One of the most important aspects of vinyl record care (but is sometimes overlooked by some) is making sure your vinyl is clean before you play it.
Some people like to go the cheap route by using a microfiber rag, unscented dish soap, and a drop or two of rubbing alcohol (although some shudder at the mere thought of alcohol touching a vinyl record’s surface).
Some like to spend a bit more money and use something like the Spin Clean—a cleaning option that, while still manual in its operation, is a bit more precise than free-handing with just a microfiber rag.
And then there are those that want to automate the entire process by using a record cleaning machine. And that’s where we arrive at the Okki Nokki.
So, in this Okki Nokki review, I’m going to talk about how you can use this machine to clean vinyl, help you understand how it works and my experience using it, and also show you how you’ll have to take care of it if you choose to purchase it.
And, in order to better help you determine if this machine is worth your time, we’ve included an interactive guide below that will allow you to directly compare the Okki Nokki to other notable record cleaning options on the market.
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Who is a Record Cleaning Machine For?
Priced at roughly $600, the Okki Nokki is not a cheap record cleaning option. While cleaning vinyl records by hand with the household products that I mentioned above can run you just a few bucks (microfiber rags and dish soap aren’t exactly expensive items to get), a record cleaning machine is a massive investment that’s suited for some…and yet not ideal for others.
In my opinion, a record cleaning machine like the Okki Nokki is most ideal for someone that’s been dedicated to buying and playing vinyl records for a while, and is now looking for a better way to clean his or her vinyl collection it’ll be better preserved for years to come.
If, on the other hand, you’re brand new to vinyl, or you only have a limited amount of money you can spend, I think you’d be better off putting that $600 towards new records or a turntable or a cartridge or speakers…and hand cleaning your vinyl.
And I’ll explain why I think that later in this article.
On top of that, I think a record cleaning machine is a great option if you’re buying records in that are truly in sub-par condition.
For example, if you’re buying a lot of used records that are graded as VG, VG+ or Excellent, a relatively light washing by hand will more than likely allow them to shine (visually and sonically) quite well. Of course, you’re going to want to really get into the grooves of the record to have them be thoroughly cleaned, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pay $600 to do it.
Records that aren’t full of dirt or grime and dust on the surface (and in the grooves) are probably in pretty good shape overall (given their age), and really just need a good solid polish before being played on the turntable.
But, if you purchased a dozen records from a yard sale or estate sale, and the records were kept in a grimy basement or cellar or attic (where there might even be bits of mold on the surface of the record), a record cleaning machine like the Okki Nokki would probably be right up your alley.
Of course, records that are used aren’t the only ones that need to be cleaned. You can and certainly should clean brand new records, as well.
Again, I’m going to go into this in more depth later. But when I judge the concept of vinyl record cleaning, especially when a product costs hundreds of dollars, I like to think about value. Are you “getting your money’s worth” when you buy a record cleaning machine versus the alternative.
We’ll dive into that concept a bit later.
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What Comes in the Okki Nokki Box?
Inside the box, you get the actual Okki Nokki machine, along with a plastic vacuum arm, a goat hair cleaning brush, an aluminum record clamp, a small plastic bottle full of 50 mL of concentrated record cleaning fluid (that needs to be diluted in distilled water) and an AC power cord.
How to Use the Okki Nokki Record Cleaning Machine
Despite being a fairly large (approximately 13” x 16” x 13”) and somewhat heavy (likely between 10 and 15 lbs.), the machine is pretty easy to use.
Probably the most important thing to know right off the bat is that, although the machine comes with record cleaning fluid, you’re not going to want to put them directly onto your records. The bottle containing the fluid is concentrated cleaning fluid, so you’re going to need to get distilled water and dilute the cleaning fluid before applying to your records.
In fact, you’re going to need to mix the cleaning fluid with one liter of purified or distilled water.
To begin, place your record onto the platter. Then, place the record clamp over the spindle and tighten it.
Then, hit the motor to have the record begin spinning clockwise. Once it’s in motion, I take my bottle of properly diluted cleaning fluid and I begin to pour (or spray, depending on the bottle you’ve chosen to use) the record.
You want to make sure the record gets very wet, while also taking care to ensure that the record label stays as dry as possible.
Then, take the goat hair brush, hold it at the opposing angle of the rotation of the record, and gently place it on top of the record’s surface. The goal here is to have the brush kick up any dirt and grime out of the grooves, allowing for the cleaning solution to enter.
I allow this process to continue for several revolutions.
Then, what I like to do is hit the motor button again, this time making the platter spin counter-clockwise. I then repeat all the same steps—adding more cleaning solution, and spreading it into the grooves with the record cleaning brush.
Once the record is very wet, I then stop the motor. As I prepare to use the vacuum, I turn the motor back on to get the platter rotating clockwise. Then, I hit the vacuum button.
The vacuum will certainly make a noise similar to a vacuum cleaner—it’ll certainly be noticeable but nothing outrageous. If your ears are sensitive to loud sounds, throwing on some headphones should fix the problem.
With the vacuum turned on, rotate the vacuum brush so that it hovers over the spinning record. Then, slightly push down, so that the brush makes contact with the record.
Once that happens, the record should immediately cling to the record brush. The record will continue to rotate, and you’ll be able to clearly notice the record is drying thanks to the vacuum.
I let the record rotate between two and three revolutions. You don’t really want to keep it on much longer than that because the vacuum is producing heat in order to dry your record. And once the fluid is gone, the vacuum is essentially drying an already dry record—which you don’t want.
After two to three revolutions, turn off the vacuum. The record should automatically disengage from the vacuum brush. At that point, I like to take the vacuum brush out of the Okki Nokki machine so it can dry off.
Your record should be fully dry and ready to be flipped so you can clean the other side of the album. If your record is not fully dry, I recommend sitting it upright inside of a plastic or metal dish rack to dry.
Once it’s dry, you can begin cleaning Side B of your record.
I wanted to devote a little bit of time to discussing the similarities and differences between the Okki Nokki and the Project VCS, as I have used both.
Both are very similar record cleaning machines, and practically look the same (although the VCS was noticeably bigger).
There are a few differences worth noting, however.
First, let’s talk a little about the Project VCS. The VCS has two versions—the MKI and MKII. The MKI features a metal base and vacuum arm, while the MKII changes that material for both to nylon.
For this comparison, I used the Project VCS MKI, which you can see in the photo above that I took of the machine.
The second major difference worth noting is in regard to the platter on both machines. The Okki Nokki’s platter (what you put your record on) is the actual size of a record itself. In that way, it’s very much similar to the size of a real turntable’s platter—and it functions in the same fashion.
The Project VCS is quite different, though. On the VCS, the platter or base is really just the size of the record label, not the record itself.
In fact, to tighten the record onto the platter, you use a clamp that is also the size of a record label. And the clamp is waterproof too, helping to ensure the record label doesn’t get wet while also securing the record to the platter/base.
I prefer the Project VCS to the Okki Nokki in this instance, because when you go to flip the record to clean the other side, you’re not always going to be placing your newly cleaned record’s surface onto a potentially dirty or dusty platter.
Now, I don’t think this is a big deal in the grand scheme of things—I never once felt that my records coming off the Okki Nokki weren’t clean because newly cleaned record sides sat on a potentially dusty platter.
But, the elimination of this concern thanks to the VCS is quite nice, and I actually think the function of a record clamp that is big enough to protect the label from record cleaning solution getting onto it a great design choice.
Lastly, although these machines function very similarly (and if I’m being honest, I don’t feel that one machine cleaned records better than the other), I do like how the Project VCS has a window indicator on the back of the that shows you how much vacuumed water and fluid is resting inside the machine (as well as a marking that says “MAX” next to it, letting you know when to dump the dirty water out of the machine).
None of this is present on the back of Okki Nokki—you just have to make a estimated guess as to when your machine should be emptied (probably somewhere between 30 and 50 record cleanings).
Is the Okki Nokki Worth the Money?
Now we arrive at the major question—is a record cleaning machine like the Okki Nokki worth the money?
Well, as I mentioned much earlier in this review, I like to think about questions such as these in terms of value. To me, it’s not about whether something is “better,” it’s about whether something is good or “better” given how much you paid for it, and any potential alternatives on the market that can provide you good results at a fraction of the cost.
And, going by this metric, I actually don’t think the Okki Nokki is “worth the money.” Ironically, however, I do think it’s a good product.
The biggest problem I have with the Okki Nokki and even the Project VCS is that, while I do think they do what they’re made to do very well, I also cannot hear a significant sound difference between records I cleaned on the record cleaning machine and records I cleaned using microfiber rags, a drop of dish soap, and distilled water.
Now, that’s not to say I hear no difference—I do hear a difference. To me, what I noticed was slightly less noise in certain passages of songs after they had went through the record cleaning machine process.
But the differences or “improvement” in sound were also not easy to hear, and I don’t think the average person who likely has a fairly average audio equipment setup will notice a clearly discernible change or improvement in the sound quality, either.
Some will say that clearer or better or cleaner sound isn’t necessarily the only goal when cleaning records. It’s that you want to remove anything in the grooves that can further damage the record or the stylus once your record is played on your turntable. And that might technically be true.
But the average person playing records isn’t concerned about what their records will sound like 20 years from now. They aren’t worried that there may be some imperceptible decline in the audio fidelity of their record, or that their stylus may or may not wear down faster based on their choice of cleaning method.
What the average person want to know is “what’s the best way to clean my vinyl records…while also spending the least amount of money possible.” And typically, people judge that by being able to either clearly see the results of their purchase, or in the case of vinyl records, being able to clearly hear the difference.
And I don’t think the average person will truly hear that difference compared to cleaning records by hand (or even purchasing something like the Spin Clean record washer, for that matter).
Other Things to Consider
It’s also important to remember that when you buy a machine like the Okki Nokki, you also have to provide proper maintenance in order for the machine to operate well.
You’ll need to do things like cleaning the goat hair brush regularly so that it doesn’t become contaminated with dirt and grime from your records. You’ll also need to replace the brush pads on the vacuum brush regularly as well, as they will wear down over time.
And, of course, you’re going to need to monitor the levels of the fluid that collects in the machine. Draining it isn’t very hard, as it comes with a thin drainage tube that allows you to bend it into a cup or bowl or sink. You will, however, have to tip the machine backwards, allowing the fluid to run down through the tube and into a cup or sink toilet bowl.
Maintaining the machine’s health and overall proper function is not difficult to do. But you do need to make sure you stay on top of it regularly.
Despite my admitted misgivings about the Okki Nokki record cleaning machine, none of them are really the fault of the machine. The machine itself is great. It’s very effective in its intended use, I don’t think the machine is too loud, I think it’s easy to operate, and overall, I think it effectively cleans and dries your records.
I do question how “worth it” this machine is for the average vinyl fan. If you’re a longtime audiophile with 3,000 records, this is probably a drop in the bucket for you and is likely a no-brainer.
For the man or woman that only has thirty records however, or someone who simply has limited funds to spend on this hobby, I maintain that you get more “bang for your buck” cleaning your vinyl records by hand—whether that’s using microfiber rags or spending approximately $80 for the Spin Clean record washer.
It may not be the “best” option, but it just might be good enough for your needs at this juncture in your vinyl record fandom.
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