How to Store Vinyl Records According to Music Experts

Feb 20, 2024 / Ann Griffith

If quality sound is literally music to your ears, chances are you’ve discovered the joy of vinyl records. To keep your collection in good shape for the long haul, we’ve talked to expert for tips on how to store vinyl records like a pro.

Not just a thing of the past, LPs have become the preferred listening choice for audiophiles across the world.

To purists, it sounds better because records play back music in analog, closer to the way it actually sounded live. CDs and MP3s are digitized versions and can distort the sound.

“In the last 10 years records have become so much more collectible, almost like a baseball card or a comic book,” says Gary Farley of Third Eye Records, which is located on the Retro Row stretch of Fourth Street in Long Beach, California. “If you think of it that way, it can help you think about how you want to store them and care for them.”

We know that listening to vinyl can be worth the higher maintenance required. Read on for these expert tips.

How to Store Vinyl Records

Museum curator Levon Williams, who has worked at Stax Museum of American Soul Music as well as the National Museum of African American Music, was willing to share tips with us on record album storage as well as displays at home.

The primary rule for museum or personal collections is to store your vinyl albums upright in a cool, dark place away from moisture.

According to Farley, storing records out of the elements is crucial to keeping your vinyl in good shape, which means no dusty attics or damp basements.

“No extreme heat, and no moisture,” Farley says. “It’s best to store records vertically and keep the weight even, so you don’t end up with a concave warp.”

Farley notes that there are many ways to store records vertically that will fit any aesthetic, from custom shelving to simple milk crates.

You can also use L-shaped polyester sleeves and an archival-grade storage box for extra peace of mind.

How to Clean Records

Vinyl records produced after 1950 can last a long time if you avoid scratches and keep them away from heat.

Here is how to clean a record album to avoid damage from dust: brush in the direction of the grooves with record cleaner liquid and a cleaning pad. Anti-static guns can also help.

Farley uses an ammonia-free glass cleaner to clean records that come into the shop.

He also has a “spin clean machine,” which he says is “a wet basin that you can actually drop the record into and spin it around to clean the groove. I’ll typically do that once just to kind of get all the dirt and grime off of an older record.”

Because static can accumulate on records, Farley recommends a quick wipe down before playing it on your turntable.

Farley generally does a thorough cleaning only once, but you might want to up that to a couple of times a year if you live in a particularly dusty space, or if you have pet hair and dander floating around.

For more on dealing with the destructive power of dust, check out our blog.

How to Preserve Vintage Vinyl Records

Caring for vintage record albums and music memorabilia at Stax in Memphis is akin to preserving an important slice of American music history.

There are more than 300 albums at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, which is located in the same building as the record label of that name. The company began in 1957 as Satellite Records, became Stax in 1961, and ended its run in 1975. By the time the label went under, its output had forever influenced the American sound and our culture.

At Stax Museum there are no windows and special filters cover the light fixtures. At home, if you want to frame your records, museum glass can also filter out damaging UV light.

Vinyl record album covers are also sensitive to light, which can degrade the cardboard and make the artwork fade.

For more tips on how to preserve memorabilia that’s sensitive to light, read our blog on Polaroid film storage.

How to Display Vinyl

vintage record albums including isaac hayes-hot-buttered-soul

In his work as a curator, Williams has utilized album cover art and memorabilia to tell the story of American music and its influence. You can commemorate your own personal history by displaying the seminal albums in your collection.

But before you throw your special edition recording on the wall, Williams recommends removing the record first and storing the vinyl in an archival sleeve. Otherwise its weight can cut through the cardboard or leave a record-shaped impression.

Williams loves his own personal collection of more than 2,000 LPs and can’t decide on a favorite. Not so with the Stax collection. He has a clear number-one for both the groundbreaking music and the artwork.

The most interesting album cover, without a doubt, he says is “Hot Buttered Soul.” Isaac Hayes’ second solo record was released in 1969, and today is recognized as a landmark soul recording—though the album was almost never made because his first record sold so poorly.

“Hot Buttered Soul”—displayed above with a promo sticker—signaled a huge change in the times, from when Black artists were not depicted on their own albums.

Whether you’re dealing with professional collections like Stax or Third Eye, or you are just a casual collector looking to preserve your cherished LPs, following the advice above can help you ensure that you’ll be spinning tunes for years to come.

If you have other sensitive items to keep on ticking for the long haul, read about how to best store timepieces and watches.

Additional Reporting by Laura Bolt

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