Please contact The Vinyl Archivist directly and I will be happy to answer any specific questions you may have that were not covered here.
Why do my records need to be cleaned?
Every record, even if it looks clean, is likely soiled with a wide range of contaminants including dust, mold and mildew. Vinyl discs are also coated with sticky mold-release compounds during manufacturing. These contaminants stand between the groove and stylus, causing abrasive mistracking, resulting in unnecessary, excessive wear to the record. By interfering with proper groove tracing, dirty records produce inaccurate, noisy sound.
Dirt, dust and grime in your record grooves doesn’t just wear out the record sooner – it adds unnecessary wear to your stylus. Pops and clicks can be caused by the stylus coming into contact with particles in the grooves obstructing the path. This causes wear to both the record and the stylus tip. Proper cleaning of your records not only preserves playback, but the investment you have made in your equipment as well.
What is Ultrasonic cleaning?
Ultrasonic cleaning functions on the principal of cavitation, where an ultrasonic frequency creates compression waves in the liquid of the tank which ‘tear’ the liquid apart, leaving behind many millions of microscopic ‘voids’ or ‘partial vacuum bubbles.’ These bubbles collapse with enormous energy, however, they are so small that they do no more than safely clean and remove surface dirt and contaminants.
This allows the deepest of record grooves to be cleaned on a microscopic level where even the best record brushes cannot reach. Because of this extensive reach into the grooves, ultrasonic cleaning is considered by the majority of the hi-fi world to be the most effective individual form of vinyl cleaning.
How does your Ultrasonic system work?
My custom built system is based on years of Audiophile tweaks and R&D as popularized on the Audio Nirvana forum. A rotisserie spindle slowly rotates the records in a medical grade ultrasonic tank with sweep and pulse functions to vary cavitation and get at both the surface of the record, and deep in the grooves. I use a diluted cleaning solution of 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol and Ilfotol wetting agent for the surfactant.
The water and cleaning solution are continuously pumped through a 0.35 micron filter to prevent the dissolved contaminants from returning to the records before they are removed from the tank. After a 20 minute bath they are then air dried and placed in a brand new poly sleeve.
Is it safe?
The act of Ultrasonic and Vacuum cleaning will not damage your records. Part of my desire to build a custom ultrasonic system was to remove all moving parts, brushes, washers, squeegees, etc. from the process so that the only thing that touches the record surface is water and air.
There is one caveat I must mention considering that water is involved in the process: occasionally small drops of water will land on the record label during the cleaning process. I do my best to spot dry these droplets when/if they do occur.
I treat records with museum quality care, but I cannot defy gravity or physics.
If you are at all concerned with water getting on the label of your record, please do not send them for cleaning. It is a very small risk, but it is still there.
How does Vacuum record cleaning work?
A vacuum record cleaner such as one of the VPI models functions on a similar principal to your turntable. Placing the record on a platter, it is first cleaned by hand with a chemical cleaning fluid using specially designed micro-fiber record brushes that clean deep in the record’s grooves, dislodging particles such as dirt, dust and mold from the walls of the record groove. These are the contaminants that case surface noise during playback.
The machine is then turned on and the platter rotates at 33 1/3 rpm. The vacuum wand (which is safely covered with a micro-fiber strip) is then lowered onto the surface of the record, sucking up the fluid and debris loosened from brushing as the record rotates. The force of the vacuum provides the strongest mechanical removal possible.
Why use both vacuum and ultrasonic cleaning?
Vacuum and ultrasonic methods are both highly effective at cleaning vinyl records, so why should you use both? From my own use and the advice of other long-time collectors, the best results on really dirty records have been with a combination of both methods.
Chemical cleaning with enzymatic fluids and water rinse as the first stage helps to break down the caked in dirt particles for more effective removal. Ultrasonic cleaning gets deepest into the grooves with the safest and most powerful force to fully remove these particles. You are getting the best of both worlds for the utmost in clean vinyl.
Will cleaning get rid of pops and clicks?
This is unfortunately a difficult question to answer outright, as every record is different. Cleaning will get rid of pops, clicks and surface noise that is caused by physical debris in the record grooves, but a proper cleaning cannot perform miracles on already damaged records. Pops, clicks and skips from physical damage such as scratches, wear to the grooves or pressing defects cannot be repaired. As long as your records are in good physical condition, I can virtually guarantee you will be happy with what a cleaning can do for them. If you expect cleaning to repair your records, you will be disappointed.
What equipment do you use?
As you have leaned from the above entries I use a custom built ultrasonic system. My vacuum machine is a VPI HW-17, the original industry standard in high-use vacuum cleaning machines. I use Disc Doctor record brushes for fluid cleaning with the VPI, as I have found these superior to other brands such as MOFI. For an in-depth list with more information, please see the Equipment page.
What cleaning fluids do you use?
I have long been an ardent user of the Disc Doctor Miracle Record cleaner for all-purpose cleaning. I use Audio Intelligent Enzymatic Cleaner for the dirtiest of records.
Can you clean 7 inch or 10 inch records too?
Yes! 7″ and 10″ records will fit on the Kuzma spindle just as they do on a turntable spindle. Please note though that I can only clean vinyl records – 78s, acetates and any other non-standard material will be damaged by ultrasonic and chemical cleaning.
How long does it take?
Turnaround time for cleaning records is generally two weeks after the records arrive with me for orders of fifty records or less. Times may vary due to high volume, at which point I will give you an updated estimate.
Record flattening is a lengthier process and can take anywhere from one to four weeks in general.
How does flattening work?
The Orb DF-01iA+ uses a high-tech, automated process whereby heat is applied evenly on contact to only the outer edge (for warping) and inner label of the record (for dishing). The most important and delicate part of the record–the groove architecture–remains nearly unaffected by the process. It has a semiconductor film applied in the top and bottom heaters of the unit allowing for a uniform heating process, combined with an even pressure. The result attempts to remove warps while preserving the sonic output of the record, and is considered by many to be the gold standard for warp reduction and elimination.
Can you get every record flat?
No. Record flattening is not always effective depending on the severity of the warp, and results are not guaranteed. Any warp that has caused the grooves to be deformed cannot be fixed. The flattener only flattens, it cannot move the grooves forward or back when they are deformed. The Orb distributor describes the process best:
“Without over-bending something in the opposite direction, like straightening a piece of metal with a hydraulic press, some warps can only be made “less bad”. Many records will come out better, but not perfect. Can you get it perfectly flat? Yes, but to do so usually requires more heat than the vinyl can withstand before losing the groove. The entire idea of the Orb flattener is to gradually heat, then gradually cool, with the purpose of relaxing the vinyl enough for the warp to be eased back out with as much finesse as possible.”
What are the risks of attempting flattening?
By its very nature, adding heat to a vinyl record can cause lasting damage if not done right. Some very old vinyl compounds are unstable and respond poorly to heat (they bubble as the gasses are coming out of the vinyl). Orb specifically warns against attempting to flatten records lighter than 115g. There are other vinyl formulations that cannot withstand the heat: any Flexi discs or SP/Shellac records, lightweight records pressed during the 1973/74 Oil Crisis, RCA (non-groove guard), Sheffield Lab, BMG-UFA / Universal Music European Union, early Nixa Records, Super Analogue Disc, Nippon Grammophone Stelet33 Series.
Engaging my service is at your own risk, and I cannot be held liable for any damage caused by a flattening attempt.
How long does it take?
I approach each record cautiously, starting the treatment on the lowest heat setting, only increasing the heat should that not provide satisfactory results. Expect records sent for flattening to take anywhere from two to four weeks on average, more if the warps are severe, or there is a large quantity. I usually have multiple jobs going at once, and they are done on a first-come, first-served basis.
Can you flatten 7 inch or 10 inch records too?
Yes. The “+” model allows for additional types of records to be flattened using Orb’s adapters, including 7″/10″/12″ formats, and records with both Groove guard and those that are flat.
How do I get my records to you?
There are a few options for shipping your records to me. USPS Media Mail is the most affordable and convenient option, but takes the longest amount of time. Single-carrier shippers such as FedEx and UPS will be faster, but more expensive. Simply pack the records safely in a standard record mailer, or ensure their safety with one of my specially designed shipping boxes. When you place an order you will also receive an e-mail with instructions of where to send your records and a guide to packing them safely as well as a checklist to indicate which records are cleaned with each method.
Is shipping records to The Vinyl Archivist included in the cost?
No. Since the records do not start with me, it would be too difficult to coordinate. This way you can send the records to me at your own convenience and with the carrier of your choice.
How do you send the records back to me?
I will use the exact same packaging that you sent to me, unless there was any damage to the package in transit and it is no longer safe to use. I will send them back via the carrier and method of your choice, and the return shipping will be included on your invoice.
What happens if the package is damaged in transit?
I handle your records with the utmost care while they are in my possession, but I cannot account for what happens to them in transit. I highly recommend adding USPS insurance to any package containing records you value. I put a large amount of time and energy into packing safely and securely, but damage can still happen. Insured packages are generally handled better by the USPS as they know they will have to pay out if there is a claim.
What is the best way to pack my records for safe shipping?
First off, you must use a proper record mailer designed specifically for that purpose. I cannot emphasize this enough. You want a snug fit so that the records are not bouncing around inside the package. There should be cardboard stiffeners used at both the top and bottom of the stack of records. The records should also be in some sort of plastic sleeve; cardboard is not waterproof! For detailed instructions, please read the shipping guide I have created.
Can I drop off my records with you?
Yes! If you are in the New York City area I am happy to coordinate drop-off and pickup either at home or the office, depending on schedules. I am located in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, or during the work week at my office near Chelsea Piers. Hours may vary, so please contact me to arrange a date and time.
*Please note that trial cleanings must be shipped to me, pickup/drop off is not available.
Is International Shipping available?
I am happy to discuss custom orders for international customers, but please keep in mind the cost of shipping will be exponentially higher. Please contact me for a custom quote if you are interested.
How do I place an order?
I believe in an individualized approach to every client’s cleaning needs as all records are not created equal, nor are they equally dirty. Send me an e-mail or a message using the contact page to begin a personalized consultation, and we can work to determine what kind of a cleaning will best suit your needs. I strive to provide a singular service to each of my customers.
Pack your records and ship them to me for cleaning or flattening, and include this easy checklist if you are selecting multiple cleaning methods. When the cleaning is done, I will send an invoice via PayPal. It’s as simple as that!
How do I pay?
Orders will be invoiced via PayPal. I can accept payment via most online apps such a Zelle, Venmo, or Cash App. Credit Cards are also accepted directly through Braintree. You can pay cash on delivery if picking up your records in person.
Do you sell records?
Yes. I sell a selection of records via The Vinyl Archivist Catalogue Sales mailinglist. Click here for more info.
You can also see my listings on Discogs and I will begin carrying select reissues and vintage records on this site in the near future. I have access to a variety of distributors including Forced Exposure and Light in the Attic.
Looking for something specific? Send me a message and I will see if I can track it down for you.
Do you offer any guarantees?
In short, no. Please read the full Terms and Conditions here.
I will safely handle your records as if they were my own while they are with me. There are some records that may not benefit from a cleaning and you might not hear much of a difference. Unfortunately it is not an exact science, so I cannot make any claims as to whether you will hear a difference.
Are you worried about sending extremely valuable, irreplaceable records, either to be cleaned with the risk of water damaging the label, or traveling through the mail? If that is the case, I would advise you not to send them for cleaning. Sometimes the peace of mind is more important than a clean record.
What are your legal policies?
What are your hours?
I do my best to respond to orders and inquiries as soon as possible. I do have a full-time job in addition to running The Vinyl Archivist. Please allow at least 24 hours for a response. As much as records are an all consuming passion, I do have a life that keeps me away from the internet at times 🙂
For scheduling purposes, I am generally available in Manhattan M-F 9am-4pm, and in Queens 6-9pm or the weekends. All pickups/drop offs must be scheduled well in advance. I try my best to be available at your convenience.