I’ve used a variety of stylus cleaners over the years, including LAST, Disc Doctor, ZeroDust… But I’ve now switched to something I’ve found much more effective:
a sliver of “Mr. Clean Magic Eraser” (ME) purchased at the grocery store. You’ll find it with household cleaning products. Use only the WHITE product, not the blue or pink that have detergents built in.
Doug Deacon from Audiogon introduced audiophiles to this product. Several of us in the Philadelphia Area Audio Group tried it, and I’ve been using it ever since.
WHICH KIND TO GET? Get the ORIGINAL all white ME. The varieties with blue or pink contain detergents that could leave a residue.
HOW DOES IT WORK? The ME is made up of very fine micro-fibers spun into an open mesh. It looks like a sponge to the naked eye, but it’s not. Viewed at 200x it looks
like a wadded-up fishing net, a 3-D tangle of interwoven strands. This open, airy structure lets the ME flex around a stylus dipped into it, allowing the fibers to contact every surface.
An electron microscope view of the ME reveals that each individual strand has sharp, longitudinal ridges. These sharp ridges do the micro-scraping. We’re talking about nearly molecular levels, don’t go looking for these with your pocket magnifier! Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is comprised of Melamine Foam as shown in the picture to the left. This is why you don’t want to drag your stylus in the stuff. Dip, do not drag!
HOW DO I USE IT? Always dry brush with a stylus brush (back to front) before using the ME or any other stylus cleaner. There’s no point contaminating your stylus cleaner with loose fluff.
Use the ME dry. Wetting the ME causes its open mesh to collapse into a denser bundle. That’s fine for scrubbing dried taco sauce off the stovetop, but a dense bundle won’t let a stylus penetrate into the ME to be rubbed by fibers on all sides.
There are two popular methods for actually using the ME. One is safer. The other cleans better. Get comfortable with the safer method before trying the better one but please note, the safer method alone may not be adequate over time.
SAFER METHOD. Cut a small, thin piece of ME and glue it to a coin or other thin, heavy object. Place this on the platter and dip the stylus straight down into the ME and back up, using the cueing lever. Dip it several times.
NEVER move the stylus or the ME sideways, forward or backward. Those interwoven fibers are grabby and quite strong. Once the stylus is inside the ME, moving any direction but straight up and down could separate stylus from cantilever or break the cantilever.
After a few dips in the ME, dry brush the stylus again (back to front) to remove any loosened particles. You don’t want any loosened particles left behind on your stylus to be dragged through the grooves of your vinyl!
BETTER METHOD. Slice off a small, thin wedge of ME and stick it on a toothpick. The pointy end of the wedge should be VERY thin. It should flex easily under the slightest pressure.
After dry-brushing, dunk the stylus into the ME a few times or bring the ME up to the stylus and back down, as in the safer method. Then use the thin end of the wedge to scrape along the cantilever and around all sides of the stylus. Finish with a dry brushing, ZeroDust or XtremePhono, as discussed above. Used regularly, this method will remove all traces of the vinyl buildup layer.
BE CAREFUL! Do not apply any force, the ME will do the work. If you see the cantilever deflect you’re pushing too hard.
HOW OFTEN DO I USE IT? Depends on your set-up. With my linear tracking tonearm, I use it after every several LPs and find that to be very sufficient. Others recommend using it after every side. Whatever you choose, be aware that the tiny layer of vinyl molecules attracts more gunk with every play. Don’t let it get started and your stylus will always be at its best.
IS IT SAFE? Every stylus cleaning method involves risk. The ME uses no chemicals or solvents, so the risks are limited to operator error. Pay attention at all times.
There have been two reported ME-related disasters, both involving Lyra cartridges that lost their styli. In the same time period a third Lyra owner lost a stylus while cleaning with Lyra’s own (liquid) stylus cleaner. Conclude what you will. I’m inclined to think Lyra’s methods for affixing styli to cantilevers might need improvement. I’ve not heard of any ME-related problems with any other cartridges.
YMMV, of course, but the Magic Eraser combines sound scientific principles with the practical endorsement of hundreds of satisfied users. Just do a search on “Magic Eraser” at Audiogon or Audio Asylum.
Portions adapted from Arthur Salvatore’s web site