Vinyl Records & Accessories

Is Alcohol Safe To Clean Records?

Vinyl Material

 

Nearly all records are made from Vinyl (polyvinyl chloride) which has excellent solvent resistant properties.

 

The chance of isopropanol in any dilution causing a reaction is theoretically impossible.

 

Vinyl Material (PVC Plastic) has the same risk of dissolving in pure water as it does pure isopropanol - zero there is no reaction! If you look at a technical data sheet for Isopropanol the only Incompatible materials listed are: Ammonia. Strong acids. Strong oxidizers. no mention of plastic.

 

However.....PVC also contains additives (plasticisers and extenders) which make the vinyl flexible.

They conform well to PVC compatibility (in other words should have simular properties) keeping the required softness at minimal quantity (plasticising efficiency) and are major components that determine the physical properties of polymer products and should not easily migrate into air or water (low volatility, low migration). They are fully bonded into the solid material.

 

Every record will vary but the amount of plasticisers found in a finished product has little to do with potential exposure. There are many misconceptions about phthalates leaching out and easily dispersing from PVC products. This is actually quite a difficult process and would only happen if very abrasive detergents or solvents are used or if the articles are exposed to adverse conditions for an exceptionally long time..

 

Isopropanol Alcohol:

 

Even museums and other professional institutions use it to clean plastics. It is not recommended for use on shellac / old gramophone records / 78's / Acetates or other records not made from conventional vinyl material.

 

Lets Dispell A few Myths!

 

Claims like alcohol can remove the protective surface of vinyl' are misleading since the vast majority of VINYL records do not actually have a protective coating at all, they do not add any protective layer. Some very old 78's / gramophone records did sometimes have a coating which could be the root of this myth. Secondly we are not even talking about neat alcohol here, most record cleaning solution is heavily diluted.

 

Ofcourse there are many different cleaning solutions and many different records, made in many different places, of different qualities & materials and in different eras  - plus a whole host of other factors at play (excuse the pun!) we will go as far to say: Do not use neat, impure or overly strong alcohol to clean records as a precaution.

 

Even those in the anti Iso camp will tell you that it will take many cleans before an apparent deterioration in sound is noticed - was that really the alcohol in the cleaner that caused this? or could it be due to many other factors that need consideration such as what product used? what else was in it and of what quality are the ingredients it contained? What other substances have been in contact with the vinyl? Are you using the product as directed? how pure or strong was the alcohol & other ingredients? was it even a good quality pressing in the 1st place? How many times has the record been played and on what equipment? How has it been stored and looked after? what type of cloth or other cleaning impliment was used in the cleaning process? what condition is your stylus in and what do you use to clean that (if at all?) Would the record sound have deteiriated anyway even without cleaning or by cleaning with a different substance?.....the list goes on......these claims are completely anecdotal and to straight out announce that all alcohol based products will damage all records is just plain wrong.

 

Who is to say that just because a cleaner does not have alcohol in it that it wont cause damage? Infact many of the other surficants and detergents used pose an even greater threat!

 

You will find that some of these so called safe & natural products actually dont give any indication of whats in them. Are they all really safe for vinyl and are they as effective?

 

Perhaps its the case that any method of cleaning will eventually cause wear - in a way this makes sense because even playing records wears them out over time.

 

Did you know that Isopropanol is widely used in hand sanitiser and other medical applications (albeit in much higher concentrations than your average record cleaning fluid)

 

At the end of the day its down to the consumer to decide but please be aware of mis-information, myth and marketing (of which there is plenty on the internet) that might convince you to buy a 'safer' product or use different methods that might infact be less effective and/or even more likely to damage.

 

Many collectors will tell you they have been cleaning their records with isopropanol based products for years and with excellent results, an improvement in sound and no noticible issues.

 

Remember not all record cleaning fluids are the same! - do your research & make your own mind up!

 

If you decide on the DIY route make sure your ingredients are of the best quality and diluted - do not use neat solvents - to be safe your best bet is to buy a trusted branded product especially made for vinyl.

 

 

 

 

 

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Before you slate alcohol based record cleaners please read and consider the following article: