Vinyl maintenance: how to use a carbon fiber brush on your vinyl records
The vinyl record has many known enemies besides the user’s fingers; dust and static charges are common unwanted guests when the groove is trying to do its thing. Even a clean record handled by experienced hands is subject to retain a static charge and attract dust particles. Several instruments and cleaning solutions can be used to minimize or eliminate the issues. An affordable and relatively effective option is the use of a carbon fiber brush, however its correct usage is frequently subject to debate. The following guide explores the different techniques employed by vinyl enthusiasts by weighing the pros and cons of each approach to determine which method works best. Watch our video or keep reading for further information.
New to turntables and vinyl? Check out our detailed guide for beginners!
Purpose of using a carbon fiber brush
A carbon fiber brush is used to remove dust particles and static charge from vinyl records. The two rows of fine bristles are made of a carbon composite that has the advantage of being incredibly fine, sturdy, soft and conductive. Keep in mind a carbon fiber brush is not designed to clean your old dusty records or remove static charge forever. It’s a day-to-day maintenance tool that should be used on clean records with the usual dust particles attracted to it.
Causes of Dust & Static on Vinyl Records
Many factors account for dust on vinyl records; location, climate, the way the records are stored and the cleanliness of the listening room are only a few causes. Dust particles are attracted to the vinyl record mainly by the electrical charge it may hold.
Static electricity is a variance between the electric charges on a given surface caused by the friction with another object or surface. A vinyl record can get electrically charged when it enters in contact with the inner sleeve it’s placed in or taken out from. The record holds the charge until it can be moved along by discharge to another surface. If the record is played, the variance in the electrical charge between the record and the stylus results in loud audible “pop” sounds at different times during playback.
How To Use The Brush
1. Place a record on the platter and start the turntable. Don’t play the record while using the carbon fiber brush. Using the 45 (or 78) RPM won’t get faster or better results.
2. Holding the brush straight, by its body and handle, place it perpendicular to the record groove.
3. Lower the brush onto the record exerting minimal pressure to optimize dust removal and minimize potential damage to the groove or the turntable. The platter should always spin freely.
Hold the brush tight; a spinning record has more force than you’d think!
4. After 3 or 4 rotations, the bristles on the right side retain most of the dust particles; gently tilting the brush on the left side captures the excess dust on the second set of bristles.
Note the first four steps are general consensus among vinyl enthusiasts; the fifth step is where the debate rages on. The three different approaches are denoted A, B and C.
5. A) Moving the brush toward the outside of the record
This technique consists in slowly moving the brush towards the outside, away from the spinning record.
The downside using this technique, it may leave the carbon fiber brush electrically charged since friction occurs between the bristles and the spinning record.
5. B) Moving the brush toward the label
The second approach involves in slowly moving the brush toward the record label and making contact with the turntable spindle to discharge the brush. The idea behind this technique is to use the turntable spindle as a medium to move the electric charge from the bristles to the grounded turntable.
Two problems may occur when using this method. The first issue; dust particles contained on the bristles are transferred to the record label will end back on the record as soon as the platter spins. Additionally, if fingers come into regular contact with the label, the bristles could get tainted with residues and natural oils our skin produces.
5. C) Lifting the brush upward,
Lifting the brush away from the spinning record is another approach.
Downsides include leaving excess dust on the record and an electrically charged brush.
6. To remove dust caught on the bristles, hold the brush by the handle and move it from side to side. Ideally don’t perform this step close to your turntable for obvious reasons and don’t touch the bristles with dirty or even clean fingers; natural oils on the skin shouldn’t be transferred to the vinyl record.
7. Stop the turntable. Notice if there’s any excess dust on the record.
8. Repeat steps 2 to 7 until satisfied or when the brush bristles are exempt from dust.
Some users remove the remaining dust particles while the turntable platter is not spinning; remember lightly brushing in the same direction as the record groove optimizes dust removal.
Extra Tips on using a carbon fiber record brush:
– Always keep the brush perpendicular to the record’s groove.
– Always hold the brush by the body and handle.
– Always exert very minimal pressure on the brush; the bristles collect dust more efficiently when its tips aren’t stressed into the grooves.
– Always use the handle with caution to remove dust caught onto the bristles; the handle’s terminals are usually the most fragile piece on a carbon fiber brush.
– Always store the brush in a dust-free case with the handle protecting the bristles.
– Never touch the bristles to remove dust with your seemingly clean fingers; even after washing your hands there are natural oils (and whatever soap residue’s left) that our skin produces that shouldn’t be transferred to your favorite LPs.
– Never use a carbon fiber brush on dirty, gunky, greasy records; they require a lot more than a simple brushing.
– Never put any (cleaning) fluids on the brush or your record; the carbon fiber brush is not designed to wet clean your records.
– Never hold the brush at an angle; the body may enter in contact with the record and cause scratches.
Final Thoughts And Recommendations
The different techniques used all seem effective to some extent. Keeping in mind a carbon fiber brush doesn’t do miracles; satisfactory results can be achieved by weighing the pros and cons of each approach and testing which method works best for you.
On a personal note, I’ve been using a Stanton CFB-1 carbon fiber brush for many years with pleasing outcomes by combining two methods. A cheaper brush works as well but I noticed the bristles wearing off much faster.
First I use the “lifting” technique, which consists in lifting the brush upward, away from the record. Using this method, most of the dust is contained on the set of bristles. Next I remove the dust caught on the bristles by holding the brush by the body, moving the handle from side to side. Placing the brush on the record a second time and slowly moving the brush toward the outside of the record removes the excess dust. Finally while the turntable platter at rest, I take a last look and if necessary, collect the remaining dust particles by lightly brushing in the same direction as the record groove.
After testing the methods above, I came to the conclusion that a carbon fiber brush retains a certain electric charge after use, even if the bristles come into contact with the turntable spindle as shown in this guide.
In case dust and static issues persist, other more expensive approaches may be needed to minimize the effects. Properly wet cleaning your records and using an anti-static gun such as the Milty Zerostat are much more effective solutions. Replacing the record’s generic paper inner sleeves with anti-static inner sleeves also helps. For those living in a dry climate, a low humidity levels in the listening room may cause static, investing in a humidifier is something to consider.
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this post might be affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you I will receive a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through this links.
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