There are so many ways to clean a vinyl records. You can clean them by hand using household products. You can put a little bit more elbow grease into it, by using something like the Spin Clean. You can even bust out a record cleaning machine, like the ProJect VCE or Okki Nokki.
I’ve discussed a lot of these methods, and even made some videos on them, but one thing I have yet to touch on is the controversial topic of the most common household product in everyone’s home: Windex.
Well, I recently experimented with the concept of using Windex to clean a vinyl record, and the results are definitely eye-opening. And so in this article, not only will you learn how to clean vinyl records with Windex, but I’ll share my experience with putting Windex on my record, what the results ultimately were, and how I think this cleaning method compares to using more conventional cleaning practices, like distilled water or a record cleaning machine.
SECRET #1: Cleaning Vinyl With Windex Is Easy
Let’s begin with the most obvious secret. If you’re looking for an easy way to clean you vinyl records—well, this method is probably the most simple.
Let’s set the stage here. In my experiment of using Windex to clean a vinyl record, I first had to look through my collection to find a suitable record to experiment with. And so, after taking a look through my collection, I settled on the following album:
Get As Much Love As You Can by The Jones Girls
This is an album I love, am very familiar with, and have two copies of. My first copy always sounded quite inferior on Side 1 compared to Side 2, so I ended up buying a better copy later down the road.
The problem with Side 1 is that it has very noticeable surface noise. Surface noise on vinyl is of course to be expected, but this noise in particular intrudes on the music too much. And trying to clean it through some of the more conventional means that I’ve outlined above didn’t work.
So, I figured this particular record would be perfect to experiment with. I know exactly where all of the overwhelming pops, ticks, and crackles are, and I know how great Side 2 sounds.
So, I took the record out of its sleeve and laid it on some clean microfiber rags. I then took some Windex I had lying around and sprayed the record surface. I let the Windex sit in the grooves between 30 and 60 seconds.
I then took another clean microfiber rag and began wiping the Windex fluid off the record in a gentle (but firm) circular motion. I did this until the record was dry.
SECRET #2: Records Cleaned with Windex Sound Different
So at this point, you’re probably interested in knowing how this Windex cleaned record actually sounds. Well, let’s dive into that.
I took the record over to my Clearaudio Concept Black turntable. Once I dropped the needle into the groove—I was able to instantly hear a difference:
And…the record sounded pretty awful.
Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic here—but not by much.
What’s great about the album Get As Much Love As You Can is that it’s a very vibrant album. The music sounds great—punchy and dynamic. The soundstage is very wide, and there’s great instrument separation. My second copy of this album is one of the best sounding albums in my collection.
But the record that was cleaned using Windex sounds…compressed.
It’s not so much that it sounds bad, but I could tell that whatever chemicals are in the Windex solution stripped some of the dynamic punch out of the record.
What you’re left with is a record that still sounds decent in theory, but the music feels as if it’s being performed behind a veil. Or behind a couple layers of sound dampening glass.
On top of that, the Windex appeared to remove a lot of what makes vinyl sound so great, which is its lively energy. Not just the feeling of warmth, but the sensation that you’re attending a live performance.
Vocals and instruments just didn’t have the same vibrancy anymore.
SECRET #3: Windex Hurts Your Vinyl Records…Kinda
I think, at this stage, it’s pretty clear that Windex hurts and perhaps even damages your vinyl records. Or, to say it better, Windex likely permanently damages the sound of your vinyl records.
Now, with that said, I think there’s a small caveat to this. Based off this experiment, while I would never encourage someone to use Windex on their vinyl records, I do think there’s a perception out there that every little thing can and will always hurt your records. And that’s not totally accurate.
The record cleaned with Windex still worked. It still played. You could certainly still hear and enjoy the music.
And I’d argue, had you never heard the album before, you probably wouldn’t have suspected that the music quality had been degraded due to how it was cleaned. You probably just would’ve assumed it was a poorly mastered record.
And so, I guess if you really just don’t want to try any other cleaning method, be it something like the Spin Clean or something more expensive like the Pro-Ject VCE, Pro-Ject VC-S2 or Okki Nokki, you technically could use Windex.
I don’t think it’s smart, and I don’t think it even cleans anything on your record. But, if your only concern is saving time and money, I suppose you could do it. But I’d recommend playing it on a very cheap turntable where sound isn’t of the utmost importance to you (like on a cheap portable record player, for instance).
SECRET #4: Create Your Own Record Cleaning Solution
I think that if money is the big thing you’re trying to save, you can take the money you’d otherwise buy on Windex and purchase a couple other household items to make a superior custom made record cleaning solution.
I made a video on this not too long ago, which you can view below:
But ultimately, you can simply use a combination of distilled water, one or two drops of fragrance free dish soap, and one or two drops of isopropyl alcohol, and then mix it all up together in a bottle. This now becomes your record cleaning solution, and you can spray it onto a record (and wipe it off with a microfiber rag) without doing damage to your records.
I’ve bee using this method for years, and it works great. My records always sound quite nice when this method is used (and if they don’t, there’s usually something going on with the record, like permanent deep scratches or the record simply wasn’t mastered well to begin with).
SECRET #5: Best Ultrasonic Record Cleaners Crush Windex
If you don’t think you want to try a vacuum record cleaning machine like the Pro-Ject VCE or Pro-Ject VC-S2, then the next step up is an ultrasonic record cleaning machine.
So to briefly summarize—an ultrasonic record cleaner essentially cleans your record in a heated bath of microscopic bubbles. The bubbles are created via high frequency pressure waves, and your record’s surface ultimately gets all of its microscopic crevices cleaned.
These machines, like the Degritter, ain’t cheap. We’re talking a couple thousand dollars. But if you’re serious about cleaning your records, and you’re truly invested in the hobby of vinyl longterm, an ultrasonic record cleaner just might be a wise investment.
Sure, learning how to clean vinyl records with Windex is an easy process—but is it a smart one? I think that’s the ultimate question.
Before doing this experiment, I was firmly in the camp that using Windex on your vinyl collection is an outright bad idea. I didn’t have any direct evidence for that statement, it was just a gut feeling.
After the experiment, I feel my original assumption is confirmed. Vinyl is a delicate form of physical media, and using Windex cleaner—a solution meant to go on glass windows—just isn’t the best decision.
Luckily, you have a lot of good alternatives on the market. You can clean vinyl records with a homemade solution. You can use a record cleaning machine with a vacuuming component, like the Pro-Ject VCE or Okki Nokki. Or, you can spend your big ballin’ dollars and go with an ultrasonic record cleaner.
But, for the love of vinyl, it just might be best to stay away from the blue window cleaner.
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Questions and Answers
Q: How do you clean records with microfiber cloths?
A: For me, it’s not too complicated. First, you can buy microfiber cloths in bulk—sometimes 50 or 100 per pack.
I take a clean one out, fold it over a couple of times, and I dry the record in a circular motion, following the grooves clockwise (or counter clockwise).
Just be wary of the white tag that’s attached to the cloth. Either tuck it away or tear it off—you don’t want it scratching the surface of your record.
Q: Is it really OK to use rubbing alcohol on your records?
A: I haven’t had a problem with it. If I’m using my own custom made cleaning solution, like the one I discussed earlier, I just add one or two drops of alcohol—that’s it. You just want a little bit to help kick up any dirt that’s embedded on the vinyl or in the groove.
Q: How often should you clean vinyl records?
A: This is an excellent question. I tend to clean my records just one time. And that one single time is often right when I purchase the actual record.
If the record ever becomes significant dirty for some reason, I’ll clean it again. But after that initial clean, I find I really can get by with wiping the dust off the surface of the record with a carbon fiber brush right before I play an album. In fact, going forward, I’d focus more on keeping your stylus clean than the surface of your record.
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