How Should We Clean A New Record?

Have you ever listened to a new record a month or so after you’ve cleaned it with a record cleaning fluid (RCF)? Listen closely: it sounds unexpectedly noisy doesn’t it? Many think so and, for this reason, have stopped using RCF on new records! Others insist that cleaning them with an RCF is an absolute must to remove the offending mold release. And then there are those who have always felt that dry brushing is all that new records require. Amazingly, EVERYONE IS RIGHT! If you are interested in how these seemingly contradicting choices can all be valid, please read on.


A new record is covered with a thin layer of mold release, unquestionably a contaminant with a sonic character. However, this sound is subtle, a thin veil that’s mostly unobtrusive. The Teflon or Silicone mold release actually acts as a lubricant that protects the grooves without significantly obscuring the Vinyl’s sound. Countless times I compared the sound of new records BEFORE and SHORTLY AFTER cleaning with an RCF. Without Vinyl lubricant or preserver, the difference is ever so slight and seems barely worth the effort and the risk of using an RCF. Still, a mold release is a contaminant and a dust magnet; it makes sense to remove it if this can be done safely.


Can an RCF make a new record noisier? The surprising answer is yes! A small fraction of all RCF ingredients ALWAYS remains on the Vinyl surface as an adsorbed film after vacuuming (see my primer on RCF from last week). Held to the Vinyl surface by intermolecular forces, this film is only several molecules thick (less than 10 nanometers) but grooves can also be quite fine at high frequencies (about 100 nm). Amazingly, many can hear the sound of this adsorbed layer!

But here’s the tricky part. The cleaned record is quiet shortly after cleaning as the adsorbed film after vacuuming is still wet—a WET FILM dampens noise. But days or weeks later, with all the liquid gone, the DRY FILM becomes audible. It is a background noise akin to the sound of a dirty record, but much fainter. You may even think that your cleaned record has been re-contaminated with dust. It hasn’t. It’s the sound of dry surfactant. If you re-wet the Vinyl (by rinsing or re-cleaning), the noise goes away only to return when the record is dry again.

An alcohol-based RCF—diluted with water!—leaves a less objectionable sound on a new record because the adsorbed alcohol evaporates completely under vacuum and leaves no dry film behind as long as no surfactant is used. (Note: Dry adsorption film has nothing to do with solid residue from the distilled water making up the RCF.). But even an alcohol-based RCF still leaves a very faint background noise behind; this suggests problems in addition to dry adsorption film but that’s a complicated story for another time.


1. Given the current RCF technology, I recommend the Hippocratic approach: first, do no harm. Use a dry brush on your new records, keep them clean, and stay away from RCFs.

2. But if you must wet-clean a new record—because it’s noisy or you find the sound of mold release objectionable—use an alcohol-based RCF (diluted alcohol; little or no surfactant) which leaves behind little or no dry film. The residual background noise is minimal and inaudible in many systems.

3. If you must use a surfactant cleaner, rinse well with low-residue water. Repeated rinsing is necessary as some adsorbed material always remains on the Vinyl after each rinsing by chemical equilibrium. The record will be quiet, wet or dry. Alas, many of you will find this rinsing ritual very tedious.

4. Alternatively, you can use a RCF with lubricant or preserver. It leaves behind an “oily” film that keeps the adsorbed layer “wet” and noise-free. Just remember that you are now replacing mold-release sound with lubricant/preserver sound, even though that is usually an improvement.

5. Some of you like the effectiveness of enzyme-based RCFs. I have not used them much. Their impressive cleaning action (by chemical breakdown of organic contaminants) is certainly attractive but the concomitant breakdown of the plasticizer, also an organic compound, remains a concern.


While nearly all agree that old records benefit from a good cleaning with an RCF, there is no consensus or easy solution for cleaning new records. Since I do not find the veil of the mold release very objectionable, I feel that a dry brush is the safest thing to use on a new record—until better RCFs are developed.

One alternative is to use an alcohol-based RCF which is free of other additives. You may also use surfactant-based RCFs but most will leave a faint background noise when dry (days or weeks later). To minimize this problem, rinse several times with water to remove the surfactant film. You may also use an RCF with a lubricant/preserver that keeps the adsorbed layer “wet”, a trade-off between mold-release and lubricant sound. The long-term effect of such additive is still unclear. (Note: To identify the type of RCF you are using, please refer to my last week’s primer on RCF.)

For safer and easier cleaning of new records, we need novel RCFs employing surfactants that are inaudible when dry. This is a difficult but not an impossible demand. RCF manufacturers should look beyond common surfactants (alkylaryl ethoxylates or alkylaryl sulfonates) which belong to an ageing technology. There are exotic surfactants out there that can do the job. Some are (very) expensive but surfactant cost should not be a factor since only a minute amount is ever used in any RCF (typically less than one part in 100, literally pennies per quart of RCF).
I noticed you neglecled to mention LAST record presevative. I clean my new records with Disc Doctor RCF on a VPI 16.5 After thay I apply Last and I've had records I've played hundreds of times. It fact I have a MoFi copy Of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars that I've played more times that I can recall. NO wear, no clicks and pops, no loss of fidelity. Oh by the way I use Stylast every play. I took my cartridge to my dealer who still has a stylus microscope and the first words out of lips were"You use Stylast". I've since upgraded to a Benz Ruby 3, but my habits haven't changed. It it true alcohol damages vinyl by removing polymers and other oils and that constant contact will make the vinyl brittle?
Alephman-I assume that your post was addressed to me (it is hard to tell in this forum).

YOU WROTE: "I noticed you neglecled to mention LAST record preservative. "

As a general rule, I try not to comment on commercial RCFs; my main objective is to provide general information and discuss basic concepts, not to praise or badmouth any particular commercial product. I understand that this often makes it difficult for reader to evaluate some of the ideas that I proposed but this shortcoming is unavoidable. You have to look elsewhere for specific recommendation/opinion about commercial products.

YOU WROTE: "It it true alcohol damages vinyl by removing polymers and other oils and that constant contact will make the vinyl brittle?"

For a longer discussion on the effect of alcohol on vinyl, please check my older thread:

Strictly speaking, vinyl or PVC is a completely inert polymer that is susceptible only to very strong acids or bases, powerful oxidizers, and strong UV exposure. PURE alcohols, however, can extract out the plasticizer (phthalate esters), which was ADDED to the vinyl to soften it. The danger of extracting the plasticizer from vinyl is reduced as the alcohol is diluted in water. The reason is simple but long to explain.

The plasticizer, an organic compound with low to medium dielectric constant--I don't recall its exact value--is soluble in any liquid (organic solvent) with a similar dielectric constant like alcohols (dielectric constant around 20 to 30. By the way, you should never use ammonia or vinegar on vinyl for the same reason: low dielectric constants). But when an alcohol is diluted with a lot of water, which has a very high dielectric constant (around 78), the resulting fluid acquires a higher dielectric constant and loses most of its ability to dissolve the plasticizer.

The contact time between any RCF and vinyl should ALWAYS be minimized. Even surfactant-based RCF will extract out the plasticizer given enough contact time (by a mechanism called micellar solubilization, which is different from that of alcohol).

I hope this helps.
Hello, I have recently started to dip my fit into Vinyl playback just because I was curious. I purchased a turntable and then a couple of days later came across the world of record cleaning. Needless to say I am quite overwhelmed.

Anyway, I ended up purchasing a VPI 16.5. So far I have only used the RCF and brush that came with the machine.

What I am confused about what happened with a new record. I had played it a couple of times without any cleaning other then the carbon fiber brush (I didn't have the VPI at the time). The record was very quite other then a couple of pops. I was very happy.

This morning I cleaned the very same record according to the instructions and also what my Dealer had shown me. I did not rinse the record, as I was not aware that I needed to do this. I vacuumed the record for just 2 rotations.

I played the record right away and my earlier happiness vanished. :)
The record was far noisier, with many more pops and clicks all the time. I haven't figured out what I did wrong. Or what I didn't do.

Maybe I didn't vacuum enough?

I tried later in the day again and did the cleaning steps again, only after the vacuuming I let the record air dry further for an hour. This time the pops and clicks were much less but there was still more obvious surface noise on the quieter passages compared to before cleaning this record.

Any ideas what could be causing this? Should I do the rinsing? Should I try the RRL RCF. The VPI RCF is apparently alcohol based according to the dealer (distilled water, alcohol, a few drops of windex, a few drops of photo flo).


-- Sanjay
Apparently, you've dug up a very old thread, in which much of what was written back then can almost be called void now in 2008.

You've most certainly not made a mistake purchasing the VPI 16.5 RCM. I strongly doubt that the info your dealer gave you about VPI's cleaner containing such frankenstein lab products as Windex, Photo-Flo, and such is true.

None the less, today, I feel there are better cleaning systems than a one step VPI Cleaning Fluid, and other highly knowledgeable folks here will tell you, products from AIVS, and Lloyd Walker are vastly superior to what was available just a few years back.

There's plenty here written about them, just do a search. I think you will then find yourself on the right path. Even with such state of the art cleaners of today, proper rinsing with the purest waters-rinses avaliable will be of great benefit, and without them, even the best cleaners will fall short of successfully making your vinyl sound its best. Mark