It's actually quite common to use saliva to clean surface dirt and grime from art and collectibles in the conservation / museum community.  I've seen many a conservator use this method over the years.

I don't see why it couldn't work for records -

Here's an article that talks about the spit method used in museum conservation labs.  

From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Michael Biel <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, June 23, 2014 3:03 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ARSCLIST] The guy who cleans his 78s with spit.

Over the years we have had lots of long and heated discussions of how to
clean your records.  It was the most difficult subject we have.  As I
have mentioned, a lot of record collecting discussion has moved over to
Facebook, and a mixture of old hands and newbies have blended uneasily.
Well, the cleaning discussion finally hit, and hit hard.  Two threads on
"78 rpm records & cylinders fan group" opened up at the same time.  Once
concerned STEAM CLEANING 78s!!!!  The other concerned mold and mold
spores on acetates.  We explained that the steam would be great if you
wanted to make a vase out of your record, and that there was no mold or
mold spores on the lacquer disc, it was Palmetic acid.  Then came the
suggestions to use WD40 to clean records.  Ammonia to clean 78s.  But
finally, when we thought we had heard every possible method came word
from a guy who feels that the Doctor's Miracle Record Cleaner is too
hard on records but that he uses SPIT to clean his.  A thousand records
a month he cleans with spit.  Then he rinses them with distilled water.
Then after they are dry he plays them backwards and forward and
backwards and forwards to clean out all the debris in the grooves.

Here is his part of the discussion with my answers and a few other


Greg Butler--- saliva is excellent

Greg Butler--- yes a very worn clean cloth and a bit of spit rub in the
of the grooves - never be tempted to use anything that includes solvents

and I include "disc doctor"!

Greg Butler--- clean off with distilled water and dry again with another
old worn clean dry cloth

Greg Butler--- amazingly shellac is very tough so some people us a
scrubbing brush - the grey powder at the bottom of grooves is usually
not shellac but steel needle residue that has been worn down by the

Michael Biel--- Another reason why NOT to continue to play records with
acoustical players and steel needles. You can't help what was done 70
years ago but you can stop now. Plus, the Brits loved to use fibre and
thorns which created a nice juicy gunk in the grooves. There are now
some fully scientific studies being made on all sorts of cleaning
methods, and if I had brought these two threads of comments to the
recent ARSC conference where this was discussed, they would still be

Doug Benson--- HI Greg Butler! Do you really spit on your records? Do
you have any idea what all is present in human saliva?? And while I'm
asking questions, have you ever actually tried Disc Doctor?

[He never did answer that question -- his only cleaning fluid is spit
with a water rinse]

Greg Butler---  after cleaning, it is good to run the discs backwards
and forwards and backwards and forwards a couple of times using a
sacrificial stylus to clear remaining debris out of the grooves - we can
do this quite easily with the numark decks we use for our radio shows.

Michael Biel--- If the record is properly cleaned (e.g. not using spit),
shoveling remaining debris out of the groove is unnecessary because the
cleaning got all the debris. That there is debris shows the record was
improperly cleaned.

Greg Butler--- saliva is very mild it has natural enzymes designed to
loosen debris from your teeth and is certainly less aggresive than any
sort of solvent - it does of course need to be washed off afterwards
with clean water - but very often - it is the only form of cleaner
available! Mechanical removal is the most effective - but again great
care is required and I always simply recommend a lint free cleaning
cloth and/or fine brush - the record should be dry before playing
backwards and forwards - but it certainly does help. The best method of
dirt removal is highly dependent upon what the dirt actually is - and
sometime you may have no choice to use something more aggresive - but as
Michael Biel and others point out - as much care as possible is required
to avoid anything that will actually damage the shellac! Not every case
is the same - but without knowing the actual chemical makeup of the
contaminant caution is required.

Michael Biel--- Saliva is a dreadfully bad and inefficient cleaner of
eyeglasses. If you can't even get your glasses clean with spit, it will
be far worse cleaning records. Cleaning cloths are useless getting dirt
out of grooves. ONLY a brush will do it. Even back in the 1920s it was
recommended to use a brush. Every cleaning method uses a brush to get
into the groove. Properly designed brushes are sized and shaped to fit
the groove. If the record is cleaned properly there will be no residue
to be removed by the needle. That you have much shows that you are not
cleaning correctly.

Greg Butler--- There would be something very wrong if you had the sort
of dirt I often find on 78s on your eyeglasses! I think you are starting
to be a bit ridiculous Michael I buy over 1000 records every month and
some of them need more than a brush I can assure you!

Michael Biel--- If saliva cannot get the small amount of dirt off of
eyeglasses, why in the world do you think that you can get worse dirt
off of the records????? Eyeglasses are the best case scenario -- the
EASIEST stuff to clean off and saliva can't do it properly. And you
think that saliva can clean the dirt off of your admittedly much dirtier
records????? Are you sober???? Do you realize that you are suggesting
the use of saliva to clean records???

Greg Butler--- now you are just sounding stupid - have you actualy ever
cleaned a really dirty 78? I can assure you saliva does work and works
without damaging the record

Michael Biel--- For over 60 years I have cleaned records using properly
designed cleaning materials and surfactants like Disc Doctor and special
78 formulas, brushes designed to get into the grooves, and several
different machines. And I never had to resort to clearing out debris by
running a record back and forth and back and forth like you do because
your spit and a cloth are not really cleaning the records. You admit
that you use nothing but spit on initial cleaning and then have to rinse
the record with distilled water. It is not working. If you still have
stuff in the grooves after cleaning it is not working.

Greg Butler--- You sound a bit obsessive Michael with obviously lots of
time on your hands - when you are dealing with as many records as I do a
deep clean valet using processes that might damage the records is not a
realistic option. I suppose it just depends upon how OCD you are.

Michael Biel--- SPIT? How much saliva do you actually produce if you
clean a thousand records a month with spit?

Greg Butler--- I seee it is the idea of using spit that revolts you Mr

Michael Biel--- It doesn't revolt me, it is STUPID.

Mark Cederquist--- Everyone's got their own particular method of
cleaning 78's.

Michael Biel--- Everybody thought you were joking when you mentioned it,
just like the joke about using chicken soup. Or 40 grit sandpaper. But
it is becoming a sad fact that you are serious about this, and that this
is going to be how you are known worldwide -- the guy who cleans his
records with saliva.

Greg Butler--- You do sound a bit like a cracked record Michael
obsessing about this subject as if your way is the only way! My
philosophy is if you can avoid any sort of aggresive solvent on these
precious records you should - and a natural enzymatic cleaner works for
me no matter how much you find it unpleasant.


So, my question to the ARSC Technical Committee and to the Library of
Congress group which gave a presentation on cleaning lacquer discs, is
SPIT a good cleaning fluid for shellac 78s???

Mike Biel  [log in to unmask]