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When someone asks if records 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 we will consider anything below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) as cold.
Are records okay in the cold? Records become brittle once they are exposed to temps below freezing. The cold however won’t hurt your record (unless you hit it or drop it when it’s brittle). What can damage your records is the condensation that they collect when you warm them up again.
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 sleeves/covers so the condensation doesn’t damage the cardboard.
In this article we 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 Farenheit). 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 the 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 the cold temperatures.
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.
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:
- Water condensation can occur because the temperature around the record is constantly changing.
- 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 wont 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.
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 the 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.
Other 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.
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.
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.
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.