Colored Vinyl Records
Blog // Sep 21

Best vacuum record cleaning machines under $1000

Record cleaning machines (RCM) provide one of the most effective ways to deep clean your vinyl. Most of them employ the same basic design: apply a cleaning solution to the record surface to loosen the dirt and debris trapped in the grooves, and a vacuum system to remove the dirty fluid form the record, leaving a clean vinyl behind. One major downside of record cleaning machines is the price. However, if you're serious about record collecting, have a really large collection, or buy a great amount of used vinyl, some sort of RCM is one of the best investment you can make. Taking time to properly clean your vinyl before play may seem like a boring task, yet doing so will not only improve performance, but also extend their life. We've already talked about cleaning vinyl in a previous article, but no matter how well you carry out a manual cleaning, there is always a residue of dirt left deep down in the tiny grooves of the record. Brushes and rinsing with water are simply not enough to remove all that debris. RCMs are not only able to extract dirt from deeper into the grooves, but will also remove the excessive mould release agent from new, unplayed records that is frequently left on them after manufacture. Below, you'll find a selection of 9 vacuum record cleaning machines that you can get for under $1000.

 

Squeaky Clean MK-III

Squeaky Clean MK-III

This is the third version of the Squeaky Clean, a super compact, easy to set up record cleaning machine produced by a small Canadian company known as Canfab3D. They are handmade using a combination of 3D-printed parts (available in 15 different colors) and repurposed objects. The MK-III is smaller, better and more versatile than its predecessors, and it arrives complete, ready to clean right out of the box. All you need for the system to work is to provide your own wet/dry vacuum. This is the main reason its price is kept so low (around $100). The Squeaky Clean is a manual RCM, it has no motors, so the user is supplying the rotational power by hand. This is considered by some an advantage, as you can reverse, speed up and stop the rotating platter very quickly during the cleaning process.

The main parts of the kit are a waterproof rotating platter topped with a removable rubber mat, a vacuum wand, and a record clamp to hold down and rotate the record. The wand base, which has the same height as the feet, snaps on the bottom of the platter with a magnet. To overcome the problem of the suction being too powerful, it has an adjustable air-flow port, which allows some of the air to leak out before it reaches the wand. The vacuum wand extension is padded with a velvet brush, and comes with two slip-on adapters for cleaning 7" and 10" records. These expose the cleaning brush just the right amount for the smaller records. The new record clamp has space cut out on the bottom for the included 45 adapter, and has rubber padding that makes it easy to spin the record and protects the record label from moisture.

As with other RCMs, a two-step cleaning process is recommended. You start by applying the cleaning fluid to the record, working it into the grooves and cleaning it with one of the supplied cleaning pads, then vacuum it for 2-3 rotations. Next you apply distilled or lab-grade water, clean the record with the other cleaning pad, then vacuum again to remove the rinse water. Then repeat the same process for the other side of the record. After cleaning a record on the RCM, you should let it air dry for at least 10-15 minutes.

 

Record Doctor V

Record Doctor V

The Record Doctor V is a manual record cleaning machine with a powerful vacuum that will significantly improve sound quality and extend the life of your vinyl at an affordable price. It features the same vacuum motor and vacuum cleaning strips as much more expensive machines, but it does not have the motor that turns records for you, considerably cutting down the cost. The Record Doctor V consists of a plain black box that contains the vacuum motor, the inlet with changeable velvet lips, a spindle surrounded at its base by a precision roller bearing assembly that helps you to spin the record, a record label-sized acrylic disc topped by a soft gripping material that serves as a platter, and a handy storage tank with a drain plug for the easy removal of dirty cleaning fluids. The RCM also comes with its own cleaning fluid in a 4 oz. applicator bottle and a brush that has two different kinds of applicators. One is a foam-padded applicator and one is a soft-bristled brush.

The cleaning process is pretty straightforward. Place the record on the Record Doctor's platter with the side you want to clean facing up. Apply a line of cleaning solution from the outside of the label to the rim of the record. Place the record turner on the spindle over the label of your record and while holding the record turner with one hand and the applicator brush in the other, spread the solution evenly across the playing surface by rotating the record. Rotate the record two or three complete revolutions to make sure the fluid gets into all the grooves. Then flip the record over and place in on the platter with the wet side down. Place the record turner back on the spindle and turn on the vacuum switch. Rotate the record slowly until the lower face is dry. Repeat the same process for the flip side.

 

Moth Record Cleaning Machine MKII

Moth Record Cleaning Machine MKII

The Moth record cleaning machine is a wet cleaning / vacuum removal device with powered turntable and drainable internal reservoir. The MKII version is based upon the well proven and accepted record cleaner that has been available from Moth for a number of years. It now allows for bi-directional operation of the turntable in both the fluid application "wash" cycle and in the vacuum "drying" phase. The vacuum tube has also been modified to allow for the new two way movement and to offer a more efficient vacuum system.

The unit is housed in a steel enclosure and finished off by a high quality injection-molded dark acrylic lid. Inside the box is a very powerful vacuum motor and a reservoir equipped with a drainage tap to catch residual fluid. Instead of a large platter, the record is secured to a label-sized round platform with a small screw-on clamp. When the unit is tuned on, the platform rotates slowly on a gear-driven motor, at around 3 rpm. The vacuum wand is a long, pipe-like device with a thin slit running across the top, lined with self-adhesive replaceable felt pads. The machine has been designed to be rugged enough for both the professional cleaning service and the domestic private use.

A version of the Moth MKII is also available in a Kit form, with every part you need to build the RCM, except the outer enclosure which can be made from MDF or other materials following the included construction instructions. The older Moth Record Cleaning machine will continue to be made available in its original form, in both built and in Kit versions. Upgrade kits are also available to allow earlier versions of the Moth RCM to be modified to MKII specification. The Moth MkII Pro version is identical to the MkII model, but features a cooling fan to keep the vacuum motor from heating up during extended cleaning sessions. If you expect to clean more than 8-10 records at a time, the Pro model is recommended over the standard MkII. The professional kit comes with an applicator brush, 1l record cleaning fluid, dispenser bottle, replacement vacuum tube pads, and 50 x poly lined inner sleeves.

 

Nitty Gritty 1.5 & 2.5

Nitty Gritty 2.5

Nitty Gritty was established in 1981 with the sole purpose of providing competitive professional record cleaning products at affordable prices, worldwide. In 1982, Nitty Gritty models were redesigned with an injection-molded head section, featuring a vacuum slot designed to produce a venturi effect, maximizing the velocity of the cleaning suction while minimizing contact with the record. The vacuum slot is lined with a protective VAC-SWEEP, the industrial "velvet lips" with thousands of individual fibers that reach in and clean the record's grooves. The record is supported on a rotating platform to eliminate any contact with the record grooves, preventing recontamination of the first side while the second side is cleaned.

With numerous models and cabinet finishes, Nitty Gritty offers the widest range of record cleaning machines on the market today. From a low cost, manually operated cleaning system to fully automatic, two-fluid tank model that accommodates the latest record cleaning fluid technology. While they are available in a wide range of prices and models, they all clean the exact same and very effective way. It just takes a bit more time, experience and effort to get the job done. The Nitty Gritty 1.5 is an intermediate model that features automatic rotation of the record during the brushing and vacuuming steps, instead manual rotation used on the 1.0/2.0. The 2.5 has the same functionality as the 1.5 model, but instead of the black wood grain vinyl cabinet finish, it has a solid oak cabinet.

As the first step of the cleaning process, generously apply record cleaning fluid to the Vac-Sweep fibers, using the dropper-tip applicator bottle. Spindle the record, inserting the edge of the disc under the "lip" of the capstan rubber. The capstan/drive shaft assembly is spring-loaded and will flex away from the slot as you spindle the record. Turn on the motor by pressing the 3-position switch away from you, the record will rotate, but the vacuum will not come on. As the record rotates 2–3 revolutions, hundreds fibers will scrub the grooves. Once the fluid application is complete, press down on the front edge of the 3-position switch. The vacuum will come on, and the record continues to rotate. Fluid and debris will now be drawn from deep within the grooves. Allow the record to rotate 3–5 revolutions, to assure complete removal of the liquid. Repeat the same process for second side. To empty the waste fluid, slide out tray located on the underside of the machine. Nitty Gritty also offers a line of record cleaning fluids

 

Pro-Ject VC-S

Pro-Ject VC-S

The VC-S is a complete ready to start package for wet record cleaning from audiophile equipment manufacturer Pro-Ject Audio. Its wood enclosure features a top-mounted platter spindle and vacuum arm base, while the rear hosts the main switch and power cord socket. On the right side of the housing there is a vacuum on/off switch and a motor on/off + direction switch. The left side has a water level gauge and a ventilation outlet / drain hole. The bottom features 4 rubber feet which prevent the machine from sliding around while in use, and raise it up enough to allow the air vents to do their job.

The unit is supplied assembled with the exception of the platter and vacuum arm, which are packed separately. Setup is very simple, you only need to install the platter with the aid of a philips head screwdriver, apply the self-adhesive record label seal on top, and place the robust metal vacuum arm into the arm base. The machine comes as a complete kit including a goat hair applicator brush, 100ml bottle of the standard Wash It concentrate, a screwable clamp (top plate) with waterproof record label seal, replacement adhesive strips for the vacuum arm, a drain insert and an AC power cord. An optional dust cover is available, the holes for which are pre-drilled in the rear of the machine.

To start the cleaning process, place the record on the platter, and using moderate force thread the top clamp plate on the threaded tip of the centre spindle. The rubber seals on both plates will prevent fluid damage to the label. With the record in place, turn on the motor and apply a generous amount of cleaning solution to the record, and spread it evenly using the included brush. Once the record has been thoroughly cleaned, place the vacuum arm above the record until it reaches its lock position, and switch on the vacuum. After the cleaning fluid has been thoroughly vacuumed, switch off the vacuum, followed by the motor. Return the vacuum arm into its rest position and wait a few seconds for the record to dry thoroughly. Unscrew the top clamp plate, turn the record over and repeat steps for the opposite side of the record. The bi-directional motor allows the record to be brushed and vacuumed in both directions and in some cases doing so can produce better results.

 

Okki Nokki

Okki Nokki

Designed in Holland and made in Germany, the Okki Nokki is a well built record cleaning machine with a modern, lightweight design. The unit has a rugged, waterproof aluminum chassis and comes in a black or white finish. The housing contains the heavy-duty bi-directional turntable motor, vacuum system and reservoir for used cleaning fluid. This base is supported by four hard-rubber feet, which prevent the unit from sliding during use. The turntable platter is large enough to fully support a 12" record, so it sits flat from label to edge without wobble. The vacuum arm rests on a spring, which allows it to move freely when not in use. The arm can be turned to fit in a pair of grooves, and as the vacuum motor is engaged, the suction pulls the arm down onto the record surface and holds it there as the dirty fluid is removed. When the vacuum motor is turned off, the suction pressure disappear, the arm rises on the springs and off the platter.

The residual dirt and fluid is then transferred into the internal liquid reservoir, which can be emptied via a waste tube tucked in the back of the aluminum case, and fitted with a small stopper. When it's time to drain the machine, pull the tube out, place it into a container and tilt the Okki Nokki to empty the fluid. One very useful feature of the Okki Nokki is that it has a float mechanism, that stops it operating when the residual fluid needs to be drained, so there's never any danger of water getting into the motor. Operation is via two switches: one for forward/reverse and the other for suction.

The machine ships with a standard 12" record vacuum arm, along with a goat hair cleaning brush, aluminum record clamp, record cleaning fluid concentrate and detachable grounded power cord. Okki Nokki also has an optional dust cover, replacement velvet strips, and vacuum arms for 10" and 7" records.

 

VPI HW-16.5

VPI HW-16.5

The HV-16.5 is an American-made record cleaning machine by high-end audio manufacturer VPI, which together with its predecessor, the HV-16, have been in continuous production for over 25 years. They are built to Last a lifetime and clean all the records you can throw at it. The HW-16.5 is the standard in affordable RCMs but neither its build quality nor its cleaning power has been compromised. Its high-torque, 18 RPM turntable motor is more than capable of withstanding the pressure of heavy scrubbing during extended cleaning sessions. A 35 second cleaning cycle per side makes quick work of even the dirtiest records. It has a self aligning vacuum suction tube for even more accurate cleaning, and the high-powered vacuum ensures quick, deep cleaning. The vacuum tube also automatically adjusts to accommodate records of any thickness. The internal fluid collection system is made of stainless steel to prevent corrosion, and the fully enclosed design prevents splashing. A stainless steel tank collects the used cleaning fluid and a 3 ft plastic hose permits easy disposal.

The HW-16.5 comes with an included 8 oz. bottle of VPI cleaning solution, a cleaning brush, a hinged plexiglas dust cover and a 2" Delrin record clamp. To start the cleaning, place the record on the platter, secure it with the screw-on clamp, flip on the motor switch and simply apply record cleaning solution using the hand-held brush. Gently scrub the record, working the fluid into the deepest recesses of the grooves. Switch on the vacuum to remove all traces of fluid, leaving no residue and a scrupulously clean surface.

 

Music Hall WCS-2

Music Hall WCS-2

The Music Hall WCS-2 is a powerful vacuum record cleaner with an interlocking aluminum body and sandy aluminum top plate, weighing an impressive 26 lbs. It's easy to maintain and unlike a wooden surface, it leaves no visible stains, doesn't warp or degrade over time. A sandwich design acrylic top and bottom plate over/under the motor effectively reduces noise during the vacuuming process. The WCS-2 features a 1.250 W vacuum motor to produce quick cleaning and effective liquid suction. A fine brush attached to vacuum sprout on spring ensures there is no accidental damage to your vinyl, and can adjust to any record thickness. The arm places itself onto the spinning record by vacuum and pops up by itself when you turn it off. Attached on the rear of the machine, there is an outflow rubber tube which will allow to drain the excessive liquid from the container. The package also includes a screw-on rubber sealed record clamp, a record cleaning brush, and a removable power cable.

You may have encountered very similar looking record cleaning machines, bearing various reseller brands. These are all produced by one factory in Southern China with explicit permission of using various brands. The product quality however is universal.

 

SOTA LPC

SOTA RCM

The SOTA LP Record Cleaniner has been carefully designed and manufactured to provide years of trouble-free, high-quality record cleaning. Its single switch operation and automatic features make this unit easier to use than the previously mentioned RCMs. SOTA's LP Cleaner cleans better and holds more waste fluid for hours of record cleaning without stopping. For excessive high volumes of cleaning, the LPC has been designed, and is available with an exhaust fan, which allows air flow and cooling for non-stop cleaning. The LPC is housed in a sturdy, hand crafted, scratch resistant, attractive black laminate cabinet with a watertight interior. The hand polished black acrylic cover is removable for easy storage. The SOTA record cleaning machines incorporate a precision waterproof polymer platter with a soft PVC record mat, providing long-life as well as a flat and safe record-mounting surface. The LPC Crystal Fluid dispensing system provides full record application with spill-free semi-automatic fluid application allowing easy one-hand operation.

The Vari-Port™ design, or vacuum pick-up tube sleeve, achieves linear vacuum pressure across the record’s surface. A hardwood soft-bristle brush in included for manual record scrubbing. A large 32 oz. capacity waste fluid tank incorporates an exterior level indicator for simple gauging of when to empty the tank. Easy and complete fluid draining is then accomplished with a small external hose and clamp. When not in use, the LPC’s detachable A/C cord allows for easy storage. A convenient storage area is provided for the brush and A/C cord.

 

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