To remove paint from vinyl records you can try the following four methods:
We always have vinyl records that have been through it all with us – friendships, break-ups, shifting houses, moving cities, and that one summer where we got into that weird hyper-specific genre of music that we don’t talk about. With all these big changes, of course, our records take some damage. Whether it’s from painting the walls of your dream apartment or from a big art project, we’ve all gotten paint flecks on our favorite record.
While old, broken records can make great canvases, paint flecked records don’t make for great listening experiences. The layers of paint damage the grooves and affect the higher frequencies, completely changing the sound. Oil, acrylic, and even thinner paints can damage not just the vinyl but also the needle of your prized vinyl player. Since replacement needles are expensive, it’s best to clean up that paint before any damage is done.
Keep in mind that the methods depend on the kind of paint that has damaged your record. Lacquer based paints, for example, generally lead to permanent damage and can’t be removed. If your LP is a garage sale find and you’re not sure what method to use, try each one – you might just find one that works.
So if you’re looking to save discs that were damaged from your latest DIY home improvement project, read on!
Table of Contents
Method 1: The Toothpick
Before trying anything else, it’s best to go back to basics. This is the easiest method and requires just one tool – a handy toothpick (or two). Try scraping off the paint with the pointy end of the toothpick. If the paint is recent and thin, it may come off fairly easily.
Method 2: Water and Dishwashing Liquid
If the toothpick didn’t work or there’s still paint flecks left, head from the dining room to the kitchen.
- Take a damp, soft cloth (like an old cotton t-shirt) and run it around the record a few times. Make sure you don’t scrub too hard and go along the lines of the grooves.
- If this doesn’t work, make a bath of warm water and a little bit of dishwashing liquid. Soak the record in this for 15-20 minutes. Don’t let the label get wet. Then, take a soft cloth and wipe it along the paint flecks, making sure to go along the lines of the grooves in the record.
- Do not use the CD method (wiping from center to edge) at any point.
Method 3: Distilled Water and Rubbing Alcohol
If simple solutions don’t work, it’s time to try something that takes a little more elbow grease.
- Make a solution of 0.5% isopropyl alcohol to 99.5% distilled water in a spray bottle or in a bath. If you’re worried about the effect of alcohol on vinyl check out this article I wrote about it.
- Spray it onto the record (avoiding the label) and let it sit for 30-60 seconds.
- Take a soft cotton cloth and wipe gently along the grooves of the record.
- Alternatively, you can also soak a sponge in this solution overnight and use it to wipe around the record.
Method 4: Solvents
It’s time to pull out the big guns! Turpentine, mineral spirits, and naptha are regularly used to remove paint outside of the world of records. However, since they’re stronger chemicals, proceed with caution.
- It’s best to start with the weakest solvent – in this case, turpentine. Dab a little on a different record you can afford to damage as a test run before using it on the record you’re trying to save. You need to ensure the brand you’re using doesn’t damage the vinyl.
- Dab a little turpentine onto a stiff-bristled paintbrush and run it along the record with rapid swipes.
- If there is too much paint, you can rub lightly with a soft cloth – but be careful!
- Move slowly and gently.
- If possible, use a magnifying glass and a bright light to help you see whether the paint is being lifted. This will also allow you to see specks that might be left behind.
- After you’re done cleaning the paint off, use an alcohol-based solvent to remove all traces of turpentine from the LP.
- If turpentine doesn’t do the job, you can try mineral spirits, then naptha. Make sure you clean with the alcohol-based solvent between each try.
- As with the turpentine, test the mineral spirits and naptha on a record you don’t mind damaging.
- None of the solvents should be left on the vinyl for long periods of time. Clean them thoroughly as soon you’re done taking the paint off.
Note: Paint thinner and acetone (nail polish remover) are popularly used solvents, but should be avoided. They’ll definitely get the paint off, but you’ll also burn your vinyl in the process. It’s a guaranteed way to permanently damage your record.
There you have it – go ahead and get that paint off your record, and don’t forget to store it properly with a sleeve and jacket to make sure it doesn’t happen again! If you liked this article then check out these related articles: