Hardware Reviews

Watson’s Record Cleaning Machine


Vinyl is easily the most fabulous medium for recorded music ever created. It may not sound quite as good as tape nor have the potential for dynamic range and bass power available with digital but on the one hand most of the music ever produced is available on vinyl and on the other sound quality is about more than specs. The fact that it survived a near extinction event that lasted for over a decade is testament to its enduring appeal. Vinyl is also more durable than CD, when so-called ‘perfect sound forever’ was coined by Philips and Sony for the launch of CD they didn’t mention that a badly scratched disc was effectively unplayable and thus useless. I have vinyl records that are over 50 years old and look it that can still be played and enjoyed.

But like everything worth having vinyl needs to be looked after and that means occasional cleaning, I prefer to let the stylus clean the dust out of the groove but some records are so grungy that cleaning is a necessity. Enter the record cleaning machine from Watson’s, whose name infers some connection with Sherlock Holmes but is in fact a Dutch brand. Their record cleaning machine is a nicely built and compact unit whose platter is smaller than a 12inch record but the vinyl is kept in place with a large clamp. The latter being big enough to completely cover the label and thus keep that part from being besmirched with cleaning fluid. I did wonder why the clamp is in two pieces, a smaller threaded part plus the label covering element, it turns out that Watson’s makes a smaller cover for 7inch singles which have smaller labels. I like the build quality of this machine and the fact that it doesn’t take up too much space, and noise levels when using the suction pump are high but no worse than other machines.


The cleaning process is straightforward: put the record on the platter, screw down the two-part clamp with its anti-clockwise thread (which takes a bit of getting used to but means that it’s self tightening when the motor is on), pour on some cleaning fluid (using the bottle that Watson’s supplies) and apply the brush to the surface for four revolutions. There are some marks on the clamp to aid with counting those revolutions but they aren’t very obvious, a touch of Tippex would make it easier, I used a drop of cleaning fluid. The final step is to swing the vacuum arm over the vinyl and turn on the suction pump, this part of the process is noisy but need only take 10 seconds as the surface of the record is dry within two revolutions. You can then undo the clamp and flip the record to do the other side, there’s no need to turn off the motor. 

I used VPI’s concentrated cleaning fluid diluted with distilled water from a tumble drier but you can buy this from various sources or even make your own. Watson’s make a concentrated fluid which they recommend you leave on the vinyl for a minute after brushing so that it can displace any remaining grunge. There are myriad suggestions for making your own cleaning fluid online, all you have to do is decide which one to try.


The reservoir inside the cleaner is good for up to 100ml which Watson’s equates to between 20 and 30 records, a rubber pipe with a simple clamp can be used to drain the used fluid when it’s full or if the machine isn’t going to be in use for a while. The only trick to using this machine is putting enough fluid on the vinyl to be able to cover the surface but not so much that it spills over the edge, which is not easy so it’s best to have a towel to hand or a tray underneath.

There is a vacuum adjuster on the front of the box which I’m told is best used about half way, that way it runs quieter and also means you can do larger batches of records without overheating. For very dirty records, use more fluid and turn up the vacuum. For gentle clean of fresher vinyl do the opposite. I used the Watson’s to clean a few records that had minor clicks and pops on and managed to reduce their impact to an extent, however in most cases these sounds are caused by damage rather than dirt so there’s not a lot a cleaner can do about them. Results with records that were grubby rather than damaged were more positive, a veil was lifted and detail became clearer, which is enough to bring out some more of the magic in the music and make it more involving. Results will depend on how dirty the record is of course although some feel that even new vinyl can benefit. I was happy to hear more of the music from well played if reasonably clean records. 

Some may be interested to know that Watson’s will soon be shipping a new Mk2 version of this machine that features a reverse cleaning mode.


Type: vinyl record cleaner with suction drying
Features: variable suction
Accessories supplied: brush, fluid dispenser, soft plastic dust cover
Size HxWxD: 300 x 305 x 185mm
Weight: 6.8kg
Warranty: 2 years

Price when tested:
Manufacturer Details:



vinyl cleaner


Jason Kennedy

Distributor Details:

Loud & Clear Edinburgh Ltd
T +44 (0)131-516 7561

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