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How to keep your CDs and vinyl in top condition

Eradicate dust, dirt and fingerprints and avoid static on your records and CDs with these recommended products from BBC Music Magazine's audio expert Chris Haslam

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As a child of the 1970s and ’80s I grew up in a house full of records, and then CDs, and was taught how to handle vinyl carefully – a lesson I’ve passed on with some success to my own daughter. Anyone with a record collection will know the agony caused by a careless scratch, so it’s worth remembering how to keep your music in pristine condition.

With vinyl, storage is key, and you should keep them filed in their inner and outer sleeves in an upright position out of direct sunlight. Records stacked flat will warp. Avoid fingerprints at all costs, because your skin’s natural oils will be a magnet for dust and hamper sound quality in an instant.

Jon Jeary, from cartridge manufacturer Goldring, has a few tips: ‘It’s imperative that dust and debris are removed from the grooves before each playing. The pressure from the stylus can fuse the dust into the plastic, ruining fidelity. Any proprietary cleaning cloth can be used, but a carbon fibre brush is the most effective as it reduces static, which attracts dust.’

Anti-static guns and cork mats can also help tackle static, but for a deep clean you’ll need record cleaning fluid and two microfibre cloths: one for washing, one for drying.

If you’ve amassed a large collection, a record cleaning machine (such as the Record Washer System Mk II) will save effort. This model gives both sides a deep clean using a grease-busting fluid. Some more expensive cleaners incorporate vacuums to dry after the cleaning solution has been applied.

Amazingly, wood glue (PVA) is an effective deep cleaner. Spread it thinly over the grooves, and once dry, it peels away taking any stubborn dirt with it. I tried it on a tatty copy of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, and while scratches still skipped, surface noise was significantly reduced.

Vinyl requires the most attention, but CDs also benefit from an occasional clean to remove fingerprints and grease. Don’t wipe the disc in a circular motion, but instead clean in straight lines from the inside out.

Game.co.uk has a CD repair service (£2.99 each, three for £5) that uses a machine to remove a 1,000th of a millimetre from the surface, creating a like-new finish. You can buy these machines at totaldiscrepair.com, although they cost from £1,000.

A less expensive solution, although I’ve not tested it, is to wipe your CD with plain white enamel toothpaste to buff out scratches. Wash, dry and then rub the toothpaste in a straight motion from the centre out to the edges. Let it dry completely, then wash it off.

The best deep cleaning system for vinyl

Pro-Ject VC-S2 Vinyl Record Cleaning System £429

It’s big and the vacuum suction is noisy, but this record cleaning machine does magical things to old vinyl. It won’t remove scratches but it will make most records sound better in seconds.

View our reviews of other Pro-Ject products here

The best anti-static gun for vinyl

Milty Zerostat 3 £59.95

Anti-static guns have been around for decades, but if you struggle with dust this could be a game changer. Just point, press the trigger and the combination of positive and negative ions will
neutralise your record.

The best cleaning formula for vinyl

Audio Technica Cartridge Stylus Cleaner £11.99

This cleaning formula dissolves dust and dirt that can prevent your stylus from performing properly. It comes with a small applicator brush.

View our reviews of other Audio Technica products here

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