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Post subject: Steam cleaning records -- first-hand observations  PostPosted: Jul 07, 2012 - 02:49 PM
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Since the last time I posted, I have upgraded my RCM to a VPI. I have carefully cleaned the bulk of my collection.

A few records just refuse to give up their grunge. While the records LOOK great, the surface noise is unacceptable. These are records that anyone here would visually inspect and swear (on a stack of "Beatles for Sale" 1st Gen covers) are VG+/NM-

I purchased a Hoover steam cleaner (WH20300) and filled it with distilled water.

The first four albums I cleaned were:

1) Enya, Watermark (an album I paid quite a bit of money for, then paid even more for a sealed copy because the surface noise was unacceptable.)

2) Getz Gilberto (an easy to find album that I enjoy immensely, but this copy was unlistenable because of the surface noise)

3) The Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed (Found it at a thrift. Surface looks great. But it plays like someone smeared strawberry jam all over it and then left it in a sawdust pile for a decade)

4) Some Deep Purple two-disc "best of" I found at a swap meet. Same condition as Let it Bleed



Using the hand held steam wand, I blasted the surface of Watermark. I held the tip of the wand about an inch from the vinyl with one hand, while holding the cleaning brush a few inches downstream with the other. I made a 30-second pass, vacuumed up the liquid, then repeated.

After giving the album a few minutes to dry, I gave it a listen. Better. Not much better, but better. Still some annoying surface noise. So I did it again. Same procedure. Even better. Still a little noise. But only really noticeable in the dead space between tracks.

So I decided to blast one problem area for thirty seconds, and see what that did. That turned out to be WAY TOO MUCH. I scrubbed sonic information right off the disc. There was no surface noise, but now that section has a muted "buzzy" quality to it. One record ruined. Three to go.

Next up, Getz Gilberto. I did the first procedure, but shorted the total time spent on the side to around 20 seconds. This album was greatly improved in one pass. And the difference was night-and-day after two. Before, I'd give the sound quality a "4 out of 10." After, I'd give it an eight.

Next up, Deep Purple. Same procedure. Same results as Getz Gilberto. This one went from "2 out of 10" to another eight.

Next up, Let it Bleed. Same procedure. This one still exhibited some noise after cleaning, particularly at the beginning of "Gimme Shelter." I imagine too many haphazard needle drops resulted in the clicks. The rest of the album played near-perfect.


Observations:

The labels of all four albums were SOAKED by the process. None of them appear damaged. But I don't care about labels anyway.

Keep in mind these four albums had been cleaned MULTIPLE times using my old Discwasher system and the VPI. I had even tried Elmer's Glue on the Enya album. When I dumped the water from the VPI after steam cleaning, it was GRAY and full of visible bits of grit. This system loosens dirt like nothing else I've used.



Executive summary: Steam cleaning is only for records that don't respond to normal cleaning measures. It is easy to overdo it and damage the information in the grooves. I wouldn't try it with any album that is worth "real" money, either. But for garage sale and thrift store records, there is little harm trying steam when other methods don't yield acceptable results.

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Post subject: RE: Steam cleaning records -- first-hand observations  PostPosted: Jul 07, 2012 - 06:08 PM
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Rolling Eyes Good Grief! Rolling Eyes

No steam cleaning for me. I don't think I have any records needing that kind of treatment. Do any records really need that kind of treatment? Apparently yours do.

YIKES!

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Post subject: RE: Steam cleaning records -- first-hand observations  PostPosted: Jul 07, 2012 - 06:19 PM
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An interesting idea. I don't think I have the cahonas to try it myself, but it's nice to see that it did help.
 
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Post subject: RE: Steam cleaning records -- first-hand observations  PostPosted: Jul 07, 2012 - 07:07 PM
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Quote:

Steam cleaning is only for records that don't respond to normal cleaning measures.


Hmmm... not sure what sort of state your records were originally in, but I have never needed to use anything other than normal methods - and I have seen a lot of pretty filthy records.

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ScoopLVOffline
Post subject:   PostPosted: Jul 08, 2012 - 02:36 AM
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What condition were they in? I thought I made it very clear -- visually nice, but caked on, baked on detritus in the grooves. Enough to make it sound like someone was crumpling a newspaper somewhere in my stereo system.

My cartridge also picks up EVERYTHING. That's great when the record is perfect. Not so much when there's a lot of surface noise.

I'll keep the steam cleaner in reserve for discs that don't respond to the usual VPI treatment. (Enzyme cleaner, VPI run with disc cleaning fluid, VPI run with distilled water.)


It's just one more tool in the toolbox as far as I'm concerned, and a lot quicker than Elmer's glue.

I'd love to do a side-by-side of steam vs. ultrasonic. I suppose someday I'll invest in one.


PS -- Besides, the steam cleaner is an amazingly handy tool. My floors, shower tile, mirrors and windows have never looked so good. It's something you buy to clean the house, that pulls double-duty with the ol' vinyl addiction.

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freewater2000Offline
Post subject:   PostPosted: Jul 08, 2012 - 11:55 AM
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I love the snap crackle and pop associated with vinyl.It keeps it real its why we love it more than a sterile cd that i told myself back in 1987 that it sounds better talk about being stupid.Im glad I did not throw out all the vinyl from my youth. If I was to throw out the ones that dont sound perfect I wouldnt have much of a collection.
 
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ScoopLVOffline
Post subject:   PostPosted: Jul 08, 2012 - 02:06 PM
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freewater2000 wrote:
I love the snap crackle and pop associated with vinyl.It keeps it real its why we love it more than a sterile cd that i told myself back in 1987 that it sounds better talk about being stupid.Im glad I did not throw out all the vinyl from my youth. If I was to throw out the ones that dont sound perfect I wouldnt have much of a collection.


Well, I DON'T love surface noise. An acceptable record, in my opinion, sounds as good as a CD. That's merely acceptable. Good and great records surpass CDs in every way.

I'm in it for the audio experience. I realize others are in it for nostalgia or the hobby aspect. But for me, it's sound quality.

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hrtshpdbox
Post subject:   PostPosted: Jul 08, 2012 - 04:14 PM
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ScoopLV wrote:

It's just one more tool in the toolbox as far as I'm concerned, and a lot quicker than Elmer's glue.

Doesn't steam cleaning involve heat? Doesn't heat warp records?
 
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GraemeOffline
Post subject:   PostPosted: Jul 08, 2012 - 07:23 PM
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Quote:

I realize others are in it for nostalgia or the hobby aspect. But for me, it's sound quality.


Then, surely, your preference would be for CD or other digital system?

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Post subject:   PostPosted: Jul 08, 2012 - 11:29 PM
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I'll pass on the steam cleaning, but this made an interesting read so thanks for that!
 
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