Can I clean my records manually?

Well, I know I can but, will this method yield acceptable results for approximately 6 months until I get a record cleaner? If so, I imagine I need a cleaning fluid and some type of a brush or rag. Can anyone recommend a method. Also, am I correct in assuming that the only value an automatic cleaner provides is convenience?

Further, can a dirty record damage a cartridge? I can't see how it would since dirt is softer than the vinyl grooves and lots softer than a diamond.

Am I that ignorant? Please, let me down easy.

Of course you can clean records manually. Even beter, utilize an old turntable and vacuum to make your own. Check out Chris Brady's recipe here:

Scroll down the page to the link for DIY record cleaner.

I put one together for less than $30 and it works as well as any VPI or Loricraft costing many times more.

Cleaning fluid is a mix of isopropyl alcohol and distilled, deionized water.
Yes you must certainly can. Use a Disc Dr. pad, alcohol solution in a spray bottle and flannel rags to dry. It works very well. Lay the record on one flannel rag spray each side and brush well with the pad and then dry with the flannel rag.
Read the Record Playing Rituals stickied at the top of the page. There are tons of ideas on record cleaning there.

BTW, as you correctly surmised, the biggest risk in playing dirty records is not to your stylus. There will be some additional wear but unless you play very dirty records for very many hours the additional stylus wear is likely to be minimal.

No, the biggest risk is to your vinyl, and this is a serious risk indeed. Before I knew better I did audible damage to brand new (ie, not very dirty) records by playing them without cleaning. It is no exaggeration to say that a single play before cleaning can permanently mar a a vinyl LP. This is 100x truer if the record is used and dirty.

Vacuum cleaning is the way to go and, as Flyingred pointed out, it needn't be expensive to get into. Search the archives here and on VA for dozens of inexpensive DIY RCM's.
Your supposition about dirt being softer than vinyl overlooks one extremely important factor, the extreme heat and pressure generated at the point of stylus contact. During that brief moment, those prodigious stresses soften the vinyl so that it is much more vunerable to damage. Plus, the make up of "dirt" varies. You've got fiber & dander particles as well as harder gritty bits of plaster, sand, and who knows what else floating around. I've looked at the detritus on a records' grooves through scanning electron microscope imagery, it varies greatly in composition and size. These variable particles also account for why a dirty record DOES wear diamond faster than a clean record. It's a given that even though diamond is the hardest substance, it can still be slowly worn away. Any increase in abrasive presence during playback exacerbates wear.
Photon is correct. Do the math on a 2 gm tracking force on a .05 x .07 mm line stylus and you will find that the pressures are enormous.
"Do the math on a 2 gm tracking force on a .05 x .07 mm line stylus ..."

Yeah right!! I trust you.

Anyone know a good ratio for Alcohol:Water for the cleaning solution?

Pawlowski6132, for 20 years I used a home-brew formula (that I'll detail below), but I've found that both the Disc Doctor Miracle Record Cleaner and Paul Fumpkin's Audio Intelligent are vastly superior cleaning fluids that are well worth their cost for the results I'm now getting. Both can easily be used manually using the Disc Doctor brushes, some clean cotton terry cloths and a dish drain. Follow Disc Doctor's cleaning directions for both. You can get a mini-pack sample of Audio Intelligent fluid to try for just $8.

The home-brew forumula I've used in the past is one of the many similar formulas that have appeared in Absolute Sound and in the online forums:

80% Distilled water
20% Isopropyl alchohol (92% pure or better with no additives)
A few drops of Kodak Photoflo as a wetting agent

Followed by a rinse with pure distilled water. The more pure your rinse water, the better (e.g., a distilled water that is also micron filtered and, if possible, deionized; or lab grade distilled water). The Photoflo can leave a residue, thus the rinse step.

I'll reiterate, though: the Disc Doctor or Audio Intelligent fluids will make your LPs even cleaner for even better sound. I'll never go back to the home brew not that I've experienced these results.
yes you can, i use disc doctor fluid and brushes, with my old tt platter on a lazy susan, with all cotton cloths for wiping the excess and then a small shop vac with a cotton cloth over the four inch attachment, works like a charm,
On suggestion from here on Agon, I got a KAB-EV1 as a stop-gap before getting a VPI 16.5. The KAB-EV1 worked well ($160), basically a manual RCM that you hook to your own vacum.
Of course you can clean records manually, but not well.

There are many posts both on cleaning fluids and on various record cleaning machines.
I think my manual method is better than an RCM. Wiothout going into infinite detail, I use a cake decorating spinner. Cast iron base with metal platter. I use a vacuum with a cutout 'crevice tool'. With the record wet after a washing I run it very slowly while pressing down with the crevice tool and I can feel the pressure of the vaccum pulling onto the vinyl.

I can't beleive that a RCM can get as close to the record as I can. And it costs very little, the DIY approach. but it is a drudge. But it is worth it.

Three passes withthe vacuum at slow RPMs get the record so clean that the only nastiness I am hearing is physical damage, if there is any.
tbg i have to say you might be wrong on your "but not well",statement, i have been cleaning manually for well, a long time and after a lot of records bought by well respected folks who use a auto type cleaner, i have not yet had one lp sound better than those i have cleaned manually, its like every thing else in our world today, easy is better, and thats not all the time true, anyway as long as we get the lps clean thats all that matters, long live our musical hobby and beatles on sunday,
Stltrains, I think there are great variations among the record cleaning machines also. I used a Nitty Griddy and later a VPI which I used for years. Then while stuck in the UK after 911, I heard and bought the Loricraft. I think the vacuum around a clean string beats anything I have ever tried.

I have always found that using it on records cleaned on other machines or manually results in a great improvement. Yes, there are cheaper ways that do substantially improve record performance. Then there is the question of which fluids to use. I am just in awe of the sound now from vinyl.
A couple or four comments on record cleaning.

Manual cleaning works well. I did it for years until I could afford a VPI 16.5. I thought the VPI worked better than my manual cleaning but I would not rule out that another manual cleaning technique would work as well or better. The VPI is certainly easier in use.

I just got my Loricraft and it is clearly better than my 16.5. However it is slower than I am use to at 30-45 seconds to clean a side: do the math: use a cleaner, a rinse, perhaps an enyzme wash, and a final rinse you will spend 3-5 minutes per side cleaning your records. The VPI is much faster, if not as effective. I just might keep the 16.5 (with a good supply of clean wands on hand)for preliminary cleaning of dirty vinyl, and use the loricraft for final and pre play rinsing.

Back in my salad days I used homebrew cleaners (Distilled H2O and isopropyl etoh alone and with various additives). Ultimately I have found that some of the commerically available cleaners do a better job than any homebrew I made. (RRL, L'Art du Son I like, I'm sure there are other good ones as well.) I also have found enzyme cleaners and other speciality products play a constructive role in particular situations. No matter which way you go ultra clean water is essential. American Water Distiller makes a small counter top distiller that I have found quite satisfactory. (I don't have a link at hand so Google for this if interested.) I triple distill and leave out the carbon filter after the first distillation.

One final comment: however you clean vinyl, RCM or manual, you will need a dry cleaning brush. Over on the AA vinyl forum someone suggested the Kinetronics antistatic brushes. I got one (SW 100, a 4 inch brush) and my inital impression is very favorable - it's doing a better job than either my Hunt or Decca brushes. Not unreasonable at 26$. (I have no affiliation with this company of course) Take a look at Audioquest also makes an antistatic brush that looks interesting at 20$ but I have not tried this.

However you do it - clean vinyl sounds better than dirty vinyl. Clean vinyl reduces stylus induced vinyl damage. No debate possible on these facts.

Have a truely analog day! (everything goes smoothly)
Gadfly and Stltrains,

I'll echo Tbg's experience. I used to clean by hand. I also made and used a DIY vacuum device identical to Gadfly's.

It worked okay but trust me, it doesn't come anywhere close to what a Loricraft can do. It may be expensive, but this is one case where a well designed and well built machine actually does do a better job. An "inconvenient truth" perhaps, but a truth nonetheless.
Cjsmithmd, in the part of Texas where I live, the underground water has a high sodium content. We use a reverse osmosis filter on the water we drink. Some chemist friends say that they use such water as it is purer than distilled water. They thought I was crazy for using store bought water. I have been just using ozed water since when mixing L'art du Son vinyl cleaners.

I do no rinse with either the L'art du Son nor the earlier favorite AudioTop Vinyl.

With the L'art du Son, I thoroughly scrub the records with the Loricraft nylon brush. I copied this from what I saw Loricraft doing at CES. With one scrub and one vacuum, I am at about 2 minutes per side with the Loricraft.

The problem with the AudioTop is that the cleaning fluid evaporates too quickly for the Loricraft..
I think the top end stuff like Loricraft with that little string will beat my DIY method ... but you sure gotta go far to do it, doncha?

I can't go for the big $Ks on this so it is becoming clear that DIY, once you get the hang of it, is the 'best' that you can do unless you get a Monks or Loricraft.

I would love to have one of those things, btw. It would make my life easier, make my records sound better, and increase my geek quotient immensely. sure gotta go far to do it, doncha?
Sad, but true.

I totally agree that a well operated DIY setup should substantially equal the effectiveness of a $500-$1500 VPI. After all, they both rely on the same technology: a felt-covered vacuum slot and a honking big motor (I used a 1HP Shop Vac). It's hard to argue convincingly that either would be more effective than the other.

FWIW, there's a guy on VA who keeps talking about DIY'ing a Loricraft clone. He hasn't actually built it yet but most of it should be easy:

- any old TT with a 78 rpm speed would work.

- any tonearm with tubes added to feed and recover the thread would work.

- the only hard part is driving the tonearm across the record. That requires a motor with a slip-clutch, well beyond my (very rudimentary) mechanical skills.

Contrary to belief in some parts, the thread does not ride "in" the groove and it takes no part in the actual cleaning. Thread is far too thick to fit inside an LP groove. Its only function is to act as a constantly replenishible spacer between vacuum nozzle and record surface. After every pass, a quick twist of the spool supplies a clean few mm of thread for the next pass. Nothing dirty ever touches the record.

I agree with Cjssmithmd BTW. The Loricraft is slower per pass than wand-based machines. But it's much quieter and does a better job so I happily live with that. After all, I can play (some) music and clean records at the same time. Don't try that with my Shop Vac!

Interesting: I'll try your method with LDS and no rinse. However I am using an ELP (laser) so any grunge I leave in the grooves I will hear. My current methodology (worked out with the VPI) uses a dry clean with an antistatic brush, followed by an initial cleaning with RRL, an enzyme cleaning, H20 rinse, LSD cleaning, and a final H20 rinse. Laborious but effective in producing quiet vinyl for the laser. Of course this only has to be done once, and then a dry clean followed by a water rinse generally suffices (assuming the record is carefully handled and stored}.

I don't know the AudioTop product but I would agree with you that evaporation is not desirable. I have had good results with RRL but on the Loricraft it tends to bead up and fly off the spinning record if I am not careful. I'm thinking about giving the Disc Doctor products a try as I have heard good reports about them. I also use the Premier product on new vinyl and Klymas on very badly damaged records - seems to work in reducing noise due to overt physical damage.

On the water question I agree that a 5-6 stage reverse osmosis system produces high quality water. It's just harder to set up. You also have to be careful about filter degradation over time. Cost is relatively high with instillation necessary in most cases (for 5-6 stage system). I do think I will eventually put in a RO system, especially since I have discovered the wonders of cooking (another hobby) with pure water.

Distilled water also gives good results but has problem of aromatic gasses needing venting, and the system has to be maintained clean. 99 bucks puts a system on your counter top that will work right away. No installation needed.

I did some testing with a Hanna TDS 1 (tests for total dissolved solids - 20$) and found the following:

My (upstate NY) well water........... 340ppm
My well water post carbon filtration: 300pmm
Single Distilled H20:................ 20ppm
Triple Distilled H20:................ 0-1ppm
RRL Rinse ............................ 4ppm

I estimate the cost of producing high quality triple distilled H20 at about 50 cents a gallon (based on the cost of electricity to run the machine 3x per gallon; machine generates a lot of heat!)

This is a nice part of our hobby: I get to learn and use some chemistry, some physics, some engineering, some biology and some psychology. And I can work with my hands on DIY projects.

Or I can just relax and listen to music!!
I suppose you could use a broom to sweep your carpet. In the END you'll just be pushing the dirt around. Even if you shampoo you dislodge the dirt only to have a large portion of it seep back down on it.
Let's supose your take home pay is 15.00/hour. Let's suppose you purchase the VPI 16.5 Deluxe package from music direct complete with zerostat, record research fluid, audioquest carbon fiber brush,etc. $700.00/15=40 hours. That would be a weeks pay.

For one weeks pay you have a clean record both sides in about five minutes. Beleive me you have not heard vinyl until you have heard a properly cleaned record.

I admire do it your selfers. If you enjoy tinkering more than listening to music by all means build your own.


my DIY method uses a vacuum so there sotesibly no dirt left on the record. I think a Loricraft would be more elgant less arduous way to go.

You funny: "If you enjoy tinkering more than listening to music by all means build your own."

Yeah, I absolutely love sitting there cleaning records. ha. I do it to get clean records. Having a family and kids precludes me from sacrificing a weeks pay for a cleaning machine.

It's nice to live in your own little world isn't it?
Gadfly it's nice for you to see things on the inside of your eyelids. It saves money on cable and plasma tv. Then you will have money for your vpi.

I don't know how much money you can commit to record cleaning but if you can't committ to vpi 16.5 it's doubtful that you can enjoy the rarified air of a Loricraft.

It is the beauty of the vpi 16.5 that the microfiber pad pad on the tube allows it to get a vaccum seal without damaging the record. Not impossible but a daunting task for a DIY.

By tinkering I did not mean record cleaning,I meant building the machine and mixing the fluids. I actually enjoy the purication ritual.

I thought that by pointing out that a vpi 16.5 package could cost a weeks salary was an expression of symapthy for those who were unable or not inclined to pay it. Given my limited mechanical skills I would prefer to work overtime and save the money rather than try to make it myself. It certainly would take me over forty hours to make such a machine.

I assure you you would not want to live in my world. Personally I have been trying to get into Carmen Electra's world. (I regard the restraining order as only a temporary setback.) (smile)

Finally, as the late Nina Simone sang, Oh God, Please don't let me be misunderstood"
Truth is, I would buy an expensive RCM in a heartbeat if I had the cash. Too bad for me. I have been thinking of at least getting the KAB so I don't have to spin by hand at least.

And to echo the original poster: "Am I that ignorant? Please, let me down easy."

Thanks for doing so. :-)
We are all ignorant to 99.99% of the worlds knowledge. That's why we need Audiogon and the internet.
i will be a record cleaning person tonight, got the cardinals and reds, go birds to watch while i go to it, i wait till i have 20 or more lps to clean, i have been hitting the used shops and have come up with a few jems for me, i will break out the lazy susan, mini shop vac, disc doctor cleaner and brushes, one for scrubing, the other for a double rinse with distilled water, it will take me at least a couple of hours, but no doubt about it you have to clean your lps to get way down into the music, btw this thread is a good one, as the auto and manual debate goes on,
Ok, so, since I started this post I decided to go the manual route. My routine has rendered many of my records down to only a few ticks per side with only one cleaning. Here it is:

1. Begin with a good steam bath! I have a clothes steamer which looks like a canister vacuum but actually shoots out steam instead of vaccuuming. The attachment is perfect for covering the surface of the record.

2. Scrub with Record Research Lab cleaner.

3. Another steam to rinse and lift out the crud

3. Vacuum with a shopvac.

Can someone tell me how a RCM could do a better job???? (Serious question not retorical!)
Pawlowski6132, I think it would take some work with a microscope to check whether your method removes as much debris, whether it adds scratches, and whether it damages the wall of the vinyl as compared with the best record cleaners. There is also the concern with the L'art du Son of not removing vinyl molecules. Finally, there is the question of how much extra time your method takes and how much you value your time.

If you like what you hear, I would suggest you just move on.
TBT, right now I have more time than money so...

But, if/when I get some extra pocket money, I'm trying to understand why I would need a RCM.

Sound like you're telling me that I could be doing damage to my records that could accumulate and have a long term detrimental effect?

I'm using RRL cleaner, a dedicated cleaning brush that I rinse after each record with distilled water.

Maybe the only thing that might be risky is the vacuuming. However, I cover the tool in a clean cotton cloth. Could I be damaging my LPs??
Pawlowski6132, I am not telling you that you may be damaging your records. I don't know. I was just suggesting evaluation criteria for making the judgment of whether the best record cleaning machines do better than your method. I know for example that some record cleaning machines are better and that some cleaners are better.

I would suggest, however, the vacuum you use may not equal that on record cleaning machines.

Years ago even after the Keith Monks machine had been invented, I used to clean my records with soap and water and later with Diskwasher fluiid. I rinsed them and dried with a cotton cloth. I know that I did little if any damage to them and that modern cleaning machines can clean them much better than what I was doing then. I also know that the Loricraft is superior to earlier machines I used and that L'art du Son is the best cleaning fluid. At least in my experience.

Your posting suggests that you believe there is nothing better than what you are doing. I was taking exception to that statement.
TBG, I understand. I was looking for education and enlightenment. I'm knew to vinyl (at this level anyway) and want to maximize my listening enjoyment. I sincerely was looking to everyone hear to list the benenefits of a RCM over the method I described so I can evaluate the situation.

Still waiting.
TBG: While I would agree with you that the Loricraft and Monks offer superior cleaning due to a) their basic design which concentrates the power of the vacuum in a very small area and b) the quality of the industrial vac motors in those units, I am not so sure that other arm/wand based cleaners like the VPI & Clearaudio or slot based systems like the Nitty Gritty with their relatively cheesey motors will offer any better cleaning in terms of their vacuum/lift than Pawlowski is getting. A quality shop vac or even a high quality dry vac used in conjunction with something like the KAB EV1 is going to give you much better "lift" than virtually any of the non Loricraft/Monks machines currently on the market. It just makes sense: take a look at the motors utilized in those machines versus the ones used and the suction realized in a shop vac or high quality domestic dry vac.

I would also agree with you that the choice and quality of fluids is critical. The fluid has to loosen and suspend the dirt so it can be vacuumed away as well as leaving no sonic signature. To underestimate its importance is foolhardy. Like Pawlowski, I am a fan of the RRL fluids. Apart from spending a huge amount of money (it's huge to me anyway) on the Loricraft, I think Pawlowski is on the right track, although I should point out that RRL does not advocate "scrubbing" but simply using a carbon fibre brush to get the solution down into the groove so it can do its job.
Hdm, I guess the real question is whether a small fan operating with a very small orifice has more vacuum than a large fan with a large orifice. As I said, I doubt any of us has the information to know what to tell him as to why a quality record cleaner might outperform his method. He should be happy with his technique until he has the opportunity to hear the benefits of a better system. I don't like his attitude that he is waiting.
Pawlowski6132 suggested he is 'still waiting'.

Waiting for what? If the record cleaning method you adopt cleans your vinyl sufficent to reduce surface noise in your system to your satisfaction it does not matter what method you use. (as long as it is not destructive)

On the other hand if you are not satisfied you need to try something else.

Manual washing was good but I found use of a VPI machine gave better results for me. No microscope, just listening. Ditto 'home brew' solutions. OK result, great cost (low) but outperformed by the RRL solutions.

When I started listening with the ELP (laser player) what was formerly good enough didn't cut it. I had to do better. Enter the Loricraft. I did not need a microscope to hear less noise. The records were visually, and more importantly, audibly cleaner (however it takes longer to clean a record compared to the VPI).

As I continue to use the laser I find that a single solution is not enough. RRL works great. Cleaning with RRL and then following with L'art du Son works better- for some records. At times an enzyme step also helps, particularly with older dirty records as might be expected. If there is a lot of surface noise due to physical damage I reach for the Klymas.

What one needs to clean vinyl is record dependent (condition of the vinyl), system dependent (some stylus/arms are more forgiving than others; the laser is very intolerant of dirt) and of course user dependent: some of use don't mind some surface noise, others want CD like silence.

Bottom line: this is not a question with a simple, one size fits all answer. For many the nitty gritty with a basic home brew solution will be all that is needed. For others more will be required.

However, IMHO the better RCMs do a better job cleaning vinyl. Pawlowski6132 I could wave my hands and cite a zillion reasons why this might be so but at the end of the day it comes down to how the records sound. And my experience is they sound better with the VPI compaired to my manual cleaning efforts, and even better with the loricraft compaired to the VPI.

I also find that some of the commercial cleaning solutions really do offer value beyond diy solutions. I've heard people refute this and all I can say is if you get good enough results with a diy solution lucky you.

But if you find that you need more, try some. If you don't, forget it and enjoy the music. (As well as the trains, cannon shots, airplanes etc. Yes, I am an unrepentant unashamed audiophile)

And if anyone has any reasonable methods to improve vinyl play back I'll take a listen!

Demagnitisation anyone? : )
You may not like his attitude, but $2,000 or so for a Loricraft is a lot of money for many people. It buys some substantial equipment upgrades and/or significant amounts of software, particularly if it's used vinyl at 50 cents to a couple of bucks a pop.

As someone who has had records cleaned on a Monks and who now cleans records with a quality home vac, RRL and a KAB EV1 (total cleaning equipment outlay about $240 U.S. including brushes), I can tell you that I don't feel compelled to spring for the Loricraft or a Monks and I had a chance to buy an older Monks recently at a very good price. As good as it may be, I don't consider it to be good value for money in the overall scheme of things with respect to my system and my enjoyment of the music and I could buy the Loricraft if I wanted to. I can respect the fact that you own it and like it, but for many audiophiles those machines represent an outrageous outlay of cash.

Depending on what your objectives are and what your current cleaning techniques are, the Loricraft/Monks route may not be appropriate. I don't think decent quality alternate methods should be denigrated and I have no doubt that Pawlowski may be obtaining very good results with the method he's using (even compared to Loricraft/Monks) based on my experience. Personally, I think you can obtain 75-80% or more of the effectiveness of the Monks (it costs, I believe, about $3-$4K new) for about $250, maybe less, if you are smart about it. I think Pawlowski's approach is probably yielding pretty good results.
The Loricraft and Monk do not offer superior cleaning. A manual machine such as the Record Doctor, good fluids, good brushes, and some elbow grease will get your records just as clean. It takes longer and requires a bit of work but I guarantee my records are just as clean as anything cleaned by the megabuck machines. I've also purchased many pieces of vinyl with the money saved.
Audiofeil,that's what suspected. However, as I meant to say earlier, I was looking for someone to give specific reaons why machines worked better.
When you need the automobile really neat and clean, do you go to the car wash or do it yourself? Done deal.
Audiofeil, I doubt you can guarantee that your records are just as clean. What would you use as proof?

All that I can say without further proof is that I found the records cleaned with the Loricraft were freer of pops and clicks and had greater resolution than those cleaned with the VPI.

I have also owned Nitty Gritty, several models of the VPI, and long ago a Keith Monks machine.

It all well and good to save money and to be satisfied with your cleaning methods, but stop the nonsense of saying you will guarantee it is as good as any record cleaning machine. In my experience, this is just not so nor will I guarantee that that I can prove to you that my records are cleaner. They just sound cleaner.
Actually TBG I was incorrect in my previous post. My records are cleaner than those processed on a Monks or Loricraft. I guarantee it. They are, however, nice machines.
Thanks again.
As I said before, I don't think your statements can be proven, and I very much doubt if they are true. But since this is a forum of opinions and Pawlowski6132 seems to want to believe you, there is nothing more that needs to be said.

Thanks for contributing to the discussion.
TBG, what is it about the machines that enables them to clean better? Better vacuum, better scrubbing or appication? What could the science be behind your intuition?
Pawlowski6132, it would have to be the vacuum. Everything else is largely the same in most instances. Your are using the steam, but most merely apply the cleaner and scrub and then remove the fluid or dry. I suppose some machines have applicators and some merely have you spread the cleaner around, but I think that is minor.

I think the benefits of the Loricraft and Keith Mooks is the vacuum being at one point on the record and moving outward across the record while riding on a string. You can actually hear the liquid being slurped off.

Audiofeil, you had me going as your comments are so close to what one hears too often both here and on AA.

I have actually seen microscope pictures of grooves using the Loricraft and other machines, and I have heard of the tests of cleaners removing some vinyl. These were by the manufacturer, however. I know of no such work by any reviewers.