If you’re serious about your record collection, you need to be storing your vinyl correctly.
Vinyl records are considered the best to listen to music at home by generations of music fans who love their sound quality and nostalgic appeal. However, maintaining the condition of vinyl records is a life’s labour which record collectors and enthusiasts must take seriously – or else see their prized possessions suffer.
Contrary to popular belief, vinyl records can last several decades or more, if they’re properly taken care of. Their longevity often depends on how carefully they are stored and the protection a collection receives.
It is therefore crucial to store your records in a suitable manner and clean them in a considered way. This requires a mixture of great care, expertise and knowledge. Failing to protect vinyl from the elements can result in serious and perhaps irreversible damage, so take heed of the top tips you are about to read.
Here are seven top tips for storing vinyl records.
1. Use Protective Sleeves For Your Vinyl
Protective sleeves should be used on both the inside and outside of each separate vinyl record. Using a combination of sleeves made of suitable material offers incredible all-round protection against the invasion of dirt, scratches and dust.
Individual inner sleeves must be the basic requirement for protecting a record. Usually a soft anti-static or smooth textured sleeve and thin plastic sleeves are both good options for protecting records from scratching.
It’s best to avoid paper sleeves because they have a fine, rough and sometimes gritty feel that will gradually wear away the vinyl’s delicate surface. Beware of cheap inner sleeves that can quickly deteriorate and leave the record underneath exposed.
Outer sleeves can also be placed over the original cardboard covers and are designed to prevent most dust from reaching the vinyl. Importantly, the fit of an outer sleeve mustn’t be too snug or it may crush or bend the record.
Lighter sleeves are recommended because heavy plastic covers will put pressure on a vinyl over time and could cause lasting damage to its artwork.
A final layer of protection is the vinyl bag. They cover the entire record, fold over at the top and can be sealed to ensure the vinyl is near airtight.
2. Keep Your Vinyl Upright
One of the most important things a record collector needs to remember is exactly how to stack, display and store their records. The rule is always vertically and never piled up horizontally.
If vinyls are stacked on top of each other then it is likely to cause warping or bending which will damage its grooves beyond repair and permanently destroy sound quality.
The weight placed on albums at the bottom of the pile will especially be affected by the continuous pressure placed on them. Placing any objects on top of the records is also not advisable.
However, with your vinyl stored upright and the open edge facing inwards, exposure to large amounts of dust is generally minimised.
Vertically displayed records are also much easier to organise by artist, genre or title. This makes finding a particular vinyl a much more efficient process. You can access each title by pinching one side lightly and sliding it out.
3. Invest In Storage shelves For Your records
The best way to ensure your vinyl remains in optimal condition is by investing in the correct type of storage. There are several methods of storing vinyl records and choosing the right one for you is a matter of available space or simply personal preference.
Shelving is one of the most popular options for storing your collection. A display shelf allows music lovers easy access to their records, the ability to organise them and for enthusiasts in particular, it’s perfect for proudly showcasing their collection.
Shelves should be as long as possible depending upon the length of your wall space. If you have multiple levels of shelving then ensure that each row has about three to five centimetres of space above your largest records. This should be the right amount to allow your vinyls to be carefully inserted or removed safely whilst being conservative enough to allow for more than one row of storage.
A fun and practical addition for those with bigger collections is to purchase either blank or pre-labeled record dividers. These can be inserted at different points in between the vinyls as markers in order to locate particular artists or titles much more efficiently.
An alternative form of storage is boxes. This is a useful option for collectors who have less space and thus eliminating the possibility of shelving. Also, storage boxes are fantastic for owners who want to make their collections instantly more mobile. Boxes are also ideal for people who intend to store their vinyls for longer periods of time in comparison to shelves that are suited to constant use.
Containers that are approximately eight inches cubed are usually ideal for storing vinyl records, preventing them from moving around too much whilst keeping them safe at the same time. That said, make sure there is still enough room left that you’re able to flip through your records and access the ones you want easily.
Both sleeves and boxes can be expensive, especially as a collection grows and more storage is required. For new collectors or casual record owners, cheaper options include plastic boxes or wooden crates.
But avoid cardboard based storage solutions and choose sturdy plastic ones instead. The cardboard material isn’t strong enough to hold the weight of multiple vinyl records. The last thing a collector wants is to have their pieces fall out of the bottom and become severely damaged. There are a range of plastic boxes of all shapes, sizes and strengths for an individual’s protection preferences.
4. Do Not Over-pack The Vinyl On Your Shelves
Many collectors have a huge collection of records but limited space. Therefore the temptation is to cram your new shiny shelves or empty storage boxes with as many vinyls as possible. But you should actually carefully consider how many records to store in one place.
Along with keeping records upright, it’s vital not to over-pack your shelves or boxes. Records shouldn’t be tightly pressed together and a good indication that they’re packed too densely is when they can’t be removed easily.
Over-packing can also cause structural damage to shelving which can be expensive to repair if they are significantly broken. When too many records are placed on a shelf it can result in snapping or collapsing and if this happens it could potentially destroy parts of your collection.
It’s important to note here that storing records too loosely can also be problematic because it allows them to move fairly freely which could indirectly cause damage if they fall onto the floor.
To strengthen shelving and reduce the chances of buckling there are some precautions you can take. Firstly, store vinyl of similar sizes together because it will improve the balance of your shelf. In addition, distribute the weight of your collection evenly across the shelf area.
Certain records will be heavier than others, like special editions or double LPs, so spread these out across the shelving equally rather than bunching bulky records together in one area.
Finally, introduce metal L-shaped brackets and place them under the corners of the shelving units to support the weight. For substantial collections, the weight on a shelf could be immense and without extra precautions then they are likely to fail.
5. Store Vinyl In A Cool And Dry Place
Low temperatures and dry environments are your vinyl collection’s best friends.
That’s because both excessive heat and moisture will cause irreparable damage to most records. As a result, it’s recommended that you keep them in cool and dry places.
In which locations should you avoid storing vinyl records? Places like basements or attics pose major issues along with areas where temperature and humidity levels can’t be controlled.
Extreme temperatures are a massive problem. Areas that are very hot or too cold can destroy vinyl. When records get too hot they will warp or even melt around the edges and become unplayable.
In contrast, when stored in extreme cold, vinyl records weaken and thus can break more easily. The optimal temperature in which to store your collection is just below room temperature at around 50 °F or 10 °C
Quickly moving records to different environments isn’t advisable either. When going from hot to cold or vice versa, be sure to slowly change the temperature when transferring vinyl to another location. Moving them from cooler atmospheres and into hotter places is especially damaging as the build up of condensation can wreck the surface of record covers.
In addition to temperature, humidity is also a crucial consideration. If a room is prone to becoming too humid then mildew and mould can consume the records. Areas such as garages, sheds, attics or basements aren’t advisable because they can suffer from very moist air.
6. Avoid Storing Vinyl Records In Direct Sunlight
Sunlight has a major impact on the temperature that a vinyl record is exposed to and often causes records to warp or fade over time. As a result, it’s of the utmost importance that you avoid storing your collection in direct sunlight.
Surprisingly, vinyl can withstand moderately low temperatures very well. Storing vinyl records in heat generated by sunlight long term however can be an issue. If used regularly then records can be kept in temperatures of up to 70°F or 21°C yet for long-term storage then below 50°F or 10°C is highly recommended.
The sun’s rays also have a direct impact on vinyl sleeves which will both fade and crack. In order to ensure that cover art remains pristine, records should be stored in a room with shade, away from windows and out of direct sunlight.
If that’s unavoidable then perhaps cover them with a cloth. Even if your collection isn’t facing the sun, the corners and edges of a vinyl can still be slowly damaged over time.
7. Clean Your Vinyl Records
An often overlooked part of storing vinyl records involves cleaning them to maintain their quality. Both dust and dirt can cause irreversible damage to the grooves of any vinyl. They will require significantly less cleaning if you avoid dusty storage locations. Dust is a massive problem and one of the main reasons that records get permanently damaged.
A way of minimising dust exposure is ensuring that records are neatly packed together so that only the edges are open to the elements. The edge of vinyl records should be dusted about once every seven days.
It’s important to remember that records shouldn’t be cleaned with just any type of material like clothing or other random cloths because their often abrasive fibres can scratch and seriously damage a vinyl.
It’s recommended that cleaning tools, including delicate brushes such as small and soft paint brushes or even specially designed implements, are utilised on vinyl records. This is the easiest, quickest and safest way to remove dust and dirt from the surface of the record. To effectively clean the vinyl without scratching it, place the brush in line with its grooves and carefully rotate the record. Doing this should wipe away most amounts of dust or dirt and cause no damage to the record.
For more significant marks you should purchase a vinyl cleaning solution which can be easily found online. Simply spray the solution onto the vinyl, whilst avoiding the artwork, and use a microfiber cloth to wipe in a circular motion. Always clean your records before use so that dust or dirt isn’t dragged by the needle across the grooved surface and after you play them so they are clean when stored away again.
Ideally, the only time your record should be out of its sleeve is when you’re planning to play it. Obviously you should enjoy your collection and so exposing it to the elements in order to browse its artwork is inevitable. Just remember, any extended time outside the sleeve that isn’t really necessary could potentially subject your record to dust or dirt and ultimately increase the risk of damaging its delicate surface.
Carefully planning how to store a record collection plays a vital role in maintaining its quality, not only now – but for the many years to come.
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