For the first time in decades, records are outselling CDs. If you’re one of the many people driving the vinyl resurgence, here’s how to protect your growing collection.
Finding a Spot to Keep Your Record Collection
For easy access to your vinyl collection, find a space in your home to keep your records where they’ll be near your record player. If you’re holding onto a collection you don’t listen to and don’t want to let go of, you might want to store them out of sight. Either way, the proper storage will make the difference of whether your albums are playable or not.
If you don’t want to keep your vinyl collection out in the open for all to see, be careful where you do put it. You want an area in your home that has climate control. Attics and garages are out of the question—the heat will melt and warp your records over time. Keeping them in temps that are too cold can cause the vinyl to become brittle.
If you have a finished basement, or you at least have air conditioning down there, it’s a good choice. Otherwise, find space in an area of your home that doesn’t get too hot or too cold. Discogs recommends keeping vinyl at temps between 59 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
You also need to keep your vinyl collection protected from moisture. A collection stacked on the floor in the basement is at risk of damage if your water heater ever leaks. Moisture can also come from high humidity—which is another basement risk, even if your water heater never leaks. Not only does water damage the packaging of your vinyl, but moisture can cause mold to grow on your record sleeves and labels.
Shelving and Boxing Your Records
Whether you’re keeping your records stored in a box in the basement or you’re shelving them in the den for all to see, you need to place them properly. Always keep your records stored vertically. Don’t stack records on top of each other or keep them laid flat. You might think that laying them down will help keep them flat, but stacking adds pressure that can warp and damage them.
Keeping them vertical is the key, but this proper mode of storage comes with rules. Don’t cram so many records together on a box or shelf that they are under a bunch of pressure. This, too, will lead to warping. Let them have a little space to breathe.
Keep your records on wood shelving. Plastic shelves won’t be able to withstand the heft of a vinyl collection. If the temperate changes significantly, metal shelves can attract moisture. If you have children in your home, make sure your shelves are anchored to the wall.
If you’re keeping them packed in boxes, find boxes that fit your records. Don’t pack them too tightly. Keep them standing vertically. Put them on shelves up higher in the basement to protect them from flooding. You can use book boxes, file boxes, plastic totes, or even wood or plastic crates to store your records. Do not stack your boxes of records on top of each other, or put other boxes of stuff on them.
Protecting Your Records from Scratches
Warping isn’t the only damage your record collection is at risk of suffering—improper storage can lead to scratches that will make your records skip when you try to play them. Always keep your records inside the album cover, unless you’re listening to it.
If you care about your collection and want to protect it like an archivist, you need to keep the records in plastic sleeves and keep the album cover in a plastic sleeve as well. The value of vinyl is determined not only by the condition of the record itself but also by the condition of the album cover. Plastic sleeves offer more protection from moisture than paper ones, and you’re protecting them from dust as well.
Keep your collection out of reach from pets and young children. If you have a dog, cat, or child who likes to chew on things, your records are fair game. Leaving them out could lead to scratches on the records themselves, as well as damaged album covers—most cats find the tightly packed and ridged shape of the record sleeves irresistible. Put the records up out of reach and lure them away with a good scratching post.
Teach older children how to care for and handle vinyl properly. The collection might one day be theirs, after all! Teach them to grab the record by the outer edges or the printed middle, and never on the grooves. Proper care of your record player, like keeping the pad dust-free, is important, too!