How to Clean Record Player Needle
The terms needle and stylus are used interchangeably for the needle of a record player. Although, technically, the stylus is just the tip of the needle. A stylus must be strong enough to withstand repeated use. The majority of styluses are made of diamond, sapphire, hardened steel, or osmium. A record needle will last for roughly 300 miles of vinyl, or around 650 hours of use on average, before you’ll need to replace it.
While they are long-lasting, record needles need to be cleaned regularly. Correct sound reproduction requires good contact between the grooves and the stylus. Dirt buildup on a needle can prevent it from sticking to the disc’s grooves, causing it to skip. Dust on your needle will create static and result in crackling noises. Friction caused by dirty needles can damage your records and also put additional wear on your needle so that it will have to be replaced more often.
Cleaning record player needles isn’t tricky, but the needles are fragile and must be handled with care. They must also never be touched directly. The oils in your skin will stick to the stylus, which will interfere with the needle’s functioning and further attract dust and debris.
A soft, dry brush is a superb way to clean your record player needle. Buy a special stylus cleaning brush from your record store. It will set you back about $12. We like this Boundless Carbon Fiber Anti-static Stylus Brush. Alternatively, you can use a small paintbrush.
Run the brush gently across the tip of the needle in the same direction the record goes. Going across it in the opposite direction could bend the needle. Just a couple of times doing this should be sufficient.
Liquid Stylus Cleaner
If dry brushing isn’t enough to clean your needle, you may need a liquid stylus cleaning solution. You’ll find a selection available from your record store or online. Some come with a brush provided. Otherwise, apply with a stylus brush or small paintbrush.
Rubbing alcohol can be used as a stylus cleaning solution. Apply with a brush as you would with commercial liquid stylus cleaners.
Gel “bubble” cleaners are becoming increasingly popular with vinyl fans. They offer an alternative to liquid solutions for a deep needle clean without any risk of damage from a brush. Simply open the container and lower the tonearm to dip the needle into the gel as often as necessary to clean it sufficiently.
We like this Momilla stylus cleaner, which comes with a magnifying glass to get a close-up view of the condition of your recorder player needle.
Following commercial cleaners, a magic eraser is a great DIY hack. Using only the white erasers, cut off a small piece of the eraser and dip the needle so that it just touches the eraser. Repeat until all debris is removed. Only use a dry eraser and if you have the ones with the blue line, avoid the blue section because it contains chemical cleaner that could damage your stylus.
The best way to keep your stylus clean is to keep it from getting dirty in the first place. Here are several ways to clean your vinyl records.
A no-static arm will prevent your stylus from picking up dust from your disc surface in the first place. It has a carbon fiber brush that runs ahead of the stylus to clean any debris off the record before it can attach to the needle.
Brushing your records before playing them will clear them of dirt and dust and protect your stylus. We like this Boundless Anti-static Carbon Fiber Vinyl Brush. When cleaning records with a brush, always move in circular motions following the disc’s grooves.
In the absence of a vinyl brush, a microfiber cloth will adequately remove dust and debris from your record surface.
For a deep clean, use a vinyl cleaning solution with your brush or cloth. Rinse off excess solution with distilled water. Dry the disc with a new, clean microfiber cloth.
Always store records in their sleeves in a covered storage unit. Leaving records exposed, even if they are in their sleeves, will mean that they gather dust. Exposing discs to heat or pressure can cause them to warp, which can also damage your needle.
Always replace the stylus guard once you are done playing your records. This will prevent dirt, dust, and moisture from settling on the stylus while it is out of use.
How Often Should You Clean Your Record Player Needle?
We recommend that the average home user who listens to vinyl for their own pleasure should clean their needle weekly. If you are a DJ, you might want to consider a daily clean to preserve your discs and extend the life of your needle.
Compared to digital music media, like CDs and mp3s, vinyl records can seem high maintenance. Caring for your needle is just the start of it, though. Discs are not exactly durable, and analog players can be temperamental, as the slightest vibration can upset them. It may seem like you spend more time adjusting, cleaning, and maintaining your setup than you do listening to your records.
However, for the discerning music lover, vinyl’s sound quality is far ahead of its digital counterparts. With vinyl, recorded sound can be captured exactly as the live performance sounded. With digital media, finer details get lost in the production and compression of sound files. Some audiophiles also complain of listening fatigue when listening to digitally reproduced sound versus analog forms.
For some vinyl lovers, the nostalgia and routine of caring for their setup is part of the attraction. With so much available at the tap of a keyboard, it can be soothing to slow things down and appreciate the feeling of holding something beautiful in your hands. Let’s face it; nothing feels quite like a trip to the record store and the kick of finding a hidden gem.