How to Clean Moldy Records
Or Rather, How I Cleaned Moldy Records
And, while its true that there are literally a thousand blogs (and just as many opinions) on how to clean mold from your vinyl, they say that the worst vice is advice… So this is more of a “How I Did It” article than a “How To.” Hope you find some helpful tips here!
From Last Week’s Episode…
Water had accumulated on the floor of my record storage space and the water damage that followed was very bad news for the one box of unsorted records that had been sitting directly on the floor. Once the discovery had been made and the problem corrected, the issue of clean-up remained.
Both the records and the labels themselves had mold damage and needed to be cleaned. And, to be fair it wasn’t just the mold. This was a box of records I’d literally bought from the back of an old DJs van. The dirt, scratches, fingerprints and general nastiness of the records also needed attention. Even without the mold, these records would still be a trainwreck. However, vintage hip hop like Maestro Fresh West, early Fugees and even some House of Pain were worth trying to save.
Dealing with mold is no joke and a big part of this project involved the preparation of the space to clean the moldy records… safely. While it would have been preferable to clean the records outdoors, this stormy late October day meant that indoor cleaning would have to do.
Using a mask, gloves and lots of clothes were part of the key to reducing exposure.
Preparing for Battle
The health effects of mold are well-documented and care must be taken to limit the exposure to mold both directly and to stop it from getting it into the house so, I prepared the following items:
- Latex gloves
- Garbage bags (to cover the table and immediate area)
- Distilled water
- Isopropyl alcohol
- New micro-fibre cloths (lots)
- Air purifier
- Record cleaning system
- Patience and “can do” attitude
Happily, this Oreck XL Professional Air Conditioner was available to reduce environmental mold.
Had an air purifier on hand to pull escaping mold from the air.
I also had the good fortune two record cleaning systems to choose from but didn’t have any real experience with either. First, we have the Spin Clean Record Washer, shown here, still in the box. (That’s not the actual price I paid). While I’m sure it’s great for general maintenance and dusting, it didn’t feel like the kind of machine that could deal with the mess ahead.
The Spin Clean Record Washer
So, I also had a new Kirmuss Ultrasonic Vinyl Restoration System. I had only seen it used once on one record and it struck me that the process was quite involved, requiring time and focus. However, given the severity of the record’s condition it seemed better to go in with a sledgehammer than a feather.
The Pre-wash: I made a solution of a isopropyl alcohol, to 20x distilled water and a couple of drops of dishwasher rinsing aid, and using a micro-fibre cloth, I cleaned around the grooves. Also wiped the labels very quickly and dried them immediately afterwards. With mask, gloves and the air purifier on, this step was meant to prepare the records for the actual cleaning process.
Using the Kirmuss systems I carefully cleaned records from the stack. Although several cycles were required, they eventually came out looking excellent. The beauty of the Kirmuss system is that it can clean 2 lps, a 45 and a 78, all at the same time.
The Kirmuss at work
Full confession, I was only able to clean and restore 10 albums in this session before I ran out of time for the night, but it was a very worthwhile process. It was easy to see the difference that these albums has been not just cleaned but restored as much as they could be to their former glory.
Restored albums in fresh sleeves
I did the prewash wash and a distilled water rinse for the rest of the affected records to at least reduce the damage of the mold. Apparently mold can cause pitting in the grooves as though the mold is eating the vinyl. Although I plan to process these in bunches over the next couple of weeks, the more likely outcome will be to take them to a trusted Audio Desk cleaner and just get em’ done.
Bottom line: Moldy records can be saved. It takes a lot of fuss and muss, but in the end, they can be restored. Saving the covers is also a thing and may be the subject of another post in the near future. Until then…. Drop that needle!
Click HERE for information on getting your records cleaned and restored professionally using the Audio Desk Pro Systeme by Gläss.