Top Vinyl Record Collecting Tips & Life Hacks

Marc HenshallCulture & Industry, Record Care4 Comments

Every vinyl record collector has a few tricks up their sleeve, a few hacks to make life easier and help them get back spinning records.

In the following article, we share our top vinyl record collecting tips and some of the hacks we’ve learned along the way that help you preserve your collection, save money, and even avoid potential disasters that can ruin your record collection.

Tip 1. Keep Dust at Bay with Cleaning Gel

Some time ago, I was sent a curious record cleaning product to review. It was called Cyber Clean. The company had adopted a popular gel-based computer equipment cleaning product for use on vinyl records.

In theory, the gel is able to mold to record grooves and provide an alternative to brushes and liquids.

I didn’t rate the product for cleaning records, but I do use the gel to keep dust off my turntable and other HiFi gear.

The gel is perfect for quickly picking up dust in hard-to-reach places.

Vinyl Record Collecting Tips Featuring cleaning gel to clear dust.

Also, I find it helpful to gently pat my cleaning brushes with the gel to remove any airborne dust before use. (Just be careful not to leave the gel on a fabric surface for too long as it can become stuck in place).

I’ve even seen products like this used as an alternative to the rather expensive Onzo Zero Dust stylus cleaner. 

Tip 2. Fix Split Record Sleeves with 3M Double-Sided Tape

Split record seams are a headache for many collectors, as edges become frayed over time or folded seams start to come apart.

The traditional way to repair these well-loved sleeves is to apply tape along the edge. Not only does this method not work very well, but it also permanently alters the visible artwork and degrades the value of your record. 

Worst of all, tape tends to yellow over the years and eventually looks very unsightly.

A better method is to use 3M double-sided tape or adhesive card strips, depending on how the sleeve is constructed. Both ways create an invisible fix with no visible tape.

Check out our full guide on how to fix split seams to learn more.

Tip 3. Use Wet-Wipes to Remove Stickers and Clean Record Sleeves

After having two kids, I’m now not entirely sure how I lived without wet wipes (or baby wipes, if you prefer). It seems to me there is little they can’t remove in a safe and gentle manner.

I use them on outer record sleeves to remove some of the surface dirt of older sleeves. Best of all, they are perfect for removing the residue left behind from price stickers.

Take it slow, and don’t rub too hard, but if you are patient and gentle, most sticker residue will come away without any damage to the outer sleeve. 

Tip 4. Test Your Turntable Speed with the RPM Speed & Wow App

Not sure if your turntable is spinning at the correct speed? Put your mind at rest and help diagnose potential motor or belt problems by checking the speed and consistency of your deck using a purpose-designed app.

Apps such as “RPM Speed & Wow” or “RPM Turntable Speed Accuracy” help you check the RPM speed variations (otherwise known as the wow and flutter) of your turntable in real-time.

Tip 5. Track the Price of Records on Amazon Using Camel Camel Camel

Amazon isn’t everyone’s favorite place to buy records, but it’s certainly a big player in the market. Those on the hunt for a deal (or simply wanting to verify value for money) can do so using the price-tracking website “Camel Camel Camel”. 

It’s a free service, and it’ll save you a lot of time checking prices manually. It allows you to set up price change alerts and see price history charts for Amazon products. There is also a browser extension plugin for ease of use.

Check out this example below tracking the price of Mother’s Milk by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. If you were hoping to pick up a deal, price-change alerts could help you avoid paying over the odds and grab a nice bargain.

Tip 6. Use a Toast Rack or Dish Rack to Dry Records

Whenever we talk about how to clean vinyl records here at Sound Matters, we’re quick to stress the importance of making sure the record is fully dry before placing it back in the sleeve.

You see, wet records left inside sleeves can promote mold growth, and nobody wants that.

For peace of mind, allow the record some extra drying time on a rack before returning to storage. 

Toast racks make for handy drying stands, or you could also look at picking up a dish rack. Whichever one you buy, make sure there’s no risk of scratching the records.

Tip 7 . Always Reinforce IKEA Kallax Shelving Units

The ubiquitous IKEA Kallax shelving unit is one of the most popular units on the market for storing vinyl records.

However, if used incorrectly, they can be subjected to excessive weight and eventually collapse. (Just Google “IKEA Kallax records collapse,” and you’ll see some pretty terrifying images).

Don’t get me wrong; they’re great storage units with perfectly sized compartments for storing records. 

However, there are a few fundamentals to consider and several hacks to help avoid catastrophic damage.

1. Always Place Your Records on the Longer Kallax Shelves

The Kallax is made from an outer frame and a combination of longer and shorter boards. 

You want to keep the longer boards running horizontally and the shorter boards running vertically. 

The shorter boards act like pillar supports for the longer horizontal shelves. So if you flip the unit around, the only thing supporting the weight of your records on the shorter boards is the dowel fixings, and this is where things typically go wrong.

2. Extra Support:

There are several approaches to help put your mind at ease as your collection starts to grow: 

  • Adding plywood boards to the back will add extra strength and prevent items or records from falling out the back of your unit. You can nail these in using panel pins, or apply screws if you prefer.
  • Some collectors will add L-shaped brackets to each corner for extra strength.

Tip 8 . ‘Fix’ a Scratched Record Using a Toothpick

We’ve all got those records in our collection with pesky scratches on an otherwise perfect record. If the scratch is bad enough, the stylus will easily jump out of the groove and the record will skip.

In some cases, this is caused by vinyl material that is smeared into the groove, causing an obstacle.

If you’re lucky, it can be possible to gently lift the debris from the record groove using the common toothpick.

For a full guide on how to fix a scratched record using a toothpick, check out our full guide. 

In short, simply place a magnifying glass or microscope over the damaged area and gently rock the toothpick back and forth over the scratched area. 

If you’re lucky, you’ll clear the way and your stylus will pass through. Perhaps you’ll still hear a click or two, but you might just save the record from landfill.

Over To You

We’d like to hear your vinyl record hacks. Let us know your best vinyl record collecting tips, tricks and hacks in the comments below. 

  • Jonathan says:

    I’m sure the toothpick trick works great, but I play the record backward through the scratch. This knocks out the debris, and you can do it in real time, as the record is playing – no magnifier required!

    • Dylan Adams says:

      I would be worried about needle damage doing that… Ive separated the needle from the cantilever just cleaning the needle ..Def would not try that to clear the groove..just a thought..

    • Gary Morris says:

      Maybe if you use a DJ cart.lm not going to move a record backwards with a 400.00$ cart.

  • Pat Mc Closkey says:

    My hack for cleaning records is to use the knosti record cleaner. I have altered a sonic toothbrush by jamming a radiator roller brush where the tooth brush would go. When Im using the knosti I turn the tooth brush on and hold the radiator brush onto the vinyl While I rotate the lp causing it to vibrate slightly and hopefully assist in dislodging debris from the grooves. Hope this tip helps to improve someones vinyl.