If you want to remove the smell from vinyl records you can apply the following methods:
Ever taken your favorite Radiohead LP out of its cover and realized that you left it in there just a little too long? We’ve all been there. Whether you bought a record that smells slightly musty or accidentally left yours in the basement, we’ve got you covered.
As a collector, you’re often searching for older, limited-edition records, and record stores don’t always store them properly. Vinyl records, like books, begin to get smelly and moldy if left in dark, damp places. It’s easy to buy a record and hope that the smell goes away with time.
However, this usually isn’t the case – if you don’t clean and store the record, it’s likely it’ll start growing moldy and become completely unusable! If you think your latest record smells off, make sure you store it away from the rest of your collection until you get a chance to clean it – you don’t want the smell the spread.
Obviously, it’s important to know how to remove the smell from vinyl records. Here are a few ways to get the job done:
Table of Contents
Method 1 – Replace The Sleeves and Jackets
This is the easiest method and needs very little effort. If the smell is limited to the sleeve, jacket or cover of your record, just buy a generic replacement and slip it onto your LP. Get a permanent marker to write the name down (or make your own designs) and you’re good to go!
However, as collectors, we often don’t want to lose out on the original cover artwork, jacket or sleeve. If that’s the case for you, you can try one of these other methods.
Method 2 – Vacuum Cleaner
If you think the smell is really bad, you can try using a handy household appliance – your vacuum cleaner!
- Use the upholstery brush on your vacuum cleaner to gently clean the jacket and sleeve. Make sure you use the lowest setting.
- Make sure your vacuum has a filter – if the LP has mold spores on it, you don’t want them in the house.
- If possible, do this outside any living areas, and set up a vinyl cleaning station like this one.
- Follow the steps in Method 4 to air out your jacket and sleeve, and to wash the LP.
Method 3 – Spray, Dry or Wipe
You can use things lying around the house or specialized cleaners to remove the smell from your vinyl.
- If you don’t want to do anything too drastic, take a few dryer sheets and slip them into the sleeve. These can absorb moisture and smells.
- If the smell is persistent, try spraying the sleeve and jacket with Febreze or another air freshener. Do this once a week until the smell fades.
- If you’re willing to take a little risk, dilute some Clorox or disinfectant of your choice with equal parts water. Dip a gentle sponge into it and wipe down the jacket and sleeve, then put them out to dry. Don’t use soap on the coverings!
- You can also use special disinfectants like Conccobium that are made for mold growth. However, these aren’t all safe for vinyl – make sure you do your research before using it on a record.
- You can combine any of the above with Method 4.
Method 4 – Air It Out
This method works best if your record isn’t showing any sign of mold damage yet. It’s best to do this during spring or summer.
Sleeve and Jackets
- Remove the record from the sleeve and the jacket, and set it aside.
- Find a place where you can open a window and allow lots of airflow around the jacket. Make sure the space is dry and warm.
- Curve a business card (or any card with thick paper) and curve it into a ‘U’ shape. Use it to prop the jacket open and leave it there.
- Take the sleeve and any inserts and keep them in the same place with some space between them.
- After a week, take the jacket, sleeve and inserts and lay them out in the sun for an hour or so.
- Take the LP and run it under water in the sink.
- Squeeze a drop of fragrant dish soap or detergent and rub it over the disc with a gentle cloth or sponge (don’t use anything too rough or you might damage the vinyl).
- Run it under water again to clean it and wipe it with a second dry cloth.
- Leave it to air in a warm, dry place where there’s lots of airflow.
- Do NOT keep your record out in the sun. This will damage it!
Now just slip your fresh smelling record back into its refurbished sleeve and jacket.
Method 5 – Clean It Up
If nothing else works, a full clean up might be required. A vinyl cleaning kit (easily available online) can do the job. Wood glue is also sometimes used by collectors to lift mold from records.
- Grab a bottle of wood glue and spread in thin lines on the record, from the outer edge to the inner edge. You can do this as it spins on the turntable, or on a regular table.
- Take a piece of cardboard or a business card and use it to spread the glue evenly across the record.
- Leave it to dry for 24 hours or until it forms a thin, translucent film.
- Grab the glue on the outer edge and peel it off slowly.
Once your records are clean and smelling as fresh as the day they were pressed, make sure to take precautions against mold, musty smells and damage.
- If you buy records and they smell musty, make sure you store them separately from the rest of your collection. Once they’re cleaned using one of the above methods, you can add them to the rest.
- Wash your hands before handling any records! The sweat and dirt on your palms and fingers can lead to fungal growth on records and sleeves.
- Use dividers to separate your records after cleaning. This will make sure that any mold growing on one record doesn’t spread to another. Ideally, use plastic liners for each record and each sleeve.
- Make sure there’s plenty of air circulation. Keep your records spaced out and give them room to breathe!
- Keep your collection in a warm place at room temperature or below if possible. The optimal temperature is between 15 to 25 °C (59 to 77 °F). Don’t keep it near a radiator or heating vent.
- To prevent mold, make sure your records are in a dry place. It doesn’t have to be the Sahara desert, but relative humidity shouldn’t be higher than 35-40%. If you want to be professional about it, a hygrometer is a cheap and effective way to measure humidity.
- Never store your records in a place that might flood, like the basement. Water won’t damage your LPs, but it can destroy the sleeves and eventually lead to mold.
- Your records don’t need to grow (unless you buy more) – so don’t put them in direct, intense light. Ultraviolet light, like sunlight, can damage vinyl in just a few minutes. Make sure your LPs aren’t too close to a window.
To quickly summarize, if you want to remove the smell from vinyl records you can apply the following methods:
- Replace the sleeves and jackets of your records.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery brush.
- Spray and dry/wipe with special disinfectants like Concrobium.
- Air out your jackets, sleeves and records. This works best if there aren’t any signs of mold.
- Fully clean the records with a cleaning kit. I’m currently working on a full vinyl record cleaning handbook.
There you go – you now have everything you need to make sure your records never give off that musty odor again. Here’s hoping this article helps your collection smell as good as it looks!
If you have questions or want to tell us about your favorite method, leave a comment below. You can also check out these articles on related topics: