Record storage is important to consider if you want your records to have a long and healthy life. It’s all well and good cleaning your vinyl and making sure it’s dust-free, but this is only part of the process. What many forget is that improper storage of records can be detrimental to the lifespan of your vinyl. We aim to remedy this by bringing you our top 7 tips for record storage that will see your favourite pieces of wax enjoy a long and fruitful life.
Keep Out Of Direct Sunlight
This goes for both records and your record player itself, if possible. I know not all of us have ‘man caves’ with no direct sunlight, but there’s usually a space in a room where the sun can’t get to. Too much sun can warp your records, especially if the sun moves over your collection gradually each day, so make sure any vinyl shelving or record storage racks are appropriately placed. It’s also worth noting here to keep your records cool and dry and at a nice room temperature that doesn’t fluctuate where possible. For an unwritten temperature guide as a basis for vinyl storage, don’t let the temperature go above 50 F (10 C). Records are usually fine at lower temperatures – as long as you’re not in the Antarctic!
Inner Sleeves Are Your Friend
Inner record sleeves provide the first port of call for protection to your vinyl records when in storage. Most new releases these days come with paper sleeves. Although these are OK, overtime they can scratch away at the record’s surface, so if you’re serious about record storage and protection it’s a good idea to invest in some plastic sleeves. You can find them relatively cheap on places like Amazon, or alternatively, visit your local record store where they might be a little more expensive, but likely to be high in quality. The staff will be able to give you advice about which ones will be right for you.
Outer Sleeves For Longer Listening Pleasure
Whereas the inner sleeves protect the actual vinyl itself, outer sleeves take into account the whole record package. Now, I completely understand many of you may be a little wary about using outer sleeves. There is the added hassle of getting quickly into your beloved records, and also the fact they don’t look as nice lined up on your shelf all covered in plastic. This is true on both accounts. If you’re adding your records to long-term storage, outer sleeves are a must, but if you’re using them often, the choice is yours. They will protect your records a lot more from dust and any accidents involving damp, heat or water, but they also look much prettier without the outer sleeves. Heavy plastic is the goto material for outer sleeves, and, once again, you can find these on Amazon or at your local record store.
One of the most important tips for LP storage: MAKE SURE YOU STORE YOUR VINYL UPRIGHT. Records lying flat or horizontal increase the chance of warping over time, especially if they are stacked on top of each other. Storing records upright allows your vinyl to breathe and will give you access to your favourite music in an easier way. Make sure your records don’t lean to the side where possible when in storage, and also don’t squash your records together tightly in your record shelf or crate otherwise they can be damaged. Speaking of shelves and crates… Record Shelving And Crate Storage Options The two best ways to actually store your records for frequent use is either shelving or crates. Shelving is probably best if you have a tonne of vinyl, whereas crates probably look more aesthetically pleasing if you only have a small amount. Record crates/cases are also needed if you carry them around a lot. Most vinyl enthusiasts will already know about Ikea record storage. Swedish super chain Ikea has a fantastic shelving unit for vinyl records called ‘Kallax’. It’s very simple looking, pleasing to the eye and easy to put together. It also comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. The square compartments are perfect for your vinyl records and can fit around 50 records per cube, with the shelving pretty low cost compared to the other options. There are alternatives if you’re looking for a certain style to fit in with your room, so just shop around and see what you can find. Check out the Ikea Kallax range here. Crates and vinyl storage racks are the other viable option. Crates and racks come in all shapes and sizes, with many people going for the ‘open’ retro wooden look if the records aren’t going to be moved around often and played mainly at home. You can also get plastic or metal ‘DJ’ crates that are fully covered, keeping your records completely locked away and perfect for moving around if necessary.
Easy Access and Organisation
Easy access to and organisation of your records is a point that is often missed. Being able to easily find the record you want to listen to means you won’t be needlessly moving and sifting through all your records which, over time, will lead to wear and tear. I don’t want to get into how you organise your records, whether it be by title, artist, genre, label (this could be opening a can of worms!), but however you do it, make sure that any record you want will be easily identifiable. It might also be worth investing in some lettered separators so it’s even easier to distinguish where the record is that you’re looking for.
Store Away From Radiators
This one seems pretty basic, but the number of times people don’t think about this can be surprising. As discussed earlier, heat can really damage your records through warping, so in the winter months, if you use a radiator, make sure your collection is nowhere near!
Record storage is simple when you think about it, but the tips above will make sure your records will last as long as they possibly can. A couple of other points before you go to remember:
- Make sure to clean your records before putting back into storage; you don’t want any stray fingerprints or dust particles clogging up your records for future use. Check out our guide to cleaning your records for more details on the different techniques you can use.
- Also, remember to think about some of the above tips when placing your actual record player. Make sure it’s not in direct sunlight, not next to any radiators, and have the dust cover on when not in use. Obviously, don’t store it vertically!
One of the questions that we get asked most frequently by newcomers to the wonderful world of vinyl, is what the safest way is to store their newly bought records. Record collecting is sadly not a cheap hobbie, and getting storage right is an absolute must if you want to protect your music investment. It would be tragic to lose records to unplayable warps and damage through poor storage – but this happens, a lot! Don’t be just another statistic and keep your babies safe with this simple guide! Before starting on some of the basics, I think it’s important to state upfront that this guide is intended for the beginner with the most important and common concerns being addressed. There are very many more considerations as to the best storage in the high-end audiophile world, but that’s an article for another website or blog. We’re just common folk here, and this guide is meant for those just starting out. So… You’ve just bought yourself some records, given them a listen and you’re trying to figure where to put them? Let’s start by giving some thought to the environment around you.
Vinyl, although we love it for this reason too, is an imperfect medium. Pressed into a fairly thin disc when hot and rubbery, it is no surprise that exposure to heat can warp or misshape your vinyl too. While we all have to expose records to some sort of heat (such as carrying it from the record store to your car), it is leaving your record in heat unnecessarily for an extended period that will warp the record over time. When storing records, keep them on a shelf that is not exposed to direct sunlight and is not exposed to any heat source, such as a heater or fireplace. Similarly, you want to try and keep your records in an environment where they are exposed to a fairly constant temperature, that doesn’t fluctuate too drastically, or too quickly between high and low. Another consideration which you need to bear in mind is moisture. Your records need to be stored in a location that is damp-free and far enough away from any moisture. Records are in cardboard sleeves and these just soak up moisture over time leaving nasty stains, mildew, and even potentially sticking the cover to the record. I cannot begin to even describe the 1 000s of records that we’ve encountered that have been damaged by moisture in rooms and garages in which the owner thought “it’s a little damp, but will be okay”. Be very careful of this… The final, but equally important consideration when it comes to the environment in which you store your records, is to avoid over-exposure to dust. Mr Vinyl is a South African record store, and if you live in a dusty climate, just like we do, it is critical that you give dust management some consideration. Keep your record shelves away from open windows, and keep them safely in their sleeves (within a protective plastic outer sleeve – which we’ll get to in greater detail a little later). Try and keep your record shelves in a place that isn’t exposed to too much passing / walkthrough traffic and try and keep them in a location that is raised off of the ground and away from pets. We love cats and dogs as much as you do (if not more), but keep in mind that vinyl can be quite static and naturally attracts dust and pet hair.
2. The Shelf…
Records are heavy (heavier than books when filed) and it is critical that your shelf is strong and sturdy. A simple bookshelf might not cut it when your collection expands and you need to keep a constant eye out for buckling shelves. If you see it starting to buckle in the middle, get your records off of it immediately! You don’t want this situation to occur – Once you’ve got a sturdy shelf, store your records standing vertically. This is critical to avoid warps over time. Why, you may ask? Well, all records are made differently, with different inserts, at different thickness and weight. Try storing uneven things on top of each other for long enough, and excess weight may be placed on one side of the object, more than the other side of the object. It is this disproportionate weight that will lead to warps and damage over time. Moreover, it is just so much easier to pull out a record that has been filed vertically. Once you start to amass 20+ records, you’ll start to notice that it is really hard to keep them all standing vertically, and that they tend to lean. This isn’t too much of a problem, just make sure that it is minor and that they all lean in the same direction, without any record putting too much weight on the one next to it. Do be careful when you get to the side panel of the shelf though, you want the last few records to be standing flush against the side panel. To help sort out this leaning issue, and to make filing and pulling out records that much easier, it is best if you can store your records in cubes (if you can find them or have them custom made). Cubes like the image beneath are that much sturdier and make for much easier filing. They look pretty cool too, if you ask me. Before we move on, the last shelving basic that you need to consider is to avoid packing your records too tightly. Have you ever seen ringwear before? In most cases this is caused by records that are packed too tightly. This puts way too much pressure on the records and can lead to all sorts of problems from damaged covers, to ringwear and even to warps. As a general rule of thumb, you want to be able to fairly easily slide records in and out of your record shelf, and you’d want to be able to squeeze your finger in to pull out a record. If you are struggling to get your finger in there, chances are that the shelf is over-packed. 3. The Record Itself… Phew… are you still with me? Once the environment and the shelf is sorted, you’ll want to start thinking about the record itself. This is a no brainer, but don’t be like the teenage CD generation and leave it out of the case. Keep your records in their inner sleeves, in their cardboard sleeves and in their plastic outer sleeves as much as possible. With regards to inner sleeves, try and ensure that these are clean and made from either paper, or plastic. There are some really snazzy inner sleeves on the market that were designed for the audiophile in mind, but if you can’t afford these, the simple paper sleeve will do. Don’t listen to audiophiles who will tell you that these are like sandpaper, and instead use a comeback line like telling them that their systems lack warmth. I’m not going to lie, the inner sleeve is going to be a problem if you tend to collect secondhand records. While some inner sleeves survived the original vinyl apocalypse in the face of the CD, many didn’t do so well and you’ll need to bin them if they look manky and in many cases they will be absent entirely. If you’re unable to find new inner sleeves, try and salvage these from old throwaway records, like that scratched Springbok hits collection that your aunt gave you. Once the vinyl is safely inside its inner sleeve, and inside the cardboard cover, you’ll want to start thinking about outer record sleeves to protect the record as a whole. If you have bought records that do not come in outer record sleeves, you need to consider getting these protective sleeves as soon as possible. Outer record sleeves do a good job protecting records against moisture, dust and dirty fingers. While there are different makes and types on the market, try and get a thickish plastic sleeve with smooth edges and corners. Aim for 70+ micron. We stock and manufacture Vinyl Protector which is a great plastic outer record sleeve that is 75 micron. Sadly, there are many cheap imitations on the market, and you do need to make sure that record sleeves are what they say they are. For instance, in South Africa, there are packs of sleeves on the market that claim to be a much higher micron than they actually are. Be careful of these, they’re manufactured poorly and won’t last very long…
There are some basics that you need to bear in mind when it comes to safe keeping your record collection. From the environment to the record itself, commonsense goes along way. Once you’ve found something that works for you and your space, have fun with it! Make vinyl separators, compare filing methods with your friends and most importantly of all, have fun listening to your music! If you think that I’ve left anything out that’s important, please let us know in the comment section below. If you have any tips or tricks, we would love to hear from you. Back to stories So you’ve got yourself a nice collection of vinyl records, but what are the best ways to keep them in good shape? As we all know, the vinyl record has made one hell of a comeback in recent years. Sales are continuing to increase and we’re seeing research suggesting that streaming is influencing those sales! So whether you’re new to the record collecting game or a seasoned vinyl veteran, here are our tips for ensuring your vinyl live a long and fulfilling life. Storing Your Records So when you’re not playing them, where is your vinyl going to live? And what are the best ways to store them? Ideally you’ll want to keep them in a clean dry place, avoiding extreme temperatures and humidity (so not in the bathroom or sauna if that’s what you were thinking…) What you’re doing is trying to avoid warping the record. Warping is when the record bends out of shape which often leads to unplayable vinyl. There are methods of unwarping but prevention is the best cure, so keep them away from direct sunlight and high heat. Another way your records can warp is by stacking them, so NEVER store them horizontally. Compared to other formats vinyl are pretty heavy, so the weight and pressure will eventually warp them over time. The more vertical the record stands the better. While on the subject of weight, you’ll want to make sure whatever they’re standing on is sturdy. An average 12” can weigh between 140 and 220 grams so bear that in mind as your collection grows. There’s plenty of specialist units and storage racks you can get for vinyl too. Handling Vinyl So we’re stating the obvious here, but seriously, be nice to your vinyl. Always handle them at the edges or by the inner label at the centre. Much like how it’s sacrilege to touch the data side of the CD the same applies to vinyl. When you touch the playing surface you’ll transfer oils from your skin into the grooves, which dust will stick to and affect the sound quality. You’re also running the risk of scratching the grooves with your fingernails. Which Inner Sleeves Should I Use? You don’t want your vinyl rattling around inside the jacket. There are a few different types of inner sleeves made from different materials available:
- Paper – The most basic and cheapest option is to use paper inner sleeves and are commonly included with the vinyl when you first buy it. However, these sheets can scratch records as you slide them in and out as well as create paper dust. Plus with them being paper, they rip and deteriorate much easier and much quicker. Hardcore collectors will also note that some of these paper sleeves come with pressing dates, record company logos and other interesting quirks, so double check before you bin them. We don’t recommend paper sleeves over any other types but it’s better than no protection at all…
- Poly – Poly sleeves (or polypropylene) are more durable than the paper sleeves previously mentioned but are also more expensive, but if you’re serious about collecting you might want to invest in these. It eliminates the issues of dust and scratchy paper damages when taking it in and out of the sleeve. It’s also much easier to remove and insert it into the album jacket. Some also have rounded corners making life even easier.
- Paper with poly lining – As you can probably guess, a mixture of the above. The outside paper makes the sleeve much more rigid whilst the poly lining inside lets the vinyl slip in much smoother with a lower risk of scratching and collecting dust.
There’s LOADS of research you can do on vinyl sleeves alone and you’ll discover that usually it’s entirely down to personal preference. Test a few out and see which you prefer. Cleaning Your Records Again, hours of Googling can be had here and you might find some weird and wonderful suggestions too (if you’re brave enough to try the dishwasher or toothpaste suggestions we found, we salute you). But to begin with here’s a few simple tips:
- Dry Cleaning – Use a carbon fibre brush to clean your vinyl before and after every play. Brush lightly along the grooves and this will help prevent the build up of dust and other dirt. The carbon strands (on the outer surface of the cleaner) reduce the static charge on the vinyl (which attracts dust) and the inner part (usually a cloth material) then collects the dust on the second wipe after the static is reduced. Remember to regularly clean the brush too. This should be a regular practice in your listening sessions.
- Wet Cleaning – Highly recommended when you want to give your records a deep clean. A mixture of record cleaning fluid and water (distilled, not tap!) works well. Clean with a micro-fibre cloth and dry with a separate micro-fibre cloth.
- Cleaning Machines – Once you have a big collection, cleaning records by hand might be a lot of effort. There are vacuum cleaning machines that automatically apply a cleaning solution and then vacuum the liquid off again. There are also spin cleaners that clean the record with the solution as it spins with the brushes cleaning off the dirt. Although effective, they can be expensive.
- Wood Glue – Yep you’ve read that correctly, using wood glue is an age old secret to pristine vinyl. As it’s chemically very similar to the material of a record it won’t stick to it, but it will stick to everything else clogging it up. Spread on the glue, wait for it to dry and peel away. Try this out on an old vinyl first before applying to your entire collection.
What’s the best way to arrange my vinyl? Now that is something down to personal preference. Perhaps you could ask Rob about that one… As you continue to do more of your own research, you’ll find a range of opinions on vinyl care. Test out a few different methods and see which work best for you. In the meantime, if you have any tips for keeping your records in tip-top shape make sure you let us know in the comments.
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