The humble carbon fiber brush is an essential accessory for any turntable. If you don’t already own one, you should change that pretty quickly and start incorporating one into your daily playback routine.
It’s good practice to use one before and after each play, as this will help to prevent dust and dirt building up into a bigger problem further down the line. Regular use of a carbon brush will also help to control static build up and reduce the amount of required wet cleaning to remove stubborn dirt and dust.
The Audio Quest carbon fiber brush is the classic. There are many others like it, but this is the one that’s been a mainstay of the industry for decades. It features 12,000 highly conductive carbon fibers in two rows that gently reach into the groove, helping to pull out dust and dirt when used correctly.
How to Use a Carbon Record Brush
The correct use of an anti-static record brush is often misunderstood. Here’s a simple but effective method that works:
Gently hold the brush over the record so the carbon fibers just tickle the surface (if they’re squashing flat onto the record surface they won’t work properly). You want to allow the fiber tips to penetrate the grooves.
While holding the brush gently in place, allow the record to spin on the platter a few times.
Most of the dust will gather at the front fibers. Now, gently scoop up the front fibers allowing the rear set of fibers to catch anything missed by the front. Now lift the brush. Repeat this process if necessary.
Inbetween each clean, you can use the handle to clear any collected dust by rocking the fibers back and forth through the handle. This way, you don’t have to touch the brush with your greasy fingers.
Debate About The Correct Method
There is much debate about the correct way to use a carbon fiber brush. And most of this debate centers around how to remove the brush. For example, some folks will recommend slowly moving toward the center allowing the brush to make contact with the metal spindle before lifting. The theory is that this method helps to discharge static.
Another example is where users recommend slowly pulling the brush in the opposite direction – toward the edge of the record.
The main issue I can see with both of these methods is that they both involve dragging the brush across the record surface. There is always a risk you could drag a particle across the record, causing damage.
Audioquest recommends the method I’ve laid out in this article, as per the included instructions, pictured below:
Improving on a Classic
A classic the standard Audio Quest brush might be, but could it be improved? Perhaps, and that’s just what Audio Quest say they’ve done by introducing a new model. The new brush is said to improve the conductivity of static electricity and facilitate better cleaning of micro-dirt particles through the use of smaller fibers in a greater quantity (624,000 carbon fibers to be more precise). The improved connectivity comes through the brush’s internal parts to the conductive gold contacts where your fingers should be, allowing better discharge of static electricity through your body as the ground. We recommend upgrading to the new brush if you can.
Purchase the new
The Bottom Line
Dry cleaning records regularly before and after playback with help remove dust and dirt before it becomes embedded in the grooves. However, this process will not remove fingerprints, grease or other more stubborn dirt. If the record has become very dirty, you will need to consider some form of wet cleaning. For more information, read our article on how to clean vinyl records.
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