(See latest update at foot of post)
Despite cleaning your records, the stylus on your tonearm cartridge will from time to time gather dust, dirt, and gunk, and need attention. Usually a good puff of air will blow away fluff, but something more effective is this handy cleaning device, which really does the job – the VP Dust Buster (by Vinyl Passion)
Consisting of a slightly tacky soft polymer plastic pad in a perspex holder, simply drop the stylus gently onto the surface and lift away – the gunk stays on the polymer surface and the stylus lifts away pristine.
The accumulated gunk washes off the surface of the VP by running under the tap and can be left to dry naturally. A handy YouTube shows it in action here. with a few extra tips
Lots of (UK) hifi dealers and Amazon sell it, around £20, but I can recommend my favourite supplier, Russ Andrews Accessories, whose service is impeccable.
UPDATE January 21, 2014
New stylus, new stylus cleaner
The Beast from the East, Dynavector’s Te Kaitora Rua cartridge, with fear-inducing nude design. The Lyra SPT came strongly recommended, and the original viscose polymer VP Dust Buster wasn’t right for a stylus of this design. However liquid cleaners have been said to attack the bonding between the stylus and the cantilever on which it is mounted. That may be a hifi myth, but you don’t want to put it to the test. Lyra has a track record of non-harm, or so it is claimed.
Lyra SPT – Stylus Performance Treatment. Just one drop on the specially angled soft brush, and gently stroke the stylus tip. It is recommended for frequent use – as often as every playing session. It makes an immediately audible difference, which is positively spooky. Not cheap, but then neither is anything else in this league.
The source of all musical information originates at the point of contact between the stylus and the vinyl groove, so not really surprising that anything which improves the point of contact makes an audible difference.. If you clean your records (with an RCM!) before adding to your collection, that should ensure the minimum of any contamination transferred on to the stylus during play, and anything that is transferred is subject of frequent application of SPT.