We’ve covered plenty of conventional methods for cleaning vinyl records at Sound Matters – from relatively expensive vinyl cleaning machines to humble but effective manual cleaning solutions. But there’s one method we haven’t yet touched on that’s rapidly gaining popularity in the vinyl community, and that’s ultrasonic cleaning.
What is Ultrasonic Cleaning?
In a nutshell, Ultrasonic cleaning is a process whereby high-frequency sound waves create cavitation bubbles in a liquid bath of water or cleaning agent. The cavitation bubbles produce high forces that help clean items in a powerful, but minimally abrasive manner while also penetrating cracks and recesses. Removable contaminants include dust, dirt, oil, grease, fungus, and more.
Ultrasonic cleaning is perfect for vinyl because a) it requires zero contact with the record (the cavitations do the heavy lifting), and b) Ultrasonic gets deep into the grooves; many other cleaning methods are much less effective at cleaning those hard to reach deep groove cavities…
…And even when we do manage to clean deep in the grooves (say with a specially designed cleaning pad or using a vacuum-based system), these processes still require much contact with the vinyl surface. In an ideal world, the only things coming in contact with our record playing surface would be the album sleeve and the stylus. Essentially, the less anything else touches it the better.
For an introduction to Ultrasonic, check the video below:
Ultrasonic Cleaning for Vinyl Records
The large industrial tank featured in the video above is too large for practical and affordable vinyl cleaning at home. To make Ultrasonic cleaning practical, the process needs to be downscaled and adapted to accommodate records.
If you’re not short of a buck or two, you could go out and get yourself a purpose built Ultrasonic vinyl cleaning machine – like this one from KL Audio… But if you haven’t got the best part of $5000 laying around (I know I don’t), you could try the following system recently bought to my attention instead.
CleanerVinyl Ultrasonic Attachments
CleanerVinyl is a startup with some clever attachment and rotation systems that work with relatively affordable compact Ultrasonic cleaners.
Their current flagship products include CleanerVinyl One and the CleanerVinyl Pro. Both systems are essentially a smart motorized attachment designed to sit neatly on the Ultrasonic while gently rotating your vinyl records. As the name suggest, CleanerVinyl One allows you to rotate a single record, which is fine for occasional use, but you’ll want to consider the Pro for any serious volume. (CleanerVinyl Pro cleans up to 12 records in one sitting. For even greater throughput, the company have also recently introduced the CleanerVinyl Max, which cleans up to 24 records at once).
The Ultrasonic system itself is sold separately. Both the One & Pro are recommended for use with the PS-30A Ultrasonic Cleaner – available in the US from Amazon. A similar system is available in the UK.
The CleanerVinyl products are available at CleanerVinyl.com
At the time of writing, the CleanerVinyl One + the Ultrasonic PS-30A gets you into Ultrasonic for as little as $324.99.
Note: This is not the same as other bath based cleaning systems (such as the well-known Spin Clean). The spin clean is essentially just a record bath with cleaning pads; there’s no fancy cavitation and the process requires direct contact with your records, which always increases the risk of damage.
Have you tried Ultrasonic? Let me know how it worked for you in the comments below.