Why Vinyl Records Warp?
Let's go over each reason and potential cause for warping.
Updated October 2022
We've all been there, maybe you bought a new record that was warped. Or it happened after not playing it for a while. This is a headache for some of us. But why does this happen?
Let's start with some science. Records are made from vinyl, which is a synthetic plastic. Unfortunately, this material has very poor heat stability. It typically performs well under 130°F. But when the temperature is higher, some distortions might occur. Just a small point of pressure at a high temperature and they might bend. This is why records are fragile and we need to properly maintain them. To understand more about vinyl materials you can check our in-depth guide.
So there you go, high temperature and pressure can warp records. In general, we've found these are the most common situations this happens.
1. Storing albums the wrong way
This is the most common cause. And it's so easy to avoid.
We talked about pressure before. Then imagine storing a record horizontally at the bottom of a 20-record pile. Or 100. Undoubtedly, this might cause warping. Why do we do it? It's so easy to store records horizontally. Maybe we don't have the right furniture or are just a bit lazy.
You can prevent warping by storing them vertically. Use their original sleeve and cover as these should fit the record well. If you don't have a way to store them upright, then you can store them flat, but avoid piling too many albums. The weight of the pile can cause warping, even without too much heat.
2. Exposing records to high temperatures
Because of the chemical compounds of plastic, they are sensitive to heat. If you've ever microwaved food in a plastic container, you've witnessed the distortion heat can have on plastics. While this example is not completely relevant, because we won't put our records in the microwave. It's an easy representation of what might happen.
Most commonly, distortions happen when records are exposed to direct sunlight for a prolonged period. Or left inside a parked car on a sunny day.
How hot does it have to be for records to warp? Based on multiple experiments, a record will start warping at 130 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, vinyl becomes softer and more pliable and any uneven pressure will distort the record.
A good practice is to keep your records in a room where you are comfortable spending time. You probably won't be comfortable at over 100°F. Same with your records. Be careful when leaving them in a basement or a garage as the temperature in these spaces might not always be controlled.
3. Shipping without proper packaging
Shipping and moving might be the biggest risks to a record. Why? because they spend time a lot of time outside or inside trucks.
I understand, buying vinyl online is very convenient. But be careful when shipping during summer temperatures. Especially if you live in a warm state.
Also, try minimizing bumps and pressure from the outside by wrapping your record with soft packaging materials such as foam or bubble wrap. This will prevent applying force directly to the record, even with all the movement that will happen during shipping.
4. Rapid cooling during manufacturing
We can understand warps on old records, but new ones? This might happen during manufacturing. Unfortunately, this last reason can't be actioned so not much that we can do about this one.
But it's important to understand that sometimes manufacturers might not have good practices to handle records. And it can lead to warps on the edges when the cooling plates are not properly handled.
Use the above tips to prevent warping. But if this already happened, you can still fix your records by using this guide.