How to care for your all-in-one nostalgia turntable

Getting ready for an oil rub

I thought I’d share with you some of the things I do to help keep our collection of all-in-one / nostalgia turntable stereos in tip-top shape.  The kind of stereos I’m going to write about here are those with MDF (medium-density fiberboard) and real wood veneer style cabinets.

One of the reasons why I like the nostalgia style turntables is because they are not just a turntable, or CD player, or radio, but they’re also a stylish piece of furniture.  I just think they bring a little bit of warmth and class to the room they’re placed in.  They’re nice to look at, while you’re listening to your favorite music.  And, it really isn’t difficult to keep them looking nice, either.

Not all wood veneers are created equal; some are better than others.  The kind that I’m referring to here are those that are made of real wood and are higher quality that the paper-thin veneers you typically find on inexpensive particle board book shelves, sold at discount or department stores.  The better quality nostalgia turntable cabinets, made with real wood veneer, can typically be identified by feel of the finish.  Rather than just a smooth surface, you will feel the varying texture of the wood grain in the veneer.  The better built cabinets will not have any peeling/lifting of the veneer along any edges or corners.

It’s really easy to keep these cabinets looking great.  All you need is:

  • A micro-fiber cloth (or two)
  • Mineral oil / a.k.a. baby oil
  • A spray bottle filled with room temperature water (distilled if available)
  • Canned air (the kind you find for cleaning electronics) or cotton swabs

First thing I do, about every three to four months or so, is give the outside cabinet of our turntables a simple dusting with a micro-fiber cloth.  I lightly spray the cloth with some water (out of the spray bottle) to get it slightly damp.  Then I use the cloth to wipe down the outside of the cabinet.

Then I open the lid of the turntable and gently give the platter a wipe down, as well as the surrounding cabinet interior.  Before I do this, however, I’ll first lock the tonearm in place with the tonearm lock. This way, if I happen to accidentally brush the tonearm with the cloth, I won’t send it flying.

If I have a can of compressed air, I will use it to blow out the dust that’s gathered in the corners of the turntable compartment.  If I don’t have the compressed air (which I usually don’t), I’ll use a dampened cotton swab to extract the dirt from the corners and crevasses.  Sometimes, if the dust is light, I have a brush with a bulb on the end of it – the kind you use to clean camera lenses.  You squeeze the bulb and a puff of air blows through the brush part.  It works well and the brush is gentle on the internal workings.  While I’m at it, I’ll also eject the CD tray and wipe up any dust that may have collected there.

Once the dusting is done, I then apply the mineral/baby oil to the exterior of the cabinet.  The nice thing about using baby oil, rather than furniture polish or furniture oil, is that it’s non toxic, has no dangerous fumes or odors and can be safely handled with your bare hands.  I typically apply the baby oil from top to bottom, beginning by dribbling a few drops on the turntable lid and then gently working it into the wood veneer, rubbing with the grain using a micro-fiber cloth.  For the sides of the cabinet, I’ll apply a few drops of oil to the cloth and then work that into the wood following the grain as best I can.

In the photo below, you can see the before and after comparison; the top-left portion of the lid is what it looked like before applying the oil.

Side by side comparison

I’m usually pretty conservative when it comes to how much oil I’ll apply to the veneer.  I use enough to give the wood a nice even luster, but no so much that the wood can’t absorb after a few passes with the cloth.  I’ll then follow up with a cotton swab (with oil) and get any corners that I couldn’t reach with the micro-fiber cloth.  I’m careful not to get oil on the cloth speaker covers, or the control panel on the front of the cabinet.  I also don’t apply oil to the inside of the turntable compartment, as I don’t want to accidentally get the oil on the platter or the tonearm.

Getting those corners

To clean the front control panel, I just use the dampened micro-fiber cloth.  If there are some stubborn spots that the damp cloth can’t remove, I’ll lightly spray some glass cleaner on the cloth and use that to shine things up.

Anyway, I hope you find these tips useful.  It doesn’t take a lot of effort to keep these classy compact stereos looking good for many years to come.