Skip to content
a shelf containing many vinyl records in sleeves with wooden alphabetical separators

How to Store Vinyl Records

A question many record collectors face is, “Where can I put all these records?” We’ll do our best to answer by covering a variety of storage options and tips. Let’s start by outlining the recommended, government-approved guidelines for how to store vinyl records.

The leading professional in media storage is the United States federal government. Yes, you read that right. They have one of the largest collections of records in the world, safely nestled in the remarkably dust-free archives of the Library of Congress. We reached out to staff librarians through the Recorded Sound Research Center and utilized their guide to storing audiovisual materials to learn how to store vinyl records properly.

A collector like you has an advantage when it comes to storing vinyl. Records are the most stable physical format developed to date. Unlike cassettes and CDs, they can last 100 years in a controlled environment. However, a wide range of variables — from dust and foreign matter to heat and pressure — can cause distortion and surface noise in playback. Also note that although vinyl records are relatively hardy, record covers are not. You’ll want to keep in mind the fragility of the sleeve as much as the record itself.

We only pick the coolest stuff because we like it. However, when you purchase something through our affiliate links, Discogs may earn a commission.

Household Vinyl Record Storage

We’ll start with the four core tenets of sound vinyl storage: heat, light, humidity, and pressure.

  • Heat: For home collections, room temperature or below is preferable. Room temperature, for those accustomed to living without air conditioning, is generally considered to be between 15 to 25 °C (59 to 77 °F). Make sure you keep those records clear of radiators, vents, and your kitchen appliances.
  • Light: Minimal exposure to all kinds of light and no exposure to direct or intense light. Vinyl records are most susceptible to ultraviolet light, which can damage records in just a few minutes. For best results, don’t store your records near a bright window, a grow room, or a tanning bed.
  • Humidity: This is where vinyl record storage guidelines part ways from indoor plant care. Unlike your greenery, vinyl records should be stored in a relatively dry environment (about 35% to 40% relative humidity, or RH). Hygrometers are cheap and efficient tools that measure humidity.
  • Pressure: Don’t stack things on your records. Don’t stack your records on other records. We know it saves space, but sometimes life ain’t that easy. In addition, do not store your records too tightly together. You should leave enough space to easily flip through your records.

Though less problematic than the rules above, there are a few other factors to consider when storing vinyl records.

  • Vibration: Despite whatever #goodvibes your records give off, their structural integrity can be compromised by strong vibrations. Keep your records a reasonable distance from speakers, washers and dryers, and stampedes of wild stallions. Here’s a complete guide to reducing vibration.
  • Vinyl of a similar diameter, store together: Don’t tuck your 12-inch records next to your 10-inch records. Separate records of a different diameter with a divider.

Best Record Storage Options

Now that you know the requirements for the location, let’s talk a bit about what vinyl records should be stored in.

  • Use protection. Unlike grocery bags, paper is out and plastic is in. Commercial vinyl records may be stored in their original sleeve, but they should also be placed in a static-free polyethylene liner to avoid print-through from the original sleeve. Yes, we know, this is different than the paper liners most records come with. In addition to storing records in a plastic sleeve, you should store record covers in a plastic sleeve. To recap: put the record in a plastic sleeve and the album cover in a plastic sleeve. Turntable Lab has sets of inner sleevesouter sleeves, and combo packs.
  • Ensure your shelving is sturdy enough to support the weight of vinyl records, which average 35 pounds per shelf-foot. All formats concentrate weight on the centerline of a shelf, which can cause some shelving to collapse.
  • To reduce static, opt for wood vinyl record storage containers instead of metal.
  • Once they are on a shelf, vinyl records should be stored with sturdy, immovable dividers (every 4 to 6 inches) that support the entire face of the disc in its sleeve. This recommendation is one that we rarely see used in the wild. A quick search will lead you to both relatively affordable and cool but indulgent resources that provide these. Dividers have the added benefit of helping in the quest to organize a vinyl record collection.

Overflow and Long-Term Record Storage

Many of us are at a place in our life where we have run out of room in our living quarters to store all of the records we have acquired. At this point, some tough decisions must be made: Which ones should be kept? Which ones can be let go? For those who cannot trim their collection, overflow storage becomes a necessity. Whether it’s a basement, attic, or storage unit, there are some precautions you can take to ward off potential disasters.

  • Avoid any place susceptible to water damage (like your basement). Have you heard the story of what happened to Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in Hurricane Sandy? Though the vinyl itself is relatively resistant to water damage, record covers and labels are certainly not.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures and places where temperature fluctuations of more than 19°C (35°F) in 24 hours are possible (like your attic). Remember, no matter what kind of container you store your records in, they will be vulnerable to warping due to temperature.
  • You’re going to want to ensure air circulation. This means you need to avoid storing your records in a sealed container of any kind, including plastic bins with lids or taped-up cardboard boxes. Sealing your records can lead to the creation of a damaging micro-climate and makes it more difficult to monitor their condition. Take care when using mobile vinyl crates – once you’ve made it to your destination, either open the box or remove the records from the case.

As a rule of thumb, attics and basements are typically not the best places to store vinyl records, though there are exceptions. Neither are non-climate controlled storage units. My parents made the mistake of storing their collection in a non-climate-controlled storage unit in Texas one summer. None of the discs made it out in a playable form. Try to find a place that is relatively clean, cool, and stable.

Record Handling Tips

Now you know the cardinal rules to follow while storing records. You’re welcome! While you’re here, jot down some notes — or refresh your memory — on how to properly handle vinyl records.

  • Wash your hands before handling vinyl records. Those dirty paws of yours contain oils that can promote fungal growth on records and sleeves.
  • Handle any grooved discs (78s, 45s, LPs, lacquer discs, picture discs, even those Star Wars creature-shaped ones) by the edge and label areas only. This takes practice to get good at. What better time to start than now?
  • Keep your machines clean and well maintained. Make sure your mat is dust-free and replace your needles when they start to get worn folks. We’ve got more guides on how to clean your records, the best record-cleaning solutions, and how to take care of your stylus.

Resources

Author’s note: I want to give credit to the Library of Congress and Reference Librarian, Harrison Behl, for assisting with this post. They were a huge help in leading me to informative resources and answering specific questions I had. If you’re curious about the work they do or have questions that weren’t answered above, check out the Recorded Sound Research Center, where you can read more and reach out to librarians for assistance. For those that are interested, I dropped some resources I used below:

  • Gilles St. Laurent’s article: Written 20 years ago and still a standard today. I found this to be an excellent starting point in my research.
  • ARSC Guide to Audio Preservation: A collaboration between the Association of Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) and the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) contains chapters on care and handling of many different audio formats, as well as storage and digitization information. Geared towards archival professionals or the general public seeking an introduction to audio preservation.
  • ARSC listserv: A great resource for specific questions related to the care of audio collections. Beware, by signing up for this forum, you will get dozens of fascinating, but technical questions in your inbox.
  • The ARSC Journal: Archive of a popular journal that contains a wealth of detailed information on a wide range of topics, including preservation and care of audio materials.
  • The International Association of Sound Archives (IASA): They produce a journal and other publications related to the study of vinyl record storage.
  • The Sound Directions Project at the University of Indiana Bloomington: An organization that documents best practices for storage, preservation, and digitization.

Some of you have stellar storage setups, as evidenced by the posts tagged with #iloveDiscogs on Instagram. If you have recommendations on vinyl record storage cabinets, shelves, and the like, feel free to drop them on Instagram. You might see your pick mentioned, with credit, in the next post!

Feature image courtesy of Koeppel Design/Facebook. Article originally published in 2018. Last updated in 2021.

Keep Digging

×