Recently I got into the habit of cleaning every single vinyl record that I buy with a simple trick – wood glue. I often by records on the local flea market, and in most cases, there’s absolutely no way that I’m putting those dirty, nasty records on my turntable.
The process is, to be honest, pretty simple, but for those how are afraid to do it, and have never done it before, I decided to share what I learned, and steps that I follow in order to ensure everything goes well.
What wood glue?
You’ll need basically any wood glue – I’ve used Titebond Original multiple times, but I usually go for cheaper off-brand quick-drying wood glues that my local store has in stock.
In short – don’t worry about it too much. Go for quick drying type if you can, it will shorten the process, but anything else will work just fine too.
I usually have a piece of cardboard or folded paper which I use to spread the wood glue evenly over the record. Whatever you use, make sure it’s softer than vinyl, or else it will damage the surface.
Aside from that, prepare a surface that you’ll place the vinyl record on. I usually use a spare vinyl record sleeve (similar to the one you can get here – Vinyl Record Outer Sleeves, 12″ LP – Crystal Clear). This prevents me from having to worry whether I spill wood glue anywhere and whether I scratch the bottom surface of the record.
Starting the Process
Place the Record on the prepared surface. Make sure that this is a place where you can leave the record overnight (ideally for 24 hours), and you won’t have to move it around. Also, it would be preferable if the surface is perfectly flat.
I usually start off by spreading the glue in a zig-zag pattern. Keep in mind at this point that you can always add more later, so don’t overdo it. Just take it bit by bit.
After you’ve done that, grab a piece of cardboard or paper, and start spreading the glue evenly across the record.
A common mistake here that people make is not spreading the wood glue correctly. So, make sure to spread the glue all the way to the edge, and very close to the paper label in the middle (obviously, avoid getting glue on the paper). But more importantly, make sure you leave clean edges – this will make removing the glue so much easier later on!
Also, look closely where the grooves end near the center and make sure to cover them all with glue. Go all the way to the middle until you reach the smooth part.
And we’re basically done at this point. Make sure you’ve covered the whole surface – no dry spots, and leave the record sitting until the wood glue becomes transparent and hard to the touch (I recommend waiting 24 hours just to be sure).
Removing the Wood Glue
Okay, so we waited for around 24 hours, and now we’re ready to remove the hardened glue. I usually start things off by going around the outer edge and trying to carefully raise the film with my fingernail.
When I’ve done that – it’s basically just pulling the whole thing off in one smooth motion. If you left a clean edge on both the outer and the inner end while applying the glue, everything should come off in one piece, leaving no residue behind.
And this is basically it. At this point, I usually repeat the process and to the B side, and then place the vinyl in a brand new sleeve.
Before – After Comparison
I find that the wood glue method removes dust and dirt completely (at least visually) but occasionally leaves fingerprint marks – so it’s not always perfect. In my case, however, I was left with an almost perfectly clean record.
As a conclusion – to me personally, the method is great for records that I buy on cheap. These are usually neglected and dirty, and ones that I wouldn’t put on my turntable without cleaning them prior.
In this case, I bought a Ray Charles “25th Anniversary In Show Business Salute To Ray Charles” 2-vinyl set for around $3, spent maybe $2 on wood glue, and I now have two (almost) perfectly clean records to enjoy.