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Vinyl records have the power to give a wonderful nostalgic feeling when playing them. To a lot of people, that rich, full sound can’t be beaten by any CD or MP3 file.
With vinyl sales having made a huge comeback in recent years, there are a lot more new owners of record players with a lot of questions to ask!
A lot of long-time record owners don’t even know you’re supposed to clean the needle, so don’t worry if you haven’t either! In this article, we’re going to look at how to properly clean the needle of your record player.
What Is the Needle on a Record Player?
The technical term for the needle on your record player is a ‘stylus’, and it’s the part of the player that slots into the grooves of a vinyl record to read the vibrations and create sound.
The tip of the stylus is often made of diamond or sapphire, so you can probably tell how important it is to keep it clean!
Thankfully, because the stylus tip is made of such a strong material, the needle is super durable and you’ll get plenty of listening time out of it before having to think about replacing it.
Why Do I Need to Clean the Record Needle?
Plenty of vinyl gets criticized for having a slightly crackly sound, and many people just accept that as a part of the player’s charm. Most of the time, what’s actually happening is dust collecting in the grooves of a record and the needle picking it all up.
Because the stylus is so sensitive, even the tiniest amount of dust or dirt can distort the sound and leave your favourite albums sounding lacklustre. There’s nothing worse than a beloved song being ruined by a faulty record player.
Not only that, but if it goes unnoticed over a long period of time, all that dirt and dust can deteriorate the vinyl record itself. With vinyl records being a lot more expensive than they used to be, you’ll definitely want to keep them in good condition.
Method 1: Magic Eraser
The first cleaning method we’ll look at is the magic eraser. If you have a look through some cupboards and closets in your home, there’s a good chance you might have one of these and have forgotten about it.
You don’t want to brush away at the needle with a magic eraser though- that will just damage the stylus and you could make things worse than when you started.
Instead, cut a small piece of the eraser off and place it on your record player, under the needle. Then, gently dab the needle into the eraser and lift it back out.
You should find that most of the dust has been collected in the eraser and you can go back to playing your favorite tunes!
If you don’t have a magic eraser laying around the house, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are a good brand to look for. Alternatively, if you search for a melamine eraser, you’ll find plenty of options to choose from.
Method 2: Using a Brush
Now I know I just said not to brush the needle with a magic eraser, but hear me out.
A store that sells record players will probably have a special brush designed for this job. If you can’t find one, a very soft paint brush will work too. Whatever you do though, don’t grab a toothbrush or Q-tip and start scrubbing away. These materials are too rough for the delicate needle and you could end up damaging it.
Once you’ve found an appropriate brush, you want to gently brush it against the needle, only in one direction (the same direction the record goes). This will do the same job as the magic eraser in getting rid of all the dust that gets caught on the needle so you’ll be able to see just how dirty it was before you started!
Method 3: Cleaning Solution
This method works pretty much the same way as with a magic eraser, but the key is to find the right solution for the job.
You want to find a gel-based cleaning solution rather than a liquid one. Liquid soap can affect the bonds that hold the stylus together, so if you apply it too often, your player might end up falling apart.
The best place to go will be a store that sells records because they have plenty of use for this stuff.
Once you’ve found the right solution, dip the tip of the needle gently into it and lift it back out. It might take a couple of tries to clean it completely, but you’ll be able to see when it’s done.
The great thing about using cleaning solutions is that it will get rid of all the dust that builds up on the needle and it will help to remove any gunk build-up that can come from some old vinyls.
How Often Should I Clean My Record Needle?
Thankfully, cleaning the needle isn’t something you’ll have to worry about doing too often.
If you’re playing vinyl records regularly, you’ll want to clean your needle at least once per week (even more frequently if you’re playing them every day).
Like I said though, this isn’t something you have to worry too much about. If you notice your records sounding a bit crackly or distorted, that’s a good sign to give the needle a quick clean.
Of course, eventually you might have to replace the needle if it gets worn down too much. You should be able to get at least 500 hours of playing time from a standard needle, probably even more from a high-end model.
Because it only takes a few seconds to perform any of the methods we’ve looked at in this article, you shouldn’t have any issues with keeping your stylus clean.
Now that you’ve learned all about how to keep your record needle clean and your vinyls playing smoothly, relax and enjoy the music!