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May 2013 Issue
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If any readers have been following the Michael Feinstein series “The Great American Song Book” on Sky Arts TV they will know that he frequently visits persons that have put together large collections of music on a variety of media such as 78s, 45s, LPs, films and tape. The object is usually just to preserve the music from these sources, often the only ones available. Mostly, the music is being transferred to media such as CD or DVD. In the case of the records, the condition is often poor and the discs need to be cleaned to enable good quality transfers to be made. 

Looking at the cleaning methods recommended to Feinstein by the American collectors, I am appalled. Various cleaning fluids are suggested including Windolene which contains vinegar (acetic acid) and that will attack the surface of both shellac and vinyl. 

Still worse is a method that was demonstrated which I have come across a few times. That is to flood the surface of the disc with water or a cleaning fluid while playing the record. Not only may the liquid attack the record surface but it will disturb the dirt in the grooves to make a fine mud that will then attach itself to the stylus and grind away the groove wall. But, possibly more important is that the liquid will get up into the cartridge body and cause damage there. 

Records should only be cleaned with water and a few drops of washing-up liquid or with a proprietary record cleaning fluid. After cleaning, the record should be rinsed in de-ionised or distilled water and brushed along the grooves with a soft brush. It then should be allowed to dry completely before it is played. There are commercial record cleaner kits that facilitate this process. 

One of the problems in restoring records concerns the repair of the sleeves of American LPs. Such sleeves are constructed of two sheets of card held together by a front paper sheet that is glued to the front card then wrapped on to the back card. Because many LPs did not have paper or polythene inner sleeves, the sharp edge of the record slices through the paper joining the two cards. There is a temptation repair the slit with ordinary self-adhesive tape (e.g. Scotch or Sellotape). The result is that within a short time, the adhesive perishes and turns brown while the tape peels away. Once this happens, the brown residue cannot be removed without extensive damage to the sleeve. The tape to use is the archival variety such as “Magic” or other so-called permanent tape. 


George Hulme 

Old Basing, 



"Windolene contains vinegar (acetic acid) and that will attack the surface

of both shellac and vinyl" warns George Hulme. Don't use it on your records! 




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