A trip to any thrift store will show you what happens to neglected vinyl records. I once found an original pressing of Bob Dylan’s “The Basement Tapes” that looked like a dinner bowl. Buying records can be a roll of the dice when buying from places that don’t emphasize proper care. If you ever find the gem of your dreams, there are steps you can take to ensure its quality of longevity.
One of the big mistakes people make is stacking records on top of one another. If you’ve ever tried to pick up a crate of vinyls, you know that they have some serious weight to them. Over time, stacking records can seriously warp them and lead to extreme compromises in sound quality.
The best way to store vinyl is vertically on a shelf, just like you would with your books; you can also invest in a crate or box made with acid-free material. Make sure your records aren’t leaning at too much of an angle, because this can also lead to unwanted bend. If your collection is small, just use a bookend to keep your records from falling over. If you find it hard to pull out an album because it’s a tight fit, you need to give your records some more space. You also need to be aware that dust is the natural enemy of vinyl records. Be sure to use plastic outer sleeves to protect your albums and their covers.
Environment Is Everything
The Library of Congress has one of the most impressive vinyl collections in the world, and they know how to take care of them. They recommend storing your records at room temperature or lower. They actually recommend storing records with serious value between 46-50° F. That means your attic is not an option. Remember: Your records can soften or even melt. As for humidity, the Library of Congress recommends keeping it between 30-40% relative humidity. Serious collectors should invest in a hygrometer and a humidifier.
Handle with Care
This is one of the easiest things to do. Never touch the playing surface of a record. You can hold vinyl by the edges or by the label, but the natural oil in your fingers acts like a dust magnet in the sensitive grooves of a record.
Clean It Like You Mean It
You’ll need a few things to properly clean your collection. This can be affordable or unbelievably expensive, depending on how serious you want to be about it. The first thing you’ll need is a good carbon fiber brush to remove dust from the surface. Next, you need a solution. You can buy special cleaning solutions online or risk it with homemade brews suggested by collectors. You only want to use enough to get the job done. After that, wipe your record down with a dry, lint-free cloth. If it’s too much trouble to find all the items individually, there are kits available online that have everything you need.