How Best to Store Vinyl Records

If you’re like me, your collection of vinyl is growing in small steps day by day. The small steps are the strategic purchases of that one special album that you must have and you’re willing to pay top dollar to acquire. For me that’s Earth, Wind, and Fire’s seminal live recording, “Gratitude.”

It is, in my humble opinion, the greatest live record ever made and one of the most used bits of wax in my collection. I have 3 copies; one for listening, one as a listening back-up, and one as an investment that I never touch.

But now that your collection is getting larger, it is also taking up space, a problem every vinyl junkie must deal with at some point.

Vinyl is bulky.

Vinyl is heavy.

Vinyl represents a commitment and managing that commitment is not only important for your home’s feng shui, it’s also crucial to maintaining the value of your investment.

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Below, if you’re in the market for a brand new turntable, please take a look at the table below to see a small handful of the most popular record players currently on the market:

PhotoModelPriceRatingKey Feature
Audio-Technica-AT-LP60Audio Technica AT-LP60$★★★★Fully Automatic
Audio-Technica AT-LP60X$★★★★An update of the popular AT-LP60 turntable
Audio-Technica-AT-LP120-USBAudio-Technica AT-LP120USB$$★★★★USB Direct Drive
Crosley Radio CruiserCrosley Radio Cruiser$★★★Built-In Speakers
Audio-Technica-AT-LP1240-USBAudio Technica AT-LP1240-USB$$★★★★USB Direct Drive/DJ Table
1byone Turntable1byone Turntable$★★★Vinyl-to-MP3 Recording
Pioneer-PL-990Pioneer 990$★★★★Full-Automatic Operation
Pro-Ject - Debut Carbon Esprit SBPro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB$$$★★★★Pro-Ject Speed Box Built-in
Denon DP-400$$$★★★★Supports MM and MC cartridges
TEAC TN-300TEAC TN-300SE$$★★★★USB Audio Output, Phono Pre-Amp
U-Turn Orbit Special$$★★★★Solid hardwood plinth

5 Reasons to Store Vinyl Properly

Here are five quick reasons that you’re going to want to find the perfect way to store (and ultimately protect) your vinyl records:

  • Playability: A well-stored record is a record that can be played well. I don’t care if you have a first pressing of “Meet The Beatles,” you can’t listen to it if it’s warped or cracked.
  • Value: You may not think of selling your collection right now, but who knows what the future holds, and vinyl isn’t getting any less scarce. If you put all those rookie Mark McGuire baseball cards into protective sleeves hoping he’ll make the Hall of Fame someday, make sure you do the same with your vinyl.
  • Heritage: I have all my older brother’s records. I have all my parents’ records. I even have some of my grandparents’ records. I want to pass them along to my kids and I want them to be meaningful. There’s nothing less meaningful than a record you can’t listen to.
  • Keepsake: Each of my records represents a different phase in my life. There was a time when I listened to Phil Collins’ “No Jacket Required” every single night before bed. That time has passed but just thinking of that record brings me back to my bedroom and music so loud I gave myself tinnitus.
  • Cool Factor: Face it, walking into someone’s house and seeing a large, well-cared for collection of vinyl is like having Johnny Depp sitting on your couch drinking Cuban rum. It’s just friggin’ cool and we all wanna look cool to some degree.

Knowing why you want to store your vinyl is the easy part. But, how to store your vinyl is a bit more complicated.   By following a few simple guidelines that have been outlined below, you can have peace of mind that your records will still sound great decades from now.

Without further ado, here are a few rules for how to store a vinyl collection.

best-selling-vinyl-records

Below, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling vinyl records currently available on Amazon:

Blurryface by Twenty One Pilots

Abbey Road by The Beatles

Back to Black by Amy Winehouse

Traveller by Chris Stapleton

25 by Adele

Do Not Stack Records

Whatever you do, do not stack your records. There is no better way to cause warping or cracking than to pile a ton of them one on top of the other. Do the right thing and get some shelving to house your collection. Store your records vertically and you will not only prevent the destruction of the wax itself but also the jacket and that precious artwork that comes with it.

Keep Your Damn Fingers Off

It’s amazing to me that people will treat compact discs with kid gloves but then hold their vinyl like a Frisbee or a plate of mashed potatoes. Your fingers are gross. That’s just a fact in this universe.

Don’t transfer the“grossness” from your fingers to your records. Think about it. Dust sticks to oils and your fingers are covered in oils. Hold the record by it’s edges and if you do touch the surface make sure to clean it right away and then put it back into its sleeve.

Sleeves, Sleeves, and More Sleeves

You want your record to last, right? Then sleeves are your friend and one of the most important lines of defense against dust, dirt, and scratches.

First let’s discuss inner sleeves. The minimum protection here would be your basic paper sleeve that comes with the record. While better than nothing at all, paper sleeves deteriorate, tear, and even shed particles onto your disc. They can even create static electricity, thus turning your vinyl into a giant dust magnet.

Step up to a polypropylene sleeve and you’ll be doing your collection a bit more justice.

Go with the 3 mil variety and you’re doing more than justice. Your vinyl will be feeling the love for sure. I recommend going for the rounded corners to help getting the sleeve in and out of the jacket.

For the ultimate inner sleeve protection however, go with the MoFi Original Master from Mobile Fidelity. Consisting of anti-static, three-ply thickness the Original Master is generally the go-to brand for the discerning audiophile. They’re even recommended by the Library of Congress.

While the inner sleeve will have the greatest impact on the condition of your record, a good outer sleeve will protect the valuable jacket and artwork. Plastic is the only way to go here and the outstanding question is thickness.

Forget about the 1mil variety. They’re too flimsy to work with and make getting an LP in and out a pain. Go with at least 3 mil, which provides plenty of protection and makes life easier. Keep in mind that if you use your records a lot, the outer sleeve will be taking the brunt of the wear and tear, which is a good thing. They may need to be replaced from time to time.

I would also highly recommend sleeves from Sleeve City.  I’ve purchased the inner and outer sleeves there, and they are truly excellent.  In fact, if you really want to step your game up, pick up the 5.0 mil crystal clear ultimate outer record sleeves.  You’ve likely never seen a plastic sleeve so clear and sturdy as this one.  In fact, you’ll likely be shocked at how much the artwork on your vinyl pops within this sleeve, and the edges of the plastic are sturdy too.  This sleeve doesn’t crumple or collapse on the floor when you take your record out.  It always holds its shape. 

Choosing the right sleeves can go a long way towards protecting your collection. Whether you’re just looking for some basic protection or you want to go full vinyl geek, there is a set of sleeves out there for you.

No, Do NOT Use Your T-Shirt

Did anyone ever tell you to use your shirt to wash or dry your records?  

Yes?  Hmm…well, they’re probably a jerk–but that’s beside the point.

No matter how soft a fabric might feel, you should not use it to wipe down your vinyl. Any fabric can produce minor scratches and scuffmarks, which causes the pops and crackles you hear coming through your $10,000 sound system. Purchase a proper brush for cleaning and just avoid the whole issue.

Some brushes you can consider is an AudioQuest brush, which is good for eliminating debris and static.  You can also consider the Discwasher Wet System, which is essentially a brush and a small bottle of solution you place onto the brush to clean the record.

Spin-CleanAnother solution is the Spin Clean record washing system. This is more expensive, but it may save you more time in the end as far as cleaning your records.  Yes, it’s a manual system, but it’s simple and quite effective, if done correctly. 

To summarize, you place the record vertically inside a basin full of record cleaning solution and two small brushes.  Then, you spin your record multiple times to the left and right, allowing your record to get both a wash in the solution and a scrub from the brushes.

After a few revolutions in both directions, you pull the wet record out, place it on a dish rack or some other contraption where it can dry vertically, and you’re essentially all set.

Your Hands Are Unsteady. Don’t Use Them

Pretty much every turntable comes with a cueing arm. Use it. It doesn’t take much to scratch a record and a few slips here and there can do some real damage. The cueing arm is designed to place the stylus gently and precisely onto the record. Our hands are designed for strangling prey and cultivating crops. Like Daddy always said, “the right tool for the right job.”

Keep Your Records Dry

This one might seem obvious and yet everyone has heard a story about someone’s collection being completely turfed because it was stored in a leaky attic or a moist basement.

Vinyl records and their cardboard jackets do not like moisture. Plain and simple. If you must store them in a less controlled environment, make sure they are off the ground and air is able to circulate around them.

Mold likes to grow on damp jackets and nothing sounds worse than a record with some sort of growth on it. Temperature control is important too. Don’t let them freeze and don’t let them get overly hot either. Wax is wax is wax and they will melt if too hot.

Shelving is the Way to Go

Getting your LPs up off the floor is a good thing. Having them easily accessible and beautifully displayed is also a good thing. You dream of having a home library filled with your favorite books right? Why not make your dream come true for your record collection?

Shelves should be strong and open enough to store records vertically. They should be sturdy enough to avoid sagging or breaking and should be mounted to the wall to prevent the whole thing from falling on top of you when you try to get that copy of Dexy’s Midnight Runners off the very, very top.

Strong, sturdy shelves are essential to the long term care of your collection, so make sure you do it right, even if your spouse makes you store them in a closet. If you need to store them in boxes or crates, make sure they are made of acid-free paper stock or cardboard. Plastics often carry static electricity so try to stick with wood if you can.

Some even prefer to go the Ikea-inspired route, which you’ll see in the video below:

Whether you use boxes or shelves, remember to keep your records from being too tightly packed together. Give them some breathing room and relieve the pressure.

At this point in my life, I have thousands of recordings in various formats. They all have their special needs. My CDs went into books years ago. My digital collection sits on multiple external drives because you’re only as good as your backup. My 45s are in boxes. My LPs are on shelves in the basement and all my cassettes have landed in the garbage.

C’est la vie.

With just a little bit of forethought and a tiny bit of care, many of my records have lasted for over 30 years and I intend to keep them for 30 more. Proper handling and storage has made all the difference and I can’t emphasize its importance enough. They’ve given me hours and hours of pleasure–the least I can do is give them a comfortable and safe living environment.

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