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Topic: Is It Really Worth It to Clean Surface Level Dust? (Read 1073 times) previous topic - next topic
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Is It Really Worth It to Clean Surface Level Dust?

I started digitizing my records a few weeks ago. To give a bit of context, I am only playing these records a couple of times to transfer them and will be keeping them in Ultimate Audiophile Sleeve City Outer and Inner Sleeves. I figured the only proper way to clean them would be with a record cleaning machine, which I just don't have the room nor money for right now, so I thought to myself if I see any big pieces of surface level dust, or moderate amount of dust on a vinyl, I'll try to clean that. 

I wanted to try and keep this simple, mostly because I don't feel comfortable using liquid and would probably do something incorrectly and damage a record, so I thought I would just use something like one of those keyboard cleaner brushes that retract.

I decided to buy a goat hair brush, as I heard the material is softer than carbon fiber, this one specifically...

The "recommended" method of putting the tip of the bristles gently in the direction the grooves spin, then doing an angled lift up I didn't do, because it seems that would push the dust around and gather it into one spot, so I just tried gently using the edge of the bristles (the sides of them, not the bottom as I thought that would cause scratches), and pushed slowly to the edge of the record. However, this presented a couple of issues...

-A lot of people say not to do this because it can scratch the record somehow. I don't understand how if I'm being gentle, even if I am going against the grooves.

-A couple of pieces of big dust wouldn't budge, so I had to put a decent amount of force onto the brush to get the pieces to move, but it made me nervous that I was scratching my vinyl.

-It looked like an extra couple of small pieces of dust and piece of the brush would end up on the surface where I was brushing (despite me shaking the brush by the handle after each time wiping to get any excess dust / loose goat hair off the end)

-Even just simply leaving the vinyl in my hands whilst I was cleaning was putting big pieces of dust on the surface

Additionally, during my research, I read that in the Rega Planar 3 Owner's Manual (I own a Rega Planar 1 Plus), it says the following...

If you keep your records stored in their
sleeves, avoid touching the playing surfaces and
keep all water and fluids away, cleaning should not
be necessary. Do not worry about visible dust on
the record surface, this is brushed aside by the
stylus during play. Dust collected on the stylus can
be easily blown away. In general, record cleaning
is overdone and one should not believe all the
claims made by record cleaner manufacturers.

But then some people also say not to use these types of brushes because they just cause more damage than what would be mitigated by cleaning surface level dust.

Am I being paranoid about the brush damaging records if I put too much force onto the surface with the bristles, or if I am using the bottom of the bristles, rather than the sides?

Should I maybe just only clean when there is at least a moderate amount of surface dust?

Here is a video of an employee of Sleeve City using the brush I mentioned, would this "technique" be too rough?

Am I just overthinking all of this and should just follow Rega's advice?

It really seems like cleaning a vinyl is far more complicated than playing it, with all the different methods people use, how complex and delicate they seem to be, and everyone saying every method can potentially damage the vinyl, sans a record cleaning machine apparently...

At the end of the day, I just want to have a high quality capture of the vinyl, then properly store it in the event that I might want to transfer it again (for example, if I ever buy a record cleaning machine to see if it truly makes a stark contrast like so many say it does).


Re: Is It Really Worth It to Clean Surface Level Dust?

Reply #1
I didn't clean my records every play, and I no longer "play records", but I'll use my old-original Discwasher before I occasionally digitize one.   You'd dampen the brush rather than applying liquid to the record.

But the best thing I ever used was Discofilm (which was easier to find back in the vinyl days).   You apply it as a gel and then it dries to something like thick Jell-O and you peel it off (along with the dust).   There are some other-similar products.

I also had a Shure cartridge with a built-in brush.  (Shure is no longer in the phono cartridge business.)

...I never noticed them sounding better after cleaning.   

Re: Is It Really Worth It to Clean Surface Level Dust?

Reply #2
I use a Spin-Clean and yes, there is distilled water and surfactants but people have spun cleaned millions of records without issue. I won't play or digitize vinyl without spin-cleaning it first. The process removes a lot of noise and even new vinyl benefits. Once washed, if cared for, vinyl doesn't get that dirty but that first wash is essential. With used vinyl, I rarely get the full fifty washes before I need to dump it. In my opinion, the spin-clean is the single best investment in terms of better vinyl sound and essential to my workflow. I also sell used vinyl on Discogs and I've never had a single complaint about condition.

I don't use the supplied drying cloths, I just use dishracks and let them drip dry. I'll let the record rest in the groove between the brush and a roller while the majority of the water runs off back into the tank.

Yes, the difference is both audibly noticeable and significant.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  ;~)