If you are a DJ or someone who loves Vinyl records’ nostalgia, you understand the importance of keeping your records and the needles (stylus) clean.
Not doing so can cause horrible static whilst a record is playing, or even worse, you can quite easily scratch the vinyl (and not in a good way!).
Because the stylus is the smallest part of a record player, it requires the most care, as the last thing you want to do is break it.
It’s easy to get into bad habits, giving the stylus a quick wipe with your finger (we’ve all done it), but trust me, this isn’t the way to go about it.
Below we discuss the best ways how to clean a turntable needle so you can get it performing at its peak in no time!
Materials Needed For Stylus Cleaning
Depending on which method you go for you will need some of the following:
- Stylus Cleaning Brush
- Cleaning Solution / Alcohol
- Mr. Clean Magic Eraser / Or Similar
- Stylus Cleaning Gel
Using A Stylus Brush
Using a stylus brush is the most common way to remove dirt and debris from a needle.
You can pick up a stylus cleaning brush relatively cheap HERE, and it really is the easiest and quickest way to get rid of unwanted grime.
The process of using a stylus brush only takes a few simple steps:
Step 1: Grab your stylus cleaning brush.
Step 2: Gently hold the tonearm in place.
Step 3: Move the brush along the needle from front to back in the same direction that the record spins. This is to make sure that you do not damage the stylus.
Step 4: Repeat until the stylus looks clean and free from any grime.
Using A Cleaning Solution
Sometimes you may prefer to use a cleaning solution for a deeper clean and make sure there aren’t any dust particles left on the stylus that can transfer to the record grooves.
If you want a cheaper alternative to stylus cleaning solutions, many vinyl collectors turn to regular rubbing alcohol from your medicine cabinet.
This process is pretty much the same as the previous method, apart from adding the cleaning solution.
Step 1: Select the cleaning solution of your choice.
Step 2: Grab your stylus cleaning brush and pour a small amount of the cleaning solution onto it. You only need to use a few drops since the turntable needle is tiny.
Step 3: Proceed to move the brush along the needle from front to back in the same direction that the record spins.
Step 4: Repeat until the stylus is clean.
Using A Cleaning Gel
For turntable owners who feel a stylus brush may be too abrasive for them and want a more futuristic approach, stylus cleaning gel is the way to go. Although this is the most expensive method, the results are excellent. Most people opt for ONZOW ZeroDust gel.
Step 1: Take the top of the gel container.
Step 2: Gently raise the tonearm (use the tonearm lift lever) and then lower the stylus onto the gel pad.
Step 3: Gently lift it back up. (use the tonearm lift lever)
Step 5: Repeat until it’s clean. You should be able to see any dust or grime left on the gel.
Using Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
An inexpensive alternative that many users undertake is to use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on their stylus. It is easy to find at just about any store that stocks cleaning products.
The process using Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is the same as the previous gel method.
Step 1: Take a Magic Eraser and cut off a small square piece (approximately 2″ square/matchbox size).
Step 2: Gently raise the tonearm (use the tonearm lift lever) and lower the stylus onto the Magic Eraser square.
Step 3: Gently lift it back up. (use the tonearm lift lever)
Step 4: This creates a “stabbing” motion. Repeat this process as delicately as possible until all of the dirt and dust has been removed from the needle.
It’s worth noting you don’t have to use the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser brand; any cheap melamine foam will do the trick.
Just make sure it is the white version and not the blue, containing a cleaning agent.
Signs That You’re Stylus Is Dirty
Nothing is worse than coming home to enjoy playing some of your records, only for them to start skipping right at your favorite part, especially when you know you take great care of them.
Luckily the cause may not be the record but actually the turntable needle. Here are a couple of warning signs that can indicate that the stylus needs cleaning.
Issues During Playback
Dust and debris can affect how a song will play on a perfect condition record. A dirty stylus can cause a record to sound muffled, cause a scratching sound, or some type of distorted audio, which would naturally make you feel like something is wrong with the record.
If a dirty stylus has debris on it, it can also cause the needle to jump out of the record groove, causing the song to stop together. Experiencing these sound issues on multiple records is a definite indicator that the stylus needs cleaning.
The Record Is Damaged
Dirt sitting on the needle and accumulating over time can cause a great deal of wear in the record’s groove. It can even scratch the vinyl and ruin it completely. This is why it is important to check your stylus regularly, along with making sure you store your vinyl properly in its correct sleeve.
How Often Should The Stylus Be Cleaned?
To keep your stylus in tip-top shape and your records safe, it is important to clean it as often as possible. Some people clean it every week, some argue that you need to clean it every month, and others argue that it should be cleaned after every use.
Really it boils down to how often you use your turntable to determine how often your stylus needs to be cleaned. If you have a turntable that is just a collector’s item and rarely used, you won’t have to clean it as often.
Stylus Damage From Playing Records
Records can cause damage to your stylus as well. Even though you may take great care of your needle and clean it often, a dirty record can still damage it.
If a record is full of dust and debris, it can transfer that same dust to the needle, damaging both the stylus and the record being played.
You can tell if the needles are damaged if it has jagged or bent parts, residue on the tip, it begins to bounce, or if it has a dull sound.
With a record cleaner, records should be cleaned every two to three times you use them.
Trust me; it hurts when you put a scratch across one of your favorite pieces of vinyl! Make sure you get a record cleaning kit and keep your wax pristine.
Sometimes It’s Just Time To Change The Stylus
If you have thoroughly cleaned your needle and you have used every method mentioned above, from the stylus brush to the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, and your sound is still muffled and scratched, there may be a bigger problem.
The problem may be that the stylus or the entire cartridge is damaged. In this case, it is time to invest in a new one.
With the new stylus and clean records, your music should be as clear as new again!
How To Clean A Turntable Needle – FAQ
Why Is The Stylus Important
A stylus is important because it allows the entire cartridge to move. The cartridge then sends out a signal that tells the amplifier how loud or quiet the sound is. Then the signal travels from the amplifier to the speaker. If the stylus is damaged, it not only damages the record but also disrupts the signal being amplified.
What are turntable needles made of?
Modern turntable needles are typically made of nude or tipped diamond, sapphire, or a type of steel. Older turntable needles are made of steel or some other form of metal.
How long do needles last?
Typically, needles last about 1,000 hours. That is, however, if you listen to your record player continuously. If you don’t listen to it that often and follow our steps to keep it clean, the stylus should last for years. However, for the best results, it’s best if they are changed every couple of years.
What are other ways for keeping records clean?
Cleaning a record is very similar to cleaning a stylus. Remove the dust from the record with a record brush or a microfiber cloth, spray with cleaning solution, wipe clean in a circular motion, rinse, and then dry. The cleaning solution can be distilled water and alcohol.
Is it possible to fix a warped record?
Yes, it can easily be done yourself, so you won’t have to pay a professional. You can get two large panes of glass. Be sure that they can fit into your oven. Clean the record and then place the record in between the two glass panes—Preheat the oven to its lowest temperature. Then put the vinyl and the glass in the oven for 30 minutes, and then your vinyl record should be good as new.
How much is a turntable?
Turntables can start at $40 but are known to be of poor quality. The range of quality turntables can range from $100 to $1000+. Turntables for a DJ can get into the thousands price range. As with most things, you get what you pay for!
How much is a stylus?
If you have cleaned your stylus as much as possible and decided that you need a new needle, the entire cartridge’s price range can range from $50-$400. This all depends on the type of needle, the size, and the brand.
Why are turntables so expensive?
High-quality turntables are expensive because they are made to last for decades. Some are expensive because of the brand, others because they are antiques. Some are expensive because they have a higher, long-lasting quality. Modern DJ turntables are expensive because they are packed with intricate components, and they have other digital components to go along with them.
What does wow and flutter mean for turntables?
Wow, and flutter is a sound reproduction caused by the irregularities from a turntable. Wow is caused by low-frequency irregularities. High-frequency irregularities are called flutter.
Do expensive turntables sound better?
People who are vinyl lovers can notice if a turntable is expensive or cheap. Less expensive turntables sound well enough to enjoy the music, while more expensive turntables are said to have a more engaging, rich, and authentic sound.
As we’ve discussed, it’s important to keep your stylus free from dust and grime, not only to help it last longer but also to avoid damaging your records.
There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a song when the needle jumps out of the groove because of a bit of fluff!
It really doesn’t have to be expensive to keep your stylus nice and clean, and as we’ve pointed, out it will save you time and money in the long term.