10 Things NOT to do to Your Vinyl Records

Vinyl records stored properly on a record shelving unit.

Think you know all there is to know about vinyl records? A real vinyl record collector would never commit any of these TEN sins to their records. In our previous article, How To Clean Vinyl Records, you learned all about cleaning your records by hand with regular household cleaners or a record cleaning machine however, that is only the start. Vinyl records are treasures to enjoy, but one must treat them with care as they are very fragile and easily damaged. Below are ten common mistakes that can ruin records and/or impede their sound quality. Read on to find out why WD-40 is not to be used on records and a whole lot more.

Written by Bernard F. Lopez

  1. Stop using your shaky hand to cue up a record

    How do you skip songs on a vinyl record?
    Do you pick up the tonearm and swing it across the disc and plop it down as your speakers rattle from the loud thud? Break that habit now. Use the cueing lever on your turntable to raise and lower the needle. Your hand is never truly steady so it's easy to slip up, and gouge the grooves of a record or even break the needle on your cartridge. Never drop or abruptly pick up the needle on a vinyl record especially as it's fading out. Over time you'll start to hear ticks and pops as the vinyl is gradually getting gouged in those areas. Here's how to properly cue up a song on a vinyl record: Raise the cueing lever near the base of the tonearm to lift the arm, swing the arm above the record and aim the needle so that when the cueing lever is lowered, the needle will land in the silent area of the grooves before the start of a track, and not in the areas with music. When you are done listening, wait for the music to fade out or finish completely before flipping the cueing lever back up to pick up the needle. Better still is to play an entire album side straight through from beginning to end. Most audiophile grade turntables are not automatic which means they do not have an end of play lift mechanism. For manual turntables, you can add an arm lifter like this one which will prevent the needle from going into the label area.
    On most turntables, the cueing lever is located near the base of the tonearm.
    On most turntables, the cueing lever is located near the base of the tonearm. Using this fluid damped lever instead of your hand results in a smooth twitch-free needle drop, and lift from the record.
  2. Do NOT stack vinyl records

    How do records get warped?
    One way is by stacking them. Never stack records on top of each other whether in their jackets or not. This is one sure fire way to cause warping, possible cracking of the vinyl record because of the weight, and will inevitably produce scuff marks and ring wear on the album cover marring the artwork. Records must always be stored upright like books on a shelf. Because of their size and weight, regular bookshelves don't work well to store vinyl records so consider a real record storage shelf or cube instead.
    Never stack your records like this as it can lead to warping.
    Never stack vinyl records as shown in this photo as it can lead to warped discs and ring wear on the album jackets.
  3. Never wet play a vinyl record

    Does wet playing a record help reduce noise?
    Never spritz water or wet play a vinyl record in an attempt to quiet the crackle and pops. Doing so only causes the stylus to spread the abrasive sludge deeper into the grooves possibly doing irreversible damage. This makes the record sound even worse as the crud dries and embeds itself throughout the record. Read more on why you shouldn't wet play records. If you want to reduce static pops when playing a record then get one of these.
  4. Keep fingers off the record

    How do you handle a vinyl record?
    Never touch the record's playing surface with your bare hands or fingers as your body oil will transfer onto the record attracting even more dust thereby affecting sound quality. Always hold a record by its outer edges only. If you accidentally touch a record, it is best to immediately clean it with a liquid record cleaner before putting it back in its sleeve.
    Keep your filthy paws off the playing surface of a record.
    Keep your filthy paws off the playing surface of a record.
  5. Your T-shirt or towel is not a record cleaner

    Can I give my records a quick whisk with a towel?
    Resist the temptation to wipe your vinyl record with your shirt or dry cloth no matter how soft it may feel. This will scratch and scuff the record and only move the dirt around. For dry cleaning or light touch up, use an anti-static record brush as it actually discharges static and lifts dirt without damaging the vinyl record.
    View step-by-step directions on how to clean records.
  6. Say NO to non-approved cleaners on your vinyl records

    Can I use WD-40® or Armor-All® to clean vinyl records?
    Never-ever apply lubricants or solvents such as WD40®, Armor-All®, baby oil, lighter fluid, eye glass cleaner... to your records no matter what anyone may tell you. These fluids will NOT lubricate or clean vinyl records. In fact, their use may cause a devastating chemical reaction that can permanently damage a record. Use only products labelled as a vinyl record cleaner such as the basic and inexpensive DiscWasher cleaner, or use a professional strength record cleaning solution for deep cleaning. As to helping reduce friction while playing records, the Last Record Preservative is an effective and longtime standard of record collectors.  If it's not specifically labelled for use on vinyl records then please do NOT use it.
    Never use WD40, lubricants, or solvents of any kind on your records.
    Never use WD40, lubricants, or solvents of any kind on your records.
  7. Wait for the record platter to STOP

    Can I pick up a record while the platter is still spinning?
    Never place or pick up a vinyl record as the turntable platter is spinning. This will quickly scratch the underside of a record. Always wait for the platter to come to a complete stop before doing anything with the record. If your turntable platter uses a rubber or felt mat then make sure it is clean before placing a record on top of it first. Is your record mat missing, torn or worn out? Then you should replace or upgrade your mat.
  8. Don't mar that beautiful album cover art with tape

    Can I use masking tape or Scotch tape to fix record jackets?
    Refrain from using Scotch tape or packaging tape to fix a record cover that is splitting or tearing. It will completely destroy the cover. As the cellophane tape ages, it becomes brittle, yellows, and will ooze adhesive making things worse than before. Best to place the record jacket in a poly outer sleeve and place the record in its inner sleeve behind it or place the record in its inner sleeve inside a generic cardboard record jacket and save the original jacket for safekeeping.
    Do you know which sleeves are right for your vinyl records?
  9. Dropping records into a sleeve or jacket is a NO-NO

    How do I keep my record sleeves from breaking or tearing?
    Resist the temptation to let a record just plop into an inner sleeve and/or record jacket as this is how covers and sleeves split open. Here's how to properly put a record into its sleeve/jacket: Simply hold the slightly bowed open cover horizontally and gently slide the record in making sure it doesn't bind. Generic replacement record jackets are great for replacing water-damaged, lost or torn jackets.
  10. Never leave your records out of their sleeves longer than necessary

    How long can I keep my records outside of their packaging?
    Put vinyl records back into their protective inner sleeve when you're done. Remove a record from the turntable platter as soon as you are finished listening to it to prevent it from attracting dust and dirt. This applies even if your turntable has a dustcover. The only time a record should be outside its protective sleeve and jacket is when it is actually being played. No excuses!
    View a complete guide on choosing the right sleeves for your vinyl records.

We hope the above list helps you preserve your valuable records for years to come.

Text and photos copyrighted © by Bernard F. Lopez

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The Mobile Fidelity Master inner sleeves are the very best money can buy.
The Mobile Fidelity Original Master inner sleeves are not cheap, but they are the very best money can buy. Select the image above to learn more.

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