Analog Corner #124-All Quiet on the Vinyl Front

So much has changed in the world of record cleaning, especially with cavitation now available. Still this 15 year old column includes a great deal of useful information. However, much is wrong, especially the claim that all chemical residues used in most fluids are removed with vacuuming. My experience with the Kirmuss restoration system proved that for me-Ed.

Talk to vinyl fanatics about record-cleaning fluids? I’d rather discuss with Rummy the wisdom of invading Iraq, or debate with drug czar John Walters the efficacy of the so-called “war on drugs.” I’d rather talk to a wall. But here I am talking about them, having spent the better part of the summer swimming in the stuff. So many claims are made about how well they clean, and even about how they sound, that I decided a careful survey was in order. Remind me never to do it again.

What prompted this survey was the unearthing of Myles Astor’s article on the subject, published in an issue of the long-defunct magazine Sounds Like . . .. Although I don’t agree with some of Astor’s conclusions, the article is excellent, covering vinyl chemistry and fluid ingredients in admirable detail. I’ll spare you the chemistry, but here’s one of Astor’s conclusions: “[W]hile vinyl appears to be a solid, at the molecular level, it’s porous enough to allow chemical exchanges over time between the record’s surface and its interior.”

All vinyl compounds used for pressing LPs contain, among other ingredients, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyvinyl acetate (PVA), the latter a softer material used as a plasticizer to keep the disc from becoming too brittle. Other ingredients often added to make the final vinyl biscuit include antistatic compounds, as well as coloring agents (carbon-black or dye) to give the naturally clear plastic its usual black color.

While a stylus’s downward tracking force is small—only couple of grams—its footprint is so tiny that the pressure per square inch that it exerts on the groove walls is enormous. Add the buildup of heat due to friction and you can understand why a tiny ridge in a microgroove pressed into a brittle material might crack and break. Hence the plasticizer.

In fact, one cause of the pops and clicks that mysteriously appear on pristine records after only one or two playings is due to impurities in the vinyl compound that break off or pop out under this pressure. (One of the claims made for the LAST preservative, once very popular, was that it bound those impurities to the vinyl’s polymer chain at the molecular level and thus prevented those pops and clicks from occurring.)

Water and isopropyl alcohol can leach plasticizers from vinyl compounds, making them more brittle, but, as Astor pointed out in his piece, in order for that to happen the fluid must be in contact with the record for at least an hour. If you apply fluid and vacuum it off within 30 seconds or a minute, can any plasticizer possibly be leached out? It’s unlikely, unless a residue is left on the record surface. One way to prevent that from occurring is to follow the cleaning with a rinse of distilled water, then another vacuuming. More about water shortly.

Another variable to be reckoned with is mold-release compound—a lubricant added to the vinyl during manufacture or sprayed on the stamper itself to ease the removal of the newly pressed record, and which has a tendency to “cloud” and soften the sound.(NOT TRUE-Ed 2020).

As for the best record-cleaning regimen I know of, regardless of what fluid(s) and applicators you use, see Michael Wayne’s fanatically meticulous article . Even I don’t have the time, energy, or desire to follow Wayne’s advice to the letter, but I do make use of his insights in caring for my records. I’m sure you’ll find his advice useful as you formulate or update your own.

What we’re trying to remove from the grooves with all this cleaning is dust, fingerprints, mold-release compound, Special Sauce, cigarette ash—and that’s from some brand-new records I’ve cleaned lately. In addition to any or all of that, a used record might have cannabis resin, mucus, semen, blood, urine, sweat, rat droppings, cooking oil, lighter fluid, dishwashing detergent, and—the LP was stored in a wet basement—organic mold. You never can tell what’s on a garage-sale record—people have handled them who were doing G–d knows what at the time. And because records retain static charges that attract all kinds of crap, anything in the world might be lurking in the grooves of your used LPs.

Water, water, everywhere

A Reverse Osmosis Filtration System
What’s in modern record-cleaning fluids? Most ready-to-use cleaning fluids are at least three-fourths water. Next, there’s usually some kind of alcohol. Then, in far smaller amounts, a surfactant (detergent), which both breaks down water tension, allowing for easy fluid dispersion, and dissolves (emulsifies) non–water-soluble dirt, which is held in suspension by the liquid so it can be vacuumed off. It’s the detergent that really cleans the record; the alcohol increases the detergent’s action. Some makers of cleaning fluids claim that only an enzymatic cleaner can break down proteins and other organics that can grow in and on fingerprint oils, mold-release compounds, and the like.

H. Duane Goldman, a PhD chemist who’s also known as “The Disc Doctor” (Goldman recently retired and sold his business to Acoustic Sounds), claims that alcohol is used in record-cleaning fluids because of a “lone engineer at the British Museum who was on record as having stated that, following cleaning with methanol-water, he ‘liked the look of the disc.’ ” Goldman went on to tell me that Thomas Edison himself used methanol to clean his Diamond Discs, “to avoid wetting the spindle hole or edges of the disc, as these discs are a layer of phenolic resin over a filler that could absorb water, resulting in swelling and/or cracking of the surface.”

Disc Doctor Fluid
In the 1970s, the early days of consumer-grade record-cleaning machines, mixtures of isopropyl alcohol and water were in vogue. Isopropyl alcohol was used because methanol (methyl alcohol) is highly poisonous, and ethanol (ethyl alcohol) required a tax stamp because it’s the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages. (Don’t drink “denatured” ethyl alcohol or use it to make home-brew record-cleaning fluid; the substances added to it that make it unfit for drinking, such as acetone, will kill you and your records.) But, according to Goldman, while the various alcohols are very effective as wetting agents, for removing mold-release compounds, and helping the detergent component do its job, their efficacy as cleane- is minimal.

Quality counts

Supermarket Steam Distilled
Water is heavy. When you buy a ready-to-use record-cleaning fluid, you’re paying for shipping H2O from the fluid manufacturer, to the distributor, to the retailer (if there’s a middle-man), and finally to your door. But you don’t want to be cleaning your records with tap water, which contains all sorts of impurities, including chlorine, heavy metals, pesticide residues, decaying organic matter, and other stuff you don’t want on your records or mix with your cleaning chemicals.

Water can be purified by deionization or distillation. You can buy steam-distilled water at the supermarket, and that’s better than tap water, but super-pure, deionized, reverse-osmosis–filtered water is the best kind to use for cleaning records. If you plan on saving money by buying concentrated cleaning fluid and diluting it yourself, visit your local college’s chemistry lab and try to grub some, or buy a reverse-osmosis filter for $135 and make your own. (I’m buying a reverse osmosis filtration system from FilterdirectOtherwise, buy a ready-to-use fluid and hope the manufacturer has used distilled water that’s better than supermarket grade.

Some manufacturers are quite open about what they use in their fluids; others won’t say. Record Research Labs, Audiotop, and L’Art Du Son’s are teetotalers. Of the manufacturers who use alcohol, most use isopropyl, of which there are various grades of purity. Audio Intelligent for instance, uses laboratory-grade isopropyl for its Record Cleaning Formula.

Audio Intelligent’s Enzymatic Cleaner
Goldman uses “analytical reagent grade,” 99.5%-pure 1-proponol in his two Disc Doctor fluids because he claims that isopropyl alcohol “has the greatest potential for removing various additives and extenders from the vinyl matrix.” He also claims that isopropyl alcohol is a poor solvent for stearic acid and its salts, which he says are the most common mold-release agents used in vinyl. Based on my experience, I’d say that unless you’re leaving fluid on the record for more than an hour, I’d be more concerned about the grade of the alcohol used than how the molecules are arranged (isoproponol is also known as 3-proponol), though isopropyl’s efficacy as a remover of mold-release compound does create another issue.

I didn’t talk to every manufacturer, but no one with whom I did speak specified the surfactants they used. Goldman says he uses a “carefully tweaked blend of ionic surfactants” in his standard fluid, and “non-ionic” in his Quick Wash. Audio Intelligent’s Paul Frumkin says that, along with using high-quality ingredients, the key to an effective cleaning solution is the proportion of those ingredients.

Now what do I do?

There I sat, staring at fluids from Audio Intelligent, Disc Doctor, Record Research Labs, Audiotop, L’Art du Son, VPI, Nitty Gritty, Bugtussel, LAST, Lyra, a guy named Brotman, and some old Torumat, vintage 1986, which I bought when I lived in Los Angeles and can’t bring myself to pour down the drain. But you should know that the shelf life of these products is finite, so don’t stock up. Some last longer than others; a year or so is a safe bet. With most of them, if you see sediment at the bottom of the bottle, it’s time to replace.

The mesmerizing singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens had United’s Nashville pressing plant send me five test pressings of his latest double LP, Illinoise (Asthmatic Kitty), to get my approval before the press run. I felt honored. I played an uncleaned side, then cleaned each side of each set’s first disc with a different fluid, for a total of 10 fluids. Then I listened.

What did that prove? Scientifically, nothing—there’s no way to scientifically compare these fluids. Once you clean a record with one fluid, cleaning it with another doesn’t allow you to fairly compare the two—the second fluid tested benefits from an already clean record. You could reverse the process on the other side, but each side of a record is different. And you know what? Press 10 copies of a record from the same stamper and each can sound slightly different. Still, I cleaned and listened—I wanted to hear the album a few times anyway.

I wasn’t listening to hear which record cleaner “sounded better.” I think anyone who says that fluids “sound” different is delusional. If you put any cleaning fluid on a record and vacuum it all off, the only sonic difference can be the absence of dirt or residue, not the addition of a “sonic signature” from a nonexistent substance. That can be significant if a particular fluid removes crud and noise no other fluid managed to do, but it doesn’t mean you’re “hearing” the fluid. The only time you’ll “hear” a cleaning fluid is when you haven’t removed all of it, or when it’s designed to leave behind a residue, such as a lubricant. If you think otherwise, please write and tell me how a piece of vinyl’s intrinsic sound can be changed by pouring fluid on it, scrubbing it, then sucking all the fluid off.

I played side 1 of Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoise, then cleaned it and played it again. There was definitely greater focus and clarity, probably because most of the dirt and mold-release compound had been removed. Cleaning it again, with another fluid, made no difference that I could hear. Nor did playing the 10 cleaned sides back to back reveal any sonic differences. All 10 sides had occasional pops and ticks that no amount of follow-up cleaning could eliminate.

Do all of these fluids remove mold-release compound with equal effectiveness? I don’t know—I don’t have an electron microscope. But I used each fluid to clean a different brand-new LP that I played once before cleaning, and every disc sounded better after being cleaned: quieter and better focused. Machine-cleaning new records is as important as cleaning old ones.

I applied all of these fluids, as directed, to many other records over a period of two months, using inexpensive nylon brushes to avoid cross-contamination whenever a cleaning fluid did not come with its own applicator. None of them removed the white “spider webs” that leach onto record surfaces from polyethylene inner sleeves such as the ones Decca/London/Deram used in the 1960s (put those Moody Blues LPs into new sleeves!). Otherwise, all of them left cosmetically attractive surfaces, though some did a better job of removing mold, as well as those stubborn fingerprints that seem to be applied with white paint. If a fluid couldn’t eradicate a fingerprint, or some other physical or sonic blemish that looked or sounded as if it might be removable, I tried another fluid.

When I began this survey, I planned to rate each fluid in terms of its spreadability, odor, ease of use, cost, packaging, stylus residue after play, etc. But when I smelled the first one and almost passed out, I canceled the stink test. You won’t be deliberately smelling this stuff, so why should I? I killed off enough brain cells during the 1960s (and 1970s, and 1980s, and . . . ).

I divided the cleaners into two categories: Everyday and Heavy-Duty. I will report on the Heavy-Duty cleaners next month. All of the Everyday fluids did satisfactory jobs of cleaning new records, as well as used ones that were moderately dusty and marred only by oily fingerprints. The differences were in packaging, ease of use, and price.

Alcohol-free everyday record cleaners

Alcohol-free Torumat TM-(8) Again Available (2020)
The alcohol-free Everyday cleaners were Audiotop’s Vinyl1 ($157/quart) and Record Research Labs’ Super Wash ($24.99/quart), both of which come ready to use; and L’Art de Son’s fluid and Lyra’s VCT(C), each of which costs $45 for a small bottle of concentrate sufficient to make a gallon of fluid.

I don’t buy the claims that alcohol damages records. Yes, the wrong kind of alcohol can damage an LP, just as the wrong fluid of any type can. That said, all four of these proved that dusty, dirty records can be cleaned and, as best I could determine, mold-release compound be removed—all without alcohol. Audiotop’s Vinyl1 is specifically designed to remove mold-release compound, along with the usual dirt and grime.

Audiotop doesn’t divulge Vinyl1’s proprietary ingredients but describes the solution as a “special detergent” made of a “highly purified (99.999%) non-specified substance, Aqua Purificata (repeatedly distilled and purified) and special tensides.” Because the product itself is described as a “detergent” and not as containing a detergent, I assume the “non-specified substance” is not alcohol, though Vinyl1 does smell like alcohol.

At $157/quart, Vinyl1 was easily the most expensive record cleaner of the 10 I tested, so use judiciously. Audiotop doesn’t make this easy to do so: the fluid comes in an open-mouth container not suitable for direct application to vinyl. For $157/quart, a smaller applicator bottle should be included.

Vinyl1 spread easily and worked as promised. New records sounded more transparent and detailed after being cleaned with Vinyl1—what you should expect from any cleaner that’s claimed to remove mold-release compound. Vinyl1 worked well, but the price is steep, even taking into account that you’re paying for water shipped from Switzerland.

Record Research Labs’ premixed Super Wash uses quadruple-distilled water and features “non-toxic, natural de-greasers and dirt solvents.” The latest formulation, “ten times more powerful” than the preceding one, doesn’t seem to use a wetting agent—it beads up on the record surface and is difficult to spread, even using Disc Doctor’s applicator pad, which is the most effective in my arsenal. If you’re not careful, the beads will flow right off the record; more will end up on your floor than in the grooves. Even if you’re as careful as I was once I saw how Super Wash behaved, going slowly to try to get the liquid to spread evenly, more of it appears to sit atop the disc surface than migrates into the grooves. Still, enough apparently manages to get down where it belongs—Super Wash did a good job of cleaning new and moderately dusty old records and left no residue on the stylus. At $100/gallon, the fluid is expensive: again, you’re paying to ship water. On the other hand, quadruple-distilled water is better than you’re likely to get without investing in your own reverse-osmosis rig.

L’Art du Son’s concentrate comes in a tinted glass bottle—the company says it’s light-sensitive and should be stored in the dark. It also separates over time and needs to be shaken before use—so don’t pour it into the well of a pump-equipped vacuum-cleaning machine. It spread easily and was effective at cleaning new and moderately dusty used LPs. The label has a “best if used before” date—something all makers of cleaning fluids should include. At $45 for a gallon of finished fluid, L’Art du Son costs less than half of what Record Research’s Super Wash costs, though for best results you should use steam-distilled water that’s better than supermarket grade. That’s what I used (my reverse-osmosis filter has yet to arrive).

Lyra’s VPT(C) concentrate is so new that its page on Lyra’s website it is still “under construction.” According to a UK site that sells the stuff, VPT(C) was developed by Torumat’s Toru “Toy” Shigekawa, Shiro Suzuki, and Lyra cartridge builder Yoshinori Mishima. The fluid is said to clean as well as lubricate, which means that, like the Torumat fluid, it must leave a residue of something in the grooves. I can understand why a cartridge maker would want to lubricate the grooves to reduce stylus and groove wear, but it seems to me that cleaning and lubricating are different tasks best accomplished by separate products. VPT(C) contains a “proprietary surfactant formula,” but the lubricant isn’t specified.

I listened to a new record rich in high-frequency transient information before and after cleaning with VPT(C), to check on the lubricant’s sonic effects, if any. (I’d first cleaned the LP with another fluid to remove mold-release compound.) I thought I heard a slight overall “smoothing” of the presentation and a damping down of air—nothing dramatic, but definitely noticeable. I need to do more listening before drawing any final conclusions about Lyra VPT(C). And I need to find out what’s in it—particularly the lubricant.

Everyday fluids containing alcohol

Nitty Gritty Pure 2
For those who like how Disc Doctor Miracle Record Cleaner works but don’t want to hassle with the two-step process (a rinse with distilled water is mandatory), Disc Doctor’s Quick Wash is a one-step fluid containing 99.5%-pure, reagent-grade n-proponol, nonionic surfactants, and purified water. It’s a good Everyday cleaner, but Doc Goldman admits that it’s not as effective as Miracle, which is what he’d prefer you use. Quick Wash was easy to apply and remove and worked well. It costs $23.50/pint, $36.25/quart, or $58.75 per half gallon, and is available ready to use or as a concentrate.

Nitty Gritty Pure 2 contains a degreaser, a static neutralizer, a mild detergent-surfactant, and an unspecified alcohol. It was as effective cleaning regular dirt and greasy fingerprints from records as any of the fluids I tried. It costs $39.95 per half gallon or $67.95/gallon.

Audio Intelligent’s Record Cleaner Formula uses laboratory-grade isopropyl alcohol and a detergent-surfactant. It’s meant to be used in conjunction with Audio Intelligent’s Enzymatic Cleaner (see next month’s column) and is available as a concentrate (a $14 bottle makes a quart, a $25 bottle makes a half gallon) or ready to use ($20/quart, made with “Ultra-Pure,” four-stage, reverse-osmosis water).

My sample of VPI’s LP-cleaning fluid is ancient and Harry Weisfeld didn’t send a new sample in time for this survey.

Next time: Heavy Duty Solutions, cleaning and storing tips, conclusions, glaring omissions.

Sidebar: In Heavy Rotation

1) Esquivel, Exploring New Sounds in Stereo, RCA/Speakers Corner 180gm LP
2) Duke Ellington, Piano in the Foreground, Columbia/Classic 200gm Quiex SV-P LP
3) Various, Man of the World: Reflections on Peter Green, Morada Music/Audio Fidelity 180gm LPs (2)
4) Thelonious Monk Quartet, Misterioso, Riverside/Analogue Productions 180gm, 45rpm LPs (2)
5) Daniel Lanois, Belladonna, Anti/Epitaph 180gm LP
6) Patricia Barber, Nightclub, Blue Note/Mobile Fidelity 180gm, 45rpm LPs (2)
7) Matt Sweeney & Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Superwolf, Palace/Drag City 120gm LP
8) Amadou & Mariam, Dimanche a Bamako, Nonesuch CD
9) Sufjan Stevens, Illinoise, Asthmatic Kitty LPs (2)
10) Buddy Guy & Junior Wells, Going Back to Acoustic, Pure Pleasure/Isobel 180gm LP

latheofheaven's picture

I would have to check, but I think the last time I bought some AI #15 a couple of years ago it was upwards of $45 a quart :)

My friend and I had an 'old' gallon bottle of TM7 for years and years which we swore by using his Nitty Gritty. Somehow the bottle got a hole in it (with probably half of it left!) and we found it empty one day. We panicked, 'WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO NOW?!!!' Fortunately (and thankfully) since then I discovered AI fluids. Also now, FWIW I'm TRYING to construct my own US cleaner (getting those revolutions down have been a challenge!)

Michael Fremer's picture
I now available using Toy Shigikawa's original formula
latheofheaven's picture

I do remember seeing you showing that in one of your videos recently.

You have more than one, right... *cough...

Nathan Zeller's picture

It can be rather overwhelming with the amount of cleaning solutions out there, which one is right for me? It's a good thing we have people like you Michael who work with lots of equipment to tell us what you found worked the best.

By the way, what's your process for stylus and dry record cleaning (cleaning before playing)? What products do you use?

I figure if it's good enough for you, it'll work for me too.

Trevor_Bartram's picture

record cleaning. Just before I left the UK in 85 I took 50 of my dirtiest LPs to the a major UK hi-fi retailer in the city close to my home. They returned in a far worse state than they were sent. I complained and they were re-cleaned with no improvement. CDs had just started to appear, so I vowed to replace the LPs with CDs. When I got to the Massachusetts I found there were no CDs to be found but a local record store was able to replace many of the LPs, very inexpensively, the record companies must have realized the end was nigh. Funny how circumstances change.

vinyl listener's picture

what was that retailer using ? many, many moons ago a local hi-fi dealer was using a nitty gritty mini-pro. we have a couple of used record dealers who advertise that they wash all their records before sale. one uses a vpi 16.5 with good consistent results and rehomes his records in fresh inner sleeves. another claims ultrasonic cleaning using a chinese machine that bears superficial resemblance to the kirmuss. his records vary in cleaninessa and are not rehomed.

Trevor_Bartram's picture

I have no clue, I can't even remember the retailer's name. This was just a cautionary tale from 1985, to be extremely careful with your records and who touches them.

Babysharks's picture

Greatly appreciate this info and the additional links to other articles.

If you haven't already planned to do so, would you also include, in the next edition, some info on solutions and/or formulas used with the cavitation process.

Just as a point of personal input, I find that most of the noise I run into is because my stylus is dirty. Often I've thought that the "pops and clicks" I was hearing meant the LP needed a cleaning. Careful inspection of the stylus usually reveals some particle of debris.

Analog Scott's picture

as mythology permiates all of audiophilia. Nobody sprays on mold release. That does not happen never did. It would be a disaster.The records would be aweful. Spray on mold releases have waaaaaaaaay too much dimensionality to not destroy the physical detail of a record stamper to the point that the distortion would be unlistenable. Mold release is an internal *integrated* component of the vinyl itself. Always is, always has been. You will not find one person involved in the actual pressing of records or in formulating vinyl for records who will say otherwise. Now the last thing you want from any record cleaning is to leach out any physical content from the vinyl. The vinyl physically makes up the form of the record groove. You take some of the phyeical content out of the record then you are literally physically changing the shape of the record. That is basic physics. To remove the mold release component from the vinyl you would literally shrink and distort the vinyl.That also would obviously be bad. It is also extremely unlikely that alcohol or any of the other ingredients being used in these cleaning solutions are actually leaching out the mold release agent from the vinyl. If they were it would damage the vinyl as I desribed above and the damage would be pretty obvious

Michael Fremer's picture
Permeates THE WORLD: anti-vaxxers, flat earthers, Fox News believers. Why should audio be any different?
Analog Scott's picture

and thanks for the spelling correction. My spelling sucks.

Lazer's picture

I love about Michael is I know we agree on things unrelated to audio and analog.

Lxgreen's picture

I’m a Fox News believer. I also use nitty gritty P2 to clean records. Why does everything today have to have political overtones. Can’t we just listen to music regardless of political affiliation?

mtemur's picture

I clean my records with an ultrasonic cleaner and I don't use alcohol. I tried using it a couple of times and ended up with harsh sounding records. alcohol definitely has a sound signature and it's terrible for me.
my way of cleaning records is;

-ultrasonic cleaner
-distilled battery water ( 0-10 micro siemens conductivity). all distilled waters are not electrically neutral
-very very small amount of ilford ilfotol (if the record is dirty)

and if I ever want to lubricate my records I use very fair amount of gruvglide after cleaning.

latheofheaven's picture

Oh... I thought that was an offer...

mtemur's picture

how about a little snack ...vinyl biscuits?

latheofheaven's picture


Anton D's picture

Obtuse lyrical references aside, my philosophy has always been to use the fluid made by creator of my cleaning gear.

Back in the day, DII fluid for my DII brush.

I use Nitty Gritty fluid on my Nitty Gritty and Audio Desk fluid in my Audio Desk machine.

It all seems to have worked out.

I may also be a heretic. After a thorough cleaning when I acquire an LP, no more wet washes. I don't smoke, shoot semen unto, pee on, bleed on, roll joints, nor rub my body on any cleaned record. (I bet the people who do are a hoot,so I do not mean this as criticism of how they prefer to enjoy their records!) After the wet introduction, I use an Ursa Major carbon fiber brush and that's it.


Side question: people like to talk about the hot hot heat of the stylus being dragged against its will through the grooves of a hot does it actually get?

At 33 1/3 RPM and an average of 1,500 linear feet of groove per side, and let's say 20 minutes per side...that would be 75 feet per minute, or 1.25 feet per second.

That is 305 millimeters per second, so to travel one millimeter, the needle spends 0.0033 (!) seconds.

Hope my math is right!

Of course, I did not take into consideration outer vs. inner groove linear speed, but anyway....

That's not so fast, I don't picture an LP being bothered at all by the passing of a stylus.

I looked for stylus/groove temperature data but coudn't find anything that seemed 'truthy' enough.

So, how hot? I think not.

Analog Scott's picture

Your point is very well taken. It would take a radically rapid rise in temurature to come anywhere near these alleged numbers. And what seems to be overlooked is that while the vinyl is in contact with the stylus at any given point on the record for a very very very short period of time the stylus is in contact with the record for the duration of the side. Up to nearly 30 minutes on some records. You'd think the stylus, canteliver and full assembly would be getting up into the thousands of degrees if exposed to that much heat for that period of time. I don't think that is happening.

Antz's picture

...that is >2.5x higher than copper and nearly 5x higher than aluminium so heat is rapidly transferred from the contact position to the cantilever and surrounding air.
In an interview with AJ VdH (available on VE), during the development of his legendary line contact stylus, he claims to have measured the temperature of a conical and his design (using a thermocouple). The measured data showed a lower temperature with the extended contact line which suggests that the pressure was reduced appreciably. He quotes a temperature of 140degC for a conical and 60degC for his Type I (3x85um). He didn't specify if the VTF was the same in both cases, but suffice it to say, it indicates the benefit of a line contact tip in reducing record wear. I would be sceptical of the actual numbers quoted; I am not saying they are incorrect, but since surface temperature measurements are tricky to do correctly and 'stem effects' (the effect of the thermocouple leads acting as thermal conductors and the effect of the ambient temperature) I would like to see the test method used before I accepted the numbers as being representative of the true temperature at the scanning surface.

What is likely to be true is that the vinyl temperature momentarily gets to the heat deflection temperature and undergoes plastic deformation at the stylus scanning surface before rapidly cooling. The tensile properties are time dependent and given the very short time of contact as the stylus sweeps past, little damage occurs unless there are other factors at play such as tip wear or high VTF - this would explain why vinyl records last far longer than would be expected. Polystyrene records have a similar heat deflection temperature as PVC (~92degC), but wear much faster than the vinyl equivalent.
I think it reasonable to expect that the temperature at the tip is likely to be in the 90 degC range for the record groove to undergo momentary plastic deformation.

Glotz's picture

I just checked this and the AQ Brush news/review from 3 years ago when you bought it, and this thing DOES look like it's the best extant. The new AQ brush sheds and generally sucks donkey balls and Acoustech's Big Brush builds up static.

This looks reasonable and will be picked up ASAP. Need to research a trustworthy source overseas. $60 aint that bad!

...And I will remain silent about occasionally dry-humping my favorite records after a 'wet' clean.. lol.

And anyone pulling bong hits near my stereo will summarily shot with my Zerostat with two fast squeezes of ZAP!

Anton D's picture

I ordered mine directly from the company.

I was chatting with my wife about this thread and when I mentioned the ‘seamen’ part she smiled and said, “What, you’ve never heard of a vinyl fetish?”


Glotz's picture

Vinyl (and latex)... mmmmm.

Anton D's picture

Are those records still considered to be 'virgin' vinyl?

Are there any Dark Side of the Moon LP's that don't have marijuana resin on them?

ncpd's picture


Thank you for taking on this exhaustive analysis. I recently switched to L’Art Du Son from the proprietary fluid that came with my Okki-Nokki RCM. I have noticed that it is a little bit stickier and sudsy after spreading around with the brush, especially MoFi’s. I am wondering if you recommend rinsing it after vacuuming or not? Thank you.

J. Carter's picture

rinse after using L'Art Du Son and have never had an issue.

ncpd's picture

Thanks for the reply. For some reason, my post didn't make it to the site, only the subject line. I had been using the proprietary fluid that came with my Okki Nokki RCM. When that became hard to find, I tried L'Art Du Son. I noticed that it was a little sticker/sudsier than the Okki Nokki which had me wondering about rinsing.

Admittedly, I tried it out first with the Mofi brush which I had also bought. So many suds built up on that brush and it required a bit of pull to get the brush off the record. It made me wonder if a vacuum was enough to remove L'Art Du Son. In switching back to the standard goal hair brush I typically use normalized the process to what I'm used to.

PTB's picture

This is a quite interesting topic to me, as I just recently got into ultrasonic cleaning. I read a fair bit about various cleaners, and now use a spin clean to remove most of the debris from the record before it goes into the ultrasonic cleaner, in which I use Tergikleen, a super concentrated non alcohol cleaner that apparently is also used by the Library of Congress. I do hear a difference in both new and old records, in terms of sound quality (sound stage space and instrument clarity mainly). It might just further emphasize that with the right cleaning method, most of the dedicated cleaning products work well. I do take the advice of using water of adequate quality to heart, especially the final rinse. I shall investigate the reverse osmosis filter as well, as it wouldn't take long for it to pay for itself. Thanks for the excellent article, even if it was painful to research and perform the backstage work for.

J. Carter's picture

I have found that Tergikleen built up static on my records and didn't do as good of job as most other cleaners I have used. Admittedly I use it in a VPI RCM and don't use an Ultrasonic cleaner but that has been my experience with it.

PTB's picture

...I get that also, but that is at least easy to fix. :)
Thanks for the reply!

mtemur's picture

you can remove static while cleaning your records. you should add a teasoon of ilford ilfotol to your rcm. it's a wetting agent, it's anti-static and works fine.
if you want to remove static from your already cleaned records you ca use gruvglide.
additionally you should use zerostat and static removing devices on your records (furutech, steinmusic, acoustic revive etc.) before playing it.

J. Carter's picture

You can just use products that don’t add static to begin with. I have tried about 5 or 6 different types of cleaning fluids and that was the only one that created more static. It also doesn’t spread and have as good a coverage as many other options I have used. It did a decent job with cleaning but not any better than anything else I have used. It was in the middle of the pack for me. L’art du son and Audio Intelligence products are noticeably superior. The Mofi and VPI products are about equal.

PTB's picture

...only problem is I have two tubes of Tergikleen, which lasts a very long time, and I have a really good antistatic brush made of super thin stainless steel 'hairs' that are connected to ground (from Mapleshade). Two sweeps across the record makes things very nice and quiet. When I run out of Tergikleen I will probably use something else, as I would rather just avoid the static.

liguorid42's picture

Any reason to prefer Ilford over Kodak Photoflo, for example?

mtemur's picture

only reason I use ilford is because it's easily available for me. maybe kodak is the same or better. I don't know.

J. Carter's picture

You can just use products that don’t add static to begin with. I have tried about 5 or 6 different types of cleaning fluids and that was the only one that created more static. It also doesn’t spread and have as good a coverage as many other options I have used. It did a decent job with cleaning but not any better than anything else I have used. It was in the middle of the pack for me. L’art du son and Audio Intelligence products are noticeably superior. The Mofi and VPI products are about equal.

J. Carter's picture

Sorry I can’t seem to delete it.

PTB's picture

My new cleaning method is to use the Mobile Fidelity Super Cleaner with their brush, before I put it into the spin clean, which has RO water and a touch of 70% isopropyl alcohol, spin back and forth for a while, before I put it into the ultrasonic, which has the same mix of RO water and 70% isopropyl alcohol in it. That's all I use, and the records come out very clean with the same incredible improvement in sound quality. Free Tergikleen anyone?

lcater1's picture

After many years of record cleaning I have finally settled on my own procedures. Regular cleaning I use L'art Du Son with a disc Doctor brush, I thoroughly rinse using a different Disc Doctor brush, when I turn the record over I use a clean cork mat (Mr. Fremmers idea).
With very old dirty records I use my works.

otaku2's picture

I have an LP (40th anniversary edition of War Child), purchased new a couple of years ago, that seems to be very noisy, no matter how I clean it. Then I saw this:

"In fact, one cause of the pops and clicks that mysteriously appear on pristine records after only one or two playings is due to impurities in the vinyl compound that break off or pop out under this pressure."

Is it possible that the record is developing noise due to thse impurities in the vinyl?

Donn Rutkoff's picture

just for grins, 18 months on, yes, some LPs were made with inferior, not purely molten, vinyl or pet or whatever the chemical actually was. pieces of dirt, dust, ground up whatever, can be in the vinyl. sometimes, I scrub dry with the horsehair stylus brush, if i have a spot that makes noise, or sometimes with the VPI vacuumer brush. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. and if someone wants to lecture me that I might damage the LP, hey, it is already degraded, so I don't care, it is worth the slight risk.

Spindle Spinner's picture

Introduce the Spindle Spinner?
It feels like a good place to do so.

jkorten's picture

And no mention of using Elmer's glue? It does slow down the process a bit, but boy does it remove all the dusty bits.

Spindle Spinner's picture

Wood glue is too thick to go down into the groove.
And the risks of damaging the records are high!

readargos's picture

For those looking for Record Research Labs, I understand their fluids are now manufactured under Mobile Fidelity Sounds Labs.

rom661's picture

I started using a Kirmuss machine a few months ago after many years of a VPI 16.5 with various cleaning solutions. I now consider residue left on the vinyl to be a major issue. The AI products are the worst, with LAST coming in 2nd (my experience, confirmed by Kirmuss). I used AI stuff religiously over the last 3 or 4 years. Nothing is worse in terms of requiring multiple cleaning cycles on the Kirmuss to finally get it clean, or as close as you can get. I do use the 16.5 sometimes on very dirty records, applying the same surfactant that Kirmuss uses (same as theL’Art du Son’s active ingredient). My more traditional favorite was the original Disk Doctor. I need to check into reverse osmosis... Best to all. Stay safe.

jackd's picture

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liguorid42's picture

I would dispute semen as a possible pollutant, despite hyperbole about a record being "loved to death". I can almost see urine, as an extreme negative review.

When did Edison ever clean or play disks? I thought his cylinders were in fierce competition with Berliner's disks.

Like other users I have been frustrated with ticks and pops that appear mysteriously on new-ish records. Others, purchased in my high school days and getting lots of play, when the hygiene of choice was the "parastatic preener" and/or "dust bug" (I am 67, if I need to date myself further) seem almost pristine, and eminently listenable. It seems the particular vinyl formulation used is key. Different labels have endured differently. I've treated my records over the decades with what I consider above average care, and virtually identically, but the results have been wildly different. I do have a few records treated with Last, to which I applied the stickers supplied with the product, and there seems to be little correlation with current condition.

In short, I can see why debating politics (even in 2020) would be less frustrating.

TheShawndor's picture

Not comes close to Walker Audio's Prelude Record Cleaning System, just saying ...

bnduqt's picture

Thank you so much for such a well-written article.

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Nelsonfaheyp's picture

A lot has changed in the world of dish cleaning, especially with today's foaming technology. Audio Intelligent's disc cleaning formula uses lab-grade isopropyl alcohol and detergent-surfactantsGoogle

Nelsonfaheyp's picture

A lot has changed in the world of dish cleaning, especially with today's foaming technology. Audio Intelligent's disc cleaning formula uses lab-grade isopropyl alcohol and detergent-surfactants Google