Here’s my two penneth on recent vinyl washing experiences, with a bit of context.
I’ve around 3000 LPs, perhaps two-thirds or more are still in a storage unit in Wisconsin waiting for me to get back there from VA to pick them up.
There’s a lot of other audio stuff in there too and the clock has been ticking at $45/mth for 5 years, so I need to get my lazy ass back there pretty soon.
I’m bad at looking after vinyl. For that reason (plus I’m cheap) I tend to avoid paying a premium for the stuff. That said, I have a couple of nice cartridges, so I’ve been trying to get more serious about looking after records and perhaps cleaning the stock I have. (I have a Basis Audio Debut with vacuum platter, Graham 2.2, a Sound-Smith Zephyr MIMC, Audioquest AQ700, and also an Audio Tekne MC 6310 that I haven’t used yet since a factory rebuild. Also, a Wilson Benesch Full Circle TT with the fabulous ACT 0.5 arm)
About two years ago I bought one of those El-Cheapo Spin Doctor cleaners for 80 bucks, it’s still in the closet unopened. (If anyone wants it for fifty bucks shipped, let me know).
At about the same time, I bought a used VPI 16.5 cleaner. It’s the second one I’ve owned. To be honest, they’re OK for de-crudding but not for any real deep groove cleansing stuff. So if I pick up something in real bad shape from a garage sale I’ll stick it on the VPI, but not always.
I’d looked at the Kirmuss US cleaner at CAF2019 but I couldn’t justify the $1000+ he was asking at the time. Then, a couple friends got chatting about Ultrasonic record cleaners and some low-cost alternatives to the Kirmuss and my ears pricked up. So I bought the one that the guys were both using from eBay for about $250 delivered.
The things bolts together easy enough and it’s easy to drive, but it makes a gawd awful racket and it’s slow as molasses. There are varying opinions on what settings to use, such as how many records to clean in one batch and at what temp to run the thing.
I added the distilled water to the tank cold and it took over 20 minutes to get up to temp. Next time I’ll heat the water on the stove first.
One user said 4 per batch, another preferred 2, so I split the difference and went with 3 records. I went with 29 degrees for the water bath since Rick reported some warping at the suggested 35 degrees. I bought a bottle of the same surfactant the guys are using from Amazon – Tergikleen, and I also have a bottle of L’art Du Son cleaner that I use on the VPI. I used 10 drops of Tergikleen in the US cleaner and mixed up a fresh quart of distilled water and L’art Du Son in a spray bottle.
- Step 1 – wash on the VPI with a solution of distilled water and L’art Du Son, then rinse with distilled water and vacuum. Six sides need to be cleaned on the VPI to create a single batch for the US cleaner. This is the de-crudding process and removes fingerprints and other grime.
- Step 2 – load a batch of 3 records into the US cleaner and run for 20 minutes. While that’s working you can get the next 3 albums scrubbed on the VPI.
- Step 3 – Out of the rotisserie and back onto the VPI for a quick wash ‘n dry. (distilled water/vacuum dry)
- Step 4 – let the records dry properly on paper towel. A rack would be better, but towel was OK. Then into a new MoFi sleeve and a new plastic outer sleeve so I know what’s been cleaned and what hasn’t.
Almost four hours of work – 24 records cleaned.
Does it work? Yes. There’s a marked improvement in SQ versus just using the VPI for a deep scrub. Surface noise is reduced quite significantly. I was disappointed that many of the louder ‘pops’ are still present, but I only have myself to blame for that.
I was surprised at how much crud there was in the bottom of the tank after cleaning only 24 records, particularly given that these had all been scrubbed on the VPI. That’s clear proof that the UltraSonic digs deeper than the VPI alone.
The problem is time. I’m just not that guy. Setting aside a whole afternoon to clean 24 records is just something I’m not going to do on a regular basis. Now, I could skip the VPI step and just use the US cleaner, but it still takes 20 minutes to clean 3 records, plus change over time, so it’s still a lengthy and time-consuming process.
Again, just my 2p.