Turntable mats first appeared on the platters of early gramophones. They started out as velvet pads but were quickly replaced by rubber since it doesn't collect dust and it's easy to clean. Over time, music lovers have become more aware of the importance of turntable mats. They support records and keep them from slipping, protect records from scratches and dampen vibrations to improve sound quality.
Use it as a Slipmat
Audiophiles and DJs have kept records alive. DJs use them because it's easy to get distinct sounds by spinning or holding a disc. You can't do this with a standard rubber mat because it's designed to grip the platter and record. With a slip mat, you can hold records still while your platter keeps spinning underneath. You can even push records back and forth for a scratchy hip-hop sound. Felt mats are perfect for this purpose. Just replace your rubber mat with a felt one and you're good to go.
Restore or Replace It
If you're an audiophile, you know a loose mat that doesn't lay flat is a bad thing. Even if this isn't your problem, you might have a mat that's stained or scratched. If you glued the mat to your platter and it's coming loose, you can pull it off and use acetone or lacquer thinner to remove leftover glue from the platter. After a light platter sanding (skipping the edge), brush rubber cement or spray 3M Trim Adhesive on one side of the mat and the top of your platter and let them sit for 15 minutes. When you carefully replace and smooth out your mat, it will be good as new.
Make Your Own
A good mat can really improve sound quality and sometimes you have to make it yourself for the best results. One way to do this is by combining a self-adhesive tar sheet (like the ones used to absorb vibrations in car bodies) with a sheet of self-adhesive cork. Carefully glue the sheets together, making sure to smooth out air pockets and wrinkles. Now use your old mat as a template and trace its outline on the sheets you just glued. You'll need a high-precision cutter (Stanley makes a good one) to cut out your mat and it should be perfectly round with the spindle hole in the exact centre. Try to cut the spindle hole so it just fits the spindle (not loose). If you have a noisy turntable, you'll be amazed at the improvement.
Flip it Over
If you have a felt mat, try flipping it over. Felt often sounds better with one side up than the other. It only takes a moment to check and it can really make a difference. If one side sounds better, mark it with ink, so you won't forget to leave it up.
Any mat can pick up dust and transfer it to your records. To minimise the problem, keep the cover of your turntable closed when you aren't handling records. You can also wash a rubber mat in the sink with a mild detergent and let it air dry before putting it back. If you have a felt mat, try cleaning it with the brush attachment on your vacuum.
Reduce Static Electricity
Static electricity increases the pops, ticks and background noise of your records but there's an easy fix. Get a dryer sheet from the laundry room, remove your turntable mat and centre the sheet on your spindle. Now replace your mat and you'll have less static until the sheet reaches its storage capacity.