The Complete Guide To Handling Vinyl Records (With Pictures) - Vita Audio

The Complete Guide To Handling Vinyl Records (With Pictures)

In this day and age, it’s easy to get your favorite music in digital form. However, many music lovers still prefer the authenticity and unique sound of vinyl records. 

Depending on the artist and pressing of the specific record, vinyl records can be worth a lot of money. This is why it’s so important to keep your vinyl collection in good condition through careful handling. 

The Complete Guide To Handling Vinyl Records (With Pictures)

If you want to ensure the longevity of your vinyl records, read on! This is a step-by-step guide to handling vinyl records correctly to protect the playing surfaces in the long term. 

In today’s article, we’ll be covering how to take vinyl records out of their sleeves, how to hold them and place them on the turntable, and how to take them off the turntable safely before returning them to their protective sleeves.

Once you’ve read to the end, you’ll be a vinyl handling expert!

Why Should You Care About Record Handling? 

If you’re the kind of person who likes to get everything done quickly, spending extra time handling your vinyl records can seem like a drag. After all, how important can proper record handling be? 

Well, the answer is that it’s very important. As we mentioned earlier, vinyl records can cost a lot of money. On average, a vinyl record can set you back between $20 and $30, with the average cost of a new vinyl being $28.40 as of 2017.

Special editions, such as first-press records or rare records, can be significantly more expensive. 

The problem is that incorrect handling can damage the playing surfaces of vinyl records. Dust, dirt, and the natural oils that occur on our fingers can easily be transferred onto vinyl, damaging the surfaces and the sound quality, as a result. 

Don’t worry, though. Handling your vinyl record collection correctly is actually easy once you know which areas you can safely hold and how to transfer the record into and out of its sleeve.  

The Importance Of Storage 

It’s a common misconception that keeping vinyl records safe is only about how you physically handle them. However, it’s equally important to store your records correctly to prevent them from getting damaged between uses. 

First and foremost, vinyl records need to be stored in their protective sleeves.

If you misplace a record sleeve, make sure to purchase a replacement as soon as possible, and don’t be tempted to slide your vinyl back onto the shelf without its sleeve since this can lead to scratching as well as dust accumulation. 

Speaking of dust, it’s a good idea to keep your record storage area free from dust and any other kind of debris. Even though you’ll be storing your vinyl records in their sleeves, you just don’t want to risk dust building up too much.

Quickly dusting your shelves every week or so is definitely worth it. 

Temperature control is also an important part of keeping your records free from damage while in storage. You don’t want your vinyl storage area to be either too hot or too cold. A cool room is ideal, but you shouldn’t let the temperature drop too much.

The average cellar usually provides the level of coolness that vinyl records need, but if you do choose to store your records in the cellar, be aware of the moisture content in the air since excess moisture can damage records, too. 

You will also need to keep an eye on the humidity levels in your storage area, not allowing it to surpass 40% and not letting the temperature get too far below 40 degrees or too far above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. 

And, did you know that excessive light exposure can damage a record surface? Try not to store your records in direct sunlight or near any bright, UV lights. 

Finally, you should be mindful of the amount of pressure being exerted on each of the records in your collection. What we mean by this is that the average 12-inch record is more than 5 ounces in weight.

If you have a shelf full of records leaning in one direction, the record on the end will have a significant amount of pressure pushing on it. This can eventually lead to warping of the vinyl material. You might consider using shelf dividers to minimize this issue.  

Handling Vinyl Records

Now that you’ve organized your storage situation to make sure your record collection is safe from in-storage damage, it’s time to rethink the way you handle your records for maximum longevity. 

Cover Removal

Cover Removal

The first step to handling a vinyl record is taking it out of its cover or protective sleeve. This might seem like a simple task, and it is, but you need to make sure that you do this carefully and correctly. 

Ideally, a vinyl record should be stored in both an inner sleeve and an outer sleeve. However, if you only have an inner sleeve, just disregard the part about the outer sleeve and focus on the sleeve you do have. 

If your records have outer sleeves, you’ll need to remove this first. Take the outer sleeve in one hand and the jacket underneath in your other hand, sliding the jacket out of the sleeve. 

Next, taking great care not to touch the record itself yet, slide the inner sleeve out of the jacket. It’s helpful to know what kind of inner sleeve a particular record has before handling it.

This is because some of these sleeves don’t have any exposed areas while others do, especially around the central hole. If you don’t know this beforehand, it’s easy to accidentally make contact with the record surface. 

Now it’s time to take the record out of the innermost sleeve. This is the tricky part, so go into it carefully. You will need to reach into the sleeve while taking care not to touch the surface of the record – only the label and the edges.

The best way to do this is to slip your hand into the sleeve, keeping it held away from the record, and place your index, third, and fourth fingers on the label in the center of the record.

At the same time, place your thumb against the outer edge of the record. You can now slide the record safely from its sleeve. 

Handling Out Of The Cover 

Handling Out Of The Cover 

Between taking a record out of its cover and placing it in your record player, you will need to continue to handle it with the utmost care. 

You should follow the same rules as you did when taking the record out of its sleeve. This involves not touching the surface of the record itself, limiting your fingers to the label in the middle of the record and the edges around the playing surface. 

Before putting the record in your turntable, it’s a good idea to clean it with an anti-static brush. You can also do this before putting the record back in its sleeve after playing. This will prevent static interference from damaging the sound quality of your record. 

Make sure not to touch the surface of the record at any point, and avoid putting the record down on any surfaces (even clean surfaces) between taking it out of the sleeve and playing it. 

Interacting With The Turntable 

Interacting With The Turntable 

Now it’s time to place your record on the turntable and enjoy the music! Before you can start playing the record, however, you need to get it into the record player safely. 

Beforehand, you were holding the record by the middle and the edges. Now it’s best to use both hands to hold the outer edges of the record as you gently lower it onto the turntable.

Using both hands will help you to have better control over the record as you place it, avoiding any accidental scraping or dropping. 

Take special care to line up the spindle of your record player with the center of the record because this is where much of the scratching can occur.

Try not to drop the record onto the spindle since this actually increases the likelihood of accidentally touching the surface and could be damaging. 

Once you’ve carefully positioned the stylus and let the record play, you should wait for the turntable to come to a complete stop before removing it the same way you put it down: carefully, with both hands, and holding only the edges of the record.

Before you do so, you can also choose to give the record another once-over with the anti-static brush. 

Replacing The Cover 

Replacing The Cover

The final step when it comes to handling vinyl records is knowing how to put a record back in its cover without exposing it to any potential damage. Just like step 1, this can be tricky, but you essentially just have to repeat the first step in reverse.

Position your fingers just like you would for step 1, with your index, middle, and ring finger against the central label and your thumb resting on the edge of the record. With your other hand, pick up the inner sleeve and hold it open so that you can slide the record into the sleeve.

Remember not to touch the surface of the record during this process, but try to keep guiding it all the way into the sleeve rather than just letting go once you have it most of the way in.

The friction between the sleeve and the record can be damaging, so try to stay in control of the movement as much as possible. 

The next step is to put the inner sleeve back in the jacket. The best way to do this is to position the inner sleeve so that the opening faces into the jacket rather than aligning the openings of both sleeves.

This will help to ensure that the record doesn’t accidentally roll out of its cover while in storage.

However, if you also have an outer sleeve to put over the jacket, you could choose to line up the openings of the inner sleeve and jacket while putting the outer sleeve the other way. It’s up to you as long as the record is securely in its sleeve(s). 

You can now put the record back in its storage space until the next time you want to play it! Just remember to ensure that this storage space stays clean, not too hot, not too cold, and not too humid. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Where Can I Store My Vinyl Record Collection?

You have a few different options when it comes to storing your vinyl records. As we’ve already discussed, it’s important that the room you choose is neither too warm nor too cold (between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal) and that the humidity is not more than 40%.

Bright lights, especially UV lights and direct sunlight, should be avoided. 

In terms of how you store your records, the most common options are either shelves or a record storage box. Both have their advantages.

With a box, you get the peace of mind of knowing that your records are stored in a closed space, safe from dust and other pollutants in the air.

However, just as you would with a shelf, you’ll need to make sure that you have appropriate dividers in your box to prevent pressure-related damage. This is particularly important if you have an extensive and/or expensive record collection. 

What Should I Do If I Accidentally Touch a Vinyl Record?

If you accidentally touch a vinyl record while handling it, don’t panic. It happens to the best of us! However, you will want to take action quite quickly to remedy any potential damage. 

In our experience, the best product to have on hand in case you accidentally touch one of your records is a liquid record cleaning solution. You can buy these online, or your local record store might have some in stock. 

Different record cleaners will have different instructions for application, so it’s important to read the guidelines provided by the manufacturer. However, you will usually apply a small amount gently with a microfiber cloth.

This will help to remove any oils deposited by your fingers before they can do any real damage. 

Are Damaged Vinyl Records Worth Anything?

If you have some damaged records in your collection that don’t interest you anymore, you might be thinking about selling them. Alternatively, you might simply be wondering if your damaged records will be worth anything in the distant future. 

The short answer is yes, damaged vinyl records can still be worth something – and, in some cases, they can still be worth quite a lot.

Several factors contribute to the value of a vinyl record. Of course, a damaged record is likely to be worth less than an undamaged record because sound quality and physical appearance do factor into the value. However, even this general rule doesn’t always apply.

For example, a slightly-damaged rare vinyl record will likely still be worth more than a widely available record without any damage. The artist behind the record as well as the pressing will also impact a record’s value. 

You also need to consider who you’ll be selling to because this makes a big difference. Record collectors who take their collections seriously will be willing to give you more money than the casual record-lover. 

To summarize, any damage will certainly reduce the value of a vinyl record compared to an undamaged record. However, this doesn’t mean that the record will no longer have any value.

If it is a record that record collectors are looking for, the damage will lower the value slightly but you can probably still get a good price for it. 

Does Playing Scratched Records Damage The Stylus? 

You don’t need to worry about scratched records damaging your stylus. The stylus is made of a very hard and wear-resistant precious stone that is able to withstand contact with uneven record surfaces.

While there are many reasons to avoid damage to your vinyl records, protecting your stylus isn’t one of them. 

Final Thoughts 

It’s very important to learn how to handle vinyl records correctly if you want your record collection to stand the test of time. 

You should never touch the playing surface of a vinyl record, holding it by the edge and central label instead. You must also avoid putting the naked record down on any surfaces or being too rough when lowering the record onto the spindle. 

Remember to store your records somewhere cool and free from excess moisture or humidity. Don’t put records near any bright UV lights or in direct sunlight, and try to separate them from one another with dividers so the pressure doesn’t cause any damage over time. 

Jacob Stable
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