Vinyl Record

Disaster Planning



  • Paper based tape, acetate based tape, acetate discs, videotape, wax cylinders and wire recordings should be given the same priority as paper.
  • Generally speaking wet tapes are less critical than wet paper.
  • Do not automatically use methods that you would use for books and paper.


Most recording media are affected by contaminated water.  For example wax cylinders are hygroscopic and will warp irreversibly.  It is important to remove recordings from pooled water as soon as possible and allow them to drain and then dry in a controlled stream of cool air.  Boxes, cue sheets, scripts and labels should be treated as for paper.

Compact discs are highly susceptible to surface damage and should be sprayed lightly with distilled water to remove any surface contaminant or debris.  They should then be removed from their jewel boxes and allowed to dry naturally.  They should on no account be rubbed clean.

Recording tape can be dried ultrasonically although tests show a slight deterioration in sound quality.  Pooled water is likely to be present inside all kinds of cassette cases.  These should be drained as soon as possible.  Video tape surfaces can corrode quite quickly and, after spraying with distilled water to remove particulate material, they should be dried as soon as possible in a controlled stream of cool air or ultrasonically.

Wire recordings will rust and should be dried, either ultrasonically or in a cool air flow, as soon as possible.

  • Controlled dehumidification is acceptable for some types of sound carriers.
  • Freeze drying is not appropriate.
  • Vacuum drying is generally not appropriate.


There is little or no information available on the effects of smoke on recorded media.  Vacuum or brush loose dry soot from carriers.


Heat is incredibly destructive to sound carriers on two counts.

  1. Heat can distort or melt most sound carriers.
  2. Heat can remove or erase magnetic information.

There is no way of telling on site if the magnetic information still remains.  It is better to assume that it does.
Gramophone record collections, including shellac and vinyl, are particularly susceptible to heat which causes irreversible warping and melting.


This brief summary is intended only as a rough guide to first aid measures.  More specialised conservation and recovery techniques will be required.

It is essential to obtain specialist advice as soon as possible.  The deposit of originals (with the owning body using copies), or security copies, in another building or with another organisation clearly means that all badly damaged recorded material can be safely discarded in the knowledge that duplicate copies can be easily obtained.

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