How to Restore Old Records

Updated on January 14, 2020
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Anne is a writer and teacher with a passion for self-expression and publishing.

Record collecting has risen in popularity in recent years and is a hobby for many avid music fans.
Record collecting has risen in popularity in recent years and is a hobby for many avid music fans. | Source

The popularity of records is growing among younger generations. As such, we have seen a spike in record sales in recent years. Many people are taking to purchasing nice turntables to listen to vintage records. If you are an avid record collector, it is important for you to know the steps to properly take care of and restore your records. If you purchase your records from a used record store, chances are, they are in pretty good condition (or, at the very least, playable). However, sometimes you might inherit some old records from a family member or a friend and aren't sure of their condition. It is possible to restore records and make them playable again, but it takes a little bit of elbow grease to accomplish.

How to Restore Old Records

  1. Buy a record cleaning kit.
  2. Make a homemade cleaning solution.
  3. Use a solution to get out the scratches.

1. Record Cleaning Kits

One way to ensure that you can properly restore a record is to purchase a record cleaning kit online or from your local record store. These kits typically come with a dry cleaning brush, as well as a vinyl cleaning solution (and possibly a cloth). This is one of the easiest ways to restore your records, but it might cost you a little bit out of pocket.

How to Use a Dry Brush to Clean Your Records

Simply use the dry brush on the vinyl to get any clumps of visible dust or dirt off of the record first. You want to swipe the brush in a circular pattern along the grooves to ensure you don’t accidentally scratch it. Next, spray a little bit of the cleaning solution on a cloth. Use the cloth to lightly wipe around the surface of the record. Make sure that the vinyl cleaner completely dries before playing your record or putting it back in its sleeve.

A record cleaning brush is a dry brush with bristles that will gently get into the grooves and clean any loose dust or debris.
A record cleaning brush is a dry brush with bristles that will gently get into the grooves and clean any loose dust or debris.

2. Homemade Cleaning Solution

If you don’t have the money to buy the fancy cleaning solution, you can always make your own. There are a couple different ways that you can do this.

How to Make a Homemade Cleaning Solution

Some say that using a solution of ¼ isopropyl alcohol, ¾ distilled water, and a couple of drops of dish soap will work. I have personally used a solution with warm distilled water and a few drops of dish soap and it has worked just fine for me. Of course, if you are not adding the alcohol into the solution, remember that you are going to have to carefully hand dry the record yourself. It is important to pick a soft cloth that is not going to leave residue or particles in the grooves of the record. You can use something like cheesecloth to carefully clean and dry your record.

3. Getting Out Scratches

Now that you know the basics of cleaning your record, let’s talk about scratches. Scratches can be a difficult thing to fix on a record, and many times, it is something that you are probably not going to be able to fix.

How to Get Scratches Out of Your Records

There are some solutions here, but you need to be very careful when doing this, as you don’t want to create more scratches or compromise the quality of your record. Some find that lightly rubbing a toothpick over scratches will help to get some of the debris that is stuck in the scratches, thus helping to fix the record. This is obviously a very risky endeavor. Another solution is to use wood glue. You can spread wood glue over the top of your record as it spins on the turntable. Once it has dried, you are simply able to peel it right off. This may help repair scratches as well as pick up dirt and debris that is deep within the grooves of the record.

Record cleaning solution keeps your records in good shape and gets the tougher pieces of dirt and dust off of the record.
Record cleaning solution keeps your records in good shape and gets the tougher pieces of dirt and dust off of the record.

Carefully Consider Your Options

As you can see, there are many different approaches to cleaning and restoring your records. Keep in mind that how you choose to do this is totally up to you. If you are planning on restoring a record, consider the condition it is in and then make your judgement on how you are going to clean it based off of that. Personally, I inherited a bunch of 45s from my mother that were in pretty bad shape. Some of them were covered in caked up dirt because they had been sitting in a basement for a long time. I chose to use water and a tiny bit of soap base to initially clean the records, because I did not want to be too abrasive on them. I carefully wiped away dirt and debris in layers until I was satisfied. Once I did this, I was able to test out the 45s on the turntable and see if they worked. The majority of them played well after this process, although some had some scratches that needed to be repaired. If you are anything like me, you cherish your records and the rich history they give. You want to be very careful with them and take good care of them, so make sure before you restore your records, that you take the time to assess the state they are in. Think about the best way to restore them that will do the least amount of damage to the vinyl itself.


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