It is likely that your prized record collection is getting damaged just because of improper storage. If these fragile records are not preserved and maintained regularly, they can easily get scratched, scuffed or bent over time. Neo-Online gives a few tips below on how you can retain their value with proper storage and care, regardless of their age or condition.
Check for any warped records
Go through your records to check for warps — this refers to when the vinyl is overheated or exposed to extreme humidity levels, resulting in irregularities or bumps in its shape. This can be common if you have a particularly old collection.
Even if you do come across any warped record, there are a few ways to fix it. The most effective method, however, is to remove it from its outer cover (while still keeping it in the inner sleeves) and slide it between two thick plates of glass. Then, place a large and heavy stack of books on top of the glass and leave it in that position for 7-10 days. It is important to note that this solution may not work for every record.
Hold them with care
Take extra caution while holding a record; the oils from your hands can be pressed into the grooves, which in turn can trap debris and dust. This would make it more difficult to clean the record, and may even subject it to mould over time, rendering it completely unplayable.
Therefore, try to hold the record only around its edges or centre (away from its grooves). Of course, this can be hard to do while you are cleaning the record — in which case, you can use finger cots or nitrile gloves for extra grip and to avoid transferring any dirt to its surface.
Clean them before storing them
Despite what you may believe, an old t-shirt is not an effective way to swipe a record clean. In fact, the fibres and dirt particles can actually scratch it.
There are many specific cleaning tools in the market that are designed for this purpose, ranging from microfibre cloths/brushes/velvet pads and sprays to record cleaning machines. These are effective, easy to use, and quite affordable. You can also buy a vinyl-cleaning solution that you can apply onto the record, while avoiding the label, and then rub off in gentle, circular motions with a lint-free cloth. If a record is in particularly poor condition, you can go a step further by using an LED torch to identify the marks and debris deep in the grooves that need to be cleaned.
Shellac records need even more protection, as they are relatively more porous and can easily absorb any residue. In their case, you can try cleaning them with a small amount of dish soap mixed in distilled water.
It is recommended to clean your records at least every six months for maintenance.
Invest in quality inner sleeves
This is important as this is the only material that would be directly in contact with your vinyl record. As the original inner sleeve is usually made of low-grade paper — which could be a source of dirt and acid for the record as well as the outer sleeve — you should purchase acid-free inner sleeves that produce minimal static. Plus, the old ones can become creased, which could damage the record’s surface when under pressure.
Don’t skip the card sleeves
The only time your record should be out of its cardboard jacket is when you are playing it. High-quality card sleeves provide maximum protection for the record as well as its cover. Just avoid plastic sleeves as they can stick to the album and wipe off the artwork.
Store them in an appropriate place
There are four factors that you should consider when deciding on a spot to store your collection: heat, humidity, light and pressure. While vinyl records can tolerate low temperatures, heat can cause them to warp. Thus, make sure you keep them away from direct sunlight and other sources like radiators or fireplaces.
Similarly, bright lights can also damage them over time — which is why cool and dark environments are ideal for their storage. Make sure these places are dry too as extreme humidity can also result in warped records.
Finally, do not stack anything on top of the records as the high or uneven pressure can cause them to crack. Instead, store them in an upright position. You can even use dividers to make sure they stay separated and upright in a crate, without any chance of leaning against each other.
You can also invest in record storage boxes to minimise dust and damage — plus, they are easier to move around when needed.
Buy a first-rate turntable
The resurgence of vinyl has also brought about more options for turntables in the market, but these often include cheap, low-quality versions as well. The sound is compromised and the arm is usually heavier, which could damage the records more easily.
Hence, if you are already starting a record collection, it is advised to upgrade your turntable as well. It does not need to be expensive; there are also many high-quality turntables that are available at more affordable costs.
Even with a superior turntable, it is important to know how to use it properly. For instance, always place or remove a record once the turntable has stopped so that its bottom surface does not get scratched. Plus, avoid placing the arm manually as this may also cause scratches. Just make sure it is perfectly balanced and then use the turntable’s needle drop function.
With time, you will learn how to properly use and store vinyl records, and how your set-up can affect their condition in the long run.