While it’s often praised as a novel and thorough cleaning method for vinyl records, there’s plenty of anxiety about whether or not ultrasonic cleaning can damage vinyl records. And with good reason.
Ultrasonic cleaning is a fairly precise and thorough system of cleaning that’s especially good at targeting the small grooves of a vinyl record; products like the stellar Groove Clean Record Cleaner show off exactly how well they excel at this. However, cleaning down to such a precise level suggests that the same forces used to push out the stubborn dirt and gunk are also being used on the intricate grooves of your vinyl records. And if you’ve seen the various controls and settings that ultrasonic cleaners come with, you might even be a little scared to calibrate it wrongly and possibly ruining your records.
Well worry no longer! We’ll be going over the common concerns surrounding ultrasonic cleaning, and what measures you can take to ensure that you get the most out of your record cleaning machine. So read on to learn more about what to watch out for when purchasing an ultrasonic vinyl record cleaning machine!
The Basics of Ultrasonic Cleaning
Ultrasonic cleaning is a process through which a liquid bath has sound waves passed through it. This creates minute vapour bubbles in the solution that can enter and exert force on dirt and other materials to dislodge them from whatever item you’re placing into the bath. It’s also called cavitation, and has been used to do deep cleaning on a variety of items.
The appeal in using ultrasonic cleaning on records is due to the small grooves on vinyls being fairly hard to access with brushes and cloths. The minute vapour bubbles the system generates can easily fit into those same grooves so that records cleaned out are almost 100% clean!
Risk of Record Damage from Ultrasonic Cleaning
The question you might ask here is how would a liquid, of all things, damage your record? There’s actually a few ways that you could damage a record in an ultrasonic cleaning rig.
One of them is through temperature. Some ultrasonic cleaning machines can warm up the water. A bit of cleaning knowledge would tell you that warm water is great for cleaning things, but temperatures in excess of 35 degrees Celsius can risk damaging records made with softer materials by warping them. The ideal solution range lies around 31 to 34 degrees Celsius, so make sure you check before running your record through for too long.
Another is the ultrasonic frequency used during the process. A frequency that’s too low can end up damaging your vinyl records if you aren’t careful. The frequency that a majority of record owners use and recommend is 40kHz. However, these aren’t the factors to look out for. The last but just as important thing to keep track of is time. Leaving your record in the ultrasonic cleaner full of warm solution and the ultrasonic rig running can have wear down the grooves quite a fair bit. The average advised number of rotations when mounting your record into an ultrasonic machine is 3, giving sufficient time to remove any dirt without damaging them.
Other Possible Cleaning Issues
If you’ve dug around the internet to see if there are any other concerns you should have about ultrasonic cleaning, chances are that you may have found a few forums that surfaced popping issues after using ultrasonic machines. Some have taken this to mean that their ultrasonic cleaners have damaged their records. However, it’s more often an issue of static charge building up on the record. Running records through a bath solution that isn’t deionised or has some level of charge will cause static charges to build up on your record. And when played, these charges can pass onto your record player stylus and give rise to ‘pops’ when playing music.
This can happen with other cleaning methods like brush cleaning and even cloth cleaning since any form of rubbing can always impart some level of static charge onto a material. Getting proper cleaning solutions or materials like the anti-static Boundless Audio Record Cleaner Brush or even the Record-Happy Cleaning Kit with an anti-static cleaning cloth can help avoid the issue of static build up. You could also use an anti-static spray like the Sprayway to discharge static build up on your records after washing.
Another concern brought up is that small bits of residue from all the gunk removed and cleaned off the vinyl records can build up inside record cleaning machines. This isn’t much of an issue, but can scare first time ultrasonic users since they can look like bits of black vinyl. As long as you’ve stuck to our directions in the previous section, you’re in the clear. However, if you’ve found that the residue has taken on the coloration of coloured vinyl records in spite of that, you should get your machine checked for defects before running more records through.
This video also helps clear up other doubts and concerns over ultrasonic cleaning on top of other related myths!
So, Can Ultrasonic Cleaning Damage Vinyl Records?
In a nutshell, ultrasonic cleaning might damage your records. It will damage them about as much as misusing other cleaning techniques will. Records are sensitive items, and cleaning them is both vital and risky at the same time. You need to take great lengths of care when cleaning them, as all forms of contact always runs the risk of messing up the intricate grooves that hold al your favourite songs.
We hope this article has helped answer your concerns and questions about the possible risks in cleaning your records with ultrasonic machines! It’s a technique that’s pretty advanced and does require a bit of in depth knowledge to get everything done right, but we’ve tried our best to get you started with the basics here. Do take the time to get to know more about the whole science of ultrasonic cleaning and record cleaning overall so you can get the best experience out of your vinyl records. We’ve got other articles that can help you make ultrasonic cleaning solutions, or you could even check out other methods of cleaning like DIY ones or basic microfiber cloth cleaning!
Have any thoughts of your own about ultrasonic cleaning, or recommendations to make about them? Leave a comment below to help out your fellow audiophiles and vinyl enthusiasts!