LP Cleaning

While there will probably be a lot of replies to my post my search for answers is quite simple......I have an abundant collection of Lp's. Some I have bought new (from very long ago) and some I have bought used. Most of these LP's are in very good or great condition. I always place the LP's into their sleeves after play and handle them very carefully. In the past, I have only use a brush to clean them before each play.I'm not looking for a magic sound improvement but only to preserve my current collection. None of these LP's (to my knowledge) have ever received a "wet" cleaning treatment. Record cleaning processes and machinery are many...from a few $$ to many $$$$.After reading many recommendations and reviews, many recommend a simple wet cleaning process. There are many of those products available while there are super $$$ systems out there with vacuum technology and the like.
Of the many wet cleaning systems( like SpinClean and others) at a modest price, would a system such as this be beneficial? Also, since I don't know how these various systems work.....Is there danger to damaging the label since some of the rare LP's I own may be sold in the future?Thanks

I started with a VPI 16.5, and years later, I upgraded to an audio desk vinyl cleaner pro. Both are great machines, albeit at very different price points.  With these machines there is very little danger of getting the label wet. Watch some YouTube videos on these two models! By the way, I still have my vpi 16.5 with accessories and fluid. All you need to get started. I’ll sell it cheaply if you’re interested. Send me a private message.  Good luck!
I use a Spin Clean and use their record cleaning fluid at the recommended level. For few $’s it works very well. I clean every record I buy, new or used. For new records, I do the recommended 3 turns in each direction. For used/dirty records, I do 10 turns in each direction, then 5 more turns in each direction. I’ve never experienced any damage to the label.
You can spill some fluid on labels. Whether that will damage them or not will of course depend on both the fluids and the labels.
Rare expensive records..I don't know, especially considering that you have no experience in wet cleaning.
Whart, a member here, knows everything about cleaning, including rare records, he might want to say what he thinks.
I have cleaned my LPs by hand using a wet process and air drying. I do the whole record, including label. Never had any problems!
One of the new ultrasonic machines would be worth getting, especially if you could share the cost with a friend.
After cleaning an application of LAST record preservative might be beneficial. And using STYLAST on your cartridge can increase diamond life and reduce groove wear.
My suggestion is that you find a service that has various cleaning methods and if you have duplicate copies of the same record that are in generally the same condition and play equally well, let the service clean with a couple different methods and you can evaluate on your system. Of course, each record may have been exposed to different types and degrees of contamination, but if they are records that you have owned since new, and are in generally good condition, that’s one "test." Another might be a few records that have noise or other sonic gremlins that you subject to different cleaning processes-- same caveat, but the results may reveal something about the different processes that you notice on your system. Finally, such services offer a fully monty cleaning, usually combining ultrasonic and more conventional cleaning. Worth trying that as well.
You can go as cheap or as crazy as you want. My experience has been that there is as much to method, good practices and rinse step as there is to fancy machines. I like ultrasonic, both for its cleaning effect as well as convenience (in the case of the plop it in and let the machine do all the work), but I don’t find it to be a complete answer if you have older, challenged records bought in the ’used’ market. Some audiophiles have abandoned conventional vacuum cleaning altogether in favor of ultrasonic, and there are now cheaper points of entry, including DIY (which doesn’t require that much skill- mainly adding a rotisserie and building a modestly priced filtration unit. The best results i have had come from combining methods).
Thanks for the kind words, @inna-- I would never claim to ’know everything- but have learned a lot just by experimenting, reading, comparing results and discussing with a number of people. Always more to learn. I have concluded:
There is no killer app -- you can get great results without spending a ton of money if you observe some best practices;
a pure water rinse of some sort helps remove fluid/contaminant residue;
no amount of cleaning will help some records. Each LP is sui generis.
A lot of improvement can be achieved by dialing your record player in, being scrupulous in keeping the stylus clean, handling of records, minimization of static, resleeving, etc.
PS: a bad cleaning is worse than no cleaning at all. 
Cleaning records per se doesn’t extend their life, playing dirty records will shorten their sonic excellence. Why not just clean them as you play them? Clean 5 at a time. That way you are just cleaning the ones you listen to.

A thorough manual cleaning will be as good as any machine. It just takes more time. After experimenting with cleaning and playback I’ve learned that you are really only cleaning the surface and the first 1/3rd of the groove depth. Brush fibers are just not fine enough to get down to the area of the groove that really matters- I’ve measured them. The only cleaning machine that really makes a noticeable improvement in removing unwanted contaminents is the ultrasonic method. It’s a very expensive investment but the energy released by the micro-bubbles does seem to clean deeper than all the agitation-type machines.

That said, I do use an approach that is controversial, but it works for me. I have a second turntable I use just for quieting records that a normal manual cleaning won’t. It’s a decent mid-fi deck with an average cartridge- nothing I care too much about sonically, because I’m not playing my records on it- I’m just using it as my last step in the cleaning process.

After the record is wet cleaned and the surface looks dry, 2 minutes tops, I play the record on the “digger” turntable. Once on each side. This really removes deep, damp crud and quiets a stubborn pressing.

You need to keep your eye on the stylus and be prepared to clean it a few times/side as it can build up with crud pretty quickly.

You will also need to use a wetting agent such a Photo-Flo or similiar to break the surface tension of the water in the cleaning mix. The wetting agent allows the water to get deeper into the groove.

The cleaning brushes with replaceable pads from the Needle Doctor work great.

The final rinse should be just distilled water and a (dedicated rinse-only) cleaning brush to get the rinse down into the grooves.

A final recc: don’t use micro-fiber cloths to clean or dry your records, the fine fibers easily break off and get lodged in the grooves adding noise. Just let them air dry.

I’ve had no problems damaging newer labels from the mid-1960’s pressings or newer. I have had older labels bleed when they get wet. Older RCA’s are fragile as are the older, more desireable Blue Note labels. Learned a hard lesson about getting those labels wet after washing out most of the “B” side of a very rare early Horace Silver Blue Note.
voiceofvinyl....Certainly sounds like you have much experience with cleaning records. Interesting that you mentioned Photo-Flo. It is a Kodak product and a wetting agent/surfactant. I worked for Kodak for 30 years and used Photo-Flo as a final rinse stage in the manual processing of xray films. The purpose was to eliminate drying spots on the films. You have used it in the cleaning process. Would there be any benefit to using it in the rinse stage along with distilled water? Perhaps drying spots may or may not on records be of any consequence. Just curious. Thanks for your input.

I bought a VPI 16.5 25 years ago, and it served me well. Four years ago I got into ultra-sonic cleaning, and a whole new world opened up.

Vinyl Stack has a nice wet-cleaning method which protects the labels by placing each record between two nylon wheels with rubber tires. These wheels cover the label.

The method also works well with an ultrasonic tank. I use an Elmasonic (German lab equipment) running at 80 KHz. Note that all US cleaners are not created equal. They differ in power (more is better), frequency (higher is better), heating (use it), and most importantly, corporate dedication to meeting specifications.

Good luck!
Jrpride, I rinse heroically with pure water, and the water cascades off a clean record like water off a freshly waxed fender. I have never considered photo-flow - I don't want to risk a residue.
I’ve been using Nitty Gritty manual model for 35 years after trying a lot of cleaning products .... dry, liquids, lots of brushes and pads, all useless.

With Nitty Gritty never a problem and I washed a few thousand vinyls.

I would not change anything in the world, that’s enough for me.
Although I've never used one, the Gem Dandy cleaner by Merrill Audio would seem to be a good bet for you and your concerns at a reasonable cost.