It’s common knowledge that vinyl records need the occasional clean from time-to-time. Used record purchases, in particular, should always be cleaned before they go anywhere near your turntable and stylus. Dirty records not only sound bad, but they also exacerbate stylus wear and contaminate your turntable – spreading the muck across your precious vinyl collection.
What most people don’t realise, is that brand new records actually need cleaning too – ideally before they hit your turntable. The reason for this is two-fold:
1. New Records Come Statically Charged
Nearly every single new vinyl record I’ve ever purchased has come positively charged with static electricity right out of the sleeve. Statically charged records are a nuisance, not only because they stick to the turntable mat every time you swap sides or remove the record, but also because the static charge attracts all dust and particles in the immediate proximity. Obviously, this is no good, as we want our shiny new record to stay clean – and ultimately sound its best – for many years to come.
There are a couple of options for easily removing static charges from vinyl records: 1) you could purchase and use an anti-static gun. (this is the quickest and easiest way). 2) You can clean the record with a professional vinyl cleaning solution, such as the Vinyl Revival record cleaning kit, which will clean, but also remove static charge.
Note: If you’ve ever struggled to remove a new record from its sleeve as the vinyl clings to the packaging like glue, you’ll know full well how statically charged new releases can be. An anti-static gun will make removing the record easier, and ultimately less risky. It only takes one sharp piece of debris to scrape across the record and your brand new vinyl is damaged before it even gets played!
2. New Records are contaminated with factory dirt, packaging debris, and release agent from the manufacturing process
This point gets largely overlooked. I mean, after all, why would you need to clean something you’ve literally just purchased? For a start, factories are typically pretty grubby places; as we’ve already established in point no.1, new records are almost always statically charged, and this encourages dust and dirt onto the record surface. Also, the record production process can leave gummy release agent residue on the record surface, which can, in turn, contaminate your stylus and ultimately diminish the sound quality.
You can remove any record contamination using a variety of methods. For a new record, a simple wet clean using the Vinyl Revival cleaning kit is enough to remove debris and manufacturing residue; you’ll also have the added benefit of removing any static in the process, as the cleaning solution will neutralise any positive charge. Whatever solution you do choose, make sure it’s alcohol-free. Isopropyl alcohol can irreparably damage the records protective coating when used frequently – always check the label before risking your expensive vinyl. (Vinyl Revival is alcohol-free).
The Bottom Line
While your new records should sound great if pressed correctly and mastered to a high quality, it’s important to remember we’re dealing with an analogue medium here. The typical analogue vinyl record has around half a mile of grooves; any dirt or debris picked up as your stylus makes its long journey through your record will have an impact on sound quality. Also, just like a dirty or bumpy road will wear your car tyres quicker, dirty grooves will inevitably make life harder for your stylus. Some new records will come cleaner than others, but for the time it takes just to give your record a quick pre-play clean, it really isn’t worth running the risk.