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Can Vinyl Records Be Stored In The Cold? (Do They Freeze?)

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When someone asks if their record albums are ok in cold temperatures it is hard to give an answer without more information. Cold weather is subjective because what someone considers cold varies from person to person.

So for this article, will consider anything below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) as cold.

Can you store vinyl records in the cold? Will they freeze?

Vinyl records can be stored in the cold since the cold won’t hurt the record. However, when a record freezes from being left in the cold for more than a few hours it will become brittle and prone to breaking.

The other issue with vinyl record storage in the cold is that they can collect condensation when you warm them up again which can breed mold.

Taking your records out in the cold or even leaving them in the car for a few hours won’t damage them but before you warm them back up you should remove them from the outer sleeve/cover and the inner sleeve so the condensation doesn’t cause significant damage to the cardboard and paper.

A good rule of thumb when storing your records is to do it in temps that you are comfortable in (65-85 degrees). Although colder temperatures shouldn’t damage the records when they are brittle you could easily break them when moving them.

Often when records are stored in the cold that also means that the location is hot during the summertime (such as an attic, shed, or garage). That change from cold to hot will cause your records to have moisture, could breed mold, and would likely destroy your records.

So if at all possible store your vinyl records at room temperature. If not make sure that you allow your records to warm up without their sleeves and separated them so you can wipe off any dust and condensation as they warm up so they don’t mold when they are no longer cold.

If you can’t store your records in a room or on a shelf in a closet at room temperature, the next best place to store your record collection is a basement (assuming it is free from dirt, and debris, and has low humidity levels). If your basement has high humidity you won’t want to store your records there.

You can also store your records in a storage unit as long as it has temperature control. You will pay more for climate-controlled storage units but it will protect your records from the low and high temperatures that can cause mildew.

A climate-controlled unit will keep your records in good shape and will allow you to have enough room for proper storage so you can avoid damaging the inner sleeves, outer sleeves, album cover, etc.

I would rather spend a little more money than take the risk of damage that you would by putting them in long-term storage where they are exposed to cold temps for an extended period of time.

In this article, I will discuss ways to make sure your records stay in the best possible condition when they are exposed to the cold as well as other things you should do to protect your collection in the wintertime. 

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What Happens To Records In The Cold?

Your precious vinyl records are not directly affected by the cold, and they will not be destroyed. Records do become brittle in temperatures lower than freezing (zero degrees Celsius & 32 Fahrenheit).

When the temperature increases (whether from bringing them inside or because of spring), the record thaws and returns to its normal state. During this process, water condensation occurs due to the sudden increase in temperatures, which can lead to water damage to the records and their cardboard sleeves. 

Therefore, the cold temperatures will not directly damage your vinyl records. Instead, the water produced during the condensation process will do the job of ruining your records.

This is why we recommend that you preserve your records dry by storing them in a cool, dry, and clean place. Also, ideally, the storage area should be between 65 to 70 degrees temperature and 45 to 60 degrees humidity.

If water condensation occurs then the sleeve and label become wet, and warping can occur.

How Can I Avoid Warping My Record In The Cold?

Thankfully, it is very easy to prevent warping and damage that can accompany lower temperatures. To increase the lifespan of your records, here are a few helpful tips that you can use.

These will help to avoid warping and damaging your record from the many indirect problems that can arise due to cold temperatures.

1. Avoid Temperature Fluctuations

Large temperature fluctuations can cause water condensation on your records. For instance, moving from 32℉ or lower temperatures to a temperature of 70℉ and above is a huge gamble. 

The rapid change in ambient temperature only invites condensation, which can lead to water damage and warping of your records. Some instances where this can occur is during the transporting of the records or storing them in poorly insulated rooms such as a shed or garage and then bringing them back into the heated house. 

When transporting the records from a cold environment or vice versa, ensure that they have on a paper or cardboard cover that will help acclimatize the record to the environment and prevent water condensation. Also, do not pull the record from its cover shortly after the temperature around the record has been changed.

Ideally, you will not allow your records to be in cold temperatures for longer than a few minutes while transporting them to and from a residence or vehicle. 

2. Keep away from heat vents

In the winter season, heat is a necessity in order to stave off frostbite and freezing. While the warmer temperature allows you to be comfortable and safer, if a record is stored near a heat vent, it can warp the record for two specific reasons:

  1. Water condensation can occur because the temperature around the record is constantly changing.
  2. Heat exposure is not suitable for records, even in the cold. This is one of the significant causes of record warping even outside of cold weather conditions. This is because vinyl records are made from plastic, which has a specific melting point. Before the vinyl record gets to that melting point, the slightest pressure when the record is hot can cause warping. 

Depending on the composition of the record, starting at 212℉, the record can melt, and above 140℉, the record can start to warp. Now I’m sure you are thinking that your car won’t be over 140 degrees (and hopefully that is true) but the problem is many people will put them on the floor just inches from the floor vent and the air coming out of the heat vent can be hot enough to begin warping your records. 

During the cold weather, the heat vent will put out extremely hot air and can easily damage the record or make it more susceptible to bending when you pick it up to move it. Therefore, we recommend that you avoid storing your vinyl records close to heat sources.

3. Do not stack your records

Outside of the cold, stacking records on top of each other is a big no-no. This kind of improper storage will cause your record to warp or even crack due to pressure. In cold weather, the stacking of records can crack much more easily because the records are brittle.

Instead of stacking records on top of each other properly, store them by stacking them vertically as you would with books, but still permit adequate space between each record. 

This is the proper way to store them year around but it is even more important for records that will be in colder temperatures. 

Important Facts To Remember For Protecting Your Vinyl Records

While the records cannot be directly affected by the cold, there are still things that can happen in cold seasons that you should always be aware of to ensure that your records remain okay.

1. The cold does not mean that sunlight is absent.

Forgetting vital information is a common mistake made by many vinyl record owners. Direct sunlight can negatively impact and damage your records. The typical vinyl record is made up of a black PVC material.

Generally, we know that black colors and pigments absorb light, and this principle is also applied to vinyl records. The black color of the record absorbs light that can easily damage the record due to increased temperatures.

Therefore, we advise that you do not expose your vinyl records to direct sunlight even during the colder temperatures.

If you have ever sat in front of a window in the winter time and began to get warm you experienced the exact effects that you want to protect your records from. Never store your records or record player where it will receive direct sunlight, even in the winter. 

2. Try to keep the record covered

The cover will offer protection from sun exposure and water damage while also keeping the record insulated and dry. However, please bear in mind that this will not protect the record from long-term exposure.

Leaving it in direct sunlight will cause it to warp and be ruined. 

If there is no way to avoid having your records in the cold for any length of time, removing them from the sleeves before warming them back up is a good way to protect both the artwork on the sleeves and the record from having cardboard stuck to it. 

Find a suitable location and container to store your vinyl records while keeping them covered as much as possible. 

More Record Storage Tips

Want to learn more tips on how to properly store your records to protect them? The video below covers some of the best ways to store your vinyl to keep them safe when you aren’t using them.

Conclusion

You want to keep your record spinning for a very long time to enjoy sweet melodies from time to time. Being concerned about your vinyl record during weather changes is reasonable.

If you are wondering if your vinyl records are okay during the cold? Fortunately, the answer is yes, so you can breathe a sigh of relief.

The records become brittle during the cold, but it eventually goes back to its normal state. However, there is still much essential knowledge to consider regarding the safety of your record during the winter season.

Remember to implement the previously mentioned tips into your vinyl record care routine, and your records will be just fine during the colder time of year.