Clean old records with wood glue

I still have, somewhere, a few tubes of a commercial product from the Discwasher people which worked the same way. Name escapes me at the moment, but you would squeeze it on, let it dry, peel it off. I was using it on frequently played records, so I think dust was less of a problem than scratches from frequent play. It went on at about the consistency of rubber cement, and has a sponge applicator at the end.

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Titebond II is a PVA solution. Most wood glues are also very acidic, which is why I’ve avoided trying this method, but the archival glues sold for book repair are acid-neutral PVAs and worth a shot.

With respect to 78s, never ever let anything with alcohol in it near the record, as it is a solvent for shellac.

@Snowlark: This method is very slow, so probably not suitable for crates of records. You are better off investing in a vacuum-based cleaning machine (they start at $200 for commercial ones, or the cost of a shop vac for DIY), or get a label protector and wash them in a sink like the guy with the dish soap and dish brush does, except use a non-ionic clean-rinsing soap like tergitol (that’s what the Library of Congress uses) and a distilled water final rinse. This is probably the best route for multiple records.


This one has been going around for a while, and I once read hundreds of posts about it on an audio forum as the members experimented with different glues and perfected the technique. It was fascinating.

I am never going to try it, because it’s a gigantic, messy hassle and other methods are good enough. It would also get expensive.

For the budget conscious, the Spin Clean is very good but a little bit on the labour-intensive side.

If you have some money and space for yet another honking big gadget, a VPI Cleaning Machine is your friend. If you have space and basic carpentry and electronics skills but not money, apparently it’s easy enough to roll your own VPI clone.

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Some old records have a cardboard core.

I found this out after cleaning carefully, and leaving them in the drying rack.

The next day, portions of the lower edges had expanded and splintered from the water dripping down.

Totally doesn’t work. Don’t do it.


Though it won’t restore damaged vinyl, it does a fantastic job lifting contaminates from the grooves, particularly on thrift store vinyl donated from the home of a smoker. Or whatever.

The most dramatic recovery I’ve seen with woodglue vinyl LP cleaning was on a copy of Dexter Wansel’s Life on Mars (1976) that appeared to have endured a flood. The album cover was destroyed and moldy, the LP itself completely coated in a tan silty mud. I was willing to take a chance on it because I had the woodglue technique to try, and so I discovered Dexter Wansel’s ahead-of-its-time sound…


A 78 single—hell, a single, period—would be antithetical to Albini’s sensibilities, but I can totally see them releasing an entire album as a set of shellac 78s.

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Have you tried any other methods on records that were just (or almost) as dirty?

I’ve done some pretty extreme resurrections with the Spin Clean. Thick layers of dust, ancient fingerprints, record absolutely unplayable. It can take more than one pass but it’s still faster than waiting for glue to dry…

Enjoyed the Wanzel cut, good stuff.

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I’ve actually not, and so I can’t make any comparative statements about other methods whatsoever. They may be more suitable some or all of the time, for all I know. :slight_smile: Though it’s very satisfying to peel off woodglue, reminds me of elementary school, peeling Elmer’s glue off my fingers, plus you get to see all the dirt adhered to the solidified glue ‘plastic.’

There are probably some disadvantages worth mentioning about the woodglue method-- mostly, I’ve noticed it’s a pain to get off if you can’t de-adhere it as a single large piece-- little islands of dried splattered woodglue are no fun, and often I’ve had little choice but to re-do the entire woodglue application to get THEM off, or try to very carefully scrape them off without scratching anything. It’s also frustrating to get glue on the center spindle label or around the outside edge of the LP. I usually try to prevent this when applying, and use a spare credit card as a ‘brush’ to smear the glue around the surface so that all the glue is contiguous.

People used to record the first playing of a new LP to tape (remember tape?) because the highest frequency notes on the record were also the finest structures, and were the most likely to be ground off by the passage of the needle through the groove. It was expected that after a few playings any LP would lose a significant percentage of its high end response. I wonder if peeling away the glue has a similar effect on the vinyl?

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Thanks for that! I figured this existed (though maybe not for the hoi polloi who don’t work in libraries), but your mentioning it caused me to Google it. I have a number of books, mainly paperbacks, that have come apart at the binding. I found this, for example:

It’s like a Biore strip for records!


In my case, the second playing – the first was so I’d have a good idea where to set the recording level.

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wood glue at least the type used here is PVA glue.

I record the first and final take to DSD2.8 on a Tascam DA-3000, and I figure it counts as a modern digital analogue to audio on master-quality analog reel-to-reel tape systems. I can’t really say my new LPs and EPs have only been played once, between changes to headshell and stylus, capacitive loading tuning, and preamp mods, I seem to keep re-digitizing my library (though it sounds better each time!) :slight_smile:

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I used to believe that too, but absent any evidence I’m going to chalk this up to urban legend. It takes a lot of plays to produce an audible deterioration in a record… I’d be surprised if it takes fewer than 50 or 100, assuming a reasonably good, properly installed stylus in decent condition. (Your grandpa’s console from 1948 with the two-pound tonearm and sewing-needle stylus is a different matter.)

But there was probably still a good reason to do it: to make the tape before the record had a chance to pick up dust, scratches or fingerprints.

Fingerprints are the worst. They are tough to clean and easily audible. It’s really easy to avoid putting them on a record, and yet I’ve even seen record store owners pick up records by pinching the edge. Maybe bad habits acquired from DJ days when records weren’t bought to last.

I think it may have been more the case several years ago, and less so today. Five or six years ago I got what looked like a decent USB turntable with magnetic cartridge that cost a few hundred dollars at a discount. When setting it up, I found that the recommended tracking force was 3.5 to 4 grams! When set to anything lower, it tended to skip and/or skate towards the center of the record.
My first serious turntable in the '80s was a Pioneer model that cost about half as much, and could readily track at 1 gram. I had to suck it up and pay about twice as much to get a turntable that won’t put so much wear and tear on the groove.

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You say that like it’s a BAD thing . . .


I did that too, faithfully, on every record. Then I let the tapes sit in the sun in my car…wow…flutter…
I was young.

I put a couple of those detox footpads on a record overnight. By morning you can see how the contaminates have migrated to the pads, and the improvement in the frequencies is unbelievable!