How to Handle Vinyl Records and Prevent Damage

Learn how to handle vinyl records properly

The vinyl record hobby can be a fun journey to embark on, but it can quickly turn into a nightmare if you don’t know what you’re doing. Vinyl records are fragile, and sometimes very expensive, so it’s important to know how to handle vinyl records properly so they continue to sound amazing and last many years, if not many decades.

So in this article, I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know in order to keep your records in great shape–from how to hold a vinyl record properly to making sure your vinyl record storage game is on point.

How to Handle Vinyl Records

Remember when the pandemic hit and we were reminded not to touch our faces?  Well, keep that same energy when it comes to your records—don’t touch the surface of vinyl with your fingers!

The rule of vinyl, so to speak, states that our fingertips should only touch the very edge of a vinyl record, along with the center label.

To handle a vinyl record properly, hold it by its outer edges.

Why is that?  Because our fingers have oil on them, and if they haven’t been properly washed before handling your records, that oil can transfer to your vinyl and hurt the integrity of your record.

Not only can this affect playback, but it can wear the turntable stylus down over time. 

So how should you hold a vinyl record?  Well, a couple effective ways include: 

Placing the tip of your middle finger under the innermost ring of the label while stabilizing the outer edge with the crease of your thumb—kind of like holding a pizza. You can also try holding the record as if it was a newborn baby, with the record’s edges held by two firm, parallel hands, perhaps under the pads of your fingers and in the creases.

Maneuvering the Record

Try to treat your record like it’s a piece of glass! 

You’ve surely paid some fine money for an LP (and many others in your collection), so why not prolong its value? A typical yet flawed approach to removing a record from a sleeve may look something like pinching the top edge and pulling the record out or dropping the record back into the sleeve. 

A much more delicate approach to maneuvering a record around its sleeve could be by lining the sleeve upright, with the opening end adjacent to a leveled surface, and gently rolling the record either in or out, removing unnecessary pressure or sudden movements in the sleeve liner. 

What I also suggest, for those that want to get super compulsive about the whole thing, is to simply purchase a pack of cotton gloves.  When you’re ready to take a vinyl record inside or outside of its sleeve, immediately put on the cotton gloves.  

Learn how to hold a vinyl record properly, like using cotton gloves to handle the record's surface.

This way, you can worry less about being super delicate with the record.  With gloves on, just grab that sucker in any manner you want.  If you want to touch the surface of the record—do it.  Because with gloves on, you won’t leave any fingerprints.  And therefore, there’s no risk to leaving fingerprints.

And, best of all, cotton gloves are 100% washable—although you may have to deal with the gloves shrinking in the dryer.  So, it’s probably a smart idea to purchase one size larger than your typical hand size.

Inner Record Sleeves and Outer Record Sleeves

Record liners are crucial in vinyl preservation, although not every liner holds the same integrity as others. Many records from back in the days of early pressings have withered and yellowed by now, and not even on account of precarious storage. 

Today, we see many efficient inner record sleeves in either plastic, paper, or a combination of a paper outer layer with an anti-static plastic lining. And for those with the budget, original master sleeves are considered the mecca of polypropylene record sleeve liners. A record’s outer jacket may also benefit from an outer record sleeve as it gives another protective encasing, reducing any dust buildup over time and keeping the album artwork looking good as new.

I made a video on inner record sleeves (below), which should hopefully make this entire situation far easier to understand.

Turntable Handling

Some turntables these days come fully automatic, and with a switch of a button, the plate begins to spin and the stylus operates on its own.  The turntable is then able to find the perfect the right groove, as it drops down perfectly at the start of the first song.  

However, if you opt for a manual turntable, then it’s up to you to not only start the place the needle into the right groove, but you also have to be present when your LP is about to end so the stylus doesn’t drift past the final groove onto the record label, while the motor is just churning endlessly. 

Viny Record Storage

Vinyl records should never be stored horizontally. Like books on a shelf, records tend to warp when they’re stored horizontally. Not every surface is inherently leveled and the uneven pressure put on by the weight of other records will undoubtedly cause one another to warp. 

Upright in wooden shelving (even Ikea Kallax shelves will do) or record crates are the standards in storing and have proven so through time. Dividers are equally helpful in keeping records more upright and for organizational purposes, too.

Ikea Kallax shelves are what hold my vinyl records

For more on finding and keeping your records in great condition, check out my article on vinyl record grading.

Framing Your Vinyl Records

Want to proudly display vinyl record albums?  Well, if so, it might be wise to invest in some proper framing when hanging up those prized and aesthetically pleasing LPs. Try and keep that framed vinyl out of any direct sunlight, and better yet, invest in a frame that blocks UV light. 

This goes to say with any other record: always make sure to store them in a cool, dark, and dry place. Too much heat or a high fluctuating temperate environment can causes a record (and its framing) to deteriorate. And while water isn’t detrimental to vinyl (meaning, if you were to accidentally spill a glass of water onto it), a bunch of water getting onto your vinyl records is catastrophic (from flood damage, for instance).  In a situation like this, you can end up with a collection of rotting or moldy records.

Previous Damage

One would hope that any previous owner a vinyl record would have taken care of the item very well.  But that’s not always the case, especially if you’re buying a used vinyl record.   

Previous wear is a factor out of our control when buying records, but if you’re buying them in person, take an extra moment to look inside the sleeve and check for any detrimental wear or warping. 

Better yet, if you happen to find that your brand new record is warped, don’t be afraid to return it or send it back to your online dealer. Instances like this call for an easy switch, and you don’t wanna short yourself from what you paid. Taking the extra time to get a replacement leads to better long-term preservation.

How to Clean Your Vinyl Records

There’s a handful of “hacks” that some people recommend to those in search of a quick vinyl fix. Many of which I cannot endorse nor will ever try, like wood glue

Personally, I’m a big fan of keeping it simple.  Get some regular dish soap, some distilled water, and one or two drops of alcohol.  I made a video on this entire process, which you can watch below.

Also, you can consider a record cleaning machine if you have a lot of records and don’t want to put in a lot of elbow grease.  This is an effective method, but due keep in mind, you’re going to be spending a good amount of money.  Below, check out my review of the Okki Nokki:

Conclusion

Record collecting is a lot of fun once you get into the groove of it. Finding rare copies, international pressings, albums from your favorite artists, and the discovery of new artists are all facets of the  fun adventure that is collecting. 

Learning how to handle vinyl records is critical in preserving our revered albums for optimizing playback for the future. You’ve worked hard to build up those shelves full of LPs and it ain’t cheap. Loving a good record comes with lots of listening and equal care.

FAQ

While you can get vinyl records wet without worry about major damage, if your records (and record sleeves) got wet via a flood, you run the risk of severe damage and even mold occurring.  So, in that sense, vinyl records are not waterproof.  At best, they are somewhat water resistant.  Always make sure to store them in a cool, dry location.

Vinyl records will burn overtime if left in a fire but a record won’t ignite if a flame is held to it. Vinyl record packaging is more flammable than the record itself, as album covers and sleeves are typically made of cardboard and paper.

Vinyl records are best stored in cool, dark, and dry spaces. Make sure your records are stored upright on an even surface like a crate or shelf.  And if they’re going to be stored in higher places, make sure they are stable and away from any other hazardous materials.

This article is a guest post written by Anthony.

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