Sunday, May 26, 2013

DIY "Groovmaster" LP Vinyl Record Cleaning System

Inspired by this post from, I followed up my earlier blog post here about a high end phono preamp, by naturally wanting to suddenly play all the beautiful records I have access to and can finally play properly.  I was getting by OK for a while, but I had a few records that were so dirty that my needle was constantly getting covered in hair and dust, and some of the records just sounded awful, so, it was time to catch up on vinyl's regular maintenance--keeping our things clean.

Here's a picture of the basic setup:

You take two 4" outdoor outlet covers, with rubber or foam gaskets attached, drill a hole in the center, then run a screw through the hole into two "wing knobs" which is a nut with a handle, one on each side, to tighten the seal around your record's label, so it won't get wet, and give you something to hold while cleaning the record.  You clean the record with a 3"-ish soft bristled brush, wet, and with a few drops of household dish soap.  After that, you gently dry the record with a lint-free towel and place it in a dish rack to dry for one hour.

Here's a picture of the gaskets glued to the outlet covers.  You should use Gorilla Glue because it is strong and waterproof.

Bill Of Materials:

Two M6 Wing Knobs (I found a sporting brand called Thule that sold these, got them on ebay). $9 for four.  1/4" in non-metric size would also be fine.

One M6 bolt 35mm long.  This worked for my metal outlet covers but was too short for the plastic ones.  For those you need a 50mm bolt or so.  I paid maybe $5 for a few of these, also on ebay.

Two SIGMA brand 4" all-weather outdoor outlet covers, purchased at Lowes for $1 and change apiece, in the Electrical section.  Which you need to attach the foam rubber gaskets with,

Gorilla Glue

Or: Two TAYMAC brand 4" plastic outdoor wet location outlet covers, with gaskets already glued.  Your covers must be 4"!!  No Gorilla Glue required.

A clean 2" or 3" brush with soft bristles.  Lowes, two or three dollars.

A plastic dish rack for dinner plates.  $4 Wal-Mart.  Mine will hold about 17 LPs.

A soft, lint free towel.  Microfiber is often recommended for minimizing lint shedding.  Might be found in auto sections of stores.  I just used some small hand towels but I'll be looking for microfiber since I did see some tiny fibers on my records after drying, looking under bright light.

Regular dish soap.


Drill M6 or 1/4" sized holes in the center of your round covers.  Glue on gaskets if required.  That's it.  Wing knobs will screw right onto your screws.  Most of the work is in parts-sourcing, and of course, cleaning.  These are easy to build.

Record Cleaning:

Firmly tighten "Groovmaster" label covers to your first dirty record.  Rinse record with WARM WATER.  Do not! use hot water which can possibly warp vinyl.  Brush WITH THE GROOVES of the record all the way around, never against the grooves, on both sides of the record, with a soapy wet brush (brush can be rinsed and one or two drops of dish soap applied, repeat every 2-3 records).  Thoroughly rinse both sides of record.  Gently dry the record by squeezing with palms gently between a lint-free towel and rotating, then squeezing again till fully rotated 360 degrees, and fully dried.  Remove the "Groovmaster" and spot dry any drops of water that got under on the label, or anywhere else on the record.  Place record into dish rack for drying, one hour minimum.


Records will still have collected micro dust from being exposed to air, and possibly have embedded dust from dirty playing, so, don't expect a perfectly noise-free CD audio type play, this is still vinyl being dealt with, but, expect beautiful fidelity with a minimum of noise.  If records are newer, have never been allowed to get really dirty and then played dirty, you can end up with a very quiet result.  If your towel or paper record sleeve was shedding some lint, you might want to hit each record with a Discwasher type rub down before playing for maximum clean.  If your record is excessively noisy, it is possible your water supply has mineral solids in it etc. and most would recommend to rinse the records with distilled water (can be bought in gallon jugs at grocery stores) and dry again for possibly better results.  My tap water seems to work fine.  Make sure your turntable stylus is properly cleaned, regularly.

A testimonial.  A friend gave me a funky old Steven Stills record, Manassas, for my birthday since I used to live in that awful, god-frowned town.  I thought it was as awful as the eponymous town.  Well, I ran it through the cleaning process and suddenly, I was met with Audiophile Fidelity and enjoyed the record quite a bit!  What a gorgeous tonality, and set of songs, were hidden under that thick layer of thrift-store dirt.  I'm converted to the cause of clean vinyl and clean styluses.

Stylus Cleaning:

Your stylus you can keep clean with a magic eraser, by gently pressing it into one, no rubbing at all, just press it in gently and remove.  Or you can use a stylus cleaning brush, or, a small camel-hair paint brush to dry-clean it, always pulling away from the stylus never side to side or backwards.  In severe cases you can apply a drop of pure, or nearly pure alcohol to the brush to clean off any greases or films.  I store some in a dropper bottle next to my turntable.  There have been some warnings about alcohol loosening glue in some styluses, so, caveat to you there.  I just go for it.  The magic eraser (melamine foam sponge) does seem to work very well.  Just be careful not to bend and mangle your delicate stylus.  Gentle handling is required.  The brush method is easier to be gentle with.  I'll leave you with some pictures.  It took me about an hour to wash 14 records.  Happy record playing!

Stay Clean

The best way to keep records clean long term is to wipe them down with a dry carbon fiber brush every time you play them.  Records collect new dust very quickly.  The best brush I have found is the Hunt EDA Mark 6 which is consistently $30 at any place you find it, but it's worth it.

Just spin the record on the record player, covering the surface with the brush, then clean the brush with the metal cover/stand by scraping the bristles with it, this will knock off all the debris.