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How To Fix A Warped Record: A Guide Through All Your Options

If you have a collection of vinyl records, you have likely come across the ever so feared warped record. Everyone has at least one in their collection. So if you are in the market to fix warped records, this article is for you. Maybe you bought a big collection of used vinyl records or even inherited a collection of records and noticed that a few of them make your turntable arm wobble. 

So, how do you fix a warped record? 

There are several ways to try to fix a warped record but only a few relatively safe ways. 

  1. Place your record, while still in its inner sleeve, between two heavy books that are the same size as the records and leave for at least a week.
  2. Purchase a record flattener.
  3. Pay a place with a flattening service. 

Here is the short and skinny of the whole thing: unless you are willing to pay a lot for a good record flattener or you are willing to pay someone else to use their record flattening services, then you are going to have mixed results at flattening your warped record. We are going to discuss and review a lot of the methods you may see floating around while also answering other questions you may have.

How Do Records Get Warped?

Several things can cause your records to warp. One of the most common issues with vinyl records that cause warping is improper storage. We would highly suggest you read this related article about record storage. If you do not store records properly, then add direct sunlight and/or heat into the equation, and you have a recipe for disaster. 

Heat is the number one enemy for vinyl records. Records are made from vinyl plastic and having sun and heat on them will almost guarantee they become warped over time. As the records heat up they become softer and because they are thin and soft already it will take very little pressure to warp them. That is why you have to store them properly at all times.

Can You Play A Warped Record?

This greatly depends on exactly how warped your vinyl record has become. You obviously can not play a record that has turned into a salad bowl! However, if your record is mostly flat and just wobbles a bit, you can absolutely still play them. The only problem you may run into is the sound may not sound perfect within the dips and rise of the wobble. 

The other question we commonly get with this question is will it damage your turntable or stylus. We are happy to say playing warped albums that are still playable, or slightly warped, will not damage your stylus or turntable. This does not mean you should just that you can. If your record is extremely damaged it can, however, damage your stylus by forcing the stylus to jump and pop around.

Turntable with Stylus on Record

Can You Fix A Warped Vinyl Record?

The question of can you actually fix a warped vinyl record is a difficult one. Some options that work better than others, but sometimes they do not make sense economically. However, if your only option is to throw away the record because it will not play, then what do you really have to lose? If you can fix it for little to no money, it may be worth a shot. Just keep in mind that in the search for a fix you could cause severe irreversible damage to the records which makes the album worse.

Fix A Warped Record

So What Are My Options For Flattening A Warped Record?

We have seen several methods mentioned on the internet, in forums, in shops, and around circles. Our goal here is not to give you exact instructions on the methods as this is not a “How To” and, frankly, we do not want you to damage your record further which most methods will do. We will however give a brief explanation and overview of the method and then discuss the cons each pose. 

*Before attempting any flattening method, please, whatever you do, be sure to thoroughly clean your record a few times to ensure you do not either scratch it or permanently embed impurities, dust, and dirt into your record.

Heavy Object Sandwich Method

What we call the “Heavy Object Sandwich Method” is about as simple as it sounds. 

  1. Clean your record thoroughly and we mean thoroughly. It may not hurt to clean it more than once to be positive.
  2. Allow your record to completely dry.
  3. Place your record back into its inner sleeve (not the record outer jacket with the artwork).
  4. Place your record between two heavy objects that are at least 12 inches by 12 inches.
  5. Leave for an extended period of time (usually weeks).

Cons We See

  • If you do not have a book or heavy object the same size as a record or larger, you can damage your record.
  • If you do not clean your record first, you can deeply scratch your record with the dust or dirt on the record. Seriously, even if it just looks clean, clean it anyway. There is nothing worse than thinking you have fixed your warped record to now find a gauge in the record and have it popping or worse skipping.
  • Mix reports on if it works. This will likely only work on a record that has one warp or is curved like a parenthesis mark such as this (. This has worked for me personally on the times I have tried it, but only for minor warps.
  • Definitely will not work on S-shaped warps, but may reduce them.

Glass Pane Method

The “Glass Pane Method” is a method that floats around a lot and can be extremely dangerous for your vinyl. 

  1. Clean your record thoroughly and we mean thoroughly. It may not hurt to clean it more than once to be positive.
  2. Allow your record to completely dry.
  3. Place your record between 2 panes of glass at least 12 inches by 12 inches (probably best to have larger like 15 inches by 15 inches).
  4. Place your record in your oven while in between the glass panes at a low temperature for a certain amount of time.
  5. Pull your records out of the oven.
  6. Place a heavy object on top of the glass pane.
  7. Allow the record to come to a complete cool back to room temperature.
  8. The key here is low and slow on heat and the cooling is key to success.

Cons We See

  • Seriously, DO NOT DO THIS TO YOUR RECORDS…
  • Consumer ovens often can not go low enough and keep the temperature that low without going over for long. Consumer ovens use temperatures over your preferred heat to get the oven to heat up and as they cool they do it again over and over.  This results in uneven heating and overheating.
  • This can literally melt your record. 
  • If not careful this can flatten the grooves.
  • If you do not clean your record first you can embed the dirt and dust inside the vinyl making it impossible to remove. Seriously, even if it just looks clean, clean it anyway.
  • Even if this only slightly melts your record this can cause bubbling which will make your stylus bounce, pop, and even get stuck.

Short version – Just do not do this.

Tile Method

This method combines weight and even heat at the same time which is the right idea but it is not full-proof.

  1. Clean your record thoroughly and we mean thoroughly. It may not hurt to clean it more than once to be positive.
  2. Allow your record to completely dry.
  3. Clean your two 12 inches by 12 inches or larger ceramic or marble glossy tiles (probably best to have larger like 15 inches by 15 inches for added weight)
  4. Heat the tiles with hot water or oven until they are thoroughly warm (not too hot as it can melt the poly sleeves).
  5. Dry your tiles completely if using water.
  6. Place your record between the two tiles.
  7. Place a heavy object on top of the tiles.
  8. Allow the record to come to a complete cool back to room temperature.
  9. Repeat as needed.

Cons We See

  • If you search this method, some recommend putting it in the oven much like the “Glass Pane Method.” Again we do not recommend you ever place records in the oven. Consumer ovens often can not go low enough and keep the temperature that low without going over for long. This results in uneven heating and overheating.
  • If not careful, this can flatten the grooves.
  • If you do not clean your record first, you can embed the dirt and dust inside the vinyl making it impossible to remove. Seriously, even if it just looks clean, clean it anyway.
  • Even if this only slightly melts your record this can cause bubbling which will make your stylus bounce, pop, and even get stuck.
  • The important thing to remember is that this needs to be done carefully low and slow is always better.

Record Flattener Device

This is not really a method and is more of a thing you would have to buy to try and flatten your record. Record flatteners have mixed reviews of success on the low end of the pricing scale, and the ones that work the best are very expensive. It may not be worth your money to flatten one $25 record when you can buy a new one for $25. Even if you found a rare gem the ability to flatten by purchasing one of these devices would not be cost-effective. 

Your Options

  • Record Clamp – These will help minor warps but are not compatible with a lot of turntables.
  • The Vinyl Flat – We would suggest getting the flattener and their heater.
  • Orb Disc Flattener – This one is more difficult to find but it is what the record flattening service companies use. These can cost between $1000 – $2000.

Cons We See

  • These are not guaranteed to work.
  • You can overheat using this method also if not done carefully.
  • The cost of the Orb Disc Flattener makes it not make much economic sense. You can replace a lot of warped records for the price of this device.

Record Flattening Service

This is the best trade-off on getting your records flattened and not either ruining them or spending a small fortune. This is probably your safest option. While still not guaranteed to give you a perfect record back, it is still your safest option.

Some services have limits on the number you can mail them at once and others do not. Sometimes your local record shop guys have a flattening service offered as well that you may want to look into. When we say local guy, we mean that new locally owned hipster shop or the old mom and pop record shop that’s been in the community for 50 years. 

What’s The Cost?

Services we have seen vary in price, have varying wait times, and obviously shipping cost if you are mailing them away. Some services come with new inner and outer poly sleeves and cleaning which we really like! 

We have seen local guys offering these services at varying prices, and we have found online companies also. One we found online that offers ultrasonic cleaning service and flattening with new sleeves for $10 is over at Originals Vinyl in San Francisco, CA. We suggest calling them to learn more or visit their website

If this can be done using media mail both ways, you can likely get out of there only spending between $15-$20 depending on the volume you send and shipping rates. That may not be a bad deal if your record is worth more than $20 to replace. 

Cons We See

  • Like with shipping anything, you could lose your record or damage your record while shipping it.
  • Still not guaranteed to flatten or be perfect afterward.

What We Recommend For Flattening Your Records

There are some safer methods out of the ones mentioned in this article and those are generally the ones we would try first. We have our preferred methods that we think could work best and risk the least. 

  1. Prevention – That’s right, our number one method for flattening your warped record is to not even let them get warped in the first place. Sure, this sounds like a cop-out, but nothing is as effective as this. If vinyl records are stored upright and in the right conditions, you would never have to risk melting your record into submission.
  2. Heavy Object Sandwich Method – This one we believe is your safest at-home low or no-cost option. We actually think that mixed the tile or glass method with this method without heat would make for even better results. If you had two heavy 12 inches x 12 inches or larger marble or ceramic tiles or pieces of glass and placed your cleaned sleeved record between them and then placed a book on top for a week, this would probably yield great results.
  3. Record Flattener Device – We hesitate to recommend anything that you could potentially damage your records with, however, if you are one that’s a DIY and feel like you can handle following the instructions perfectly, this may work for you. We really like The Vinyl Flat device with their heater. The reason we suggest also purchasing their heater is it will more evenly heat then your oven will. Ovens heat past the point of the temperature they are set to maintain and can easily melt your records. We feel like the Vinyl Flat is a great balance of pricing and features.
  4. Record Flattening Service – This would be our second preferred method to prevention for general users as someone who does this at least semi-regularly will be paying special attention to your records while cleaning and attempting to flatten your warped record. The biggest downside here is time if you are sending it off and the potential for it to get lost in the mail. Imagine sending off that original press of Pink Floyd – The Wall only to have it get lost or destroyed in the mail. That would be a total bummer. While not worth a lot, the record is still a cool piece of Pink Floyd history and memorabilia. 

All-in-all, you have to ask yourself, is it worth the trouble for a $20-$30 record? Probably not. Also, are you willing to put your most treasured record with a slight warp under stress and potentially damage it more? Probably not. Sometimes just buying a new record is what you have to do. 

Happy listening, and we hope you enjoyed the read.

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