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Storing your record in a quality inner sleeve will do wonders in maintaining the cleanliness of your disc. As mentioned in the above, most records come housed in a paper inner sleeve which does not properly protect the record. The paper can break down causing particle build up and the paper can scratch the record as it is removed from and returned to the sleeve. A paper inner sleeve does not protect against static from forming, and will even contribute to the build up of static. I recommend purchasing after market inner sleeves which protect against static and will not damage the record over time. These plastic inner sleeves can be then inserted arrows up inside an artistic inner sleeve if provided by the band; it just takes some practice getting it in. Once in, you can extract the disc from the second inner sleeve without removing it each time. These extra sleeves will prevent wear against any wear which would be caused by removing the disc from a traditional paper sleeve (or even no sleeve for that matter). Lastly, ALWAYS store you records upright, so as not to damage them.
The needle on a cartridge is very sensitive and delicate. It is important not to touch or mishandle because it is the part of the turntable which reads the record. Damaging the needle will result in poor sound quality and could damage your records depending on the type of damage sustained by the needle. To easily clean your needle I recommend getting a needle cleaning tool. There are many on the market but my favorite is a gel made by ZeroDust. Their patented gel removes any dirt or dust accumulated on the needle when it is dropped onto the gel, restoring any loss in reading ability. When it comes to my cartridge, I want to ensure I am not doing damage to the stylus as I am cleaning which is why I favor ZeroDust.
Over time records will become dirty, beyond the help of a cloth or brush as dirt gets into the grooves of a record. When this occurs a record will need to be washed. There are a few solid products on the market which solve the issue of deep cleaning. I have tried all the low end cleaners but the Record Doctor V has been the best for the price. After having used the Doctor for the past four months I think it is the perfect vinyl cleaning match for me. Most cleaning solutions are the same; rather it is the method of cleaning them in which they differ. They all will do the job, some better than others. Some enthusiasts advocate for a washing before each use to ensure a perfect sound quality before spinning. Personally, I only do it every 5-7 plays or if the record is looking dirty. Storing the disc properly and touch-up cleaning before each use seems to do the trick.
Ensuring that your record is clean before spinning and storing will provide a great deal of wear protection and ensure the best possible sound quality. Many times when pulling a record out of it's inner sleeve for the first time, you will notice paper specks in the grove transferred from the inner sleeve. This will cause distortion or a click when the needle traces over it, and in some cases may even cause the record to skip. I recommend getting a microfiber cloth to use in the cleaning of your record. To do so: place your record on the turntable platter. With your right hand place the cloth in one location on the record, applying a small amount of pressure; then rotate the record with your left hand by pressing down on the label and turning. This will remove any surface dust, pet hair, or paper particles. After dusting the record, I recommend beating out the cloth to remove the gathered particles as preparation for your next cleaning. You can also turn on the player and give it a once over with an anti-static brush to remove any static before lowering the needle.
Proper record maintenance is crucial to any record collector. As previously mentioned in the Turntable Guide, a vinyl record will degrade over time for a various number of reasons. However, there are a number of steps a record collector can take to ensure their music investment maintains its value and integrity. This way the listener will continue to hear the full sound analog has to offer.