How to Handle Vinyl
How to Handle Vinyl:
From taking a vinyl out of its sleeve to holding a record properly, this useful guide explains how to handle your LPs like a professional.
If you’re a beginner collector, nobody ever really tells you how to handle vinyl records properly. As a result, some people tend to pick up bad habits, particularly if they pay attention to films and TV shows. When you see DJs spinning vinyl in Hollywood movies, they’re often pulling records out of sleeves like plates out of a dishwasher. Additionally, hip-hop turntablists who engage in ‘scratching’ have also given many people a gross misperception about handling vinyl. The truth is: you should never touch the grooves. This is vinyl care 101.
In order to bust some of these myths and advise you on how to handle vinyl correctly, we’ve prepared a guide on keeping your records safe and protecting them from wear and tear, from purchase all the way through to playback.
STEP 1: REMOVING THE VINYL FROM ITS SLEEVE
You’ve just bought a vinyl record and it has arrived safely at your home. If it’s shrink-wrapped in cellophane, remove it carefully. Some people gently use a safety pin to cut along the opening so as to avoid causing damage to the record cover, but be careful not to cut too deep as you don’t want to scratch the vinyl inside. Once all cellophane is successfully removed, it’s important you avoid making the most common mistake vinyl beginners make. Some people tend to pinch the edge of the vinyl to pull it out of its sleeve, but this is a big mistake. This risks getting grease and body oils from your fingers onto the record, which in time can cause it to deteriorate. It’s a big no-no.
Instead, remove the inner sleeve completely. This is commonly made out of polyethylene-lined paper. Don’t even take the vinyl out at this stage - just leave it inside the sleeve. When you’re finally ready to remove it, place your hand over the open end of the inner sleeve, let the edge of the vinyl drop onto your thumb, then place your forefinger on the circular label as you slowly remove the sleeve. If you need to use both hands, place your palm along the edge of the other side of the vinyl to ensure you don’t drop it.
STEP 2: HOLDING THE VINYL CORRECTLY OUT OF ITS SLEEVE
Now that the inner sleeve has been removed, you should be left holding your vinyl with your thumb along its edge and your finger resting on the circular label, with your other hand resting along the opposing edge as support (if necessary). While being careful not to drop it, the inner part of your vinyl record should be left completely untouched by your fingers.
The important thing to note here is that you should not be touching the grooves of the vinyl at all, only the very edges and the middle label. By placing your forefinger on the circular sticker with your thumb along the edge, you should have enough purchase to hold the vinyl without fear of dropping it. You should also be able to manoeuvre it around as you carry it over to your turntable.
STEP 3: PLACING THE VINYL ON THE TURNTABLE
Holding your vinyl record in this way means you should be able to walk it over to your turntable safely without touching the vinyl’s lacquer interior with your fingers. This avoids getting sweat or grease into the grooves, which can, in turn, attract dust. This is why it’s important to handle your records properly. As you hover over the turntable, gently lower the centre hole of your vinyl over the spindle, whilst remaining careful not to touch the grooves with your fingers.
By only touching the outside edges and the middle label of your vinyl as you place it down, you are ensuring that the grooves are kept safe throughout this whole process. Once you’ve safely dropped the needle and finished listening to your LP, stow the stylus, place your fingers along the outside edges of the vinyl to lift it up, then tilt it once again so it the edge rests on your thumb with your forefinger touching the inner label for balance, just as you did before. It may take a while to get used to, but just remember - there is no need to touch the grooves. Keep that in mind and you’ll find a way to hold your record with care.
STEP 4: PUTTING THE RECORD BACK IN ITS SLEEVE
Handling the record just as you did before, you should be able to gently slide the vinyl record back into its inner sleeve. Since one end of the inner sleeve is sealed, it may be tempting for you just let the vinyl drop into it as you get halfway in, but you should avoid doing this. The inner sleeve helps protect your record, at the end of the day, so if you’re too rough with it, you may damage it unnecessarily. Slide the vinyl in carefully and you will ensure your record stays in good condition for longer.
When your record is safely inside the inner sleeve, you can now place it back in its cover. Make sure you put the sleeve in the open-side first so that the record can’t slide out by accident. While being careful not to let the inner sleeve snag, slide it in carefully and you will have safely handled your vinyl like a pro! The key things to remember are simple: Never touch your vinyl with your fingers, only the edges and the inner label are recommended. So long as you stick to those golden rules, you’ll be well on your way to ensuring your records stay in good shape for years to come.
The Benefits of Proper Handling
Lifespan of Records
Handling your vinyl records improperly can lead to scratches, warps, and other damage that can shorten their lifespan. When handled properly, however, records can last for decades and even centuries. To extend the life of your records, it's important to handle them gently and carefully. This includes avoiding touching the playing surface as much as possible, using clean hands, and being mindful of how you handle and store them.
Maintaining Sound Quality
In addition to extending the lifespan of your records, proper handling also plays a crucial role in maintaining sound quality. Scratches, warps, and other types of damage can result in skipping, popping, and other sound distortions. By handling your records properly, you can ensure that the sound quality remains intact and that your listening experience is as enjoyable as possible.
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