Closeup of vinyl records stored vertically on a shelf

How to store vinyl records so they’ll still look and sound great in years to come

Strewn all across the floor like hastily jettisoned underwear at an orgy?

No, that’s not how to store vinyl records. But don’t worry; neither do you have to store your vinyl in a bunker made of reinforced concrete, either. In this article you will learn how – and where – to store your records so they’re protected from the elements, meaning they should still look and sound great for many years to come.

Of course, storing your records properly is not the only thing you need to consider in order to extend their life for as long as possible. See my separate articles on handling and cleaning your records.

Storing vinyl records – ideal room conditions

Before we look at how to store your vinyl records, let’s look at where to store them. The room you store your records in should meet these criteria:

  • Clean and dry: Sounds obvious, but worth saying anyway. This means that garages, sheds, attics and cellars are all unsuitable for storing vinyl records (unless you’ve got a converted, properly ventilated and air-conditioned cellar conversion).
  • Temperature: The room shouldn’t be too hot, but nor should it be too cold. The ideal temperature range is about 18°C to 21°C (65°F to 70°F). Don’t worry – you don’t need to store them in a climate-controlled bunker. Your records won’t suddenly become unplayable if the temperature falls or increases slightly outside this range. Nor do you need to rush out and buy a thermometer. This range represents normal room temperature. If you’re comfortable in the room, the chances are that your records will also be. But if it’s too hot or cold for you, it’s probably also too hot or cold for your records. And another obvious-sounding one: don’t store them near radiators or other sources of heat.
  • Humidity: Even assuming you’re storing your records in a room at the right temperature, the room must also not be too humid. Relative humidity of 45–50% is considered ideal. This range is more or less in the middle of what’s considered normal room humidity. So the chances are that your room will be OK, unless you were thinking of storing your records in the kitchen or bathroom (don’t do that!).
  • Avoid extreme changes in temperature or humidity: The seasons change and temperatures are constantly changing with them. Don’t worry about normal temperature changes outside (assuming your room is centrally heated). But, if you’re moving home in the middle of winter, don’t suddenly move your collection from your lovely, warm as toast centrally heated house or flat to store them overnight in the back of a van, parked on the street in sub-zero temperatures. That was a bit of an extreme example to illustrate the point, but you get the idea.
  • Out of direct sunlight: Records are plastic, and plastic warps, and in extreme cases melts. So whatever you do, keep them out of the sun. A friend of mine likes to recount the story of how he was DJing at an outdoor rave in the middle of summer, and it was so hot that his records warped. Let that be a salutary lesson to you!

How to store your vinyl records

That was the ‘where’. Now let’s look at the ‘how’.

You should store your vinyl records so they’re as upright as possible; ideally on suitable shelves.

Store records on suitable shelving

As records are heavy, the shelves you store them on should be strong enough to bear their weight. Taller shelving units will need to be anchored to the wall to stop them tipping over (and scattering your records all over the floor).

If you’re good at DIY, you can create exactly the size and type of shelving you need. For those of us who aren’t as confident wielding a saw or drill, various record storage shelving systems are available. Those on a budget and who don’t mind the flatpack aesthetic will find that Ikea’s Kallax shelving units are just the right size for storing records. As well as being available in a selection of colours, you can choose exactly how many rows and vertical sections you want. Your needs are therefore covered, whether your collection is still growing or if kids and responsibility nipped its growth in the bud years ago.

Store records vertically

Whatever type of shelving you choose, vertical separators are important. No matter how vertically you try and store your records, that’s not entirely possible – they always remain ‘diagonal’ to a certain extent. If you had a full row of records leaning against each other like this, the records could warp. And over time, the sleeves would also become damaged by ring marks – imprints of the edge of the record and its labels. Having vertical dividers built into the shelving system ensures there are never too many records in one section or compartment, which helps prevent this.

Vinyl records stored as vertically as possible
DO store your records like this!

Don’t ram them in

At the same time, don’t force too many in. There should be a bit of wriggle room for them to move about. This also makes it easier to select which one to play next!

Ensure sufficient air circulation

Another positive thing about storing your records on shelves is that air is able to circulate around them. This means mould is less likely to form inside the sleeves, which can happen if records are stored in closed boxes or crates for longer periods.

Mould forming inside a record sleeve, due to lack of air circulation
Mould forming inside a record sleeve, due to poor air circulation

Avoid long-term storage in boxes or crates

Although crates are perfect for digging around in, the crates used at record fairs and in some shops are not suitable long-term record storage solutions. The records lean diagonally against each other, which as we’ve already seen can cause problems, and they can also fall forwards inside the crate. Plus, if you store your records in a crate or box with a closed lid on it, this prevents air circulation, which as we’ve just learned is also is a problem.

However, crates or boxes of some kind are unavoidable for transport purposes, for example when moving house. Just remember to unpack them when you get there!

Record storage racks

Various types of storage racks are also available, which may be more practical if your collection is still only small and easily manageable. If you decide one of these is for you, the same principles apply. The records should be kept as vertical as possible, and air should be able to circulate to a certain extent.

Don’t store vinyl records horizontally!

Can – or should – you store vinyl records horizontally?

Whatever you do, don’t stack your records flat (horizontally) on top of one another!

Records are heavy, and doing this can warp and crack them. Plus, they all press down onto one another. Not only does this result in ring marks and wear and tear on the sleeves, it also presses any dirt in the records’ grooves further into them! And obviously, records at the bottom of the pile would be worse affected than those further up.

How to store vinyl records: do not store them horizontally!
DON’T store your records like this!

How to store vinyl records – conclusion

There you have it:

  • Not lying horizontally, and not scattered around the floor, but kept as vertically as possible on shelves strong enough to support them, and with vertical separators to prevent too many records leaning against each other.
  • The room shouldn’t be too hot or cold, and nor should your records be exposed to direct sunlight or sources of heat.
  • Crates and boxes aren’t an ideal method of storing vinyl records, as they do not permit enough air circulation.

If you follow these instructions, your records should still look and sound great when you’re old and grey! (Mine do, and I am!)

All photos ©, except records stacked horizontally gotafli/Unsplash

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