5 essential record player maintenance and care tips to keep your deck spinning for longer

Close up of a tonearm over a vinyl record
(Image credit: Getty Images/jonny baker)

Playing vinyl on a record player is, for millions of people, one of the greatest joys in life. Sure, streaming music digitally is super-convenient, with the likes of Amazon and Spotify providing access to millions of songs at the touch of a button or with a simple voice command. But nothing compares to the feeling of removing a physical record from its sleeve, placing it on the platter, dropping the stylus into the groove and hearing that warm crackle as your favourite tune kicks in.

As with many things in life, though (cars, your health, marriage), you’ll need to put in a bit of effort to keep your system running smoothly. Yes, you could spend a small fortune on a fancy new turntable, but if you don’t treat it with some TLC, it could end up sounding as crummy as that dodgy Dansette you picked up at a garage boot sale when you were 14. 

So, how do you care for a record player to ensure that it delivers an amazing listening experience, year after year? In this article, we’ve got some guidance on everything from cleaning to storage. And pretty much everything can be done with items you have at home, or for a very small outlay.

1. Get the duster out

If dust is left to accumulate on your record player, it can start to impact your listening enjoyment. Not only will these pesky particles end up in the grooves of your records, potentially causing all kinds of damage, but they can then transfer to your stylus, resulting in build-up and, ultimately, a horribly distorted sound.

Get more from your deck

To prevent such horrors, give the surface of your turntable, the platter, the tonearm and the cartridge a regular once-over with a soft anti-static brush such as the Boundless Audio Record Cleaner Brush or a microfiber cloth like these ones from Spincare. While you’re at it, remove any grime from your needle with a dedicated stylus brush – one recommendation is the Clean-IT from Pro-Ject Audio Systems

Just in case they have attracted dust, it’s good practice to clean your records after each use, too. Spincare’s Vinyl Record Cleaner Kit is a great all-in-one solution and doesn’t cost the earth, but if you choose to do the job with a good old-fashioned cloth and spray, just be sure to avoid harsh chemicals or alcohol-based cleaners. This stuff from Record Remedy should do the job nicely.  

2. Strike a balance

To maximise your listening pleasure, ensure that your tonearm is properly balanced. Failure to do so can lead to unnecessary wear on your stylus, not to mention distortion of the music – and we don’t mean the good kind of distortion, like you might hear on a Nineties grunge record. No, this kind of distortion will resemble a bee stuck in a drainpipe, and will make all of your records sound crap. 

Thankfully, you won’t need to spend ages balancing things on each end of the tonearm to find the right balance, as you can buy gadgets to do the job for you. We like the Neoteck Upgraded Digital Turntable Stylus Force Scale Gauge – but they’re all much of a muchness, and similarly priced. 

3. Force the issue

Vinyl records tend to be worth a lot of money (especially the really old ones), so you’ll want to keep them in good nick. You can help matters by tweaking your turntable’s tracking force to ensure that your stylus sits correctly in the grooves. This is achieved by adjusting the counterweight, which is the circular dial typically found at the head of the tonearm. On most record players, the required tracking force is between one and three grams – check your user manual to find the exact setting for your turntable.

Man inspecting his record player

(Image credit: Getty Images/Mikael Vaisanen)

4. Check, mate

Turntables come in two varieties – belt drive and direct drive. If yours is the belt-driven type, you’ll need to regularly check the belt for signs of wear and tear. Though turntable belts can last for up to five years (depending on how often they’re used), Pro-Ject Audio Systems recommends that you replace them “every year or at least every two years”. 

Lubricating your motor is also a good idea if you want to keep the belt functioning correctly – for instructions related to your particular turntable, refer to your manual.

5. Cover up

If you had a nice bike, you wouldn’t leave it outside all night to be battered by the wind and rain, would you? The same principle applies to turntables – protecting yours from the elements. What do we mean by ‘the elements’? Well, we’ve already mentioned how problematic dust can be, so using a cover is always a good idea. Some turntables come with one in the box, but if not, something like this basic dust cover would work a treat. 

There are other hazards to bear in mind, though, including direct sunlight, radiators/boilers and areas of the home that have high moisture levels. Dare we say it, kids are another potential danger to both your record player and your records. What scallywag wouldn’t want to play around with that fun, spinny thing on the tabletop? But a quick yank of your tonearm could result in some pretty costly damage, so where you position your turntable long-term is certainly something to consider. If only you had a cheapo turntable they could play with – where’s that dodgy Dansette when you need it?

Paul Dimery

Paul has spent the past eight years testing and writing about gadgets and technology for the likes of Louder, T3 and TechRadar. He might not have the wealth or the looks of Tony Stark, but when it comes to knowing about the latest cool kit, Paul would surely give Iron-Man a run for his money. As for his musical leanings, Paul likes everything from Weyes Blood to Nirvana. If it's got a good melody, he's on board with it.