Like many audiophiles out there, I love the vinyl format – as such, I've built up an extensive record collection, and am constantly adding more.
However, when building a collection of your own, you soon come across a problem: some of the albums you want are no-longer in production, are expensive to buy new, or have terrible reissue pressings. So you turn to auction sites such as eBay, or your local record shop, and pick up a bunch of used albums, sometimes for as little as £0.99.
Many of these records will have collected dust, dirt, finger marks, and all other kinds of muck over the years. In order to enjoy maximum fidelity from your record collection, it is necessary to keep them clean. There are many products available – from simple cheap fluids that you apply manually with a cloth, to elaborate record cleaning machines that use vacuums to remove the cleaning fluid from the grooves, leaving the record totally 100% dry.
One such solution is the 'spin clean' record washer system. The spin clean was introduced in 1975. It's made in the US, and is arguably one of the most affordable record cleaning "machines" on the market. In the UK, it can be had for £80 (give or take a few p).
The spin clean is a very simple device – it consists of a plastic trough, with 2 flat brushes that slot into the centre (with just enough room to squeeze a record in between), and 2 rollers that slot into each end of the machine, allowing you to roll your vinyl through the brushes, fluid and water without getting the label wet. 2 Cleaning cloths are provided, as well as a bottle of cleaning fluid that is supposed to clean up to 700 records.
Operation is simple. Pre-wash the drying cloths, and rinse the brushes. fill the trough up to the line with water (distilled water is recommended, and that’s what I used for this review), pour 3 caps of the provided cleaning fluid over the brushes, and place the rollers into the appropriate slots depending on the size of the vinyl’s you wish to clean (12”, 10”, or 7”). Take your dirty vinyl, slot it in between the brushes, and rotate 3 times clockwise and 3 times anti-clockwise. Then remove and place on a clean cloth or towel and wipe each side dry using the provided cloths.
So how well does it work? To find out, I took a particularly dirty copy of Meat Loaf’s ‘bat out of hell’. This was an eBay purchase – covered in finger marks, dust, dirt, and other grime. It was so bad; it wouldn’t play from beginning to end without skipping. I inserted it into the spin clean, gave it 3 turns each way, pulled it out, and spent 2 minutes thurrerly drying each side with the provided cloths.
The cloths certainly soaked up quite a bit of fluid – a good sign. So, over to my turntable it went, and here is where the problems started.
Upon dropping the stylus, 1 thing was very apparent – the record had an inordinate amount of surface noise that wasn’t present before. Still, I let it play on. I was amazed to find the record played all the way through without skipping – this was previously impossible. However, this surface noise was still present. I removed the vinyl, and gave it another run through the spin clean – same result. Lots of surface noise, after thurrerly drying the vinyl.
It was then that I noticed the sticky residue that now coated my stylus. This proved tricky to remove… fortunately; this wasn’t my 2m black!
Feeling somewhat disappointed, I decided to try a 45. Queen’s ‘I want to break free’ was the test subject. Guess what? Same result.
I thought that perhaps the vinyl’s hadn’t had enough time to dry – so I took a soft towel and gave them a good drying. I then left them both for an hour to air dry. Still, no joy. It seems that some of the spin clean fluid had been deposited in the grooves, and didn’t want to come out.
I did some reading and found that others have had the same problem. Some had started using different cloths than those provided. Some had switched to using custom fluids (80% water and 20% alcohol) with better success – however, this wasn’t a rout I was willing to take. If I pay £80 for a cleaning machine, I shouldn’t have to make my own fluid!
In summary – I find it hard to recommend this unit. Perhaps I just had a bad unit, perhaps I had some dodgy fluid… either way – for me, this unit simply doesn’t work.
I’m wondering if the problem you’re having is not with the machine but the solution. You used the Spin Clean solution which left a residue on your records, and on that basis you do not recommend the Spin Clean machine.
You then reviewed the Disco Antistat, but you didn’t use the cleaning fluid supplied with it because you’d read that it also leaves a residue similar to the Spin Clean solution residue. You got good results with the Disco Antistat and recommend it.
In fact, you said it removed the residue left by the Spin Clean machine and Spin Clean solution.
Do you think the Spin Clean machine using only distilled water could remove the residue left by the Spin Clean solution?
Do you think you might have recommended the Spin-Clean machine if you used the same distilled water in it that you used for your review of the Disco Antistat?
I’m asking because I purchased a Spin-Clean machine (prior to reading your review) and did clean a few records with it. I am wondering whether I should discard it or try using it with pure distilled water.
I’ve only found a few pictures online of the Disco Antistat. Based on those, it looks similar to the Spin Clean machine. If the two machines are very similar and work in a similar way, and the problem is really the solution, not the machine, then maybe it makes sense for me to keep my Spin Clean machine and use it with distilled water only, or other solution (if I can find a good recipe for a solution that works well without leaving a residue). This would maybe hold me over until I could afford the Pro-Ject vacuum record cleaner that you reviewed recently.
Thanks for any thoughts.
I still wouldn’t recommend the Spin Clean. It uses felt brushes that don’t draw the dirt from the grooves. It gives you a lovely shiny record, but the dirt exists in the grooves, not on top of them. The Antistat uses brushes which do a far better job of penetrating the grooves, not to mention it’s designed such that the record is dried in the air, not using a set of cloths that only end up leaving the records damp. The Antistat is the better of the 2 machines, the Pro-Ject VC-S is in a different league and anyone serious about vinyl should have one.
Thanks, that makes perfect sense.
Oh well, the Spin Clean wasn’t the first bad purchase I’ve made, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
Now I have to start saving for a VC-S.
Don’t be disheartened, in all honesty you could do a lot worse. Yes the Antistat is the better of the 2 devices, but the Spin Clean will at least get some of the dirt off though I’d use another fluid (non alcoholic). You can use an ordinary drainage rack if you want to let the records air dry, just put strips of electrical tape on the metal parts so they don’t scratch the records. That solution is better than nothing, and better than some of the alternatives I’ve seen people using online including dishcloths, washing up liquid and even the good old kitchen tap. The ideal manual machine would be a machine with the spinning rollers as used on the Spin Clean, but the brushes of the Antistat. Used with a non alcoholic fluid that could air dry leaving no residue, that would be an excellent machine for very little money.