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Subject: Cleaning and housing phonograph discs

Cleaning and housing phonograph discs

From: Geoffrey I. Brown <geoffrey.i.brown>
Date: Friday, February 25, 1994
The best material I have found for washing phono disks and wax cylinder
recordings is a solution of Labtone Detergent in deionized H2O.  Buy
some polyester velvet to use as a cleaning cloth--the pile is soft but
gets into the grooves effectively without scratching (like the old
cleaning pads).  Labtone is a proprietary brand name of VWR Scientific.
It is a balanced detergent primarily formulated for hand washing of lab
glassware.  It is very effective on all sorts of organic gunk such as
skin oils, fungus remains, coke, and coffee with cream and sugar.  It is
also effective on oily material.  In using it on over 3000 wax
cylinders, it removed all the fungus but did not affect the wax/resin
substrate at all.  It works as well on vinyl disks.  It rinses off
totally (in deionized water, of course) so there is no residue to worry
about.  No other detergent that I have used, proprietary or generic has
matched its performance, characteristics, clear-rinsing, or

Never use Ivory or any other dishwashing liquid as they contain
materials that are intended to remain on the surface after rinsing.
Photo-flo is OK but doesn't clean as well as the Labtone and also leaves
a residue--remember it is designed to make the water wetter so that it
sheets evenly and doesn't leave spots as it dries!  With the Labtone and
deionized water, there will be only a few discrete droplets of water
left on the surface.  These can be quickly dried with "Webril Wipes",
100% cotton wipes used by the printing and copier people.  AB Dick also
markets these wonderful things under their own name.  I find the 3x3"
size in the paper sleeve the most economical, but they are also
available on a perforated roll like paper towels--very convenient but a
bit more expensive.  *Never* use paper towels. Be careful with solid
shellac or shellac-surfaced disks.  Water can penetrate and swell the
shellac causing permanent damage.  This is usually apparent by a
noticeable "blanching" or clouding.  Avoid alcohols as they can quickly
dissolve the shellac.  If you try washing shellac disks, test first on
an edge or on a duplicate of the same type.  Wash, rinse, and dry
*quickly* and you will probably not have any problems.  Room temperature
or slightly cooler water is best for washing any disks, but avoid warm
water especially with the shellac. Wetting agents like dishwashing
detergents or Photo-flo can exacerbate the blanching problem as some
contain alcohols and they extend the drying time.  The trick with
shellac is to expose it to moisture the absolute minimum of time, if at

Good Luck.

Geoffrey Brown
Kelsey Museum
University of Michigan

                  Conservation DistList Instance 7:63
                  Distributed: Thursday, March 3, 1994
                        Message Id: cdl-7-63-004
Received on Friday, 25 February, 1994

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