Many music lovers believe that vinyl is the best way to listen to music. And it’s not just for the older generation.
In recent years, vinyl records have seen a great vintage come back with new record stores and radio stations playing vinyl only.
But whether you enjoy an occasional nostalgic moment listening to a couple of records, or you have a huge record collection in the attic, vinyl records do need a little bit of care and attention to preserve their sound quality over time.
What do you do when your old vinyl record has scratches? How do you fix any damage caused by dirt, dust, and fingerprints?
We take a look at three easy methods to sort out scratches on vinyl records, and how to prevent any further damage.
Fix Scratches On Vinyl Records Quick And Easy
Here are top tips on how to remove dirt and dust from vinyl records and fix any nasty scratches.
The Toothpick Method To Clean Vinyl Scratches
Before you get to work fixing the scratch, it’s a good idea to remove any dust and debris from the record.
To get into the deep vinyl grooves, you’ll need cleaning materials, a toothpick, and some microfiber cloths. Bear in mind that this is not a permanent fix and should be repeated regularly to keep your vinyl sounding like new.
What You’ll Need
- Vinyl brush
- Specific cleaning solution for vinyl (or a vinyl cleaning kit)
- Microfiber cloths
How To Clean Your Vinyl Records With A Toothpick
First, you need to brush off any residue such as dust and dirt. For this, place your record on the record player and turn it to spin.
Take your dry vinyl brush and hold it gently on the record’s surface. As the record spins, this will brush the dirt away.
It’s enough to hold the brush on top of the record for up to 3 spins. Once this is done, stop the record and remove it.
When you are done, clean out the vinyl brush.
Next up is the cleaning solution. You can use a cleaning kit specifically designed for vinyl records sold in record stores or online. These kits usually come with a brush, liquid cleaner, and even a brush to clean the vinyl brush.
Now place the scratched record on a cloth (microfiber is ideal) and spray it on the cleaning solution. Wait for 30 seconds to allow the liquid to soak into the record.
Then use another clean microfiber cloth to wipe away the rest of the cleaner.
Next up, soak another clean microfiber cloth in distilled water and gently wipe the record’s surface on both sides.
It’s important to not spray the record label as it could peel off with the liquid.
When you are done with the dusting and cleaning, it’s time to sort out the scratch. Take your toothpick and hold it at a diagonal angle towards the scratch.
Press the toothpick gently into the scratch and carefully move it to and fro. You can do this for all scratches on the record.
Wood Glue For Cleaning Record Grooves
Wood glue works wonders not just for furniture but also for vinyl records that are badly scratched.
The advantage of this method is that you don’t have to painstakingly search for the scratch in the record yourself.
What You’ll Need
- Tube/bottle of wood glue
- Cardboard/card piece 50 mm wide
How To Clean Your Vinyl Records With Wood Glue
The first thing you have to do to clean your record with wood glue is to put the glue on.
For this, you need to set your vinyl to spin on the turntable, put the tip of the glue bottle at the edge of the vinyl’s inner label and then gently squeeze the glue out.
Don’t worry if there is too much glue. The glue will even out later in the process. If some of the glue has gone over the edges, simply wipe it away with a cloth.
This will create little glue lines along the grooves of your record. When you reach the outer edge, you simply stop squeezing and lift the glue bottle away from the record.
You should now see an even pattern of glue lines across the vinyl.
Next up, take the card piece and place it on the outer edge of the vinyl.
When the record starts spinning, the gentle gravitational force will evenly distribute the glue out of the lines covering the edge of the record.
Then move the cardboard to the inner side of the vinyl and keep it there until also this part is fully covered.
Once the glue is evenly spread out across the record, leave the vinyl on the record player where it can dry for the next 24 hours.
Lightly touch the outer edge with your finger to check if the glue is fully dried. The dry wood should now be a thin, translucent sheet.
After the glue is dry, you can use your finger to carefully lift the sheet at the outer edge of the record. Carry on slowly until the glue sheet is peeled.
If the sheet tears, you can just lift another place on the outer record edge.
When all glue residue is gone, you are ready to test out the vinyl. Listen to the particular section that sounded strange.
It’s good to bear in mind that this method also isn’t permanent, so you will need to repeat it regularly.
Remove Scratches On Vinyl Records With Sandpaper
The above two methods are both temporary and require regular repeats or whenever you notice a scratch.
While sandpaper sounds like it would cause scratches rather than remove it, we can assure you that it works as long as you work carefully.
Please note that if the damage in the vinyl has destroyed a whole grove or any dust has melted into the record, you will find that this method won’t work.
What You’ll Need
- Sandpaper (1500 grit or finer)
- Clean towel
How To Remove Scratches On Your Vinyl With Sandpaper
The above two methods work well as pre-sanding clean for your vinyl, so we recommend either removing dirt and dust with a toothpick or using the wood glue method.
For the best results using sandpaper, you should wet the disc. Head to the sink and put some water on it.
Then take some of the sandpaper and hold it under the water. You can even add a little bit of soap so it runs smoother.
Now it’s time to start sanding. Put your record on a hard, flat surface. If you use a countertop, you can allow the edge of the record to hang over a little bit. This ensures a better grip.
Rub your sandpaper very carefully and lightly over the vinyl. This should be done in a circular motion along the vinyl grooves. Make sure that you sand the record on both sides.
The smooth surface of the vinyl should not dull, or you are adding too much pressure. You must use only light pressure.
If you notice either the sandpaper or the vinyl has dried, then keep wetting them.
It’s best not to go over the same bit of vinyl more than 6 times. Once you are done, just wash off the remaining dust from the record. Allow it to dry fully and then test if the scratch is gone.
Alternative Cleaning Methods To Remove Vinyl Scratches
While the three above are the most commonly used methods for repairing a scratched vinyl record, there are many other options.
For small scratches, it’s best to first dust and brushes the record. You’d be surprised how much dust and tiny debris get stuck in the grooves of the vinyl.
Sometimes you might find that a record is skipping because it needs a proper good cleanup, especially when you had it in its outer sleeve for a while.
If your vinyl record skips, then try cleaning it with a vinyl brush and a vinyl cleaning solution first.
The most practical and handy way to keep your records clean is a record cleaning kit. It usually comes with all the brushes and cleaning liquid you need to get rid of dust, fingerprints, and minor scratches.
Check the kit packaging for the right application.
Preventing Vinyl Record Scratches
While there are plenty of methods to fix scratches on your record, prevention is still the best way to preserve the quality of sound.
A record collection can sound like on the first day if it has received care and attention over time.
Hold With Care
One of the things we sometimes forget when we are in a hurry wanting to listen to music is that vinyl are still prone to damage and scratches.
Although vinyl records are by no means as fragile as old shellac records, they can dull over time by handling them.
The best way to handle a record is by holding its out edges lightly with your palms. Try not to touch the record with your fingers as this could leave fingerprints.
The natural oils of your skin can cause as much damage to a vinyl record as scratches.
Regular cleanups of your record collection and your turntable are a must-do.
Unfortunately, dust settles everywhere and it leaves a thin film of dirt and grime on both the record player and the vinyl.
It’s best to clean up your turntable with a soft microfiber cloth each time you use it.
Premium Quality Inner Sleeves
Some vinyl records come only with an outer sleeve but ideally, you should also use a thicker inner sleeve to protect your record from scratches and damage when sliding it in and out.
We would also advise putting the record together with its inner and outer sleeve, in a thin, plastic casing. This does not only protect the record but also helps to keep the album jacket dust and dirt free.
The three methods of fixing scratches on a vinyl record help to deep clean the record and remove minor scratches.
However, removing scratches isn’t always as straightforward as you often have to find the scratch in a small groove of the record. This can take time and needs some careful handling.
We found the best method for scratching on vinyl is still ensuring that you handle your records with care.
It’s a good idea to handle your records as little as possible but when you do, hold them carefully so you don’t put smudges or fingerprints on them.
If you are a hardened vinyl enthusiast and you have done everything to preserve an old record, and it still skips, then it might be time to look for another record.
Unfortunately, not all scratches can be removed from old vinyl so buying a replacement might be the only option.
Looking for a replacement in a record store can be a great, fun treasure hunt.