To get the most quality sound out of your turntable your stylus needs to be in tip-top working order. It needs to be properly aligned but it also needs to be clean. This article is going to be about the latter, dealing with cleaning the stylus and what I believe is the best way to clean it.
As the stylus is in direct contact with your records it can pick dirt and debris from the record. This will affect the sound coming out of your speakers for sure. As for the question, what is the best way to clean the stylus? I hope to answer this question and show definitive proof as well as at least provide a method of verifying the results.
Why Should I Clean My Stylus?
The main reason is that it gets dirty despite how clean you keep your records. This happens because when you play your vinyl dust can fall onto your record when playing and slowly build up over time on your stylus. This dirt, dust, and foreign debris can cause problems.
The Sound You Hear
A dirty stylus affects your listening experience by causing a reduced lack of detail like someone threw a heavy blanket over the speakers and scratchy noises. The dust and dirt on the stylus cause a layer between the stylus and the record thereby reducing contact and thus causing bad reproduction of sound. This is not disputable, this is a fact.
The cleaner the stylus the more full and wider frequencies you can hear. This is really more apparent in the treble and bass range.
Having a regular routine of cleaning your stylus ensures you are getting the most from your audio equipment as well as a longer lifespan.
Possible Damage To Your Vinyl
Having dirt attached to your stylus and playing it can act as a form of sandpaper to your record. The dust and dirt can be abrasive along with the stylus running along the grooves of the record. Thereby potentially wearing down the vinyl and affecting future playback by losing a lack of detail which is found in the grooves.
My Former Method I Used To Use
For years I have been using the Onzow Zerodust Stylus Cleaner and I falsely believed it was all I needed to clean my stylus. Boy was I wrong! It will lift some dust and particles off of your stylus but it will not totally clean it.
What changed my opinion?
Purchasing and using a USB Microscope and then looking at my stylus under magnification is what really changed my mind on the matter. Yeah, it was a mess! You can not believe the amount of grim and dirt that is stuck to and around the stylus. It was mind-blowing, to say the least.
There is an old Russian saying, “Trust, but verify” and I needed to verify and a microscope does just that.
I purchased a Jiusion Digital USB Microscope from Amazon for around $25.00.
I then further tested it by taking before and after pictures and using the Onzow Zerodust. I took some pictures of the record player I have next to me in my office it is a Technics SL-BD20 – with a Stanton L720EE cartridge and I will be using it for this test. I picked it up at the local Goodwill and I am certain the stylus hasn’t ever been cleaned and would provide some good before and after pictures.
The results were underwhelming. It does partially clean the stylus of bigger dust bunnies and debris but it does by no means clean it thoroughly.
Problems With The Onzow Zerodust
Is the Onzow Zerodust worthless?
No, I don’t believe it is. I know it picks up dust and lint as the clear gel shows quite a bit of debris on it after using it and it has improved the sound when the stylus was dirty after I had played a dirty record. This is not a perfect stylus cleaner but I do know of a better method thanks to the microscope.
If this is all you have and don’t have the money to purchase something else, I would still use it, just be aware of its shortcomings and possible problems.
Other Possible Problems With Zerodust
Whether it is a rumor or a fact it has been going around the audiophile world as of late, that using the Zerodust will leave a sticky residue on your stylus after using it. There are photos showing that there is a residue (some type of polymer) left on the stylus after using the Zerodust under magnification. This residue is hard to clean with a dedicated stylus brush and cleaning solution.
Ultrasonic Stylus Cleaners…Ahhhhhh This Is It
One of the newest methods of cleaning off your stylus is the UV Ultrasonic Stylus Cleaners. These use a combination of UV light and ultrasonic vibration along with a cleaning solution to remove dirt, dust, and debris from your stylus. The UV light is not for cleaning but for seeing it clean, this is a bit baffling to me as you can’t really see anything happen but whatever…I guess. Just don’t think the UV light is for cleaning, this was my first impression as well as others. It is for illumination, that’s it.
But don’t let that detour you…the results are, in my best Larry David voice, “prettay, prettaaay, prettaaaaaaaay, pretty good“.
I think this is an extremely interesting and useful product that needs some spotlighting.
I recently purchased the Hudson HI-FI UV Stylus Cleaner from Amazon in combination with my newly purchased USB Digital Microscope to run it through its paces and to see the end result. The verification and the results are quite surprising, to say the least.
This is the current cheapest ultrasonic stylus cleaner on the market currently and by the way, it is cheaper than the Onzow Zerodust. It is quick to use, safe to use as frequently as you need, and gentle.
This comes with a 10ml bottle of cleaning fluid, this fluid contains ingredients that lower the surface tension which increases the cavitation of the ultrasonic device, providing a clean stylus. You just dap a drop of the cleaning fluid onto the soft pad and carefully place your stylus in the middle of the pad and turn it on and after 5 to 15 seconds you have a super clean stylus.
The Results…Are Amazing!!!
After applying a drop of the cleaning solution which is supplied, and unplugging the turntable so it wouldn’t move. I carefully placed the stylus over the brush pad. I turned it on and let it run for about 10 seconds. Below are the results.
Rest assured this is very simple to use and to actually see and hear the results.
This method leaves zero residues and gets rid of the crud that builds up and all that encrusts the stylus. The ultrasonic movement combined with the brush pad with cleaning solution really truly cleans the stylus.
My Lord, I found my new stylus cleaner.
Another ultrasonic stylus cleaner on the market is the FLUX HIFI Ultrasonic Electronic Stylus Cleaner. This is also sold on Amazon but it is considerably more expensive than the Hudson (above). This is about 4 times more expensive. I think you would see the same results as the Hudson HI-FI Stylus Cleaner.
Help Keep Your Stylus Clean
Protect your vinyl from accumulating dust and dirt by storing them in outer and inner sleeves and can really help avoid having to clean your stylus less frequently. Check out my page on Best Vinyl Records Sleeves. I recommend some of the top inner and outer sleeves and tell you what to look for and avoid.
The Last Groove
As I say goodbye now and forever to the Onzow Zerodust to some shoebox, junk drawer, or audio tote down in the basement of long-forgotten parts, I rejoice in the fact that I found a better product that actually thoroughly cleans and leaves zero residues on my stylus and which is very affordable. It’s hard to argue with the results and feel free to put these two products through your own test and see the results. I actually encourage it. The results are quite amazing!
The Hudson HI-FI UV Stylus Cleaner is a must-own for anybody that owns a turntable and enjoys high-resolution music. Keep your stylus clean and keep spinning music that makes you feel good & happy.
How do you clean your stylus? What products or techniques do you use? Would love to hear any thoughts or comments below. Thanks!