves for my vinyl records? Which is better, paper or poly inner sleeves? Why are 3 mil. outer poly sleeves better than 1 mil. and more so read on. This information is also applicable to laser discs as they are the same size as a 12" record.


Do your vinyl records use protection? Oh yes, records need to be protected as do the record's outer jackets with that beautiful album cover art. DiscoMusic.com readers have spent a substantial amount of money on their vinyl record collection so it's important that we protect them properly. Most albums and singles come stock with paper inner sleeves which over time yellow, tear and worse hold dirt and shed paper onto the vinyl record. Kind of silly to spend time and money diligently cleaning your records only to throw them back into a filthy inner sleeve. Worse yet, are those folks who don't even use an inner sleeve and just throw the naked record back in the record jacket which leaves the record prone to dust and causes seam splits to the cardboard outer jacket because the record keeps rolling freely inside.


Hold on, you don't use an outer plastic sleeve to protect the jacket either? That means that every time you slide the album cover back into the rack it gets scuffed and marred. You've seen those old records in the flea market with ring wear? Stop that by using an outer poly bag or sleeve. With records becoming harder to replace and increasing in value every day it is time to start treating your record collection with respect.



Inner Sleeves for Your Records


After properly cleaning a vinyl record, the next line of defense is placing them into a clean and sturdy inner sleeve. These are available for 7, 10 and 12 inch vinyl records. Depending on your budget, there are several options from good to best:




Which Inner Sleeve to Buy?


Paper is out! The MoFo sleeves are gorgeous and though worth every penny, are expensive so for most record collectors the plain poly inner sleeves appear to offer the best value and protection. Since they're very thin, they even fit into the flimsy lightweight cardboard import record jackets used on British 12 inch singles from the 1980s.


Regardless of which inner sleeve you choose for your records you will NEVER throw away original sleeves that contain photos, artwork or liner notes. In situations like this you simply store the custom sleeve inside the record jacket and use your high quality replacement inner sleeve for everyday use.


To store your records after playing them just hold the slightly bowed open inner sleeve horizontally in one hand while gently sliding the record in with the other hand. Never let the record plop down into a sleeve or jacket as this will eventually rip the seams. Finally take the inner sleeve with the record inside and carefully and without binding, slide it into the record jacket so that the opening of the inner sleeve is anywhere, but on the open side of the jacket. In other words the opening to your inner sleeve will be on top and the opening of the record jacket will be on the side thus providing double protection to the record inside from dust and room contaminants.


Poly Outer Record Sleeves


While the inner sleeve is the most important for the actual vinyl record, you must protect the valuable artwork on the outer cardboard album jacket with an outer poly sleeve. If you don't, you will quickly get scratches and scuff marks or even tears on that beautiful artwork.


3 mil. Outer Poly Sleeves


When it comes to outer record sleeves the main difference will be the thickness of the plastic. Don't bother with the flimsy 1 mil. thick sleeves that feel like Saran sandwich wrap because they don't provide much protection, fold, crease and do not hold their shape. Instead insist on 3 mil. thick clear plastic poly outer bags or sleeves. They will hold their shape and provide more than enough protection to your record album jackets. For thicker multi-record boxsets, you'll need a wider outer sleeve. There are also outer sleeves for 7 inch record jackets.


When new, these types of outer poly sleeves are clear, but as they age they get dirty, cloudy and scuffed so they need to be replaced periodically. This is a good thing because it's easier to replace a poly sleeve than the album covers they protect.


Some of the better poly outer sleeves also come with resealable adhesive flaps, which are great for keeping dust out of the records. To reduce the chance of the adhesive coming in contact with a record, the adhesive strip should be on the back of the sleeve and not on the flap. While not completely necessary, having a flap can help keep dust out and should be considered.


Japanese Outer Record Sleeves


Lastly, there is a so called Japanese style clear archival outer sleeve. Instead of the thick soft plastic in the previous examples, they use thin, but very clear cellophane-like mylar plastic similar to what new compact discs come in or the kind that Apple uses to wrap their iPhones and iPods boxes. The advantage here is that they are crystal clear and remain that way for years and most come with a resealable flap to keep dust out. While the versions for compact disc are easy to find, the type for vinyl records are harder to find and very expensive so the regular poly bags or sleeves mentioned earlier will suffice for most record collectors.


Inner and Outer Record Sleeve Shopping List






By Bernard Lopez


 

Your Comments

Bernard Lopez |

Jonathan, be very-very careful about mold as it can spread and is quite bad for your health if inhaled. You will hate this advice, but many record collectors will throw out records that have gotten mold because of the danger it poses. I would strongly suggest you take that into consideration as you can always find replacement records.

Jocelyn Silver |

Any idea on where to find, at a good price, the illusive cardbaord outer jacket with the fold on the OUTSIDE? Anyone?

Jonathan Despres |

Hi I have been silly and left my vinyl records in a damp place. Unfortunately, the damp has made the cardboard covers stick together and some mould has penetrated the covers and onto the record itself.

I have had to tear the record cover in order to get the record out. I have cleaned the mould off the records and so far they do not sound too bad. I have ordered some inner sleeves for the records and also need some outer protection. do you know where I can buy these from?

Thanks for your help. I want my collection to cleaned and placed in proper protection.

Jonathan

 

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Further Reading on Caring for Vinyl Albums and Singles