Vinyl records are getting more and more expensive.
And they are still as delicate as ever.
Even just the oil from your fingers can damage and devalue a record.
That’s why it is imperative you know how to handle a vinyl record properly.
Proper handling helps ensure your albums continue to sound great and that they retain their value.
So how do you handle vinyl records correctly?
Keep reading to learn all about the proper handling of vinyl records. We will cover any type of handling you commonly need to do.
- 1 How To Handle A Vinyl Record
- 2 Where And How To Handle Records With Bare Hands
- 2.1 Taking The Record Out Of The Cover
- 2.2 Removing The Record From The Inner Sleeve
- 2.3 Transporting The Record To The Turntable
- 2.4 Removing The Record From The Turntable
- 2.5 Putting The Record Back Into The Inner Sleeve
- 2.6 Putting The Inner Sleeve Back In The Outer Sleeve (Main Cover)
- 3 General Safety Tips For Handling Vinyl
- 4 How To Handle Vinyl Records: Final Thoughts
How To Handle A Vinyl Record
When it comes to handling vinyl records, you have two options: use your bare hands or wear gloves. We’ll look at this decision first.
Then we will then get into specific situations where you need to handle records and show you how to handle vinyl records correctly in each situation, if you are using your bare hands.
Ideally, you could get some gloves and keep them near your records. Put them on before you handle your records.
Microfiber gloves are the best because they won’t scratch your records or get greasy or oily easily. Regular soft cotton gloves can also do a good job. I know this seems a bit excessive, and to most people it is.
However, if you have some hard-to-find and valuable rare records, you should be wearing gloves every time you handle them. If you are wearing microfiber gloves, you won’t need to be as careful about where you touch the records or how you hold them.
Since the vast majority of people reading this will not use gloves to handle their records, I will go over the details using bare hands next.
Using Bare Hands
Never touch the playing surface of a record with your bare hands. This can leave oil and dirt or Cheeto dust on your records which is not good for their playability
Over time, this can even devalue your records, because the oil sets in and gets in the grooves.
I personally don’t have microfiber gloves, and I only handle my records with bare hands. However, I honestly do wash my hands every time before I handle my records. I recommend you do as well (but nobody will listen to me).
People usually do not mention album covers when they talk about handling records, but you should also avoid touching the album covers with bare hands. Just like the surface of the record, the cardboard album cover can be negatively affected by oily or dirty fingertips.
Even if the album cover is glossy or has a slight sheen, fingerprints and oil spots can still damage the cover over time. That said, glossy record covers are a bit more resistant to being touched and handled because you can wipe them off with a slightly damp (never wet or very damp) cloth.
Where And How To Handle Records With Bare Hands
If you are using your bare hands to handle vinyl records, it becomes important to handle them correctly to avoid making them dirty or otherwise impacting their playability and their value.
Let’s take a look at some specific situations in which you would need to handle a vinyl record. We will learn exactly how to handle a vinyl record correctly in each situation.
Taking The Record Out Of The Cover
The first situation we will look at is one of the most common: the act of removing a vinyl record from its cover. There are three methods for doing this.
Reach In Fingertip Method
This is the method I use. Open the record cover slightly and reach your fingers in until you can feel the center of the record. Use the small hole to get a grip with your finger and slide the record out of the cardboard cover.
The record itself should be in an inner sleeve of some kind, either paper or plastic/PVC. Using this method you never put any pressure on the grooves of the record and you should be able to safely pull the record out of the sheath.
Pinch And Pull
There are other safe methods, like the pinch and pull. The pinch and pull is probably the most used method, but it is not my favorite. That said, it is definitely better than just grabbing the naked disc with your fingers.
To use the pinch and pull method, simply reach into the record cover an inch or so, pinch the parchment paper of the inner sleeve with your fingers, and pull the record and the inner sleeve out of the main cardboard cover.
The Shake And Bake
This method is my least favorite, but it can work well if you have the magic touch. This one involves using a shaking action and some key movements to get the record out safely. Hold the record with the open slit facing the ceiling.
Use both hands and push in gently on the sides of the cardboard so it forces the slit open a bit. Once the slit is open just do some quick gentle shakes to get the record and inner sleeve to pop out of the cardboard a little bit, then pinch the parchment inner sleeve and pull the record out.
I am not crazy about this method because it is possible to shake too hard and shoot the record out and drop it, which could be catastrophic. Like I said though, if you have the touch and have some experience doing it, it works just fine.
Removing The Record From The Inner Sleeve
To get the record out of the inner sleeve, just push the edges of the inner sleeve slightly toward the center of the record so the slit opens just a little.
Next, turn the sleeve upside down, letting the record come out on its own into the open palm of your hand. Only the non-playing edge of the record will touch your hand. Use a finger to touch the label of the record while you do this. This will stabilize the record.
You should only be ever touching the edge of the record or the label. It is possible that you could leave some oil spots on the label with your fingertips, which is why I always wash my hands before I handle my records. Be careful of oily fingers getting on the record label.
A Word About Factory Inner Sleeves
It should be noted here that you should always have rice paper or soft plastic inner sleeves for your records. Most records come with stiff paper sleeves which can be harsh on the surface of your records.
I have always thought they should use better sleeves to store the records, but I am sadly not in charge of the industry. I always have transparent, soft plastic sleeves on hand. When I buy a new record, I immediately replace the sleeve it came with, with a nice 2-layer sleeve with an outer layer of stiff paper, lined with very soft plastic polyethylene.
Sure these sleeves cost more, but my records mean a lot to me and I don’t want the small micro surface scratches that the stiff rough paper inner sleeves can cause.
Transporting The Record To The Turntable
Now that the record is out of the cover and the inner sleeve safely, it is time to actually play the dang thing. The record should still be in your hand with the outside non-playing edge resting on your palm and your finger on the label or hole in the middle.
Now take your other hand and use it to palm the opposite outer edge from your original hand. You should now have 2 palms touching the outside edge of the record.
Gently squeeze it and move it over the turntable’s platter. Center the hole with the spindle and gently let go of the record and let it slide down the spindle to the platter. Now the record is ready to play.
Removing The Record From The Turntable
Before you remove the record from the turntable, make sure the platter is not spinning and the record player is either off, or in rest mode. In much the same way as you placed the record on the record player, you now use both hands to remove it.
Place your hands on either side of the record with your palms facing the non-playing edge of the disc. Put a small amount of pressure on the side of the record and lift it up. Now the record will be in your hands, so you can get it back into its sleeve.
Putting The Record Back Into The Inner Sleeve
Hold the record with one hand using only your thumb and finger, with your finger on the label and your thumb on the outer edge. With the other hand, pinch open the inner sleeve and slide the record back into the inner sleeve. It should slide fairly easily right into the sleeve with not much fuss.
This can be a bit more difficult if you have a very flimsy inner sleeve, which is why I like the poly-lined inner sleeves made out of stiff paper on the outside layer. It makes it so easy to get the records in and out.
Putting The Inner Sleeve Back In The Outer Sleeve (Main Cover)
Many people say that you should not even store your records in the cardboard album cover. This causes more ring wear, and ring wear devalues your records.
This is actually true, and it makes a good point, but I have not gotten into this habit yet. I do intend to start storing my records outside the cardboard cover, but I have not started doing it yet. Once I do, I will only keep them in the cardboard covers when I travel with my vinyl records.
To store your records outside the cardboard, just place the inner sleeve on the backside of the album cover and place both the cover and the inner sleeve in the thick plastic outer sleeve casing.
If you are like me and actually store the record back in the cardboard cover, here is how to do it.
Gently push the edges of the cover toward the center while the cover is horizontal. Now slide the inner sleeve containing the record into the opening. It should go in very smoothly. Once it is in, place the record back into the main thick outer sleeve with the sleeve opening pointing up.
General Safety Tips For Handling Vinyl
Never touch the playing surface with your bare hands. If you do accidentally touch it, make sure to clean the record.
There are only 2 places you should ever touch a record:
- The non-playing outside edge
- The label area
How To Handle Vinyl Records: Final Thoughts
If you value your albums at all, you need to know how to handle vinyl records properly. Otherwise, you risk damaging them with dirt and oil from your fingers, or causing micro scratches with the paper sleeves.
And even just a few sudges can negatively affect the sound quality and the playability. Not to mention the value of the album. Yes, you can clean those, but cleaning carries its own risk. And if you scratch your record due to mishandling, there is nothing you can do to restore it.
So make sure you handle your albums properly. Ideally, get a pair of gloves and use them whenever you handle your albums. If you use your bare hands to handle records, make sure you follow the guidelines above to keep them safe and in tip-top condition.