By Todd Whitesel
Some members of my family have been accused of having “selective hearing,” capable of tuning out conversations that they don’t want to participate in yet also capable of keen hearing when a whisper occurs that might contain some juicy morsel of gossip.
I’m guilty of selective cleaning. I don’t get a lot of joy from cleaning the bathroom or washing windows, but I love cleaning records. Maybe I’m weird, but I get jazzed when I buy a batch of mucky used LPs and bring them back to life after a proper cleaning.
And I’ve discovered a new system that makes it easy and affordable for anyone to have cleaner and better-sounding records. It’s the Spin-Clean Record Washer System MKII.
What It Is
The Spin-Clean MKII is a model of economy and functionality. The whole system consists of just five parts: the reservoir “bath,” two hard plastic rollers and two velvet cleaning brushes. The design is simple but brilliant. The cleaning brushes slide into grooves whereby the soft surfaces are aligned directly across from each other and in contact. There’s enough space to slide a record between the brushes but tight enough to provide scrubbing action when a record is rotated through. The rollers serve as “guides” for the record edges and also help hold them in place while being spun. The top sides of the MKII have three different roller positions, which make it a cinch to go from 12-inch LPs to 10-inch 78s and then down to 45s. Simply lift the rollers from one position and insert into the next. There are no clips or anything else to fiddle with. Fill the MKII to the indicator line with distilled water, pour the recommended capfuls of solution over the top of the brushes and you’re ready to clean records.
MKII vs. Vacuum
I have a Nitty Gritty 2.5Fi-XP Record Cleaner that I use several times weekly. It’s a fully automated unit that uses a vacuum system to dry records after being washed. The unit works great, but it does have a few drawbacks. First, the vacuum motor is rather loud and heats up during consecutive use, so it’s not possible to sit down and clean three or four dozen records in a sitting, as the motor needs some rest after about 10 LPs. Second, it’s possible to clean only one album side at a time. Third, you have to keep an eye on the unit’s waste fluid tray and empty it often to avoid any spillovers. Fourth, the 2.5Fi retails for $899 — an extremely capable but expensive machine.
With the Spin-Clean, there is no motor, so no noise or heat buildup, and since the fluid remains in the basin, there is no need to empty it until you’re done cleaning records. And, you can get a basic Spin-Clean system, including washer fluid and drying cloths, for just $79.99.
You can expect to clean 20 to 50 records during a session, depending on how much muck is on your records. Drying records by hand is more work, but as I discovered the time it takes to clean both sides of a record with a vacuum system isn’t much faster than doing it manually with the MKII. After the first couple records, I got in a groove, and it took me about 2 minutes to clean and dry an LP with the Spin-Clean Washer. The cleaning part is easy — spin the record three times clockwise and then three times counterclockwise before removing it to dry. The Spin-Clean system comes with very soft and absorbent drying cloths, which are to be pre-washed prior to using to make them extra fluffy. Spin-Clean recommends wiping the record in clockwise circular motion.
Because the Spin-Clean is a bath-type system, where both sides of a record are washed simultaneously, I wondered if the solution would run off the record and onto the label while hand drying. Obviously, that would be bad. The good news is that the wash solution clings to the vinyl until you begin wiping it away with one of the lint-free drying cloths. When I started wiping the first record dry, I wasn’t sure if it was working but then the grooves started to appear in sharper contrast, and soon I was looking at a glossy, mirror-like LP surface.
My wife’s uncle recently bequeathed to me his record collection. The hundred or so LPs were mostly classic rock from the 1970s, and most looked as if they hadn’t been cleaned in the interim. Among the worst offenders was a copy of “Wings Over America,” a triple-LP set that was marred by dust, fingerprints and general neglect. After giving the albums the Spin-Clean treatment, the murky wax started to come back to life. No record cleaner can absolve vinyl of scratches and dings, but the Spin-Clean captured the crud and released it to the depths of the wash basin. The Spin-Clean’s bold yellow facade isn’t just some marketing ploy, the color makes it easy to see the extracted debris from dirty records as it accumulates in the bottom of the bath. After a cleaning session, you’ll see the direct results of your labors.
It’s no surprise that clean records sound better, but the Spin-Clean doesn’t just remove dust and dirt, it also removes the static. And one often-overlooked benefit of a good record cleaner is that surface noise is significantly reduced. That once grungy Wings album and dozens of others that I spun clean, all came out shiny and sounding their best. You’ll hear more music and fewer artifacts. And, as Frank Zappa said, “Music is the best.” It’s even better when “clean.”
The Spin-Clean MKII is one of those products that make you go, “Why didn’t I think of that?” It cleans records quickly and thoroughly, cleans up quickly, and takes up little more space than a shoebox. Clean records are better-sounding records. Give yours a wash through the Spin-Clean’s “spin cycle” and you’ll be hooked. It’s easy, effective and fun. It’s also an incredible value and highly recommended. I love it!
Record Washer System
Spin Clean MKII
Basic system (reservoir “bath” with two hard plastic rollers and two velvet cleaning brushes), plus washer fluid and drying cloths, $79.99
Value: Incredible value
Final Grade: ★★★★
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