Yeah, yeah, we are pretty much the last ones to the party to discover the Spin Clean Record cleaner. But in case you haven’t heard of this incredibly reasonably priced record cleaning system that’s been around since 1975 and still made in the USA, it’s definitely worth your time. Dirt is the enemy of your records, it’s pretty much the enemy of the whole vinyl playback chain – it’s what makes for most of those nasty clicks and pops that the mainstream likes to tell us is “the romance of vinyl.”
Forget that. If you want to truly get the analog experience, you need clean records. Chances are if you’ve been into vinyl for any length of time, you’re buying at least some of your records used and if you’re a newcomer to the vinyl scene, you’re finding records in any number of off the beaten path places – and chances they sound pretty awful. Perhaps your audiophile buddies have told you about their elaborate record cleaning machines that can get your records CD clean, free of those dreaded pops, but you freaked out when you heard the price. A decent RCM can run anywhere from $500 – $5,000.
A Record Cleaner for the Regular Guy
Enter the Spin Clean II. The complete kit, with enough cleaning solution to clean hundreds of records costs $129. It’s not as technically complex as a VPI, ClearAudio or Loricraft machine, but it’s damn good and it actually does a better job at ground in fingerprints than my Loricraft does. The Spin Clean II is the ultimate in simplicity; there is no electric motor to burn out and no vacuum hoses to loosen. Just mix up some cleaning solution, dump it in the tank and you are ready to begin. Once the Spin Clean solution is mixed, a tank full will clean 20-50 records, depending on how dirty they happen to be. Fluid is cheap in comparison to styli, so I say err on the side of cleanliness and stick to the 10-20 figure. A bottle of their concentrate is only $9.99! The manual suggests batch cleaning, as the mixed fluid only has a shelf life of about a week.
The best feature of the Spin Clean is that it cleans both sides of your record at the same time. Simply spin the record gently by its edge (hence the name) until you’ve made a few revolutions. The brushes are bathed in the solution, so the dirt will be suspended when you remove the record. Easy! The Spin Clean kit includes some soft, diaper like cloths that are intended to blot your records dry after they’ve been cleaned, but I highly suggest a plastic dish rack from Target (another $8 expense) to use for letting your records air dry all the way, before you can play them. This should hold about 10 records comfortably.
Say Hello to Quiet
If you’ve never used a record cleaning machine, you’ll be amazed at how much quieter your records sound after a pass through the Spin Clean. Like any other aspect of audiophilia, you can get as obsessed as you’d like to with record cleaning, but if you never do more than use a Spin Clean, you’re way ahead of the game. As I mentioned, the Spin Clean does an exceptional job at removing deep seated fingerprints. I found that letting the area of the record with the fingerprint just soak for 3-10 minutes in the solution, giving it a quick spin and then moving on to final clean on my Loricraft brought most albums back to like new condition.
Even if you have a high zoot RCM, the Spin Clean can be a valuable addition to your cleaning regimen when sorting out used records, because it works so much faster. You can at least perform an initial clean in a very short period of time to be assured that your stylus won’t snag on an LP from the bargain bin and then decide how much further to pursue cleaning later.
If you have a turntable and you don’t have a Spin Clean, you need one. If you’re a maniacal LP collector with a top of the line RCM and you don’t have a Spin Clean, you need one too. This is an accessory that no vinyl lover should be without.