You can touch a needle on a turntable, but it’s not recommended. Touching a turntable needle means you will inevitably scratch the record or leave behind oils from your fingers that will attract other contaminants, which will damage both the stylus and record mathematically. Also, many needles have been treated with unique materials sensitive to human touch.
Record players operate at very high speeds. As a result, the stylus (needle) constantly passes back and forth over the record. Although it may appear harmless, touching the needle can cause serious injuries such as cuts and puncture wounds because of its extremely sharp point.
How do finger oils damage the needle on a record player?
You get dirt from all places, but you get a lot from your fingers. Even though you think you’re being careful, your fingers have layers and layers of dead skin cells, oil, and grime on them that rub off easily onto a record surface.
Finger oils are the number one enemy of record player needles because they contain chemicals that dry residue. The oil seeps into the grooves between records where the needle moves up and down, creating dirty-looking black lines on your vinyl. Some finger oils can also damage how well the needle plays the audio. If you have ever listened to your vinyl, and they sound like they are skipping, it’s probably because your player is affected by the oils from your fingers. It’s best to keep a lint-free or microfiber cloth on hand to clean your vinyl before each play.
How to clean finger oils from a needle on a record player?
- Soak the needle in isopropyl alcohol for 30 seconds to one minute.
- Scrub the needle with a Q-tip until it shines like new metal (the alcohol dissolves old wax and oil on your needle).
- If your needle is still dirty, you will hear the dirt being audibly scraped off by the needle moving across the paper towel. However, if you do not hear any sound or “scratching,” your needle is probably clean enough to use again!
- You can also use a piece of paper towel, moistening it with some distilled water, if possible. If this is not available, tap water will do just fine, but avoid using water that contains many minerals. The paper towel should be a little damp but not dripping wet.
- Dry off your needle with another dry paper towel.
- Lay the needle down on a flat surface, next to the tonearm on your turntable.
- Let it dry for ten minutes before you try playing again! If you are not confident in this process or are unclear, please seek someone who is an expert in records cleaning.
Pay attention that you shouldn’t wipe the needle with a cloth! That leaves lint. It’s better to use an antistatic brush or paper towel. Even though there is no specific way to clean finger oils from a needle on a record player, the method stated above is the safest way to do it.