Turntable cleaning and how to clean a record player stylus

Those of us who love to collect vinyl records aren't just doing it for the aesthetic, but the sound quality as well. To get the most out of your collection, you're going to need to maintain and regularly clean not only your turntable but the stylus as well.

Keep your record player clean to maintain that sound quality.
Keep your record player clean to maintain that sound quality.  © Unsplash/Adrian Korte

If you've been spending your hard-earned dough on vinyl records, you're going to want to get the best sound out of them as possible. Getting that crisp, full sound isn't just about having great equipment, but about keeping your record player and stylus as clean as can be.

It's not hard to maintain your player, but it does require a little bit of time and dedication. You also need to be careful, because the stylus is particularly delicate, and can be easily ruined. If you take care and follow our instructions closely, you'll be spinning those records in no time at all!

In this guide, TAG24 will show you the best turntable cleaning methods, how you can clean your record player needle, and how to maintain that sound.

Why should I clean my record player and stylus?

If you're a fan of vinyl records, you've probably bought as many as your salary can afford. That could be tens, hundreds, or even thousands of these expensive and beautifully-cased disks, all sitting there ready to be played. But, no matter how you clean the records themselves, it will all be futile if you don't clean and maintain your turntable and needle.

To get the most out of your favorite albums, you will need to maintain every single aspect of your setup. From the records themselves, to the stylus, to the record player, everything needs to be kept in pristine condition. Most important in this maintenance process, though, is cleanliness.

Make sure to keep your record player and stylus clean to get the most out of the music you listen to. With a clean and well-maintained setup, those tunes will fly high.

How often to clean a turntable and needle

Your record player and stylus should be cleaned at least once a month, and more often if you use it every day. In between cleans, you should make sure to keep the dust cover closed on the turntable (preferably also whilst records are playing, if possible) and should clean your vinyl records before each spin.

Make sure to keep your record player nice and clean.
Make sure to keep your record player nice and clean.

Getting the right record player cleaner

You will need a variety of equipment to effectively clean your vinyl player. These items expand beyond cleaning sprays, and include a variety of different devices that can be used to remove dust and maintain the player without damaging any of the sensitive equipment.

Important equipment that you will need to clean your record player and stylus include the following:

  • A dedicated stylus cleaning brush, purchased from a record store
  • Or: A very soft paintbrush that has never been used before
  • Lint-free microfiber cloths (at least three or four)
  • Record cleaner purchased directly at the record shop
  • Or: Rubbing alcohol
  • Optional: Compressed air, furniture polish

Make sure that you only use a lint-free microfiber cloth so that you don't spread dust whilst cleaning, avoid using things like tissues, and purchase a cleaning agent specifically designed for this purpose.

How to clean a turntable

There are a couple of extremely important steps to take when cleaning a record player. The most important aspect is keeping both your vinyl records and your stylus as clean as possible. We'll cover the record player needle in the next section, so let's focus on the turntable itself for now.

Here's a quick-and-easy way to clean the record player itself:

Step 1: Wipe down all surfaces of the record player with a dusting cloth to get them nice and dust-free before you proceed with a more thorough clean.

Step 2: Dampen another lint-free microfiber cloth with a very small amount of rubbing alcohol or record cleaner, and wipe down the surface of the turntable itself. Do this by starting in the center and wiping outwards in a circle.

Step 3: Wipe off any remaining moisture and then proceed to carefully scrub all the non-essential surfaces and buttons with the same cloth.

Step 4: Dust and clean the record player's dust cover, to make sure that it is not shedding dust on the vinyls.

(Optional) Step 5: Use compressed air to get rid of any particularly pesky dust particles that may be stuck in hinges, grooves, or buttons.

(Optional) Step 6: Use the furniture polish on any wooden surfaces your record player might have, to make it nice and pretty!

Remember to be very careful with the turntable itself, as it is quite delicate. Don't use too much rubbing alcohol / record cleaner, just a tiny bit on the cloth, as too much can damage many of the record player's components.

Fun fact: We often use the terms "record player" and "turntable" interchangeably, but that's actually incorrect. The entire device is the "record player" and the "turntable" is simply the circular plate in the center of the player which spins the record.

How to clean a needle on a record player

Cleaning your record player's stylus is a difficult and delicate process which could easily end with a broken or damaged device. As a result, you must use a dedicated stylus brush, which you can pick up from most record stores. You can also use a soft paintbrush as a last resort, but we do recommend getting an actual stylus brush from a record shop.

We will explain how to use the brush in the next section. But first, here are a few things that you need to look out for when cleaning the stylus:

  • Make sure to always hold onto the needle firmly so that you don't damage it during cleaning.
  • Never use your fingers to clean the stylus, this can damage the needle and also leave oils from your hands on it.
  • Do not blow on the stylus, as this will not help clean it.
  • After cleaning, make sure to keep the hood of the dust cover down at all times and clean all of your records so that they don't dirty up the stylus again.

Using the stylus cleaning brush

Using the stylus brush is actually pretty easy, but there are a few things to make sure you never do. They are delicate, and even if they are only bent a little bit, they will break. Always wipe from front to back and never side to side, and don't put too much rubbing alcohol or cleaner on the brush.

Here's how to clean the record player needle with the stylus brush:

Step 1: Slightly dampen the stylus with a tiny amount of rubbing alcohol or record cleaner so that it is damp, but not wet.

Step 2: Hold the stylus firmly so that it won't move when clean, up far enough to get the brush on to the bottom of the needle.

Step 3: Apply the brush, lightly wiping it from back to front, but never from side to side or front to back. Do not allow it to make contact with the turntable during this time as you could bend the needle. When wiping the needle itself, be extremely careful.

The most important thing about cleaning the record needle and the stylus is to be super precise and delicate with it. Remember, whilst you can replace a broken stylus, they are expensive and it's better to not have to.

Be careful cleaning a turntable stylus with alcohol

No matter how old your record player is, maintaining it is crucial.
No matter how old your record player is, maintaining it is crucial.  © Unsplash/The Retro Store

Rubbing alcohol is essential for getting a good clean on your turntable, as well as various other components of your gorgeous record player. That being said, it's also quite dangerous if overused. Alcohol can be damaging, especially to plastic, and should therefore only be used in very small quantities.

When cleaning your stylus, though, it is important to be extra careful. It is good to slightly dampen the bristles of your stylus brush with rubbing alcohol, but only very slightly.

The best way to use rubbing alcohol in the process of cleaning your vinyl record player is to add a dab of it onto the microfiber cloth you are using to wipe down the machine itself. Don't use it on your stylus if you can avoid it, and don't apply it directly to the record player!

Maintain your turntable, stylus, and records

In the end, keeping your turntable and stylus clean is the best way to maintain the quality of the sound that it produces. Of course, you also need to keep the records clean. But if your equipment isn't well maintained, then it's unlikely you will be able to experience the full potential of their sound.

Regular cleaning is the best way to maintain your record player, stylus, and records. Combine this with regular check-ups at your local vinyl store to make sure that you're able to blast your favorite records at full volume!

Cover photo: Unsplash/Adrian Korte

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