The incredibly unhygienic reason why vinyl sucks

dirty vinyl handruff

I’ve just been sent some new Reloop Green Concorde carts (thanks Nicole!). Now as any DJ who has used vinyl can tell you, needles need breaking in (especially Ortofon) so that they can stick to the groove and importantly reduce record wear. But in breaking these new carts in, I was reminded of one of the reasons why vinyl is stomach-churningly awful. And its name is handruff.

It’s very easy to explain — you might like to think that your hands are clean when you DJ. But unless you’ve just scrubbed your hands to sterility surgery prep style, then they’re not. And when you put your dirty hands on your already dirty vinyl, and grind your dirty fingertips into the microscopic grater-like grooves, you essentially create a truly disgusting environment where little bits of skin gather and build, along with all manner of pestilence. Just imagine what’s happening in your mouth when you repeatedly lick your fingers too. I think I just did a little bit of sick in my mouth.

Granted, this is likely to be a side effect that turntablists more than anyone else have to deal with, but it just goes to show that the hidden grimy world of DJing is right beneath your fingertips. Now go wash your hands you filthy animals.

What this has prompted me to do is to dig out a record cleaning kit that I was sent some time ago, and relay my findings in the next few weeks. I’ve got some pretty rank vinyl that has lingered in some musty environments for far too long.

But what about you lot? What do you do to clean your records? Have any of you tried the wood glue trick

  • John Shersby

    Tried the wood glue thing once, think I must have done it with too thin a layer – it was a bugger to remove in one piece!

    • Fredrik Yngström

      Here’s a video with the wood glue trick, and he uses quite a thick layer:

  • djmq

    Warm water and soap. This is a ugly DVS problem, as those timecode records tend to stay on the decks for hours at a time, not just a couple of minutes. My old Dirtstyle skratch records used to look like that, too.

    • Trond Håland

      This will eventually mess up your records more than it will fix it, because of soap residue. This will create a lot of static. You may not notice it for a year or two

  • Mine are in pretty good nick. I just give them a wipe with a Metrosound velvetty pad thing to get any dust off. For stylus fluff I use a small artists paint brush.

    I learned many years ago not to put greasy paws all over ones vinyl, so only ever hold them by the edge and/or label. Seeing people put their entire hand across the grooves makes me shudder.

    • Stephen Snow

      It’s annoying to cue up without touching the grooves though…

  • al83

    the dirt/dust is what gives vinyl its character & sound, this is why i love it!!

  • HDLK

    Hey commenters, you are all right. In a way.

    Soap with regular tap water for instance *will* leave a residue. It’s the calcium and other trace minerals, and I suppose soap that can’t be rinsed of because it just likes to sit on the vinyl won’t help either 😉
    Distilled water is a lot better for your records. Rinsing your records with pure (distilled) water after cleaning them will help. Depending on the room it might still attract some (unwanted) particles.
    However, if you just need the single play-through for a DJ-set a finger wipe might get you sorted, but your record would be smeared by (naturally produced) bodily liquids from your fingers attracting even more grit and dirt over time.

    For those of us who actually ‘scratch’ with records, you might be better off wearing some kind of gloves. I usually use latex gloves for painting walls and such (you always get at least some paint on your hands no matter how good you are), but if you are finished painting you can still smell the latex on the brush handle. Maybe not the best option.

    What GroovinDJ said: Never ever touch the actual groove. That makes
    sense. Even if you wash your hands every half-hour you will deposit skin

    And use a anti-static brush.

  • Playing vinyl is dirty business. Embrace it !

  • nzimm

    Multiple tiered action :

    If I find a record is too dusty or has visible marks for some reason when I pull it out, it gets a quick clean.

    Most of the time I only touch the edge of the records, or the runout groove / label when (back)cueing, and when putting them in and out of sleeves. I never touch them directly when beatmixing.

    Whenever possible the stock inner sleeves get replaced with poly-lined sleeves. This enters the main sleeve rotated 90° so as to minimize dust getting in (I only leave it facing outwards in the bag as a reminder that I’ve played it).

    Back from the gig, since I know which records I’ve played, I clean up the side(s) I played before putting everything back properly into the Expedit (obviously).

    Cleaning up is pretty standard – it can start with a few revs under a carbon brush and/or combo carbon brush/velvet pad.

    Then a few puffs of record cleaning fluid, wiped off with a soft cloth, sometimes anti-static, sometimes just the t-shirt.

    The liquid I currently use (GPX22) seems to have more alcohol in it than the Rodec I had before.

    It leaves less residue, which translates into less added surface hiss. It is quite volatile, so I can be somewhat heavy-handed in spraying it and still be able to play a dry record a few seconds after wiping it – I find that’s good to have at a gig if the record needs refreshing.

    The same “cleanup after use” routine applies to DVS at home. Yet, when the needle hits the last couple of minutes of the TS vinyl, it still manages to dig up small amounts of handruff somehow, so the wiping part sometimes turns into scrubbing for these.

    (I guess it would be way worse if I did nothing!)

    The styli also get brushed during and after playing – with bonus dips in the Magic Eraser every know and then.

    Tried the wood glue once on a new 12″ which came with spots of glue from the sleeve that I couldn’t dissolve with the usual tools. That helped only a bit.

  • Kahnstantine

    I use Qwik Sort to keep from licking my fingers. Just a vinyl brush for the records

  • Wow! Thanks for pointing that out! I wonder if that’s why I have a cold. I pulled some odd vinyl out at the weekend and I’m suffering now! 😉

  • Lee S

    I guess we should all live in a bubble and disregard the fact that the human body has white blood cells, skin, mucus, acid, acidophilus and bifidobacterium to fight off infection.

  • Over it

    Remember when articles here still were relevant to your target demo? Or at least djing? Or at least interesting? Really? Let’s talk about groupie stds next? Rip scratchworx

  • Djs of the round table

    You think this is filthy, well, take a good look on the equipment you use next time on a venue, and you’ll puke your guts out.

    Thats why a always bring my own, it always works, its in prestine condition and sound great!

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