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Vinyl records are made from a very delicate plastic. When records are stored in moist or non-climate controlled places (storage units, garages, sheds, etc.) they can quickly begin to get moldy. Of course not only is mold bad for your health but it also makes your records unusable.
So, if your records do get moldy what can you do to fix it? Cleaning mold off of vinyl records is certainly possible but it requires patience as well as the proper materials. To clean mold off your records you will need:
- Face mask
- Rubbing alcohol
- Dish soap
- Soft cloths
Each of these items is important to make sure that your record gets cleaned as well as to ensure that you don’t get sick while cleaning the mold.
In this article we will discuss the best ways to clean the mold and also how to know if trying to clean the mold off is even worth it.
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What causes mold?
Before you freak out and throw your records away it is important to know what caused the mold in the first place. If you know what caused your records to become moldy you can prevent it from happening in the first place.
First off mold/mildew is caused by damp and dark conditions like in a basement, shed, or other places where moisture is present. A basement can be a great place to store records if you make sure to keep the moisture in the air at an acceptable level. This can be done using a dehumidifier.
Records can also draw moisture and mold if you store them in a place with large temperature swings. Some examples are storage units and garages. Of course this is assuming that the storage unit or garage are not climate controlled.
The temperature swings can cause the records to condensate and it will often soak into the cardboard sleeve. The sleeve will stay wet and begin to mold which in turn will cause the record to gather mold as well.
How to know which records can be saved
If you are reading this article, chances are you have some records that have mold on them. So how do you assess the damage?
First, go through your collection and see what you are up against. Create two piles, the slightly damaged and the ones that are really bad.
Lightly damaged would be a bit of mold, some thick dust, and a damaged jacket. The really bad pile would be ones that have deep scratches and jackets and paper sleeves that are fused to the record itself.
Unfortunately, the latter probably cannot be repaired and those records are lost. However, just because they are probably a lost cause doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to clean them.
You will for sure lose the sleeves, and most likely will damage the label on the record as well. However if a record is your favorite or one that has been passed down for generations it is worth the shot to try and repair it.
As long as you aren’t expecting miracles most records can be salvaged as long as they aren’t warped or deeply scratched/broken.
If you are going to clean the mold off your records there are a few things that you are going to need. They are:
Don’t try and clean off mold without wearing a good pair of waterproof gloves. I like to use gloves that are designed for washing dishes as they normally hold together the best.
2. Face Mask
Mold can be harmful to your health. If you are scrubbing it off your records you definitely don’t want to be breathing it in. Find a good face mask and wear it while you are cleaning your records.
3. Rubbing Alcohol
This is an important part of the mix that you will use to clean off the mold. We will discuss how you will use it in the next section.
4. Dish Soap
You will want to have dish soap on hand to give your records a final cleaning before trying to play them. I personally prefer to use Dawn dish soap for this step but any good soap will work (please don’t use a watered down generic from the dollar store).
5. Soft Cloths
The last thing I will mention that you will want is soft cloths. The last thing you want to do while trying to save your records is to scratch them up by using an abrasive rag or towel to clean and dry them. Only use soft cloths to clean your records.
How to clean the mold
Vinyl records are extremely sensitive and easily scratched. So any abrasive cloths or cleaning materials are not a good idea.
First, start by removing loose mildew with a soft dry cloth. Remember to rub gently as rubbing too vigorously will result in further damage.
Now that the loose mildew has been removed you need to use one part rubbing alcohol to 3 parts water. Mix the solution in a spray bottle and then spray this solution on a clean dry cloth. Remember to wipe in the direction of the grooves.
You can use the solution on the label and the jacket if the damage is not too bad just don’t saturate either as this will create further damage and disrepair.
If your label or sleeve has mold on it you need to clean them as well. Even if the label is destroyed or you have to throw the sleeve away that is better than leaving the mold on it to spread back to the record.
Once the mold is removed from your record you will want to give the record a good cleaning with soap and water. You can see further instructions on cleaning the record in the video below.
Once your record is cleaned up you need to dry it completely before you try and play it. Be sure and dry it with a soft microfiber cloth so you don’t damage it while drying it off.
What not to do
These may seem like common sense but we wanted to mention them to make sure that you don’t have the same issue again.
After cleaning your records don’t put them back into soiled or moldy sleeves. If you do this your freshly cleaned records will have mold on them again in just a few short days.
If your sleeve is damaged or destroyed it is a good idea to replace it with poly sleeves as they are designed to protect your records.
Next, do not store your records back in a moist damp spot. This is just asking for more clean-up projects. Ideally where you want to store these records is on a high well-ventilated shelf like a bookshelf or a custom made cabinet.
Shellac records are too sensitive and cannot handle rubbing alcohol. If your records are from the 1920s chances are they are shellac and to clean them just use a dry cloth and rub with the grooves. Most people won’t have this type of record but we wanted to be sure and mention it.
Using the ruined records
If you had some records that were damaged beyond repair you don’t have to immediately throw them away. They could be cut or melted to use as art or decorations.
There are quite a few fun projects that you can use records for and this is a good opportunity to try some of those.
Check out the video below for some examples of using records as decor.
We are here to help you restore your records to their former glory and have you toe-tapping to your favorite beats in no time. We love records and we love helping people bring their records back to life so hopefully this article has been of some help to you.
Take this list and all these tips that we have given you and do what you can to salvage some of these gems. If the records are too damaged maybe you can start a new project and be at the forefront of the trend.
Most records can be salvaged if you put in a bit of elbow grease and are careful while you are trying to clean them. If you are interested in learning more about cleaning vinyl records you can watch the videos below.