Your record player works hard for you.
You should be willing to put in a little effort for it.
Regular record player maintenance will keep it running smooth and sounding great. It also ensures that your player, and your entire vinyl collection, last a long time.
A poorly maintained turntable gathers dust, which not only impacts sound quality, but can also cause damage to your precious vinyl collection.
Poor maintenance also means that certain parts of your player can become worn out, further increasing the risk of damage to your vinyl discs and to the player itself.
Performing regular maintenance on your turntable is not difficult or time-consuming, but skipping any form of care can be disastrous.
In other words: there is no good reason not to do it.
How Record Players Get Dirty
There are many reasons you should regularly clean your record player, but the most important is to prevent damage to your vinyl. Even the best record player will need routine maintenance in order to prevent a dip in sound quality.
But why does your player keep getting so dirty in the first place?
Vinyl records create static electricity. This, in turn, will attract dirt, dust, and debris to both the record player and your vinyl.
Even if you’re not able to see the dust, if you hear that classic hissing and popping sound, that is a clear indication that your records and your record player need to be cleaned.
This microscopic dirt and dust can damage the playing surface of your vinyl. Fortunately, maintenance is pretty simple, especially if you keep up on routine maintenance and properly clean it at least two to three times a month.
To maintain your record player, you’ll need the following supplies:
- Microfiber cloth
- Soft bristle brush
- Stylus brush
- Dusting cloth
- Rubbing alcohol
If you don’t have a record store nearby and want buy these things online, I’ll put links below in the appropriate sections for products I recommend on Amazon. You can also just get a complete cleaning kit that includes everything you need.
Regular Record Player Maintenance Tasks
If you want to keep your turntable running smoothly and protect your delicate vinyl discs, you need to perform these regular maintenance tasks. It doesn’t matter whether you have a budget model, a high-end model or a vertical turntable, you need to do these maintenance tasks. Luckily, none are difficult or demanding.
The stylus should be cleaned each time you use your record player. And it’s actually very easy to do.
Ideally, you want to use a cleaning brush that’s specifically designed for the stylus. You can find these online (this one is great and inexpensive) or at a local record store. You can also substitute a paintbrush, if you don’t have a stylus brush.
To use, wipe the tip of the stylus from the back to the front. Avoid wiping from side to side. Doing so could bend the needle.
If it has been a while since you last cleaned the stylus, then a more thorough cleaning may be in order. For a deep clean use rubbing alcohol and the stylus brush.
Ditching the Dust
To prevent dust build up, the record player should be dusted after each use, or at least twice a week. To keep your record player dust-free wipe down the surfaces using a microfiber anti-static dusting cloth.
If the surface of the record player has built-up dust and dirt, use rubbing alcohol by moistening the microfiber cloth and wipe down all the surfaces, beginning with the center of the record player and wiping outwards. Make sure you soak up any remaining moisture by using a dry microfiber cloth.
What to Avoid
- The stylus is very fragile. Because of this, you’ll want to avoid using your fingers to wipe it off, in order to avoid bending it.
- Whatever you do, avoid blowing on the needle to clean it. Doing so can cause you to accidentally spit on it. Additionally, you won’t be able to remove all of the dust by cleaning it off in this manner.
- Always make sure you cover the record player with a dust cover between uses. While it will not prevent dust from settling on the record player entirely, it will significantly cut down on dust. If you don’t have a recover player cover, you can also use a cloth to prevent dust from gathering.
- To keep your record player clean and working efficiently you should also keep your vinyl clean. Records should also be cleaned after each use to prevent the records from transferring dirt and debris to the record players turntable.
Even if you keep the stylus nice and clean and remember to clean it after each use, at some point, you’ll still need to replace it. If you don’t know when to replace your stylus, keep an ear out for signs of wear such as static, hissing, jumping, and skipping. Also, look for bent or jagged edges.
Another common task is needing to replace the belt, because your record player has stopped spinning. Fortunately, doing so is a pretty easy job. Begin by shutting off the unit and lifting the platter. Next, remove the plastic cover and be sure to wipe down the surface using a microfiber cloth.
Follow the instructions on the belt’s packaging. Typically, it will take about ten minutes to change out a belt. However, if you’re not comfortable doing it, you can always hire a pro to get the job done, or read my step-by-step guide to belt replacement.
How To Recalibrate The Tracking
Recalibrating the tracking force is another part of routine maintenance for record players. When you purchase a record player, the tonearm should be perfectly balanced, right out of the box. This means it shouldn’t be too light or too heavy.
However, over time, this can change.
To recalibrate the tonearm, begin by locking it and removing the needle’s cover. Next, release the arm’s clamp and rotate the counterweight until the arm looks well-balanced, then lock it back in the resting place. Make sure that it doesn’t touch the counterweight.
Cleaning Your Vinyl Discs
As we mentioned earlier, keeping your vinyl clean is just as important as maintaining your record player. All types of vinyl records should be cleaned often.
Using a record washer is a great way to get the job done and probably one of the easiest options. But if you’re on a tight budget, you can also clean your records by hand. Just use a vinyl brush, a microfiber cloth, and vinyl cleaning solution.
Getting a cleaning kit that includes everything is the most cost-effective. The whole cleaning process is detailed in this article. It also includes links to a great inexpensive cleaning kit for cleaning your vinyl manually, as well as two great automatic cleaners.
If you just want a quick summary, begin by taking the vinyl brush and gently brushing the surface of the record using a circular motion. Avoid using too much pressure. The goal is to simply pick up and remove larger debris and dirt without causing damage to the grooves.
If you need to wash the records, you can use a vinyl record cleaning solution or a combination of dish soap and water. Once your records are clean, use a microfiber cloth to dry them thoroughly.
I recommend leaving the records out for at least half an hour after you’ve dried them by hand in order to ensure that they’re completely dry before you return them to their sleeves.
If there is any excess moisture it can cause mold to grow on the sleeve of the record which could lead to severe damage to your vinyl.
Some audiophiles recommend placing newly cleaned records into new record sleeves and to avoid placing them back into their old dusty ones. Read all about vinyl storage, including which inner and outer sleeves are best.
How Long Should a Turntable Stylus Last?
The needle has the most involved and toughest job out of all the components on your player. It comes into close contact with dirt, debris, and whatever else crosses its path. Scratches in the record don’t cause damage to the needle, however.
Aside from constant contact with dust, frequent playback and hours of use can also take its toll on the stylus. If you don’t keep a close eye on the needle and track how long you’ve had it and how often you use it, then you’re putting your precious vinyl discs at risk of damage.
So, when should you replace the needle?
The needle should be replaced every thousand hours of playing time. This means if you’re only using your turntable for one hour a day, then the stylus should be replaced every 3 years or so.
This can also vary depending on the type of materials the stylus is made from. If you’re not sure when you replaced the stylus last, there are some things you can look for, such as bends in the needle head or jagged edges.
You can also determine whether or not the needle needs to be replaced based on sound quality. If there is a noticeable dip, this may be caused by a worn down needle.
If you end up purchasing a used unit, the stylus should be replaced immediately, before using the player for the first time, since you have no way of knowing how old it is.
Is There A Low Maintenance Record Player You Can Recommend?
All records players will require the same level of care, which means they should be cleaned after each use and deep cleaned at least once a month.
The Crosley CR6231D-GR Sterling Portable Turntable is easy to take apart and put back together, for those tough deep cleans and when you need to replace the needle, recalibrate the tonearm, or replace the belt. It is an entry-level record player that comes loaded with some great features, intuitive controls, and it’s available at a reasonable price.
Can I Use a Toothbrush to Clean the Stylus?
No. While there are some soft-bristled toothbrushes out there, it is too easy to accidentally choose a toothbrush with stiff bristles. Doing do will almost certainly damage the needle, but even a soft-bristled toothbrush can cause damage.
As we mentioned earlier, a soft paintbrush is a much better substitute for a dedicated stylus brush. It works almost as well. That said, you can get a good stylus brush for under $10, which makes it a great investment.
Record player maintenance may sound like a lot of work, and it can be if you don’t keep up on it regularly. But if you do, you should only need to give your record player a more thorough cleaning once or twice a month.
Remember, keeping your vinyl collection clean will be just as important and it can also help to cut down on how often you need to clean your record player. By keeping both the player and your vinyl collection clean, you’ll enjoy better sound quality, and also significantly increase the lifespan of both.