Line Out Music & Nightlife


News & Arts

« Prince is Playing Coachella | Brand Upon the Brain »

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

How To Clean An Old Album Cover

posted by on April 9 at 11:33 AM

Sometimes when you buy an old album at the used vinyl store, the vinyl itself can be in beautiful condition, but the cover comes plastered in ugly stickers that mar the beauty of the original artwork.


Because the cover is so botched by the stickers, you, in return, pay less for the album because it’s not anywhere near mint condition.

Here’s a step by step way to return your album to its original condition. I learned this while working a short stint at Jive Time last summer, thanks to David, RJ, Scotty and the crew, I’m passing it on to you.

Here are the tools you’ll need:


Ronsonol Lighter Fluid
A Razor Blade
A Paper Towl

Ronsonol de-sticks old adhesive, and it evaporates without wrinkling the paper, so you don’t have to worry about any evidence of old stickers or adhesive. Check it out:


Here’s the original cover with five different stickers on it. Four of the old stickers are so old, if you tried to tear them off, no matter how carefully, you’d probably rip part of the old cover art off too. So here’s what you do:

Step 1: Soak all the stickers REALLY GOOD with the Lighter Fluid.


Really soak the stickers so they are very wet, the lighter fluid needs to go all the way through to the adhesive on the other side of the sticker.

Step 2: For old stickers, or stickers that have a glossy surface, lightly scratch the surface with the end of the razor blade.


Step 3: Once the sticker has been soaking for a minute, newer stickers you can lift up by your finger tips, sometimes they even float off on their own! Use the razor blade to gently get under older stickers and lift them up. Gently tear them away. if they still stick - ADD MORE LIGHTER FLUID.


Step 4: For any bits of paper sticker and sticky adhesive that are still on the album, add a little Lighter Fluid to the paper towel and gently wipe them off the album. Here’s a picture of what the album cover looks like after the first part of the process, you can still see some adhesive and a bit of old sticker over the “A” in the title:


And here I am wiping it away:


Here’s the junk I took off the album cover:


And finally here’s what the album looks like now!


Of course this is just some old janky Canadian Christmas disco album, but imagine if you found yourself with a Jimi Hendrix Electric Lady Land original printed cover with shit like this on it! Now you know how to increase it’s worth from the $10’s to the $100’s with minimal work. I’ve seen it happen!

And if you are an inspiring DJ who need to put bpms on records, might I suggest using White Masking Tape (you can get it at hardware store paint sections). It has very little tack and comes off very easily without leaving any marks. you can write on it with fine tip permanent marker, and because it has some plastic fiber in it, it doesn’t transfer through to the album sleeve.

There you go, a tip from the pros. Now…Go clean up your record collection!

RSS icon Comments


I heard this worked, but I have always been afraid that the fluid would be way too strong and take off the album art along with the sticker, so I never tried it.

Thanks for showing how it's done, Terry!

Posted by Megan Seling | April 9, 2008 11:59 AM

the great thing about the fluid is it ONLY takes of adhesive, so it won't discolor your art, or lift off the album cover art from its old cardsleeve.

it can sometimes also help to get things like crayon, old water-based pen ink and just plain grime off covers. this works on books too!

It also evaporates, so once you do this let it sit out for a bit, it will totally look amazing in 10 minutes!

Because it evaporates so fast it doesn't have time to "wrinkle" the paper sleeve either.

Posted by terry miller | April 9, 2008 12:05 PM

ah...use a COTTON ball!! and no razor blades!!!! soak the stickers, just give 'em time to get soft...the lighter fluid doesn't work that well on cellophane/scotch tape, like where aholes tape up any seem slipts tho'!!! and NEVER EVER try to peel those big white timing stickers off '70s/'80s DJ/promo copies. they won't come off and you'll tear the sleeve art! plus to some folks it's MORE important that the timing stickers are on the LP.

Posted by nipper | April 9, 2008 1:23 PM

Thanks Terry, nice!
Nipper, nothing to add?

Posted by Dougsf | April 9, 2008 1:26 PM

Isopropyl alcohol should also work. Use a firm, wood cotton swab instead of a paper towel or razor blade.

Posted by john | April 9, 2008 2:12 PM

Goo gone anyone?
It removes all stickies from everything. And all manner of stains and industrial adhesives.
But it might hurt the art work?

I dunno. It'd be interesting to try on a crappy sleeve to see.

Posted by Nay | April 9, 2008 2:28 PM

hey nips! why no razor blades? i been doin' this shit for a while and i hve yet to slice through an album cover.

cotton balls just seem to get messy, and there isn't a lot to hold onto, where paper towels you can just dab the tip in the fluid and you have a big scrunch of towel to hold onto. i have yet to ruin an album cover, but i might just be being slack, can you let me know.

would you just not use the paper towel on glossy covers?

Posted by terry miller | April 9, 2008 2:36 PM

Crap #3, I think we were posting at the same time. Nevermind!

Posted by Dougsf | April 9, 2008 3:37 PM

I peel the sticker off first IF it's DOABLE w/o out tearing the sleeve, the older the sticker the more stuck it's gonna be, so that determines if it gets the juice on it first or after the sticker comes off. then I drip the lighter fluid on the glue then scrub with a cotton ball, generally it then only takes a couple swipes. on a good day I can make the cotton ball last for 25 LPs. paper towels, for me, turn into an oily lighter fluid mess that STINKS up the house (there is more fiber area for the lighter fluid to soak into so it can get saturated), but i wait till I have 40 -50 LPs to clean so Ican do it in one HUGE swipe, so to speak. But really it's what works for you...I DO sometimes use a paper towel to scrub off sticker glue from CD cases. I've never needed to use a razor blade...with my luck I'd cut something I ought not to, just seems like an extra and maybe dangerous step.

BTW - alchohol might damage the some covers as some inks were/are alchohol solvent, like from '50s/'60s. And I've had lighter fluid damage a few sleeves...tho' out of thousands of sleeves I've cleaned I'd consider it no big loss.

Posted by nipper | April 9, 2008 4:19 PM

A solvent called Bestine is much better than lighter fluid for this kind of job. Lighter fluid is a witches brew of multiple aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, and can indeed damage ink on certain kinds of paper; maybe not so much album covers and sleeves, but definitely with cheaper inks on less stable substrates, like vintage movie posters (which I collect). Bestine is basically pure heptane, which is also less toxic and evaporates faster than lighter fluid.

And I've found that a small artist's paint brush is safer and works better than any kind of blade; it allows you to get the solvent right under the edge of the sticker, gradually lifting it off as you go, without damage. Again though, this is for more delicate work than album covers.

Posted by rk | April 9, 2008 7:55 PM

i'm prone to just using a razor blade and a lighter to melt the glue on the sticker. making sure to take the record out first, just pass the flame along the sticker a few times, then use the blade to peel it off. i've never lit a record on fire, and it does work most of the time. it only gets tricky with really OLD stickers that have been on the cover for years and years.

but lighter fluid words great too! i'm just normally too lazy.

and obviously don't use the fluid and the lighter at the same time. unless you want the awesome beach boys album you picked up at bop street to become a pile of dust.

Posted by jen | April 10, 2008 1:53 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).