Re: Record cleaning

Henry K Mattoon (
Thu, 8 Oct 1998 17:23:51 -0700 (PDT)


Be _very_ careful with the H20/towel solution. It can be quite
damaging to your recordings. You don't mention what type of records you
have, I suppose the traditional commercially released 'vinyl'?

In any case use plain water carefully. It may look fine and
work ok for the short term, but may leave a harmful deposit on the
records, whatever their composition. Also, the towel could cause further
damage, depending on it's composition, and also the manner in which you
wipe the recordings.

I would suggest you contact:

Chris Paton
Georgia State University
Music Archives


Barbara Sawka or Richard Koprowski
Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound
Stanford University (Barbara) (Richard)

All are members of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections. See
the ARSC website for details on publications relevant to preserving sound
recordings: <>. Esp. the Associated
Audio Archives committee (w/in ARSC) republication of the 1959 LC study,
still used as a guideline for recorded sound preservation, storage, and
library use, authored by A.G. Pickett and M.M. Lemcoe, PRESERVATION AND
STORAGE OF SOUND RECORDINGS. Cost is still, I believe, $20.

Also, if you're not familiar with the Conservation DistList
(CONSDISTLIST), this is a great resource. It's a listserv on all things
related to conservation, preservation, etc. Also, you can easily search
their archived listserv messages

[The above mentioned publication has ordering information at:


Too, the Conservation OnLine resource (CoOL) website [preservation
department at Stanford] may be of some help:

Another source for information is the Society of American Archivists.
Offhand, I don't recall that they have a specific publication on
preservation, storage, use of recorded sound materials, besides
distributing the above-mentioned Pickett/Lemcoe work and Alan Ward's UK 1990
publication, A MANUAL OF SOUND ARCHIVE ADMINISTRATION (pp. 108-195). Howver,
within their general publications on preservation there will certainly
be some additional information of use: <>.

Quoting from Ward's book, p.155 (I should point out that some experts
disagree with his methods):

"Acetate or vinyl disks may be washed in water, possibly with the
addition of a small amount of mild detergent, then rinsed in
demineralized water and left to dry in clean air at normal
temperature, though discs may be replayed while wet without
detriment to surface or signal [I personally would disagree
with that last part]. Care should be taken to keep the label dry,
especially if it contains manuscript information in fugitive ink
[and, actually, _any_ kind of label, regardless of composition, as
fluids could dissolve the adhesive used]. The task of washing
discs is made easier with specially designed equipment. Machines as
supplied by Keith Monks or Nitty Gritty have turntables, and
carefully directed sprays and brushes followed by vacuum suction to
remove the water, and leave the disc dry for playback. Ultrasonic
baths of various sizes and designs are also used: discs are
suspended in a container of demineralized water so that
the label remains dry, and ultrasonic waves passed through the
water which dislodge ingrained dirt very effectively."

Also, I should point out that before this paragraph he discusses proper
methods for cleaning with "soft, clean cloth, working in a circular
motion in the direction of the grooves" (without clearly defining
exactly what he means by "soft, clean cloths" -- a lot of such cloths
though seemingly soft and clean can easily do more irreversible damage
than good). IE, sometimes a simple wipe with a conservation-quality
cloth is sufficient, washing only when neccesary (like ingrained dirt,
where wiping no matter how good the cloth, could obviously cause further

And, following the quoted paragraph on acetate/vinyl [which he should
more precisely define, IMHO] he goes on to recommend treatments for other
types of discs: gelatine-coated, shellac, etc.

Some experts disagree with his "home-grown" method of tap water and
household detergent, largely because there are so many variables here,
like mineral deposits in the tap water, what exactly is "mild detergent,"

Finally, I would suggest checking any of the reputable archival supply
catalogs out there for products that meet minimum conservation standards.
Some general library-type catalogs have disc-washing products I would
steer clear of, causing more damage than good. Email me directly if you need
some companies to contact (some might be mentioned on the SAA website?).

In general, though, I would suggest contacting the above-mentioned people
directly and get current state-of-the-art sound recording conservation
information from them.



Henry K. Mattoon
National Moving Image Database
The American Film Institute
Los Angeles, CA
323/856.7702 voice
323/856.7616 fax
<>, <>

On Thu, 8 Oct 1998, Maria Koehmstedt wrote:

> I hope you all don't mind a question about records.
> Our last big bottle of Discwasher is gone. I called the company today.
> They are the only distributor and only sell 1.25 oz. bottles for $5.36
> including shipping!
> Does anybody use something else for cleaning records that works well, is
> convenient, and inexpensive? I grew up just running water from the faucet
> over them and then drying them with a lint-free towel. That works at
> home, but it's a little messy for student assistants....
> Thanks,
> Maria
> Maria Koehmstedt
> Reference and AV Librarian
> Clatsop Community College Library
> 1680 Lexington Avenue
> Astoria, OR 97103
> (503) 338-2463