I just recently moved to a new home, and I knew it was going to be hot. I was terrified that my vinyl collection could warp through the journey. After some research, this is what I found and what you can do to prevent warping.
A typical vinyl record can start warping due to heat at a temperature of 140°F (60°C) and can melt at temperatures exceeding 212°F (100°C). Other factors, such as humidity, sunlight exposure, and improper storage, can drastically impact the resilience of a record.
Heat exposure is not the most common cause of warping, let’s dig into why records warp, how you would prevent it, and how to transport records. However, if there is anything you take from this article, I want it to be this: Do not store your records in a hot car or direct sunlight.
Causes of Vinyl Record Warping
Heat is one of the prominent concerns of a vinyl warping. As stated before, you can see warping in vinyl starting at roughly 140°F (60°C), even if it is stored properly. Although, once you start reaching 170°F (77°C), any pressure or lean will almost certainly leave you with a warped record.
The melting point of a vinyl record depends on its specific makeup and additives added to the PVC during manufacturing. Once reaching the melting point, which can lie anywhere between 212°F to 500°F (100°C to 260°C), will cause unrecoverable damage to your album.
There have been documented cases where records were left in a parked car for less than an hour. Only to come back and find their records warped due to heat. It is not unheard of cars reaching an excess of 140°F (60°C) in hot regions. On a 100°F (38°C) day, I have personally seen my dash reach 160°F (71°C). I am living by the rule that if it’s not safe for a pet to stay in the car, then it’s too hot for my vinyl as well.
Directly related to heat is direct sunlight. A typical vinyl record consists of a black PVC material. The black color allows the record to absorb a more significant portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Resulting in more heat transferred from the sun’s rays. A plastic sleeve would do very little to protect the record from the exposure.
A cover could provide some protection by insolating it and preventing the record itself from being exposed. A cover does not provide enough protection for prolonged exposure in this sort of environment. If you have the ability, keep your records out of sunlight as much as possible.
I haven’t seen much talk on the transition between temperatures, but I think it a significant concern. Going from a cold environment, such as below 32°F (0°C), and transitioning to 70°F (21°C) or vise versa.
This transition causes stress as it is either expanding or contracting from heating up or cooling down, respectively. If you are going to transport records between these types of environments, leave them in their cover for an hour or two before pulling them out. The cardboard or paper cover will provide some insolation that will slow down the transition in temperature.
Stacking your records is something you should never do. Even in the ideal temperatures, it can warp, or even worse, crack the records. Stacking your records causes inconsistent pressure.
When you stack a record on top of each other. Every item in the stack compounds the imbalanced weight on every record below it. The top few might be fine in the long term, but the odds just rise with each item in the stack. In short, do not stack your records!
How to Prevent Warping
The most important thing you can do to prevent your records from warping is to store them properly. Stack them vertically like books on a sturdy shelve. Preferably without it leaning and not being packed tightly together where you would have a hard time pulling one out without another sliding out with it.
The ideal temperature to store your records is roughly between 65°F (18°C) and 70°F (21°C). Although that is the ideal temperature, you shouldn’t worry about staying exactly between those temperatures. A good rule of thumb is if you feel comfortable in the room, your vinyl should be as well.
The location where you store these records is essential. Primarily, there are two primary considerations to keep in mind.
For example, in a poorly insulated shed or garage. Although, it’s possible to store records in these conditions without damage, is it worth the risk?
More importantly, a place that will never be hit by direct sunlight. This includes light shining through your window. Even some indirect sources can transfer a lot of heat, such as mirrors or glass reflecting sunlight. I personally would advise against storing records near vents that could produce heat during the colder months.
Preventing Warp During Transport
Transporting records can be stressful and is never guaranteed that all your preparation is going to keep your collection safe. Of course, there are some things you can do to give yourself the best chances.
Just like long term storage, you will want to keep your records stored vertically like books in a sturdy box. Make sure there isn’t any chance of the records from tipping or shifting in the box.
If there is extra space, use bubble wrap or foam to fill that space. Consider plastic sleeves for the cover to protect the art. Remove the records from the cover, this will help prevent ring wear. If you want to go all out, add some cardboard spacers between each recordset.
If you are going to transport it in a car, don’t leave the box out in the car for too long. If you plan to leave them in the car for more than an hour, put them in the trunk. This will make sure that the sun is not heating up the records directly.
If you plan on shipping your records, you will want to take extra precaution since you aren’t the one handling the records and will most likely take a rough journey. This will be very similar to moving your records in a car, but you may want to package each album into a record mailer. The extra packaging will provide more protection and allows you to ship them individually as well.
My Vinyl is Already Warped
If you already own a warped vinyl record. All hope is not lost, but don’t expect the same quality as when you bought it new. I’m not going to go into the details of the processes as they warrant a detailed post of their own.
Do It Yourself
Before doing any sort of DIY repair, start by cleaning your record to remove any dust or other contaminates. Even if the warping issue is fixed, these particles could dig themselves into the grooves. Which may leave you off worse than you started.
All methods really boil down to pressure and time. Such as putting the record between two panes of glass with extra weight added on top. This sort of flattening could take days or weeks.
Some of the more adventurous among the vinyl community heat up the vinyl record in an oven to soften up the plastic. Accelerating the process at obviously a higher risk of damage.
Commercial products exist to aide in flattening records at home. Such as the strange-looking, “Vinyl Flat” flattener. Although, they can be pricey and you may only want to consider such a solution if a large portion of your vinyl is warped.
Contact a Professional
Some shops have machines that will heat and press the vinyl back to a flat shape. If you are lucky enough to have a local shop that offers these types of services. It could be the safest method of flattening your vinyl.
Although this could be expensive, depending on the local retailers, it may be better to seek a replacement. Make sure to talk to the shop about the risks before going through with it.