Keeping your vinyl records clean is essential if you want to enjoy the best possible sound from your collection. Even the most careful collectors will occasionally find they need to give their records a quick pass through a record cleaner to eliminate annoying pops and clicks.
The best record cleaning kits get the job done quickly and safely without causing damage.
However, not all record cleaning kits are created equal; choose the wrong product, and you could leave nasty residue on the record surface. Worse still, you could easily cause permanent damage.
At Sound Matters, we’ve tested numerous record cleaners on the market and compiled our pick of the best vinyl record cleaning kits to help you safely restore both new and vintage records.
Also, to help you avoid the horror of damaged records, we’ll give you the low-down on which record cleaning products you should avoid.
GrooveWasher Record Cleaning Kit
At risk of sounding like a broken record (pun intended), we’re big fans of the GrooveWasher record cleaning kits here at Sound Matters. Their flagship G2 record cleaning fluid is our go-to day-to-day record cleaning fluid.
Born out of fundamental research from the classic 1970s DiscWasher cleaning system, GrooveWasher has taken the reins and developed a new record cleaning kit fit for the 21st-century vinyl revival.
The G2 record cleaning fluid is extensively tested and designed to clean records gently but effectively, and it evaporates quickly and leaves no unwanted residue behind. (You can test this yourself by spraying a little G2 cleaning fluid onto a glass surface or mirror. Note how clear the surface is after it evaporates).
Aside from the core record cleaning fluid, their complete record cleaning kit—featuring a cleaning pad with a solid walnut handle—makes light work of cleaning vinyl records by hand.
Type of Record Cleaner: Fluid and kit | Pros: Very gentle and effective | Cons: Very dirty old records may benefit from a stronger fluid
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Pro-Ject Wash It
Pro-Ject’s “Wash It” record cleaning fluid is our second go-to record cleaning fluid. The fluid is intended for use with their vacuum record cleaning machines, but is also sold separately for use with your favorite record cleaning kit.
The recipe contains absolutely no isopropyl alcohol, so it’s safe to use on all your records (including vintage 78 shellac records). Isopropyl alcohol is thought by many to be harmful to vinyl records when used in high volume; in the case of older shellac records, it will physically melt them!
Type of Record Cleaner: Fluid | Pros: Alcohol-Free | Cons: Very dirty old records may benefit from a stronger fluid
Wax Wash Record Cleaning Kit
Wax Wash record cleaner came to the market with a bold statement claiming that, “Wax Wash is the only vinyl record cleaner that contains a mixture of superior cleaning agents to specifically target and remove residual montan wax from old and new vinyl records…”
By montan wax, they are referring to the release agent thought to help aid the smooth release of the record from the stamper during production.
We tested Wax Wash at Sound Matters and found their record cleaning fluid very effective. As a record cleaning kit, we weren’t particularly taken by the included disposable wipes supplied for applying the record cleaner. However, a simple microfiber cloth did the trick just fine.
Type of Record Cleaner: Fluid & Wipes | Pros: Effective on new and used records removing stubborn residue | Cons: You’ll want to buy your own record cleaning pad or microfiber cloth
GrooveWasher G3 Record Cleaning Fluid
If you’re cleaning a lot of vintage collectable records that need a little love and attention, the relatively new addition of GrooveWasher’s stronger G3 record cleaner will be music to your ears.
G3 retains a very similar formula to their flagship (and original G2 fluid). G3 contains a higher concentration of the ingredients that do the heavy lifting when it comes to record cleaning. (For those who want to know, that’s the emulsifiers and surfactants that help dissolve greasy fingerprints and hold dust and dirt in suspension so you can remove it from the groove).
This stronger formula adds extra cleaning power for when you need it most, but you’ll need to apply a second rinse stage using distilled water or GrooveWasher’s G3 Rinse.
Type of Record Cleaner: Cleaning Fluid & Rinse | Pros: Very effective at cleaning dirty vintage records | Cons: Requires a second rinse stage
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Vinyl Revival Record Cleaning Kit
Before making the switch to GrooveWasher, Vinyl Revival was my main record cleaning fluid, and I can still recommend it to any UK-based record collectors looking for a safe and easily obtained record cleaning kit. (Apologies to our many US subscribers, this one’s not available state-side).
It’s another alcohol-free record cleaner that is safe to use on all record types. It does a good job of cleaning your records, but does require a secondary rinse step.
Type of Record Cleaner: Fluid & Kit | Pros: Safe on all record types | Cons: Requires a second rinse stage
SpinClean Record Washer
The SpinClean Record Washer is one of the best vinyl record cleaning kits for those cleaning a lot of records on a budget.
Many imitators have come to the market in recent years, but I still trust the SpinClean as the original record bath that includes a very safe alcohol-free record cleaning solution.
By filling the basin with distilled water and pouring the concentrated record cleaning fluid over the brushes, SpinClean states you can clean up to 50 records in one sitting. In my experience, this works out more like 25 records for the best results.
Type of Record Cleaner: Record Bath | Pros: Affordable & safe | Cons: You’ll need to change the water regularly to avoid cross-contamination
Pro-Ject VC-E & VC-S2 ALU
Stepping up to a purpose-made record cleaning machine can help improve the results and make light work of cleaning records in bulk.
At Sound Matters, we use the compact Pro-Ject VC-E vacuum record cleaning machine in combination with GrooveWasher record cleaning fluids with great results.
The advantage to a record cleaning machine over cleaning records by hand is the process of physically sucking the dirty record cleaning fluid from the surface. When compared to using a cleaning pad or cloth, this can help reduce the risk of spreading dirt from one record to the next.
The bigger VC-S2 ALU is preferable should you have the space, as part of the compact design for the VC-E means the air vent is placed directly under your records. If you’re cleaning a lot of records in one go, you might find this vent problematic as it can fire some mist back onto the record surface.
Type of Record Cleaner: Record Cleaning Machine | Pros: Improves record cleaning results and makes light work of batch cleaning | Cons: The vent position on the smaller VC-E could’ve been better placed
Record Cleaning Kits to Avoid
In my experience running the Sound Matters website, I’ve had the chance to try many record cleaning kits—some more successful than others. Below are a few examples of record cleaning products to avoid altogether. For more information related to this topic, check out our piece on how NOT to clean vinyl records.
Record Cleaning Gel
Borrowing a concept from the computer accessories industry, numerous companies have released gel-based vinyl record cleaning kits.
Traditionally designed to clean difficult to reach crevices on keyboards, these products (in theory) sink into the record groove, pulling out dust and dirt.
It’s a nice idea, but in practice, the products I’ve tried in this category leave residue on the record surface and can even increase surface noise.
Secondly, over time, these products start to lose their consistency in staying together as a complete gel ball. Eventually, they can flake away, leaving gel on the record surface. They’re a handy accessory for cleaning dust off your turntable in challenging to reach gaps, but don’t use them directly on your records.
Record Cleaner with Too Much Alcohol
I would advise steering clear of record cleaning kits that contain fluids with high amounts of isopropyl alcohol. While the jury is still out on what level of alcohol (and type) is safe to use in record cleaning fluids, it’s best to steer clear of formulas with very high amounts.
Some homemade remedies and even commercial record cleaning fluids contain isopropyl alcohol as one of the main ingredients. As a rule of thumb, if you can smell the alcohol, it is undoubtedly too much.
All the fluids mentioned in this article contain either no alcohol or a minimal trace amount and are considered perfectly safe.
Best Record Cleaning Kits – The Bottom Line
Ask ten different people which vinyl record cleaning method they prefer, and you’ll likely get ten very different responses. Unlike many other publications listing the best record cleaning kits, our selection is based on real personal experience, having tried every one of the products listed.
When buying a record cleaner for the first time, we recommend buying a small quantity before committing to it across your entire collection.
What’s the best record cleaning kit you’ve tried? Let us know in the comments below.