Cleaning your turntable cartridge is crucial to keep the sound quality at its best. The stylus, also known as the needle, can get damaged by the smallest amount of dust or dirt.
In turn, a damaged stylus can affect the music listening experience, or worse, it can damage your records! More importantly, you’ll have to replace the stylus, and most of them aren’t on the affordable side.
Therefore, you need to clean your stylus and cartridge regularly. So, you’re probably wondering, how to clean turntable cartridge.
You’ve come to the right place! In today’s article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to clean your stylus and cartridge and how often you should do it. Let’s begin.
How to Clean Turntable Cartridge
To have a better understanding of how to clean your turntable cartridge, you need to know how it gets dirty first.
The cartridge itself is only prone to getting dust from the surrounding environment. Usually, a simple swipe with a microfiber cloth can clean the cartridge efficiently.
More importantly, the cartridge contains the most delicate component of the entire record player, which is the needle. It basically translates vibrations into the music you love.
Typically, the stylus rests inside the grooves of your record. These grooves can have a lot of built-up dust and dirt. As a result, when you play the record, all the debris ends up on the stylus.
Before attempting to clean your turntable cartridge or stylus, you should always check the manufacturer’s manual for any special cleaning instructions.
After that, you can check out this list for the most effective methods to clean your cartridge and stylus:
1. Stylus Cleaning Brush
One of the most common ways to clean your stylus safely is by using a dedicated stylus brush. Many manufacturers include a cleaning brush inside the cartridge package.
You can use the brush to clean both your cartridge and stylus. However, you need to be careful not to damage the delicate needle when you’re brushing it.
The best way to do that is by touching the stylus tip with your brush and gently pulling in a forward direction. Brushing the stylus front to back can damage the cantilever.
You can also use stylus cleaning fluid on the brush to get better results. In any case, you should always be careful not to apply too much pressure on the needle, as you can damage it.
More importantly, you should never use a toothbrush to clean your stylus. While some people believe that using baby toothbrushes is okay, we only recommend using a dedicated stylus brush.
You may find some full kits, like the Big Fudge Vinyl Record Cleaning Kit, which includes a brush for your record, a brush for your stylus, and a cleaning solution. These kits are perfect for beginners who still don’t have all the tools they need.
2. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
Many professionals recommend using the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to clean your stylus. The Magic Eraser is an affordable and easy way to do so.
Simply, you need to cut a small piece of the Magic Eraser. Then, place this piece on the platter and bring the tonearm to it.
After that, slowly lower the stylus onto the eraser. You can keep touching the eraser with the stylus until it stops leaving residue.
You can find the Magic Eraser in pretty much any hardware store. However, you need to make sure that it’s the version that doesn’t contain cleaning agents, which can damage your stylus.
3. Onzow Zerodust Stylus Cleaner
The Onzow Zerodust has a gel pad made of extremely soft gelatinous plastic that catches all the dust and debris on your stylus without damaging it. It’s rather easy to use.
You simply lower the stylus onto the Onzow. Then, you can lift and repeat until your stylus becomes completely clean. When it comes to cleaning the gel pad, you can simply run it under warm water.
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4. Stylus Gel Cleaner
There are many commercial gel cleaners available in the market, like the Audio Technica AT617a. It’s a gel-based cleaner made of polyurethane gel. Here’s how to use the gel cleaner:
- Turn off the turntable and raise the tonearm.
- Place the gel on the platter beneath the tonearm.
- Lower the tonearm until the tip of the stylus touches the cleaner gel.
- Raise the tonearm and lower it again until the stylus is completely clean.
How to Prevent Dust From Building up on Your Stylus
Mainly, your stylus collects most of the dust and debris from playing filthy records. As we’ve mentioned, your stylus catches most of the dust in the record grooves.
Therefore, it’s crucial to clean your records to keep your turntable cartridge functional. There are many ways you can maintain your records. Let’s check some of them:
1. Microfiber Cloth
The cheapest and most traditional way to clean your records is by using a soft microfiber cloth.
You can simply damp the cloth into distilled water, and wipe off any dust or dirt on your record. Make sure to stay away from the middle of the vinyl, so as not to damage it.
2. Vinyl Vacuum Cleaner
One of the best ways to keep your vinyl records clean is by using a vacuum record cleaner. It can suck up dirt that settled deep inside the grooves of the record.
We don’t recommend using a normal vacuum cleaner to clean your records as it won’t clean them efficiently, and you might risk damaging the record.
3. Record Brush
If the record vacuum is out of your budget, you can go for a simple record brush. Most brushes are affordable and easy to use.
You simply brush the surface of the record in a circular motion. You just need to be careful not to apply too much pressure.
The brush can efficiently pick up most of the dust inside the grooves of your records.
What Happens if You Don’t Clean the Turntable Stylus?
The filth on your stylus can affect the quality of sound. You can usually hear abnormal sounds like scratch noises, hisses, and distortion.
More importantly, this built-up debris can shorten the lifespan of the stylus. It can also damage the stylus, as it’s quite delicate. In turn, the bad stylus can damage the record you’re playing.
Unfortunately, the broken styli can’t be fixed. You’ll need to replace the damaged stylus or the entire cartridge, depending on the type of cartridge you’re using. Therefore, it’s crucial to clean your stylus regularly.
How Often Should You Clean Your Turntable Cartridge?
There are many conflicting opinions regarding how often you should clean your cartridge and stylus. Many professionals recommend cleaning your stylus and vinyl after every playing session, while others suggest giving them a good clean once or twice a month.
We believe in cleaning your cartridge and stylus at least once a week. After all, the more frequently you clean your stylus, the easier the cleaning process will be and the longer your stylus will last.
Additionally, it’s not a big deal if you don’t clean your stylus for a couple of days. As long as you’re not using dirty records, it won’t be the end of your stylus.
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How to Keep Your Turntable Cartridge and Stylus Clean
Here are some tips that can help you can keep your stylus and cartridge clean:
- Don’t use any dirty records.
- Keep your records clean and store them properly to prevent dust from building up in their grooves.
- Keep an anti-static brush on hand to clean any dust off the turntable.
- Cover your turntable after using it.
- Keep your turntable in a clean environment away from the windows.
How do you deep clean a stylus?
For needles that have too much dirt on them, it’s best to use a stylus brush with cleaning fluid. That liquid will help break down the built-up dirt, while the brush will help remove them.
Stylus cleaning gel can also come in handy in this situation.
Can you use alcohol to clean the stylus?
Yes, but it has to be diluted in order not to damage the stylus or the vinyl record. A mixture of 1:1 ethyl alcohol to distilled water is suitable for cleaning your stylus.
Additionally, you need to stay away from isopropyl alcohol, and any cleaning fluid that has this substance. This alcohol can slowly dissolve the glue holding the stylus needle into the cantilever, which can heavily damage your cartridge and stylus.
Does cleaning the turntable cartridge increase its lifespan?
Dust and debris are your cartridge’s worst enemy. They can make your stylus wear out faster, or worse, they can directly damage the tip of the needle.
Therefore, keeping these particles away from the cartridge can make it last longer. However, it won’t affect the wear of normal usage.
Can I use a soft toothbrush to clean my cartridge?
The best way to clean the cartridge and the stylus is by using a dedicated brush. Normal toothbrushes, even soft ones, can damage your stylus.