Popularized in 1948, though invented in the 1920's, vinyl records have been a staple for listening to music and audio for decades. Whether the records are from the mid-20th century or a modern press, many collectors and turntable enthusiasts prioritize the upkeep of vinyl records for maximum longevity.
Do vinyl records wear out over time, and if so, how? Vinyl records can last 100-plus years under strict conditions. Vinyl records are made of PVC, a material that takes centuries to decompose. Elements that determine the lifespan of a vinyl record include maintenance, humidity levels, UV exposure, storage, and the equipment used to play the record.
The above indicates that vinyl records can last a substantial amount of time if preserved correctly. To guarantee that you can maintain your vinyl records correctly, you’ll want to become knowledgeable on the below. In this article, we'll discuss the five primary reasons why records wear out over time. By understanding this, you can ensure your records last a lifetime.
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5 Primary Reasons Why Vinyl Records Wear Out Over Time
Previously, in this post, we briefly mentioned five reasons why vinyl records wear out over time. To prevent these issues from occurring, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the fundamental reasons. In this section, I'll offer Amazon links to products I believe will help with vinyl record maintenance.
Once again, the five important factors that contribute to vinyl wear (or the lack thereof) are:
1. Maintenance And Upkeep
Many beginner record collectors or turntable lovers don’t realize that the overall cleanliness of a vinyl record over its lifespan contributes to its longevity. Therefore, guaranteeing your records are kept dirt, dust, and fingerprint-free is mandatory to increase their working years.
The reasoning behind ensuring this is that dirt, dust, and other debris can fall within the ridges of the record. As a result, the overall playback of the record will be impacted.
When this becomes problematic, the sound quality will decrease, and it’ll begin to skip and produce noises that aren’t meant to be projected from the record.
Related article: The Causes Of Vinyl Crackle & How To Fix Them
In terms of longevity, the skipping caused by accumulated dirt and debris can cause the stylus/needle to damage the record on impact. Furthermore, the debris can cause lasting damage within the grooves even after it's cleaned away.
When cleaning a record, care should be taken to avoid forcing any particles against/into the grooves, thereby preserving the information contained within the grooves.
Wipe gently, removing all dust with a microfiber cloth. Dampen the cloth with distilled water and gently rinse the record. Use a suitable solution like the Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner if you have one. Dry the record with a dry microfibre cloth and use compressed air to remove any moisture remaining in the grooves.
When it comes to the maintenance of a vinyl record, surprisingly, fingerprints also could cause issues. Our fingers are filled with natural oils, which is a disastrous combination when mixed with vinyl.
From touching your vinyl record, the natural oil from your fingers invites dust and other particles to attach themselves to the vinyl. Therefore, try to hold the record either by the inner label or the edges.
2. Humidity Levels
Vinyl records are collectibles, timepieces, and an extraordinary representation of the past. Because of this, consider them as a work of art. Like highly valuable art pieces, they should be stored in proper conditions to guarantee that they don’t depreciate or tarnish.
Unexpectedly, not storing your vinyl in suitable humidity levels positively charges your records, attracting even more dust, dirt, and other debris. While using a carbon brush can counteract some of the static charge generated from humidity, it’ll undoubtedly still be present.
The ideal humidity levels for vinyl storage are around the 30 to 40 percent mark. If you’re unaware of the levels around your storage area, purchasing a hygrometer will help. Additionally, if you want to increase or decrease the humidity levels, consider using a humidifier or dehumidifier to obtain optimal results.
3. Exposure To UV Light
Additionally, exposure to sunlight (UV light) also influences the total lifespan of a vinyl record. An extended amount of exposure to sunlight or high temperatures can result in the vinyl records warping and becoming distorted.
As a rule of thumb, when the temperature reaches 140º Fahrenheit (60º Celcius), the material starts to lose its resilience, making the traditional circular, flat shape deform.
Although UV can cause significant damage to vinyl records, it’s relatively easy to avoid. When finding a suitable storage area for your records, ensure they’re not subjected to light and the room’s temperature doesn’t exceed 140º F or 60º C.
The above describes the perfect conditions to ensure optimal longevity for your vinyl in terms of storage. However, it doesn’t mention how you should physically store them. Ideally, you’ll want to store your records vertically.
Never store them on top of one another. By doing this, pressure can build, causing the records to warp. Again, to prevent this, store them next to each other vertically.
5. Equipment Used To Play The Records
Lastly, another element that determines the total lifespan of your vinyl records is the equipment used to play the records. While a cheaper turntable may seem like the more suitable option, for the time being, you’re dramatically increasing the chances of irreversible damage.
The usual circumstance of this occurring is groove wear. When there’s severe friction between the grooves and the stylus/needle, it can damage the record. Over time, the grooves become worn, lose their quality and eventually become unplayable.
Now you’ve read the above, you should understand the five primary reasons why records become damaged. By knowing this, you can minimize the occurrence of these and increase the lifespan of your adored records.
How To Increase The Longevity Of Your Vinyl Records
After becoming knowledgeable on the fundamentals of what damages a vinyl record, I’m sure you’re eager to learn how to take care of your records correctly. To summarize how to ensure optimal longevity, ensure you’re following the below crucial factors:
- Handling: Never place your fingers on the vinyl’s grooves; only handle records either on the edges or by the circular paper label located in the center.
- Storing: Don’t stack records, expose them to sunlight, or place them in areas susceptible to mould or high humidity levels
- Platter: Before removing or placing a vinyl, guarantee that the platter has come to a complete halt.
- Cleaning: Always clean your vinyl after use with suitable cleaning equipment and solutions.
By ensuring the above, you’ll dramatically improve the longevity of your vinyl records by a significant amount. For the most premium results, you’ll want to guarantee consistency with your cleaning, handling, and storage practices throughout their entire lifespan. By doing this, you’ll ensure that your records will last a lifetime.
Do phono cartridges wear out? The phono cartridge component itself doesn’t have any deteriorating parts. However, located near this is the stylus. It’s a part that appears pointed and is used to track the record’s grooves. Over time, this can become worn, resulting in a decrease in trackability and sound quality.
Related article: Do Phono Cartridges Wear Out & If So, How?
Do loudspeakers wear out, and if so, how? Loudspeakers eventually wear out due to mechanical wear, particularly in the surround/suspension that connects the cone/diaphragm to the basket/housing. Environmental factors can wear out the speaker with enough time and exposure. Extended high-level audio signals can wear out electrical components.
Related article: Do Loudspeakers Wear Out & If So, How?