Records! God, I love 'em. The look, the feel, the smell (yes, the smell), the way they sound, the large covers. Beautiful! However, like many beautiful things (Ming vases, the paintings of Salvador Dali, your mum), they are fragile. You wouldn't think to look at them, after all, they're big and heavy and possibly dangerous in the hands of a maniac (like Ming vases, the paintings of Salvadore Dali, your mum), but vinyl can be damaged in many different, subtle ways and a lot of the time you're probably not even aware that you may be compromising your delectable slabs of delicious decibels. From the way that they are stored to the type of stylus you use, from the way you handle the record to the way that you drop the needle: all of these things, AND MORE, can screw up your slice of wax easier than a cat can knock things off of your shelf. And seeing as some people's record collections are worth more than the actual house that they're storing them in, this is advice you should probably heed.
So here then, is my list of things you absolutely SHOULD NOT do to your records. Some of them may seem like common sense, but I assure you: someone reading this right now is probably making one or more of these mistakes. Don't be one of them!
Common. Perhaps the most sensible of the Rappers.
DON'T CRAM DIFFERENT SIZED RECORDS TOGETHER
If you press a 7" record against a 12" record - on a tight shelf or suchlike - over a long period of time, then there's gonna be warpage. You don't want warpage. In fact, storing records on tight shelves will be bad for them whatever. It might damage the records, it will almost certainly damage the sleeves. Ever seen a second-hand record with a ring imprint of the record on the surface of the cover? Yep, that's what'll happen if you just shove them in a shelf with one hundred other records and not enough room. MAKE ROOM FOR YOUR RECORDS.
DON'T SET FIRE TO YOUR RECORDS
There's a reason why Elon Musk didn't take his record collection with him during his last manned mission to the Sun (the astronauts had to make do with lossy MP3 files played through the speakers of a 2002 laptop). Records don't like the heat: they warp and bend and get very sticky (...like your mum. Okay I won't do any more mum jokes) and we all know warped records are THE DEVIL'S DINNER PLATE.
Yeah but is the audio quality affected?
DON'T EAT YOUR RECORDS
Sure, your marshmallow-scented white vinyl edition of the Ghostbusters theme may smell like a delicious treat, but I guarantee that once you bite into its crackly surface you will find it very difficult to play the record again without some skips. Also, you may die from a perforated bowel. Don't die from a perforated bowel.
ALSO: DO NOT USE YOUR 7" FLEXI-DISC AS A TORTILLA WRAP
It just won't taste as nice.
DON'T USE CHEESE TO WIPE YOUR RECORDS WITH
If you want to get your records dust & static free then cheese is not your friend. Whether it's the soft cheeses of France, the hard cheeses of Britain or the processed cheeses of the United States, none of them are suitable. Instead, get a record-cleaning cloth and / or an anti-static brush. Reduce the urge to smother them in cheese.
Cheese: delicious but unsuitable for wiping on records.
DON'T JUST PLAY YOUR RECORD FROM ANYWHERE
Want to just skip to your favourite bit of the song? WELL FUCKING DON'T. The groove of the record is like the Death Star's trench in Star Wars: you can't just start it from anywhere. The only places you should place the needle on the record are on the track-dividing grooves - you know, the slightly thicker black lines that allow you to see where one track ends and another begins - and at the run-in groove at the beginning of the record. If you place the needle anywhere else it will very slightly chip away at the groove, and repeated enough times you will eventually be rewarded with the two rice-krispies mascots voted most likely to go on a killing-spree (crackle & pop). The same applies to lifting the tonearm before the end of the track as well. Of course, we don't always want to listen to an entire side of a 12", but if you want to preserve your record for as long as possible, you'll play it from beginning to end. Also: gently use the cue lever. No matter how steady you think your hand is, it isn't.
DON'T USE THE RECORD TO SLAP YOUR STEP-CHILD WITH
I know, your step-child has the kind of face that just irks you, but don't use one of your prized records to hit it with! Use a spatula, a chessboard or, for special occasions like Thanksgiving, a dinner plate.
Spatulas. Much better for hitting your step-child with.
DON'T USE A CHEAP RECORD PLAYER / STYLUS
You'd be surprised but the stylus, needle, tone arm etc can all contribute to damaging your record. Is the tone arm skating (sliding across the record) because the tracking is off? Yep, that's gonna cause some damage. Maybe the stylus is too heavy? That's going to dig into the groove more than is recommended, thus: more wear & tear. Cheap needle? Yeah, that's gonna damage the groove. Of course, it's perfectly okay to use cheap equipment - not everyone can afford top-of-the-range stuff - but just be prepared that your records will not last as long as they would with a better set up.
DON'T SHARE NEEDLES
Even if you give it a clean first, you still don't know where it's been. Ever heard of VAIDS (Vinyl AIDS)? Well, it doesn't exist but why take the risk?
DON'T CLEAN YOUR RECORDS WITH BLEACH
Difficult to resist, I know. Who doesn't love the smell of bleach? But abrasive cleaning products can ultimately damage your vulnerable vinyl and no-one wants that. Only use decent cleaning solutions as recommended by the experts. Avoid: bleach, toilet cleaner, Swarfega, fluoroantimonic acid, Pepsi etc.
DON'T TOUCH THE PLAYING SURFACE
You fat-fingered twat.
DON'T LEAVE YOUR RECORDS SEALED IN SHRINKWRAP
This can actually lead to the records warping over time if it's too tightly wrapped. Open the record. Play the record. Enjoy the record. Love the record. But not in that way. No, put the record down, that's not what I meant by "love the record." Wipe it clean before putting it back in its sleeve, you filthy animal.
DON'T PLAY JENGA WITH YOUR RECORDS
I get it. You're bored and have been in lockdown for several months. Still, stacking your records is a big no-no. Why? Because it'll fuck 'em up. And we're trying to avoid that, aren't we? Please do keep up.
DON'T THROW YOUR RECORD LIKE A SHURIKEN
Records are really not designed to be used as a ninja weapon, and there are far better household items you can use on your sworn enemies: lawnmowers, a desk lamp, the complete works of William Shakespeare. Avoid the temptation to throw your 7", 10" and 12" records and remember your training: protect your record collection above all else, and your record collection will protect you.
DON'T LIFT THE RECORD OFF OF THE PLATTER WHILE IT'S STILL SPINNING
This will almost certainly reward you with some slight scuffs & scratches to the underside of the record. Just be patient and wait until the platter has stopped spinning before taking it off to put away or flip over... like your mum.
- Mark Anthony Finch