Music Disc Types & Cleaning Methods

You most likely own vinyl records but if you collect, have one or two non vinyl discs in your collection or ever encounter strange discs then here's a guide to looking after them!

gramophone discs cleaning

Its true that playing any type of record causes a gradual degradation of the recording, They need to be stored on edge and not exposed to extreme temperatures or humidity. The medium needs to be kept clean.


Including 12" / 7" / 10" / LP's / Jukebox Discs / Picture and Transparent discs.

NOTES: Most non-vintage records are made from vinyl (Poly vinyl Chloride). They are referred to as micro-groove records, and play at 45 or 33 rpm. Formats include 7" 45 rpm discs with oversized spindle holes, 10" and 12" long plays (LPs), extended plays (EPs) and others.
#RCA produced some vinyl discs in the early 1930's but they didn't fully take off until after the second world war in 1949.

Vinyl is much lighter and more flexible than the old shellac discs, pretty much all modern records are made from vinyl.

The 'Orange Peel' Effect: You may sometimes notice a feint texture to a record that's looks a bit like orange peel. This is actually worn mould and does cause noise on the record especially in low frequency. Sometimes however the master disc used to cut the record had the orange peel effect and in this instance there is no ill effect as there is no distortion to the grooves.

CLEANING METHODS: Grease, Grime, Dirt, Tea, Coffee, Beer, Ash - Yes you vinyl can quickly become covered in all sorts of stuff - Our record cleaning solutions can be used on all types of vinyl to quickly and easily restore them to former glory!

Ensuring we use only the purest, highest grade ingredients and in the correct concentration decreases the risk of any potential negative reaction, leaching or residue left behind.

Any cleaning substance or method may cause wear over time - Of course even playing a record does! Generally speaking if done correctly cleaning your discs will only enhance your listening experience : )


NOTES: The earliest reordered discs were made from various materials including rubber until shellac became the standard in around 1895.

CLEANING METHODS: Its very unlikely to come across discs from this era but obviously cleaning them should be done with extreme care if at all, certainly don't use any type of solvent. Pure water only.


NOTES: During the 78rpm era records were made from shellac which is actually a natural secretion from a type of beetle! - in the early days speeds actually ranged from 60rpm to 130 rpm but were standardised by around 1925. Most countries ceased production of shellac in favour of vinyl by around 1950. They are also referred to as coarse-groove or short play (SP) records. Most commonly, vintage disc records are referred to as ‘78s’, referring to a speed of 78 revolutions per minute (rpm).

Shellac 78's can be identified by the inflexible, heavy, brittle like feel and of course date, if its pre 1940's then its most likely a shellac disc. Generally, 78s were 10-inch, but 12-inch and 7-inch and even smaller were made.

The formula for these discs varied by manufacturer but was usually a third shellac with 2 parts mineral & filler (such as limestone and cotton) they also added carbon for the black colour and a small amount of lubricant.

Generally speaking all 78's are some sort of shellac and the material ceased being used when the 78rpm disc ceased production in 1950's.

For nostalgic purposes some companies did produce a very small number of 78'rpm discs after the 1950's but these were normally microgroove (normal vinyl - not shellac) despite being the 78rpm speed.

SHELLAC CLEANING METHODS: Cleaning non vinyl should always be done with great care if at all. Since shellac can dissolve in ethanol and most other solvents, dry brushing or pure water is advised for cleaning only. Gently rubbing with a damp cloth in the direction of the grooves will remove most of the dirt. This should be done on a soft flat surface to prevent cracking the disc, and let the record air-dry before placing it back in the sleeve. Our Pure water base product Rinse Out is available In the shop

LAQUERED DISCS / OTHER COATINGS: Although this is something you are rarely likely to encounter with vinyl there were some early records that had a lacquer coating. These should be treated the same as standard shellac and solvents should not be used. Read on for more disc types including acetates and flexi discs.....

DISC TYPE: PICTURE DISCS / SHAPED VINYL - These are vinyl records and can be cleaned in the same way as standard black vinyl.

Flexi discs are very thin normally transparent records that were usually given away free with magazines during the 70's and 80's although some have also appeared recently as novelty releases. They can be safely cleaned with standard record cleaner.

Acetate records (normally 12" or 10") are generally demo / promo / studio or homemade releases. Whilst they look much like vinyl they have a much softer texture, are heavier and brittle. They will often come in the mastering companies generic sleeve and have track information stamped or hand written on. Repeated playing decreases the sound quality as they are not intended for repeated listening. Most of the acetates you will find have been used, there will usually be a bit of a hiss / background noise to them. They are usually produced as test discs and you may sometimes find rare and unreleased material on them.

Cleaning them is not recommended as this will generally just cause more distortion however for a really dirty disc just pure water can be used.


Do not confuse acetates with standard vinyl 'white labels' or promos which are usually just vinyl records with a plain label, you can tell an acetate disc by the way it feels (heavy / brittle / soft and waxy) white labels can be cleaned in same way as other vinyl records.

DISC TYPE: Compact Discs (CD / DVD / Laserdiscs)

CDs can be cleaned safely and effectively with most fluids intended for record cleaning, we also supply a dedicated CD cleaning kit. 

For best results allow to air dry naturally and use gloves or hold CD around the edge to prevent greasy finger marks.

Try Our Clear Groove CD cleaning Kit

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