For vinyl collectors, statically charged records are a persistent thorn in the side. When a vinyl record becomes statically charged, it acts like a magnet for any dust lurking near its vicinity, making it near-impossible to keep the record clean.
The problem is most acute in dry climates when the humidity is low; this is because the surface moisture on materials makes for a good conductor. If you live in a more humid, damp environment (like where I live in Britain) you might find static less troublesome. However, it’s all by degrees, and the severity of the issue depends on many environmental factors – from climate to household furnishing, and much more.
Frustratingly, record players and records are highly prone to static. Everything from the vinyl material itself, to the process of spinning a record; even pulling the record from its sleeve will contribute to static build up over time. Once a record becomes positively charged, it will attract dust and dirt onto the playing surface, causing pops and clicks. In addition, static records can also suffer from further overall noisefloor issues due to the electronic discharge of surface charge buildup.
New records are the biggest headache for me — most of which ship contaminated with static straight from the factory. Ironically, the higher quality and thicker the vinyl, the more prone to static the record will be — meaning those lovely thick 180g modern pressings are particularly troublesome.
So how do you remove static from a record?
There are many methods and products used to control static (far too many to cover fully in this article, but here are some basics).
1) You can help control static build up by investing in a good carbon fiber brush. The conductive carbon fiber strands help to discharge static while also clearing dust from the record.
2) Anti-static sleeves are a very worthwhile investment (I like the Mobile Fidelity sleeves best). These help reduce static build up and better protect the record from damage (particularly when pulling the record out of the sleeve).
3) Wet cleaning your records will remove static from your record. (Moisture is a great conductor, remember).
By far the quickest and most efficient method, however, is to use an anti-static gun (such as the Milty Zerostat). At first glance, the Zerostat looks more like a child’s toy than a serious piece of maintenance kit, but behind the novelty-like facade is some serious science.
This anti-static gun incorporates a Piezo Crystal device that produces negative and positive ions that couple with the positive and negative static charges on the record surface to neutralize static. (I know, it sounds like witchcraft (you point a plastic gun at your record and it shoots invisible things), but it works)…
How to use the Milty Zerostat
Hold the Zerostat within 12 inches of the record surface or object to be treated. The record must be in free space, or the process will not work as efficiently.
Slowly squeeze the trigger to emit a stream of positively ionized air over the target surface. (If the trigger clicks, you’re pressing too fast).
Next, slowly release the trigger to release negative air ions and neutralize static presence. You may want to repeat this procedure at different points across the surface if necessary.
The Zerostat does not require batteries, and it’s good for approximately 50,000 squeezes. (That’s plenty to last a significant amount of time!) If you’re unsure that the gun is working properly, simply attach the included ion indicator to the end of the pistol and squeeze the handle. If all is well, the attachment will glow red.
Summing things up
On first impression, it’s easy to dismiss the Milty Zerostat as a frivolous accessory. After all, you could just wet clean your records and avoid shedding out $70+ dollars… However, the reality is, if the record doesn’t need wet cleaning to remove stubborn dirt and grime, it’s actually safer (not to mention quicker) to use a tool like Zerostat as it requires zero contact with the record surface. Additionally, you will find that by using an antistatic gun at the first sign of mild static charge, you’ll actually reduce the amount of required wet cleaning in the long run.
The Zerostat requires some investment upfront, but ultimately, when combined with good quality anti-static sleeves — and a general understand of best-practice record care — it ultimately rewards you with a cleaner, better sounding, and more enjoyable record collection.