How To Deep Clean Your Vinyl Records With Wood Glue… And Ten Things That You Shouldn’t Use To Clean Your LPs 

Cleaning a record with wood glue

How To Deep Clean Your Vinyl Records With Wood Glue…

…And Ten Things That You Shouldn’t Use To Clean Your LPs

There are a number of ways to clean and maintain your record collection in pristine condition. An occasional wipe with vinyl friendly cleaning solution (I use “Into The Groove”) using a microfibre cloth (£1 for two from Aldi) is generally sufficient. Keeping the LPs in good inner sleeves is a good way to ensure they stay cleaner than Mother Theresa’s driving licence. But what about those really grotty records? You know, the ones that are dirtier than the 1966 Uruguayan World Cup squad and grimier than Dizzee Rascal running a Tough Mudder?

When I heard about a method for cleaning vinyl using wood glue I was rather sceptical. It doesn’t intuitively sound like a good idea in the same way that leaving King Herod in charge of the babysitting doesn’t intuitively sound like a good idea.

In fact, I was struggling to think of things that might be less appropriate.

I say that, I actually found ten things that are less appropriate than wood glue. They are:

  1. The Dishwasher
  2. Toothpaste (good for teeth, less good for vinyl).
  3. Wire wool
  4. The iron
  5. The fuel soaked cotton bud thing that Turkish barbers use to burn away ear hair.
  6. The washing machine, even on a delicate setting.
  7. Inexpensive aftershave (can’t speak for the expensive stuff – I don’t have any)
  8. Nail polish remover
  9. Your Dyson hand held vacuum cleaner
  10. Cillit Bang: “Bang! And your record is gone!”

But when I found a copy of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s second LP upon which it appeared the previous owner had apparently spilled Um Bongo or some other similar sugary drink, and then attempted to clean up the mess using one of the methods listed above, I knew there was little to lose, and I thought I would (metaphorically) roll my sleeves up, and give it a go.

Sadly the record’s lacquer had already been damaged beyond repair, so the results were inconclusive. I therefore waited for another, less damaged LP to try. This time, the result was noticeably improved. The glue seeped into every pore and groove, lifting all the dirt embedded within. There was a noticeable improvement and less crackle. I have kept a couple of photos from the process to show you what happened. The method is simple….

A record, yesterday

1. Lay the LP flat on a piece of card.

2.  Squeeze wood glue over the vinyl and use another piece of card to smooth it around so it covers the whole of the grooves.  Don’t leave any gaps. Avoid the label in the middle. You don’t need to cover the run off groove in glue.

Some people suggest applying the glue is easier to do if you have the LP on a spinning turntable, but trust me: applying glue to moving objects is not the easy option unless you like to live dangerously, or scrape globs of glue from expensive turntables. If there’s a design fault with felt mats, it’s their lack of adaptability when it comes to having glue scraped off them without leaving a snail-like trail.

Cleaning a record with wood glue

Cover the record in wood glue

3. Wait overnight for the glue to dry. Try to keep the record away from your cat at this stage. As a general rule of thumb, records become more difficult to play when livestock are attached to them.

overnight, the wood glue dries, and can be peeled off

4. As it dries, the glue becomes transparent. Once dry, you can lift the film of glue from the LP leaving the pristine, clean vinyl…

That’s about it. It’s cheaper than buying an expensive vacuum record cleaner (a device that uses liquid to clean the LP and then vacuums off the dirty fluid instantly), and a useful way to improve the quality of the dodgier end of your record collection.

Have you tried this method? Or any of the less advisable methods? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on what has worked for you, and if you have any other strange methods to clean up your vinyl…?



Categories: Music

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23 replies

  1. I have used the pva method and it works on really dirty records, just make sure you apply it quite liberally as too thin a covering and you will struggle to peel it off after it dries.
    Another good method that’s cheap as chips is a paint pad £3 from a diy store, spray with record cleaner and in a circular motion follow the grooves of the record round 5 to 10 times each side. The ultra fine bristles get in the grooves and take out a remarkably fair amount of dust and debris then rinse with de ionised water and clean with a microfiber cloth. The difference in sound quality is noticeable afterwards.
    Another great article , keep up the good work.

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  2. I’d be too lazy to bother…but what a brilliant idea.

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  3. I once got the tip from a man selling records to clean them with Glassex (as it is called in the Netherlands), which is normally used to clean windows. Until now it works perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So it does work! I’ve been waiting for this post ever since you stuck (sorry) a picture of your glue soaked platter on twitter.

    The only method I’ve tried beyond the anti-static brush is a solution of extremely mild soapy water and a microfibre cloth. It did make a positive difference to my copies of Band on The Run and Aladdin Sane by removing greasy fingerprints and some of the dust and grime but I’ve always fancied a go at the wood glue method. Just not on those records. You’ve given me confidence to try it out.

    I now look forward to your companion piece on de-warping as I have a copy of Hunky Dory that is far from that. You have written it, haven’t you?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, the warping question is a good one. Not sure there’s an easy answer, but will do some digging / experiments at some point I am sure. I do have a warped record, but not sure I want to experiment on it – perhaps a trip to the charity shop to find some experimental “Guinea pigs” will be necessary…

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      • I have used the following method for warped vinyl to some success…Wait until a nice sunny day (the tricky bit) then put the warped album between two sheets of glass with a weight on top and leave it out in the sun…but not too much…you don’t want liquid vinyl! keep checking from time to time and you will find the LP has softened and straightened…worth a try …Good luck Steve

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  5. I’ve done this with a copy of the Joshua Tree I picked up for a £1. Figured “what the hey” … worked a treat, too. Haven’t done it to any others yet, but dare say I will.

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  6. I have used wood glue a couple of times and it does indeed work a treat. Unfortunately I have to report that cheap aftershave is a disaster when used to shift sticker glue from lp sleeves. A couple of years ago I managed to get hold of a very early mono pressing of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper. Sadly there were the remains of several stickers stuck to the front cover. I had read that aftershave would remove the stickers, which it indeed did. There was still some glue residue on the sleeve so I attempted to remove it with a cotton cloth and copious amounts of Old Spice (a present from my aunt I hasten to add). The results were immediate and horrifying. The aftershave removed a lot of the ink in the image so now the sleeve looks sun bleached and even worse smells like my uncle.

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  7. I just make my own solution of equal parts 99% isopropyl alcohol* (the 70% won’t cut it) and water. I have it in a plant-spraying bottle from the dollar store. I just dampen a clean microfiber and rub round the grooves. Really grotty records might take two go-rounds, but it’s dead simple and works a trick.

    * Here in Canada, they keep the 99% behind the counter at the pharmacy, because apparently it can be an ingredient for making meth [but not the 70%, which is out on the shelves free for small children to pick it up, unscrew the cap and drink it? Apparently not.] Who knew? Meth-heads! So when I asked for it, the pharmacist basically interviewed me as to my intentions with the stuff. She was quite serious. When I told her my intentions, she just laughed and handed it over (and thanked me for the LP cleaning tip).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That is just scary, glad you tried it on an old record. When will they develop a method to clean mp3s?

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  9. Wood glue is a great way of getting a REALLY dirty record clean – as the article suggests, it settles in deep and you’re basically peeling all the muck out, when you remove the plastic skim the following morning.

    Actually, that’s not 100% true – I have found the very odd charity shop/eBay find needed a second go, but it’s extremely rare to need it.

    It’s also worth knowing that glue won’t remove scratches, innergroove distortion or solve the perennial problem of apparently-cheapo finds – the dreaded lock groove; beyond sticking a penny on your turntable arm, there still seems no easy way of groove repair.

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  10. I’m a woodworker and use titebond 2 and 3 all the time. I’ve used it to clean records too. Wood glue will not bond to certain materials as is part and parcel to this cleaning practice, this is what makes the method so effective. There is zero residual left behind once dried. The glue wants to form a bond and does with itself and porous fibers that contain moisture- wood. There are other glues and resins that will bond with non porous dry surfaces. When two pieces of wood are bound by wood glue, that joint will be stronger than the wood fibers. The exception being end grain.
    Wood glue in it’s liquid state is water soluble so use your finger to spread the glue and really work it into the grooves thick. You want a puddle of glue for the purpose of bonding to itself. If you do not get the glue into all the nooks of the grooves you may leave particles behind. Be aggressive and work quickly especially if the weather is hot.
    Leave it to dry overnight to a uniform film then peal.
    More glue is better than less!! It has to bond with itself.

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