Can These Records Be Saved?

An reader "lost" much of his collection due to water damage. He asked if saving them was possible. I volunteered to find out. He sent me stack and I will soon report the results. So stay tuned. If you have any suggestions please contribute them here! I plan on using a combination of steam and enzymatic record cleaning fluids.

Moodeez's picture

Man, I feel awful for this guy but I think the vinyl can be saved. After all, it's just pvc that got wet. However, it all depends on what adhered to the surfaces and whether it can be removed without damaging the grooves. I'm optomistic that the majority of his stuff will be ok, at least to be able to listen to again. Those pristine labels and the jackets, though, RIP.

beaur's picture

If that's just paper on the LP, steam will go a long way to taking it off.  Looks like a multi level job especially if he wants to save the labels.  With those discs I'd even be willing to try the glue method if nothing else worked.

Jim Tavegia's picture

I'll bet many of the labels will not be able to be saved, but tthat would be a small price to pay. Sorry for the trouble.

tparker14's picture

I thought the GEM Dandy cleaning apparatus and cleaning solution was designed to specifically clean vinyl records damaged due to smoke or water infiltration...perhaps that would be a good place to start research.

Michael Fremer's picture

I've got one of those among the "arsenal".

Paul Boudreau's picture

...looks painful.  Sorry, no suggestions though, except that, as mentioned, it depends what the goop really is.

Synaptic's picture

profiled in various places on the web has worked really well for me removing the various kinds of gunk found on old records, believe it or not. Once it dries it bonds to everything enough to gently pull it right off the surface while not adhering to the vinyl at all. 

Thurenity's picture

x2 on wood glue.  I would give them a quick wet cleaning to remove the heavier debris, then do a wood glue treatment to really get into the grooves.

mikeyt's picture

Yeah, this would be a several step process for me.  Initial gentle wet clean to remove as much of the big debris as possible, a soak in enzyme, rinse and scrub, rinse and scrub, wood glue, then a run through the Audio Desk if I had one.  Otherwise a couple go rounds with the RCM. 

Good luck!

chiledub's picture

I got started cleaning lots of 45s from JA that looked like these or worse caused by flooding, i.e. water and dirt, not some other corrosive agent.  I ultra-sonically clean all my used records now with steps 1, 4 & 5 of the Libary of Congress cleaning solution described as follows: 

To prepare one (1) liter (L) of solution, place 500 milliliters (mL) of water into a one-L glass bottle and add:

  1. Triton™ XL-80N surfactant, 5 mL. This is the active cleaning agent (detergent) in the formula
  2. Concentrated ammonium hydroxide (analytical reagent grade), 5 mL. We analyzed the white deposits commonly found on acetate discs and determined that they consist of fatty acids which are formed as a result of degradation of the plasticizers that were introduced in their manufacture. This ingredient needs to be included only for the cleaning of acetate records. It will not hurt other records, but it may not necessarily clean them better.
  3. Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride, 125 microliters (0.125 mL). This ingredient is added to inhibit the growth of micro-organisms during storage. It is also useful for disinfecting records which might have mold on them, but it does not influence the cleaning action.
  4. Enough water to make the solution up to a full L.
  5. Cap the bottle tightly and invert it a few times to mix the solution thoroughly.
    Note: It may be more convenient to prepare a stock solution containing 10 times the concentrations of all ingredients, from which the solution for actual use can be readily prepared by a 1:10 dilution.

I skip the ammonium hydroxide and alkyl dimethyl ammounium chloride. Do a Google search on the Triton™ XL-80N surfactant to find a currently available surfactant. Very little is required. The stuff really works and does not have any negative effect on the vinyl (or shellac).  I use Aquafina for water.  I give the ultrasonically cleaned records a rinse in "pure" water, give them a light hand dry with a cotton diaper and put them in a dish rack to dry.

I've been cleaning ultrasonically for several years. I bought my ultrasonic vessel just large enough to clean LPs, thus allowing for cleaning of 7" and 10" records as well.  Anytime female family and friends visit, I clean their rings.  They are all believers.  Muddy records, no problem.  Muddy labels, now that's a problem.

laqa's picture

Hi, Chiledub, please can you tell me what is an ultrasonic vessel, and, if possible, how can I buy one. Is it really effective for cleaning vinyl records? I use a Spin Clean device with good results. 

Thanks, Luis. 

Mendo's picture

Could you please stear me in the direction of a good ultrasonic cleaner?

chiledub's picture

I've sent Mr. Fremer a couple of pictures of my ultrasonic cleaner with the brand and model.  I bought mine as demo unit from a distributor.  Nice discount.  Several years ago.  It works....

orthobiz's picture

The GEM Dandy is the way to go. Spray off the gunk first. Then, any method OK. Like mike, I have an Audio Desk. If you use the Dandy fluid, rinse it well just in case the Audio Desk starts foaming at the mouth!



orthobiz's picture

C'mon, throw out a few titles so we can feel extra sorrow at the historical significance of this terrible happenstance!

Mazzy's picture

Two words: Insurace claim.    I Insure my records, replacement value ...  god forbid

rlw3's picture

what is the poor guy going to use for new record jackets?

StonedBeatles1's picture

Fremer, You are a Mensch!

kwolfdds's picture

Most of my record collection was dmaged almost three years ago in the floods that hit Nashville, TN in May 2010. I have been cleaning them ever since. It is very frustrating; cleaning and cleaning, but still having noisy records. All the jackets were toast of course, but I emailed Mickey and he made a number of suggestions. I bought a VPI record cleaner and three different solutions: an enzymatic cleaner, a super record wash and Aquafina watrer for the final rinse. I used the Audio Intelligent solutions.

Flood water is very toxic; it has all sorts of chemicals, debris and sewage all mixed together and soaking into your records. No salt though, thank goodness.

I keep reading about the "wood glue" method of cleaning out the grooves. Could someone go into detail about this method? It may be just what I need to get out some of the surface noise that is left over after my cleaning method.

I wish this poor soul all the best; I know just how he feels!

kurb1980's picture

Check out this product, it works in conjunction with your routine.  This product is similiar to wood glue but 10x's better.  I have a friend who swares by this and I've listened to his results and they are superb!

Michael Fremer's picture

Just look at all of these great suggestions. I learn so much from AP readers. LOVE you all !

kwolfdds's picture

Thanks for the tip on the record revirginizer, but that stuff is really expensive. I wish someone could just lay out the technique for using "wood glue" including brand, and step by step instructions. I think this may help me rejuvinate some of my flood-damaged records. Please help!!

Mendo's picture

Steam cleaner and micofiber cloths. I just bought a new fancy McCulloch for $99 from Amazon. Steam is the real deal. I use it in conjuction with my RCM.

Thurenity's picture

There are many YT videos, but here's a start:

Basically you want to try it out on a record you don't care about, and possibly a TT you don't care about, in case you mess up.  It does take a few tries to get the hang of it.  Expect that you could make a mess the first time.   :)

I use Titebond II (readily avaiable at my local Home Depot), and old TT and an old credit card.  Plus paint tape to make a small tab on the edge (imo critical to make it easier to peel off).  Cheap to test out too (about $7 for a bottle).  And I have used it on water damaged vinyl -- not as bad as the ones in the picture, but with streaks of the inner sleeve still embedded into the grooves.

orthobiz's picture

The fluid that comes with this stuff smells like it oughta kill anything. I had to put the whole bottle in a gallon plastic bag because everything in a six foot radius begins to smell like it! I have dabbled with the wood glue, it is more tedious than the GEM Dandy or any typical RCM but gives a nice shiny record. It's morbid, but I use my cousin's funeral mass card to spread the fluid. Thinner and a bit wider than a credit card. 


chiledub's picture

Mine is a Branson PC620, Tank Size 19.5" x 5.7" x 6".  I didn't shop by brand, only by tank size to accomodate 12" rounds. I rotate the 10" and 12" records with a dowel through the center hole taking care to keep the label out of the fluid.  A couple of slow rotations usually does it.  It deep cleans with no damage to the vinyl or shellac.

stephsrecords's picture

Long time reader, first time commenter. 

Records with this sort of debris and mold cry out for a wet wash.  So, it seems like a great moment for me to ask if you were aware of the Groovmaster Labelsaver -- this product is sold by William Sargent via Ebay.  I have no affiliation with the maker of this product other than that I am one very happy customer.

The label saver keeps the labels dry so you can wash records at the sink. It is an simple portable tool for doing a wet wash.  I own a nice record cleaning machine but I seem to be one of those people who feel more comfortable with a manual water based cleaning method.  I have been using the Groovmaster since 2006, it is a great tool I would not be without.

JC1957's picture

It see on their website that it's only available in select countries and the USA is not one of them.

I'm assuming some chemicals prohibited in certain countries is the reason?

JC1957's picture

It see on their website that it's only available in select countries and the USA is not one of them.

I'm assuming some chemicals prohibited in certain countries is the reason?

gregroe's picture

Something like this happened to me several years ago. I pulled most of the records out while they were still wet so cleaning them wasn't as severe a problem. but all the covers were ruined. 

RVS's picture

Early in 2014 my services were retained by an insurance company to rescue a customer's vinyl records that had been literally soaked by a burst grey water pipe. Many were quite valuable and irreplaceable.
The process employed was to first rescue them from their pulped covers and sleeves which were disposed of (if for no other reason than the smell).
All LPs were then gently washed in warm water with a very mild detergent to remove the worst of soil deposits and paper remnants, rinsed and stacked vertically to dry.
Once dry, LPs were then deep cleaned with RECORD REViRGiNiZER, then resleeved in anti-static covers and stored in plain LP storage boxes. Artwork lost I'm afraid!
Results were outstanding with all LPs playing as good as new.
This experience led to the invention of the ReVirginizer System, which greatly improves the process by saving time and space. See

RVS's picture

I find you can use less Record Revirginizer per record - as much as 20-30% less - by using this method:
Properly used, the VRC Turntable reduces the amount of revirginizer required and the VRC Stack Racks mean you can dry a stack of treated LPs on the footprint of just one.

BlueHusky57's picture

I recently saw the Gem Dandy Hydralic Record Cleaning Apparatus advailable, and checked it out here on AP. Had some positive comments and reviews, from several years ago. Is it still consider a favorable solution to cleaning ones vinyl?

Can anyone share which system: the Gem Dandy or Slim-Clean is the preferred, or is better solution.

Happy listening and thank you in advance for pointers. All the best, Jeff