If you have a large library of records that you seldom listen to, find your vinyls in used record stores, or by some fluke, get a record mailed to you that has been improperly stored or transported in a high heat setting, then you have most likely felt the dismay of coming across a warped record.
Warped records are records that have bends or ripples in them. Warping can have a variety of causes, including improper storage and exposure to heat. Playing a warped vinyl can make for a wobbly-sounding rendition of your favorite song or album. And if that’s a problem when you’re listening solo, imagine it killing the whole mood of your party.
Luckily, minor warping, such as bending, is reversible, as long as your records are not stretched. Think of it this way. Bending can alter the shape of the record without actually altering the grooves. But a stretched record will have altered grooves, and it is in this specific shape of the groove that all the magic happens.
So let’s go into some of the methods for unwarping a vinyl that often leads to success. Take note, none of these methods is a sure thing. Depending on the condition of your record, trying to unwarp it could fail to fully repair your record or even damage it further, so try this at your own risk.
The way I see it, in most cases, you won’t be able to listen to this record anyway, so what’s the harm in trying to fix it. Nonetheless, until you’re experiencing repeated success with a method, I wouldn’t try it on a cherished record or collector’s item.
Always Begin with Washing the Record
You should always handle your records with clean hands. You’ll now want to thoroughly clean your record. Since these methods involve heating the record in some form, not cleaning it could risk ingraining dirt into the grooves or the record itself.
Method 1: Heating the vinyl between glass in the oven
This is the risky, quick method. If you’re not ready to risk flattening your vinyl with heat, skip down to the safe, slow method below.
You’ll need two sheets of glass that are larger than your album, but not so large that they don’t fit into your oven. Heavier or thicker glass, about 1/4”, will work best. If you haven’t guessed it already, you’ll also need your oven. Place the record in the center of the first piece of glass. Gently place the second piece of glass on top. Heat the oven to the lowest setting. This might be “Warm,” or 175 degrees F (80 degrees C).
Be careful! Glass can shatter when it is subject to rapid temperature change. Thus you never want to put cold glass into a hot oven. Make sure that your oven is room temperature or even a little warm.
Place the record, sandwiched between the glass, into the oven.
Only have the record in the oven for 2-3 minutes. Set a timer if you need to! Stay with the record the whole time it’s in the oven to make sure you don’t hear or smell something odd.
Take your record out of the oven wearing oven mitts. If you leave it in the oven for too long, you could risk melting it. Set it down on an insulating pot holder. Again, if you change the temperature of the glass too quickly by setting it down on a cold surface, you risk breaking the glass.
Weigh down the glass with a flat, heavy object, such as a hefty stack of books. Let them stay that way until the glass and record cools completely.
Remove the record from between the glass, and test it out. If you can still hear the warp, you can try to repeat this process to flatten the record further.
For a more gentle process, put the record between the two pieces of glass, as above. Then put the assembly out in the sun, so that the sunshine’s warmth heats the glass and gently warms the record to flatten it. Put books on top of a weight once the glass has gotten to the point of being warm.
One of the biggest problems that could come from heat-flattening is losing the definition of the grooves. Too much heat and pressure could press the grooves out of the record. This would mean that the needle would not be able to track, and the record’s sound quality will never be the same.
Method 2: Flattening through weight, pressure, and time
If you have the time, flattening your record with weight will be the gentlest and least risky way to go. If you have books that are large enough to cover the surface area of the record, then here’s the time to use them. If you don’t, that’s okay. Use hard sturdy cardboard to sandwich the record. Then, put your sandwiched record between two or more very heavy books.
Now, wait. Patience is super important using this method to unwarp your record. You may have to keep this installation in place for a month or so. Eventually, the gravity should help to flatten the warps in the record.
Now that your vinyl’s back in shape and unwarped, make sure to use proper storage to keep it that way.
- Store it vertically and keep it out of the heat.
- Don’t lean all your vertical records so that one is slanted and bearing the weight of all the others.
- Don’t stack your records horizontally because the unevenness of the record stack may add too much pressure on the bottom records.
Let us know how your flattening adventures go! What methods do you use to reshape a warped record?