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How to Store Vinyl Records to Protect Your Collection

by RabbitHoleMusic
How to Store Vinyl Records
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Ever wonder how to store vinyl records? If so we are here to help with a full guide on keeping your vinyl in the best shape possible.

How you store your records could affect the lifespan of your records. I cannot count the number of times I have been disappointed after finding a wanted record at a thrift store or garage sale only to find it is badly warped without repair or scuffed up from improper care.

Vinyl is a fragile medium and is vulnerable to damage if do not know how to preserve it. There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding how to store your vinyl records. You will need to take into account temperature and environment of your storage location as these factors affect the condition and health of your vinyl records.

In addition to location you need to consider a great vinyl storage cabinet along with the space requirements and potentially matching other room decor for your significant other. We have not even started on inner and outer vinyl record sleeves.

While it’s not the only way to listen to music, there is nothing quite like the nostalgia of playing LP records on a turntable while listening to your favorite tunes! But before you re-live your childhood memories, here are some tips for how to store your vinyl records so they don’t warp or get damaged over time.

Where to Store Your Vinyl Records

Choose an Area Free of Moisture

If you have ever seen a vintage vinyl record that has been exposed to years of a damp basement environment it is not pretty, trust me. I have seen so many great record covers ruined by mold residue from my years of picking through used collections. Please make sure you have a non-damp environment to store your vinyl records.

The Library of Congress recommends 35-40% relative humidity as the optimal humidity level for home record storage. If your basement is prone to moisture, you may need to invest in a dehumidifier to remove moisture in the air. This will keep your record collection from having mildew and mold.

You can get indoor thermometer with humidity sensor relatively cheap from most retailers. Here is the thermometer use in my vinyl record storage area. This works great to let you know what you need to do to get your room climate controlled.

I am lucky and have a finished basement that stays at this level outside of the colder winter months. During these months where I am using gas heat in our house the humidity level actual gets quite low in the basement. I usually use a humidifier to help keep the humidity at the desired level for my vinyl record collection.

The humidifier keeps the room at the recommended humidity level for my records and also helps playback as low humidity will lead to static when playing the discs on your record player.

I am in no means an expert on humidifiers but I do recommend you get one with a way to control the output to control the humidity in the room. The other key is to get a proper sized one for the room your vinyl collection is located. When I first added a humidifier I bought one too small for the room and it required constant refilling the water which was a pain. Below are a couple examples of humidifiers I have liked for medium sized rooms.

Store Your Records Away from Heat and Cold

Similar to how we want to monitor humidity, we also want to monitor the temperature of where our lp collection is stored (another use for our inexpensive thermometer). There is some debate amongst lp collectors of the ideal temperature to store vinyl records. For home collections I have always kept the environment between 65-70° F. This differs from the NEDCC (Northeast Document Conservation Center) recommendation of 50-60°F but I do not find this feasible if you store your lps in your listening room .

Once an ideal temperature is met the other factor we want to make sure of is that the collection is stored away from heat or cold sources. This includes common household items such as radiators or air conditioning vents. Both extreme heat and cold are not good for your vinyl records. Heat and improper storage are the top reasons for a warped record.

The best place to store your records is in a cool, dry place with moderate humidity. I also try to avoid areas I know will be extremely dusty or have a lot of pet traffic (my music room is the only place in our house that is off limits to our dog).

Keep Your LP Collection Away from UV Light

The last item I want to cover in how to store your vinyl records is to keep them out of direct sunlight. Ultraviolet light (UV) can penetrate windows and cause your record covers to fade over time.

Most of the time this will not be an issue but something to consider when deciding on room placement in a room with a large window.

How to Store Your Vinyl Records

Now that we have a place to store our records, your next question is most likely how do I store my vinyl records. One of the most common questions about how to store vinyl records is what they should be kept in.

Take the time to find a quality storage solution and your collection will thank you. We have a complete post on The Best Vinyl Record Storage Solutions to help guide on making a great selection for your collection and space.

If you have a large collection, you may want multiple storage solutions, one for records played often and another for long-term vinyl storage. Below are some tips to get you started on both short-term and long-term solutions.

Short-Term LP Storage

For short term storage options, I keep a small record storage cabinet in my room to house LPs I regularly play. This is great for having quick access to discs I want to spin without having to rummage through my larger cabinets.

I personally use the Ikea Kallax for short term vinyl storage. I have them to be durable and they are pretty inexpensive. Each cube of the IKEA Kallax cabinet holds around 50 – 60 records. I currently have the 2 x 2 cube model and put my record cleaning machine on top of it along with some room decorations. The model also comes in a smaller 1 x 2 cube size that is great for short-term storage.

How to Store Vinyl Records – Long-Term LP Storage

To store vinyl records properly for long-term storage I use a combination of lp cabinets. A lot of my collection is in the larger Ikea Kallax or Billy cabinets. I can hold most of my collection in these now that I have trimmed down the collection through the years. In the past and at the height of my collection I had around 20,000 lps coming in and out of my house. During this time I built custom storage racks and boxes to hold them. I will see if I still have the cabinet plans and share them in a separate post.

A few things to note if you invest in the Kallax cabinets for storing your vinyl records. I was somewhat concerned about using the 4 x 4 cube size due to the weight. With some reinforcement to the wall studs, I have not had any issues loading these up next to full for years at a time. The only thing is you did need a decent amount of wall space for one of these, they are about 5′ in length. In total you can expect to hold around 700 lps in a cabinet of this style.

If you do not have the wall space or a smaller collection, the Kallax does come in the 4 x 2 cube version. These will hold around 350 lps. There are many other styles to choose from and I have used a variety over the years. If you want to see more record cabinet recommendations read our guide to the Best Vinyl Record Storage Solutions.

Tips for Long-Term Record Storage

If storing records for a long period of time you need to take a few items into consideration to help keep your collection pristine when it comes time to take them for a spin on your record player.

Do Not Overload the Cabinet

The most frequent mistake that people make when they store vinyl records is to not consider the amount of pressure placed on the records. A 12-inch record typically weighs more than 150 grams (5 ounces. If you’ve got 50 of them in a cube, that’s around 17 pounds of pressure on the last LP in the cube.

For short periods of time this is not an issue. If we are storing lps in a cramped environment like this for a long period of time it can cause damage to the album covers and potentially lead to groove distortion or record warping.

It is best to assure you do not overload the cabinet. For instance if at max the cabinet will hold 50 records, only store 40 to 45 records in the space. This will lighten the load and not compress the records while in storage.

Do not Store your Records Horizontally

Never store your records horizontally (i.e. lay them flat and stack them on top of each other). Just like heat exposure, this is one of the most common ways to warp a vinyl record. You will want to keep your records vertical and as perpendicular as possible. Keeping them perpendicular is important as storing them vertically but having them lean too much can also cause damage and warp your records.

Invest in a Record Cabinet or Record Shelf to Store Vinyl Records.

As you probably already realized, records are a large square shape and they do not fit in a lot of the standard bookcases bought at big box retailers. As previously discussed, make sure to take time and invest in quality lp storage. If you are unable to find a cube stle record cabinet, invest in some sturdy dividers for a bookcase. This will help keep the pressure off the records by dividing up the row. These are inexpensive and easy to find online.

Nothing is worse than coming home to a bookcase collapsed and a floor full of damaged records (trust me, been there with a cheap book case I used for storage during college).

Use Outer Sleeves to Protect the Album Cover

This applies to both short-term and long-term vinyl storage. This is an inexpensive way to keep your album covers looking great for years. An outer sleeve is simply a plastic cover that you slip the record into. It provides protection from the cover getting scuffed while being slid in and out of the storage rack. This is one of the easiest ways to improve

I am less picky about outer vinyl record sleeves than I am about my inner sleeves. They do come in a variety of thicknesses and clarity. One thing I do suggest is to avoid super cheap sleeves as they will yellow and become brittle over time. I usually look for a 3 mil thickness and have been using the Invest In Vinyl brand with good success. I like they are large enough to fit some double LPs into the sleeve and they come in 50 and 100 packs.

Change Out the Record Inner Sleeves

The inner sleeve is the sleeve around the vinyl record that slides inside the album cover. The sleeves that come with the record are sometimes printed with images and linear notes and sometimes may be just plain white paper.

I have never liked the paper sleeves or using the printed inner sleeves. First the paper can leave unwanted marks on your pristine vinyl. Second, if it is a printed sleeve, I want to keep it in nice shape and there is no quicker way to ruin it than sliding a record in and out of it every time I want to spin the record. Using a poly inner sleeve is a great way to improve how to store vinyl records in your collection.

I personally use the Mobile Fidelity (MoFi) inner sleeves on all of my collection. They are 3 ply anti-static sleeves that will not scuff the record like their paper counterpart. They are a little on the expensive side but are the gold standard for me. I store the original sleeves inside the album cover and always move the disk to a mobile fidelity sleeve and store it outside the album cover. I have been doing this for the past 30 years and have no complaints.

The MoFi MFSL sleeves are sold in packs of 50. Recently they were sold out (thank you vinyl explosion of 2020) and I tried the Invest In Vinyl. I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the quality and they are cheaper. I have used about 200 of these and do not have any complaints but only have about of year of time using them.

MoFi Inner Sleeves

Invest In Vinyl Inner Sleeves

Clean Your Records

The first thing I do when getting an lp is clean it. This goes for both new and used vinyl. New vinyl although shiny and pristine actually can have chemicals that will harm your stylus on your turntable. Taking a few minutes to clean the record prior to playing will extend not only the life of your lp but also your cartridge stylus.

There are various ways to clean a vinyl record and I will walk you through each method in a separate article.

How to Store 45 RPM Records

I love 45s and have collected a variety through the years. My favorite was when sub pop had the record club in the ’90s, so many great 7″ records from that time.

In regards to storing, there really is no difference in storing 7″ 45 RPM records compared to their larger lp relatives. Everything we discussed in regards to temperature, humidity and room placement for LPs can be applied to your collection of 45s.

If anything storing 45s can be easier than storing lps for a variety of reasons.

  • They are smaller and take less space.
  • They make a variety of sturdy 45 RPM boxes for long-term storage.
  • They weigh less so you have more cabinet options available for storage.

Closing Remarks on How to Store Vinyl Records

With these tips in mind, you can safely store and enjoy your vinyl record collection for years to come! We hope you enjoyed our tips on how to store vinyl records. If you are new to vinyl, make sure to checkout our other vinyl storage tips.

Common Questions on How to Store Vinyl Records

What’s the best way to store vinyl records?

It is best to store vinyl in a record cabinet. There are a variety of different styles and sizes available to choose from. Some of the more popular are models are items such as the Kallax or Billy from Ikea.

Is it OK to store vinyl records flat?

You should never store lps or 45s flat or stacked on top of each other. This can cause damage to the vinyl by causing it to warp or get groove distortion.

How do I store vinyl records without sleeves?

If you have a vinyl record that did not come with the album cover I recommend you use a poly-lined inner sleeve to house the vinyl. From there you will want to find a Kraft paper album cover to offer protection. These can be found in a variety of places, here is a quality, archival Kraft replacement album cover one I have used in the past for some test pressings.

How do you protect vinyl records?

There are several factors to consider in protecting your record collection. First, you want the room temperature and humidity to be correct. Avoid storing your collection in areas that are damp or with excessive heat.

You will also want to invest in outer record sleeves as well as replace inner sleeves for optimal long-term record care.

How tight do you shelve your records?

You should not overload shelves when placing vinyl away for storage. For a standard cube size record holder (max of 50 lps) I usually try to load around 80% – 85% of the max capacity (40 -45 lps in this case). If your record cabinet is long without breaks, you can invest in some sturdy dividers to split up the line of albums into shorter sections.

Best ways to store records for a small collection?

The possibilities are endless for a small record collection and the best way to store them. You will want to find something that allows space for your collection to grow as well as fit and match your room decor. I personally prefer cube style record cabinets. These are usually 13 x 13 and can hold at max around 50 lps.

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