Dust Cover Restoration

I spent a good chunk of time this past weekend restoring a turntable that arrived to me in grimy cosmetic shape, including a particularly nasty dust cover that featured decades-old decaying packing tape and its sticky residue covered in dirt and dust.

The Before… gross

But after an hour or or two of intensive scrubbing, we had it looking pretty sharp.

The After

Are dust covers even required for turntable use? This a subject of perhaps a surprising level of debate, with some arguing that an attached dust cover, even if raised during the playing of an LP, will add an inevitable level of resonance that can affect the quality of playback. But there’s no question that a clean dust cover adds to a turntable’s aesthetics, while providing some degree of protection for the tonearm and stylus. And they tend to be highly valued, with many dust covers for vintage turntables selling for nearly as much as the tables themselves. So if you have one that looks like the top picture – don’t despair and throw it away, but follow a few easy steps to clean it right up instead.

  1. Wipe down with vegetable oil
    • This sounds a little bit nuts, like baking tube amps in ovens. But it actually does work. It won’t fix scratches, it won’t even remove the tape and its residue. The primary purpose is to loosen everything up substantially, and some dirt and residue will scrape off with a hot water rinse and paper towel afterward.
  2. Wipe down with isopropyl alcohol
    • I’m not a chemist so I can’t explain why, but after a first take with vegetable oil, a quick scrub with isopropyl alcohol quickly removes all remaining residue, without even requiring much of any force at all, and is more effective if vegetable oil has been applied already.
    • Isopropyl alcohol does not necessarily play kind with polycarbonate/plastic/whatever is used to manufacture dust covers, and can leave a cloudy, hazy residue that could leave things looking worse. To avoid this fate, simply give the dust cover a good rinse with warm water immediately after exposing it to isopropyl alcohol.
  3. Apply Novus Heavy Scratch Remover, Fine Scratch Remover & Plastic Polish
    • A favorite of the audio community for good reason – the stuff works. Cheap, effective, easy to apply. All you could ask for.
    • I’ve found it beneficial to use more substantial force when applying the plastic polish. Push down on the dust cover with the rag until you think you’re going to shatter the dust cover into pieces – and then push some more – kidding, of course, but force should be applied firmly within safe reason.
    • Follow the directions exactly. It sounds silly, but the little things – such as applying the heavy scratch remover at a right angle to the scratches – make a big difference.
  4. If the above fails to satisfy, try wet sanding

So if you have a dirty old dust cover laying around, take a closer look at it. If it’s still in one piece, in all likelihood, the steps above can help bring back some sharpness that will really make your turntable jump out.

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