First, let's try to ask a question:
When was the last time you cleaned the needles on your record player?
If your answer was "hahahaha.. wut", you are not alone!
I've been collecting vinyl records since college, and I don't think I've ever thought about cleaning my stylus correctly, let alone trying it out.
However, that's not great. Turntable stylus care has proven to be one of the most straightforward and essential steps in building a relationship with your health records. If you don't want the "squeaky" sound around your ears, take two deep breaths and follow this simple guide to a brighter vinyl future.
This article discusses how to clean and maintain your turntable stylus, so let's get started
What is a turntable stylus?
The turntable's stylus is actually part of the cartridge. The stylus is the needle that rests against the record. Ideally, a stylus is a cone-shaped component made from diamond, which is the hardest natural material on Earth. Besides diamonds, sapphires are also commonly used for record needles. The stylus is connected to the tonearm by a flexible strip of metal.
What happens if I don’t clean it?
As the records play, the stylus catches all that dust and dirt settled on your old LP.
Are your yi-, are your yi-, are your zhi-, are your records skipping? Could be a dirty needle! Does it sound like a dusty vinyl mess? Maybe it is! A quick, 20-second clean of that stylus could turn your muckiest, scratchiest sounding LP into a golden chorus. (But hey, if the vinyl is actually scratched, that’s another story).
Even more importantly, a dust-laden, dirty needle dragging across your record could lead to further degradation of the vinyl itself. No one wants to ignorantly damage their precious, carefully-curated collection.
How do I clean the stylus?
The good news is that cleaning your stylus is quick, easy, painless, and very cheap.
#1 Needle or stylus brush:
Any time you buy a cartridge or stylus, it probably comes with a little needle or stylus brush. If you don’t have a brush handy, there are lots of them on the market, usually for $10 or less. Look online or ask your local record shop clerk. They’ve got little, round heads and short, soft bristles.
Big tip: Never, ever, for any reason whatsoever, rub your needle sideways. Always brush from front to back, mimicking the movement of a record underneath. Brushing your needle side-to-side will damage the tip or break the damn thing clean off. Then you need a new stylus, and that was opposite your original goal.
#2 Magic Eraser:
Before heading to the record store or searching online, look underneath your kitchen sink. If you’ve got Magic Eraser in your broom closet, you’ve got a perfectly-good needle cleaner. Do not brush the Magic Eraser against your needle. The abrasive surface is good for getting crayons off the wall but not so good for your hand. Instead, cut a small square from the eraser, place it on your turntable just below the stylus, and gently (very gently) drop your needle on the eraser. Lift the hand back up, and you’ll find the eraser snagged some of that dust, leaving a small mark. Move the eraser to a smidge and continue the process until no residue is left.
#3 Dust Stylus Cleaner:
If the Magic Eraser feels a little scary, you can invest in an ultra-soft gel product. It works the same way: you drop your needle gently onto the gel pad two or three times; you can clean the place by running it under warm water, which means you’ll get a lot of use from the investment.
#4 Cleaning Kits:
A trusted name in the turntable game is a polyurethane gel pad that runs about $35 and is used the same way you would use the gel pad. Make sure you don’t force the needle down or leave it on the gel pad too long, or you might pick up small gel debris.
There’s also an alcohol/ethanol-based liquid cleaner that promises a “more thorough cleaning” be sure you brush from back to front, as with any needle brush, and note that liquid spillage from the bottle onto the vinyl can damage the record.
Angels Horn® recommends removing the stylus before cleaning to be safe.
But for real, how often is cleaning necessary?
Well, it only takes a few seconds, so you might as well leave the cleaning tool of your choice right next to the player and do a little brush between LPs or dance with the gel pad right before you kick off a long night of spins.
If a daily clean seems unrealistic (going 0 to 100 real quick), we recommend refreshing your tip at least once a week. If you treat your stylus nicely, it’ll last for 1,000 or maybe even 2,000 hours. What’s 20 seconds of your life against 2,000 hours of jams? Time and money well spent.
Bring music to life.AngelsHorn Mission