How to clean vintage stereo equipment

How to clean vintage stereo equipment
How to clean vintage stereo equipment

Buying vintage stereo equipment is a hobby that can quickly turn into an obsessive and overwhelming collection. The look, feel and sound of older audio devices have an exceptional charm, and these components often rival in quality with newer and more expensive models. Unfortunately, old, neglected devices end up in pretty bad shape, which means you have to learn how to clean the old device before you can use it. Learn how to clean the inside of all audio equipment today with a basic electrical contact cleaner.


Part 1 of 2: Choosing a cleaning product

Clean Vintage Stereo Equipment Step 1

Step 1. Buy a contact cleaner that is safe for plastics

This is of the utmost importance. Contact cleaner is a liquid or aerosol product designed to dissolve rust from metal electronic parts. This is the main cause of scratching and clicking noises when moving volume controls, knobs or rotary switches (for selecting speakers, modes, source), microphone and headphone inputs, etc. While all contact cleaners are designed only for metal parts, most will damage the safe plastics and lubricants that are inside and outside of almost all volume control switches and potentiometers.

Choosing a contact cleaner that will restore your devices without damaging them is always a better choice than using a cheaper cleaner, as it is tedious or impossible in most cases to replace an original part when the internal plastics are broken. or melted or when the metal rod is stuck. So it's best not to try cleaning with a questionable product and leave devices as they are until you get a suitable contact cleaner that won't damage your precious treasure. Normally, you can buy a safe product from reliable electronics stores or on the Internet. However, it is important to ensure that the product is approved for shipment by the shipping company, as most contact cleaners are flammable and sometimes cannot be shipped by certain methods or locations

Clean Vintage Stereo Equipment Step 2

Step 2. Look for a good brand

It has to be a brand that offers a quick-drying, residue-free application, as you won't be able to dry many internal components. CAIG Deoxit is a popular brand of contact cleaners. There is also the D5 formula which is specifically designed to effectively clean vintage stereo equipment without damaging plastic components. CAIG is one of the leading manufacturers of contact cleaners for audiophiles and offers product support as well as advice for specific applications. Formula D5 is an industry standard in the broadcast world and easily removes rust from metals without damaging internal plastic parts and lubricants found in most audio potentiometers.

Clean Vintage Stereo Equipment Step 3

Step 3. Do not use just any product

You should avoid applying products not designed for use on the plastics of a conventional stereo system. Avoid WD-40 (a reputable metal contact cleaner that is not always safe on plastic parts), as it is not designed for use on most parts that contain or come in contact with plastic., or which require lubricants to run. Testing before use may not be an option. So visit forums on the Internet to look for warnings before you do something irreversible. You might as well save yourself headaches and heartaches.

Clean Vintage Stereo Equipment Step 4

Step 4. Read and understand all contact cleaner labels

If you have any doubts, don't use it. The damage cannot be corrected. Devices damaged or destroyed by contact cleaners that should not be used on plastic can sometimes end up on the Internet (where you can't test before you buy). These don't refer to broken or stuck adjustment knobs, so be sure to ask the sales people if the knobs and controls can be turned or pushed freely without undue effort. Also ask if there are any broken stems or collars that are obscured by glued buttons. In general, you can order simple models of modern volume controls cheaply on the Internet and try different contact cleaners on them. So you will see which ones work and which do not before endangering the rare original parts of your stereo.

Part 2 of 2: Clean the device

Clean Vintage Stereo Equipment Step 5

Step 1. Unplug the stereo equipment

To ensure that no current flows through internal components when cleaning, unplug sound equipment. Don't just turn it off: remove its plug completely from the wall outlet, or you could die. Keep in mind that a qualified technician should be present, and while many may not be able to choose a contact cleaner wisely, they can help you avoid electrocution from a charged capacitor (which can burn your hand when you use it). touch it, even if the device has been unplugged for a long time). Be careful and research electrolytic capacitors for more information.

Clean Vintage Stereo Equipment Step 6

Step 2. Remove the stereo system cover

Usually, to remove the device cover, you need to loosen a few nuts or screws. These screws are often found on the sides, back and bottom of audio hardware. Not all screws on a given surface hold the cover. So be careful that you unscrew to remove only the screws from the cover. After removing them, set them aside or in numbered containers so that they fit into the appropriate holes that you can then put labels on (or take their photos of), then gently lift the chassis cover.

Clean Vintage Stereo Equipment Step 7

Step 3. Spray compressed air inside the unit, if necessary

If the internal components appear very dusty, you can blow off the dust with a canister of compressed air. Do not attempt to wipe off dust with a cloth, as an awkward movement could loosen or damage delicate electronic components or scratch a shiny plastic panel.

Clean Vintage Stereo Equipment Step 8

Step 4. Moderately apply the cleaner to the parts to be cleaned

Contact cleaner can be used to remove rust or stubborn dirt from most internal parts of audio equipment. However, you usually need to clean contacts that cause problems beyond their appearance. Spray a thin layer of contact cleaner on any component that you think has rusting issues. Also spray a thicker coat on areas that have a significant amount of rust. Spray any sockets, plugs, switches or removable connectors that are not soldered on, and certainly the battery contacts, if any, as these cause most problems. They may even require extra rubbing for cleaning or need to be replaced if damaged by acid from alkaline batteries.

The cleaner dries within hours when exposed to air. Normally there is no need to wipe it off, but avoid spraying it on items you don't want to affect, such as rubber belts, friction wheels, pulleys, motor rods, indicators, bulbs, audio or video heads, windows or dial covers. Be careful when cleaning these items if they become foggy. Be sure not to soak high voltage switches as at some point they could catch fire. So be careful not to flood the high voltage power switches with contact cleaner, as they hardly ever need cleaning and you can replace them without problems

Clean Vintage Stereo Equipment Step 9

Step 5. Clean the potentiometers with contact cleaner

Potentiometers or knobs are the components most susceptible to rust. To clean them, look for a small hole in the back of the device or a large opening where the pins are soldered to the plate. Apply a moderate amount of contact cleaner to the hole or openings (there are usually two separate ones on stereo faders), then move them back and forth for about a minute. This movement will distribute the cleaner all over the inside of the potentiometer.

Clean Vintage Stereo Equipment Step 10

Step 6. Clean the pull tabs and knobs

Proceed in the same way as you did with the potentiometers. To clean the knobs and pulls, you sometimes need to spray the cleaner behind the controls from the front of the unit (if you can't access them from the inside without taking everything apart). After spraying the cleaner, press the button or slide the zipper back and forth for about a minute. Any excess cleaner that drips onto the unit's faceplate can be wiped off with a microfiber cloth to prevent scratches.

Clean Vintage Stereo Equipment Step 11

Step 7. Allow the device to air dry for several hours

After you've applied contact cleaner to any part of your vintage stereo, let the unit sit uncovered for a few hours. This ensures that all of the contact cleaner has dried.

Clean Vintage Stereo Equipment Step 12

Step 8. Replace the device cover

Put it back in place carefully and be sure to use the bolts or screws you removed. Tighten them first with your fingers, then with a screwdriver. Be sure not to force or over tighten them, as this can damage the threads and easily break the plastic. Do you remember how much force you used to loosen the screws? Only after replacing the cover in its place can you reconnect the audio system and test it. If there are any screws left after assembly, you need to recheck the device, as every screw is there for a reason, otherwise manufacturers would save parts and time if they weren't absolutely necessary for the safety or stability of the device. equipment. Good luck !


  • You have the option of wiping down the exterior of your audio equipment using a mild soap or a regular all-purpose cleaner.
  • Be careful when cleaning the exterior of vintage stereophonic devices to avoid damage.


  • The above instructions should only be used for cleaning devices with transistors and not those with electron tubes. These lamps can store a deadly electrical charge for months after being unplugged and should only be handled by professionals.
  • Contact cleaner is highly flammable and should not be used near open flames, lighted cigarettes or sources of extreme heat.

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