Don’t you love it when you get grain, light leaks and other flaws on photos? Don’t you love how a vinyl record crackles and pops? But don’t you hate it when you get a completely ruined film back from the lab, or buy an unplayable crackling vinyl record? Luckily, when it comes to vinyl records, it can sometimes be fixed. Read on to find out how!
I love that crackling and popping sound a vinyl record makes. There is a true beauty to it and some songs even feel like they sound better with it. It’s kind of like light leaks, grain and other beautiful film flaws: sometimes we take photos that come out looking bland and boring, but if the exact same photos come out with light leaks they look perfect! I wasn’t expecting much from this photo I took: the cat wasn’t looking at me, the floorboards were nothing special, it was a dull day, normally it would’ve turn out really bland. But too much light got into the camera so the sprockets got burnt onto the photo and it has a huge leak. It instantly became one of my favorite photos:
However, as much as we lomographers love unexpected flaws (I know I do), everyone has their own limits and flawed photos are not always welcome. Some of us do all sorts of things to get unexpected flaws: we buy expired film, put rolls of film in the dishwasher, in the oven, in containers with rice, the list is endless! You can find great tipsters around the lomography website. The results are amazing:
But when we get our hands on those really precious rare rolls we don’t want a roll of film full of flaws. We don’t want to pay a huge amount of money (sometimes a larger sum than we would ever let anyone know!) for a few rolls of film that have been out of production for many years (and are therefore expired) only to find out, after getting ruined photos back from the lab, that the seller hadn’t stored them as properly as we had been led to believe.
It’s kind of the same with vinyl records: we can pay 1 Euro for a vinyl record and be delighted that it is full of crackling and popping sounds, but we do not want the expensive new and/or rare vinyl record we bought to be full of unwanted noise!
A few months ago I bought an 80’s vinyl record that is quite difficult to find. I was overjoyed, until I played it and it was unplayable: it crackled, popped, skipped—it really was unbearable. I was really upset, as I paid quite a lot and I knew I wouldn’t be able to find another one so easily. Also, it had been described as being in mint condition so I felt like I had been deceived.
I thought maybe it wasn’t really damaged: on the surface, it looked perfectly clean but I was hoping that the problem was just dirt. I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned with a vinyl record cleaning brush and some soft tissues but to no avail, it just seemed to get worse everytime I listened to it.
I searched online for other ways to clean vinyl records, I read many posts on it and one of them described how to clean vinyl records with tap water and dishwasher soap. I was afraid of trying it since most posts I had read said “DO NOT clean your vinyl records with tap water! Only distilled water!” However, the man that claimed vinyl records could indeed be cleaned with tap water and dishwasher soap also claimed that he had been using this method for 30 years.
Since I had already decided I was going to return the vinyl record and get my money back I really had nothing to lose and I gave it a try. I followed all the steps then left my vinyl record to dry for a few hours:
When I tried to listen to it afterwards, it was absolutely PERFECT. To anyone out there that is having problems with vinyl records that crackle, pop or skip too much I highly recommend this method. The problem might be just dirt and if so, if all else fails, this really works.
It will not only help your vinyl records it will make your kitchen more analogue! There is nothing as deliciously analogue as a kitchen with a vinyl record drying next to the dishes and a fridge and freezer with rolls of film stored next to the food.
So remember: dishwasher soap is not only a great friend for your rolls of film that get thrown into the dishwasher, it’s also a great friend for your vinyl records! And if you own some Blues vinyl records, it gives a true meaning to “wash those blues away.”
You can check out a "tutorial from Instructables that explains how to use this method step by step.
Crackle And Pop is a weekly series written by Carlota, a Portuguese graphic designer and vinyl record lover and collector. It is aimed at everyone who can’t get enough of vinyl records and that wonderful crackling and popping sound old vinyl records make!