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How to remove scratches from vinyl records

Updated February 21, 2017

Scratches on a vinyl album can cause damage to a cartridge's stylus, impair fidelity, make the needle skate or create a loop that will play over and over. This homemade vinyl cleaning solution will remove all of the dirt and dust from an album's grooves, cracks, and scratches, and, more often than not, will improve the overall fidelity. Deep scratches cannot be eliminated entirely, but surface scratches can be cleaned up and made virtually inaudible with this simple cleaning process.

First determine whether the record is fixable. Some older albums may be damaged beyond the point where they can be repaired.

Place the record on a flat surface on top of a clean towel. Mix soap and water in a clean bowl. The soap should be gentle and chemical-free if possible.

Dab another clean towel or washcloth in soapy water. Wring out the towel so it is not dripping wet. Gently wipe down the record.

Dip cotton balls into rubbing alcohol. Clean off any soapy residue on the album. Dry with a soft, clean towel.

Tip

For more seriously damaged albums, some products that can be purchased at record stores, such as dust brushes and vinyl cleaning solutions, may help. But for the most part, these items will not produce significantly better results than the method here. If you want to clean your albums so you can convert them to a digital format, note that most recording software has filters that can reduce or nearly eliminate hiss and other noise. Still, it's a good idea to clean the album first, especially if it has been in storage for years without any cleaning or use.

Things You'll Need

  • Three soft, clean towels
  • Bar soap
  • Lukewarm water
  • Bowl
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton balls
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About the Author

Robyn Murray is a journalist based in Omaha, Neb. She has reported for national and international media including National Public Radio, Public Radio International and Business Day in Johannesburg. Murray holds a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.