Cleaning Vinyl Records with Vinegar

by Helen Appling | Updated: October 12, 2022

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably got a bottle of vinegar in your pantry. You probably use it for cooking or marinating, and you might even use it to keep your windows shiny. But did you know that cleaning vinyl records with vinegar is a safe and effective solution when you’re dealing with dirt and grime?

Using Vinegar to Clean Vinyl Records

While there are lots of commercial products that you can use to keep your vinyl clean, using vinegar is a cheap, easy, and safe method that won’t damage your records — so long as you carefully follow these directions for cleaning vinyl records with vinegar.

Getting started

To clean a vinyl record with vinegar, you’ll need vinegar, distilled water, two microfiber cleaning cloths, and two spray bottles. If you have several records to clean, you’ll want to make sure you have several microfiber cloths on hand so you can switch them out when they get too dirty. We’ll describe how to choose each of these materials below.

Choosing the right vinegar

You can find vinegar at your local grocery store or your favorite online merchant. You’ll notice that there are several varieties available, including white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and rice vinegar, among others. If you’re not familiar with the substance, you may also see products like wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar and wonder if they’re appropriate for your cleaning project.

Thankfully, choosing the right vinegar is the easiest part of this process: Only choose white vinegar. The other varieties are too strong or have additives that you don’t want anywhere near your vinyl. You can choose a larger bottle if you have lots of records to clean or may use the vinegar for other purposes (such as cooking or cleaning windows). Otherwise, a smaller container will suffice.

Creating a vinegar solution

Even though white vinegar is made of approximately 5% acetic acid and 95% water, this is still too strong of a solution to use on vinyl. If you don’t think so, simply take a sniff of the bottle, and you’re sure to change your mind.

Instead, you’ll want to create a cleaning solution that’s composed of 50% white vinegar and 50% distilled water. Be sure to use distilled water as it’s been purified to remove contaminants. You can also find distilled water at your local grocery store or online.

Pour your vinegar solution into a spray bottle. Fill the second spray bottle with distilled water only.

Cleaning your vinyl records

You can use almost any kind of clean cloth to clean vinyl records, but microfiber is a good choice because it’s plush, does a great job of trapping dirt, and won’t leave behind lint and fuzz. Choose cloths that are large enough for you to fold into a square that fits in the palm of your hand.

While you can spray your vinegar solution directly onto your vinyl, it’s a better idea to spray it onto a microfiber cleaning cloth instead. This will prevent your record label from getting wet and keep your vinyl from getting unnecessarily oversaturated.

Place your record on a soft, flat surface, and gently wipe the surface using the wet side of the microfiber cloth, following the curve of the vinyl. Rather than complete a full rotation, you’ll find it easier to clean one side of the record, and then turn your wrist to clean the opposite side.

Depending on the condition of your vinyl, you may need to repeat this process two or three times, folding the microfiber cloth to show a clean side and applying more of the vinegar solution. You’ll know you’re done when you see no dust or debris on the cloth.

Repeat the same process to the other side of the record. If your cleaning cloth is too dirty, you’ll need to grab a new one to keep from depositing dirt and grime.

Rinsing your vinyl records

When you’re done cleaning your vinyl records with vinegar, you’ll want to give them one last rinse to ensure that no vinegar residue remains. For this step, you’ll take a new microfiber cloth and spray it using the bottle of plain, distilled water. Repeat the same steps as if you were cleaning the record, wiping down one side and then the other. Fold the microfiber cloth to show a new side, spray distilled water, and give the record one final swipe.

Repeat this process to both sides of the vinyl record.


Why should I clean vinyl records with vinegar?

Vinegar is a good choice for cleaning vinyl records because it’s cheap, safe, and effective. If you’re buying vinegar locally, you’ll pay just a few dollars for a gallon of the stuff. Vinegar may not smell pleasant, but it doesn’t have any hazardous fumes, and it won’t harm you if you get it on your skin. The acetic acid in vinegar is a powerful cleaning agent. It can dissolve grime and remove water spots to help restore the look and sound of your vinyl.

Does vinegar work better than other cleaning products?

Depending on the condition of your vinyl, vinegar may work just as well as commercial cleaning products. If your records are dusty or slightly grimey, a vinegar solution will cut through the dirt with little effort. Vinegar is also a natural disinfectant, so it can help prevent mold growth. So if your records aren’t in terrible condition, you should definitely consider the effectiveness and affordability of cleaning with vinegar.

How often do I need to clean vinyl with vinegar?

How often to use a vinegar cleaner will depend on how often you use your vinyl and how it’s stored. For records that you use on a regular basis, you’ll want to clean them with vinegar once a month or as soon as you notice that they’re getting dirty.