Finally, some good dirty fun with a clean result; and a manual vinyl record cleaner that invigorates those grubby treasures.
When the Spin Clean Record Washer press release hit my inbox, I was curious but not supremely motivated to try it out. Reason being that I use one of the German Disco Antistat record cleaners, which work on a similar principle – the record is suspended in a bath of cleaning fluid and rotated by hand through a set of brushes, which scrub any dirt and muck from the grooves.
I read a few reviews of the Spin Clean and they seemed enthusiastic enough that a closer look was warranted. Once the local agent sent me a demo unit, I picked a gloomy Sunday to deal with some records from the bargain bins at Real Groovy in Queen Street.
I’m quite particular with the quality of my second hand vinyl. Serious scratches are out but dirt doesn’t worry me much, so some of these records were pretty damn grungy, and I don’t mean that any were by Nirvana. Dust, fingerprints and strange coatings are par for the course when you take pot luck in the cheap section.
The Spin Clean is about as easy to use as a hammer. It takes only a few moments to insert the rollers, fill the basin with water (distilled is recommended) and pour a few capfuls of the supplied solution over the brushes. Then pop a record in, spin it clockwise 3-4 times and reverse the process. Remove and dry with the supplied lint-free cloths. Nothing to it. The Spin Clean can deal with records from 12” to 7” in diameter. [Just don’t tempt it with that triangular Cyndi Lauper picture disc].
The difference between the Spin Clean and the Disco Antistat is that the Spin Clean uses a tight fitting pad rather than a brush, which seems to get more of the gunk out of the grooves. The Disco also comes with a drying rack, where records are left to dry via evaporation, but records from the Spin Clean are dried immediately by hand, so there’s no way for any dirt in the liquid on the record to be deposited on the record surface as it dries. In any event, the Spin Clean cleaning fluid is formulated to stop dirt clinging to the record.
There’s an occasional piece of lint or a thread left on the record by the cloths, but a quick blast with a blower brush or a wipe with a dry part of the cloth cleared them away.
The end result is seriously impressive. Records come out looking pristine, even the truly filthy but unscarred copy of Living Like Thieves by INXS that I dug up looked new once the Spin Clean had done its work, although I did spin it eight times in each direction.
More important than mere looks, all the records I cleaned with the Spin Clean sounded great, with barely a pop or crackle to be heard and little surface noise. It can’t do anything about groove damage or scratches but if you choose them carefully in the first place, your records will sound sweet. Because of the wet cleaning process, albums come up completely static free, which is a major bonus. Even brand new records become dust fests after a short time in my room, whereas the wet cleaned ones reject dust for ages. There’s definitely less dirt left in the grooves compared to the Disco Antistat because the stylus picks up less muck as the record spins
The manufacturer reckons that the Spin Clean will clean 30-50 records per dose of cleaning fluid; I found that about 15 was all I could do before the cloths were too wet to continue but the fluid in the basin can be stored and reused when you’ve got dry cloths on hand – they’re also reusable by the way, just launder and hang to dry.
The Spin Clean is an indispensable product for vinyl enthusiasts and at $160, it’s amazing value. It will make your records sound better and free you to buy the horrible looking dirty rejects that no one else wants, and that’s often where the real treasures can be found. The Disco Antistat is nearly twice the price and isn’t quite as effective in cleaning, while the step up to powered record cleaning machines is expensive and far more complex. The review unit isn’t going back, I think that says it all.