Warped record? Learn how to fix and unwarp vinyl
In this guide we show you step-by-step how to repair a record safely
Updated October 2022
More and more people are starting to appreciate the warm, rich sound of vinyl phonograph records. If you're a collector and enthusiast, then you know that warped LPs can be a real pain. Not only do they make playing the records difficult or impossible, but they can also damage the needle on your turntable.
So if you want to preserve your music fan's collection, you should invest a little time in it. This will pay off in the end. Although vinyl is a delicate material, fortunately, there's an easy fix - this guide will show you how to repair an edge warp in no time!
Method 1: DIY method with home tools: Glass plates and your oven or hairdryer
(NOT RECOMMENDED, HIGH RISK) Sure, you went to a forum, and someone said they had success with two glass plates and using your kitchen oven. THIS IS A HIGH-RISK METHOD!
In a perfect world, it would be ideal. You're applying some force to the record and heating it in the oven. So, what's the problem?
The grooves on a record may easily be damaged by glass plates.
Standard kitchen ovens inaccurately measure temperatures. They work based on a range of temperatures, which is fine for cooking but we need higher precision for unwarping.
Usually, the lowest temperature in a kitchen oven is around 175 degrees Fahrenheit--way too hot for unwarping. We want the temperature around 130-150 degrees Fahrenheit.
We have heard of some other crazy attempts. Using a hairdryer to heat the record and move it around the edge. Or using a vacuum former to create suction and pressure and then heat it.
But how precise is this? You might get lucky with one or two, but why take unnecessary risks when other proven methods can work?
Method 2: Place two heavy books to flatten the record. And wait. For months? Years?
(LOW RISK, BUT NOT EFFECTIVE) The second method is a variation of the glass plate method, but we're using two heavy books instead and removing any heating element.
The idea is to place the LP between the two heavy books or other flat objects and let time do its thing. But how long will this take? A few months? Years?
No one knows. Your best bet is to check on it every few weeks and see if there's any progress.
Yep, this is safe for the most part. Although uneven pressure might cause grooves to be damaged. The book may be flat or even more so. But oh man, this is a dud and could take forever to accomplish effectively.
Method 3: Use a record flattener machine (RECOMMENDED)
(LOW RISK, EFFECTIVE AND FAST) Many flattener machines on the market can quickly warp off any LP. This is often the result of heat and humidity, but this process can help to fix them. By applying gentle pressure and heat, you can reshape any distorted records back into their original shape. You can even do this at home.
Although there are different manufacturers, all of them use controlled heat, pressure, and time to fix edge warps. We created a whole article to compare each machine.
No matter which one you have, you should go through the same basic principles and steps to unwarp a record.
1. Clean the record
Dust and other debris can build up on the surface of the record, which can cause issues when flattening. There are a few different ways to clean records.
Use a record-cleaning machine. These devices spin the disc and use brushes and cleaning solutions to remove dirt and grime from the record surface.
Clean the record by hand. Another option is to use a soft cloth and a specialized solution or even distilled water.
Whichever method you choose, taking the time to clean your records will make sure the unwarping process goes smoothly and it's less likely to damage the record.
2. Insert the record into the machine
Once your record is clean, we can start the flattening process. There are 3 flattener machines on the market.
Furutech: Manufactured in Japan, it costs $3,000-$3,500.
ORB: Also from Japan, it can be found for $1,000-$1,500.
The Vinyl Flat: $159.95, or $249.90 including The Groovy Pouch heating element. We recommend this device as it's the most affordable of the bunch.
Inserting the record should be very straightforward.
Open the machine. Both the Furutech and the ORB devices open up like a clam so you can insert the record. The Vinyl Flat, on the other hand, is composed of two heavy plates.
Insert the record.
Close the lid of the machine and turn it on. The Furutech and ORB both have buttons that allow you to set the time and temperature.
Make sure the disc is flat and tight on the machine or plates you are using.
3. Choose the right time and temperature
Next, we will use science. This means increasing the temperature of our heating source and leaving it for a period of time.
Set the temperature to low, medium, or high.
Choose the heating cycle time. If you are using Furutech, you can choose a time between 1h to 2.5h. The ORB machine has a fixed 2h heating cycle. The Vinyl Flat requires manual turn-off.
It is recommended to use a thermometer (which is included) so the temperature is precise (included with The Vinyl Flat).
Overall, we recommend an initial temperature of 130°F and a 1-hour heating cycle. This is a safe temperature to start, especially for those rare vintage albums. We've had a lot of success over the years between 130°F and 140°F and very rarely need to go higher.
The lighter the record, the less time is required. Usually, RCA/Dynaflex and Dynagroove records from the 1970s are the lightest at 80-100 grams. A 1-hour heating cycle is usually enough for these. But the heavier you get, at 200 grams, then the more time you will need.
If you have a very rare LP it might require a bit of trial and error. This is normal.
4. Cool the record down and play it
Finally, once the record is hot after the heating cycle, you should wait for it to cool down at room temperature.
Turn off the machine. In the Furutech and ORB machine, you can just leave the record inside and make sure the heating element is off. With The Vinyl Flat, you should turn off or unplug the Groovy Pouch.
Wait for 45-min to cool down. This prevents additional warping when touching and handling it. Some machines might have a cool-down cycle integrated.
Play the record on your turntable. Make sure it sounds okay and decide if you need to repeat the heating cycle.
We understand you might want to play for the record quicker. But waiting to cool down will keep the record flat until it's safe to touch. It also avoids any unintended burns.
That's it! If you have a warped LP, don't worry - it can be fixed. You can follow the same process for all record dimensions, including 7'', 10'', and 12''. Similarly, 33s and 45s can be fixed using this method.
We know some of the options in the market can be quite expensive. That's why we invented The Vinyl Flat more than 10 years ago. To provide a simple, affordable, and effective method to fix records. This is a patent-pending device that is made in the USA.
Why records warp and how to prevent it
Why are they bent in the first place? Warping or bending can occur for a variety of reasons. If not properly handled or stored, vinyl can distort from heat and pressure. The best way to avoid having a distorted record is to take some preventative steps when storing them.
"PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE"
Warped vinyl is always a pain, but usually, it's because of one of two reasons.
Exposure to extreme heat
Though vinyl is a synthetic plastic that is lightweight and difficult to break, it is also moldable when exposed to excessive heat. We are not talking about roasting them inside the oven, but just leaving records under the sun or inside a car during the summer months could cause a warp.
If you live in a particularly hot climate, it is best to store your records inside a cool, dry place. If you have no other choice but to leave them out in the open, make sure they are not stacked on top of each other.
Second, if you stack too many albums on top of each other, the pressure will cause them to warp. Even from other objects stacked on top of it, their weight can eventually cause the vinyl to buckle and bend. Record covers, sleeves, and packaging have different weights, so an uneven distribution will damage your collection.
Try to store your albums in a vertical position rather than stacking them horizontally on top of each other. If you must store them horizontally, make sure there is nothing on top of the records that could potentially bend or warp them over time.
But let's suppose it happened already and you suspect it might be warped.
How to tell if a record is warped
The best way to tell if you have a bent record is to hold it up to a light source and look at the surface. If it seems like there is a slight bubbling or rippling effect, then your record is damaged.
You can also identify warping when trying to play them. If the record looks okay but is skipping, this is a tell-tale sign that there is something wrong. If you hear a faint buzzing sound, this is also an indication that it's not sitting flat on the turntable.
Now that you know how to tell if your vinyl is warped, old, or new, it's time to learn how to fix it! There are three ways to fix a warped record, each with a difficulty level. We'll start with the most difficult and work our way down. Use these methods to flatten any record.
The main principle is to fix them the same way they got broken, not with magic, but with science. This increases the temperature. The real challenge is to get the right combination of pressure, heat, and time without damaging our record.
Whether you're a casual listener or a serious collector, a vinyl record flattener is a valuable tool to have on hand. Not only is this process safe, but it will also improve the sound quality of your record collection. The Vinyl Flat quickly, efficiently, and effectively repairs your bent records.
Now you know the best way to fix a warped record using one of three methods. But it's best to avoid having a warped record in the first place, and our guide on how to store albums will help you do just that. If you want the best results, use a record flattener machine. Thanks for reading, and happy listening!