May 31, 2019

Summer Vinyl Care

As we creep ever so slowly into what is sure to be a long, hot Summer (we will pay for our extended Spring), it’s important to remind ourselves that our interest in vinyl records doesn’t come without hazards. If you’re just now exploring the wonderful world of vinyl, you should know that it has a mortal enemy, heat, and Phoenix has plenty of it. But this doesn’t need to stop you from enjoying your new interest. It just takes a little extra care. Here are a few tips for keeping your vinyl safe in the heat and avoiding another sacrifice to the sun gods.

Warping and Heat Damage

Although they may appear to be, vinyl records are not 100% solid objects. They are quite susceptible to the elements; mostly heat, gravity, hard surfaces and time. Warping is a distortion of the shape of your records caused by heat and/or gravity. Anyone who has tried to play a warped record can tell you that it doesn’t always work out so great. The misshape of the record can affect the sound quality or even the playability. Some warps can cause the needle to jump right off the record. 

Can a warped record be fixed?

You can find home remedies to correct the shape of your record, but if the warp is bad enough, the sound quality will be beyond repair. The grooves of a record have a series of microscopic “hills” and “valleys” that vibrate the needle. When warping happens, not only is the shape of your record being affected, these grooves become stretched and these hills and valleys get shifted and spread out. This makes it nearly impossible to bring them back together to their original shape. But, if it’s a minor warp, it might be worth it to look into those home remedies.

This is a microscopic photo of a needle running through the grooves of a record. As you can see, the information on this record is very detailed. It’s hard to believe that running a tiny piece of metal over some pits and bumps can reproduce the music we love. Vinyl records are magical things and this is why they are worth the time and care.

At what temperature does vinyl warp?

If you search for an answer to this question, you will likely not find a single right answer. When asked this question at the shop, I’ll tell our customers that if YOU’RE uncomfortable, then your vinyl is uncomfortable. However, you can recover from the heat and your vinyl can not. So basically, do your best to keep your records out of it.  You can, of course, take measures to protect your records. People have been buying and enjoying records in this city before the days of air conditioning. So, we’re not totally hopeless. There are simple measures, such as keeping them out of the sun, running the air conditioner. But, I would urge you to think of your vinyl as a beloved pet or child. If they are in your car, it would probably be best to not forget about them and make sure they are safe and comfortable at all times.
Once you get them home, they should be fine. If your house is a temperature that you can tolerate through the summer, your vinyl should make it, as well.
If you’re storing your records, I would recommend finding a unit with some sort of climate control. Most storage places have this and it is more than likely sufficient.

Can vinyl warp without heat? 
Vinyl does something that we call “sweating.” Basically, this means that a vinyl record will be pulled downward wherever there is no resistance. So, if a record is leaning, the center will be pulled outward, causing the record to “slouch”. If records are stacked, the sides will start to bend downward around the center, because the record label stickers, in the center, create more stability. Now, like actual sweating, this is greatly exacerbated by the element of heat, but even in a climate controlled room, vinyl will still tend to want to travel a bit south.

How Do I avoid this?

It’s as simple as storing your records at a 90 degree angle (or close to it). However, this isn’t enough. The best thing you can do for your records is listen to them! Records love to be taken out of their sleeves and put on players and rotated back into their sleeves and shifted around, here and there. They don’t like to sit on your shelf, ignored, or worse yet, left in a garage. Show them some love every now and then! This will ensure that the forces of gravity will not take hold for too long.

What else can I do to ensure a long life for my records?

Don’t touch!
If you want to see your vinyl keep its quality and be appreciated for generations to come, the only things that should ever touch your records are the sleeve its stored in, the cloth, brush and solution you clean it with, and the needle it’s played through. Your fingers should only touch the very outer rim and inner label of your records. Think of it like a painting. The reason we’re not allowed to touch classic works of art is because our fingers leave oils that degrade the original work of art. Think of the grooves on your record as all the instruments, musicians, recording engineers and expensive recording equipment used to make the album. I’m sure they wouldn’t want you touching any of that stuff. So hands off!

Clean your records!
There are a number of products on the market to clean records. They all work. Find the ones that work for you and get into the habit!
Stinkweeds has a variety of cleaners that we swear by!

Care about your records!
Beauty would not be so appreciated if not for the ephemeral nature of life. Like all things, vinyl ages, and with age, it looses a little luster. However, like life, we can slow this aging process and squeeze more than a few lifetimes worth of enjoyment out of our collections. Much like our human bodies, this is done by taking time with your vinyl, being mindful of your movements and trying to keep it clear from all the gross things in the world. There’s a lifetime of growth that comes with maintaining a record collection. Don’t expect to have all the answers or get it right, right out the gate. Just grow with your collection.