Records have been making a comeback for a few years now, including in one of Bloomington’s own record shops, Tracks. It’s not just people who grew up listening to records that are nostalgic for the vinyl experience – millennials are just as likely to be buying vinyl as people aged 55 and older, according to Statista.
Tracks sees more college students buying records than other age groups, Tracks employee Emily Morris said.
“I think we probably see 70% college-aged students and 30% adults buying vinyl at our shop,” Morris said.
Hopefully, this means vinyl will be popular for many more years, so people need to know how to take care of their records. Records are fragile and often expensive, so taking proper care of them is vital.
When putting a record on or removing it, try to touch only its outer edge. It’s important to avoid touching the surface of the record because oils begin to build up, according to Sound Matters, a website dedicated to promoting the use of vinyl.
“The natural oils from our skin are no good for the record surface,” according to a June 2020 Sound Matters article. “So the long and short of it is, we want to avoid touching any part of the record that contains a playable groove.”
When holding the record, make sure to use two hands for stability. When you’re done listening to a record, put it back in its album jacket. Leaving a record out gives it more time to collect dust and dirt.
Cleaning records should be done regularly.
“With my personal collection, I clean mine every time I play them,” Morris said. “I even clean them when they are brand new straight out of the package.”
There are a few tools that will simplify taking care of your vinyl. Use a vinyl cleaning brush to remove residues from the record’s surface.
“I do this because dust, static, dirt or the little piece of paper from the inner sleeves are your worst enemies when it comes to vinyl,” Morris said. “They can cause a lot of damage to your records, so it’s important to keep your records in almost pristine, clean condition.”
In addition to a vinyl brush, it’s important to have a stylus brush. The stylus is the needle that actually touches the record. A stylus brush is designed to keep the stylus clean because the stylus itself can collect dirt from the vinyl itself if both aren’t regularly kept clean.
For a deeper clean of records, cleaning solution and a cloth are recommended. Some people just use dish soap, but that leaves a residue on surfaces. It’s best to invest in a cleaning solution that is specifically meant for cleaning records.
Lastly, if you’re willing to splurge on cleaning tools for your records, Colored Vinyl Records – a website dedicated to providing tips and guides to buying vinyl – recommends a vacuum cleaning kit. They’re typically very expensive, though, and for the casual vinyl fan, it’s not necessary.
Storing records correctly is just as important as keeping them clean. Both inner sleeves and outer sleeves are recommended – inner sleeves provide an extra layer of protection for the record itself and plastic outer sleeves preserve the artwork on the cover.
Once your records are safely stored in their sleeves, put them away for safekeeping until you pull them out to spin them on your record player. It’s important to store vinyl in a very specific manner, Morris said.
“Avoid stacking records on top of each other, as the weight could cause the vinyl itself to warp,” Morris said. “Also avoid keeping vinyl out in the heat or in the sun as this could also cause the records to warp.”
The best way to store vinyl is with a crate according to The Vinyl Factory. Any crate will work, and storing records on a bookshelf will work well, too. Remember to store them vertically, not horizontally.
Selecting a turntable
Keeping records clean and safely stored is key to being a good record owner, but Morris said she recommends an additional step: investing in a quality turntable.
“If you’re looking for a bang for your buck, your best bet is Audio Technica turntables,” Morris said. “They’re affordable but also good quality. Try to stay away from suitcase-style record players as they tend to have a bad track record when it comes to harming and damaging vinyl.”