HomeTechnologyNewsHow to store your vinyl records and maintain their quality

How to store your vinyl records and maintain their quality

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Most people are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with vinyl. They know that analog audio is quite fragile, and are often too terrified to hold a record in their bare hands. But what happens when a record goes back into its jacket? Suddenly, it’s not such a fragile thing: it ends up in a big pile, gathering dust or soaking up sunlight like a cold-blooded animal.

Improper storage, rather than mishandling, is often what destroys or damages a vinyl record. If you want your record collection to last a long time, you need to learn how to store these things.

Why is proper vinyl storage important?

Analog audio should be treated with care. Over time, simply playing a vinyl record will reduce its fidelity. Therefore, to prolong the life and preserve the quality of vinyl, you must eliminate any external sources of wear and tear – you must store your records properly.

Just to be clear, I’m not telling you to pamper your records. They are quite durable. Billions of vinyl records from the 20th century still survive, and I can guarantee that most of those records have seen some rough treatment.

But here’s the thing; exposure to heat, humidity, dust, mold, insects, or pressure will reduce the fidelity of an LP and damage the sleeve. This process usually occurs over several months, years, or decades due to poor storage. There are still tons of old records interpretablebut they are often damaged in some way.

And poor storage will eventually make a disc unplayable. Again, this is something that often takes years or decades. But under the most unfavorable conditions, heat or pressure can destroy a disk very quickly, even within a few hours.

Clean your registers, use sleeves and inserts

A pack of plastic sleeves for vinyl records.
invest in vinyl

Proper vinyl storage begins with cleanliness. Discs tend to collect static, which attracts dust. This dust can get into the grooves of a record or scratch its surface, reducing the fidelity or playability of the vinyl.

Ideally, clean a record with an antistatic brush before and after each use. If you have a bunch of records that are never used, clean them with the anti-static brush to ensure safe storage. Older records may need a deep cleaning to remove dirt, chemicals (seep out of the paper inserts), or other grime.

A record’s sleeve and cover (the outer and inner packaging) should also be kept clean. Any dust, dirt, mold or insects inside this cardboard and paper packaging can damage your vinyl. For your more valuable records (or older LPs with nasty inner sleeves), I suggest buying and using polyester inner sleeves, which won’t collect static or mold.

But even if you skip the inner sleeves, you should still buy protective plastic sleeves. These covers will not only protect the art on your disc cover, but will also keep dust and other debris away from your disc.

To properly use these plastic sleeves, remove a vinyl record (with its sleeve) from its cardboard sleeve. Then place both items on the plastic cover so they are next to each other. This reduces stress on the sleeve and limits your disc’s exposure to friction. Plus, it helps you avoid the “ring wear” often found on old record covers.

Please note that the information above applies to all vinyl records, not just LPs. If you own a ton of 7-inch singles, store them in acid-free sleeves and plastic outer covers.

Temperature, humidity and light are your enemies

Milk crates filled with LP.
Vespa / Shutterstock.com

Vinyl records are made of PVC and can warp in extreme temperatures. Once it gets above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s about 32 degrees Celsius), a disk can start to bend or warp. Temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit (about 60 degrees Celsius) can melt a record.

And while moisture doesn’t pose an immediate danger to vinyl, it will slowly destroy a record’s cardboard and paper packaging. Moisture also encourages the growth of mold and mildew, which can reduce the fidelity of an LP (and, of course, pose a health hazard).

Direct sunlight can also have a cumulative effect on logs. Over time, ultraviolet rays will whiten a vinyl cover (or make a record brittle if it’s sitting without a cover). Direct sunlight can also cause temperature fluctuations, which can create condensation and encourage mold growth in certain environments.

Now, these requirements are pretty easy to follow. If you feel comfortable inside your home, then you already have a good environment for your records. Just keep them out of direct sunlight, don’t put them in a hot attic or garage, and consider purchasing a dehumidifier if your air is that wet.

Just to reiterate, the logs are pretty durable. I bought some pristine vintage vinyl at flea markets, open-air stores, and stuffy warehouses with no air conditioning. And I’m in Florida. If you’re comfortable in your home, then your records are probably comfortable too.

Records should be on a strong shelf or in a nice box

A two-shelf vinyl record storage organizer with a turntable and monitors on top.
Track Basics

Most people, even hardcore collectors, don’t keep their records in a safe place. And I’m not talking about temperature or humidity; i’m talking real placement“Where are the records?”

Your average LP weighs about a third of a pound. So if you stack 25 discs on top of each other, the disc at the bottom holds about eight pounds of pressure. That’s enough to wear down the cover and create unnecessary friction on the vinyl. (After a long period of time, of course).

Don’t stack your logs in one big pile. Instead, place them horizontally on a sturdy shelf or organizer, just like you would books. (Just don’t put a ton of records on top of a very cheap shelf, because it will break or tip over.)

Now, even when the disks are placed horizontally on a shelf, they are still supported by each other. The weight is still there. To avoid this problem, I suggest limiting the number of logs you put on each shelf and using hard dividers to distribute the weight. These tips will also make your records easier to find, which is a nice bonus.

You can also store records in sturdy wooden or plastic boxes (cardboard will break), specialized cabinets, or, in a pinch, milk crates. And if you have a relatively small collection, fancy carrying cases, standing racks, or smaller magazine dividers are perfectly acceptable.

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