Whether you're just starting out as a record collector or you already have a collection of your own, you should make sure you're taking proper care of your vinyl. Records are valuable, not only because they contain the music you love, but also because their appeal has made a comeback in recent years which gives them a certain vintage and eclectic edge compared to their more modern competitors like CDs and devices. It is very important to handle, store, and clean records properly in order to keep them in good shape for a long time.
It is important to handle your vinyl with care and attention. Don't throw them around or keep them out of their sleeves. Anyone who has owned a CD knows it's not a good idea to touch the part which contains the data, which is the shiny rainbow side. The same rule applies to records, except you want to avoid touching pretty much all of the record besides the edges and center. The oils in our skin can cause dust and dirt to build up inside the grooves of the record, which affects the sound quality after a while and even the condition of the stylus of your record player. Essentially, you want to treat your records like they're your babies, or like the most fragile thing you'll ever hold. That might be a bit dramatic, but it's best to be too careful instead of not careful enough.
Proper storage of your records is probably most important. You need to make sure to keep them in a clean, dry place and away from excess heat. Heat will warp a record fairly quickly so the cooler the space, the better. For this reason, it is also best to never keep them in your car when it is warm out, even if just for a little bit. Since you can't control the temperature in your car unless you're actually driving it, it isn't a wise place to keep your records longer than they need to be in there. You also run the risk of forgetting to relocate them in time and coming back to them only to find out that they've turned into stylish, vintage looking bowls. Obviously you won't be keeping your whole collection in your car, but when you purchase records or move them from place to place, it's best to bring them indoors to their main storage space as quickly as you can after driving.
Wherever you're keeping your records, make sure they're standing upright like books on a bookshelf and not stacked on top of each other. Vinyl records are much heavier than CDs and the weight of records adds up quickly. Piling up your records will cause them to warp over time so it should be avoided at all costs. Even when your records are standing upright, it's important that they're on a strong enough surface to support their weight.
You should try to keep the covers of your records in good enough shape to keep them safe. If you buy used records, which most of us do, the covers may be coming apart at the edges and/or might not have an inner sleeve. There isn't much you can do about the cover coming apart other than taping it or securing it some other way but you can get an inner sleeve or a better one if your record is missing one. Having an inner sleeve on your records prevents them from moving around in the main cover. Many older records come with paper sleeves, which aren't the best but they will suffice. Paper sleeves can leave paper dust in the grooves of the record and they aren't as durable as plastic sleeves. The best kind of sleeve to get is polypropylene. Many records come with inner sleeves that are paper on the outside and polypropylene on the inside, which are great. Whether you prefer those or just poly sleeves, they aren't terribly expensive and it's worth it to invest in them for the sake of your records' safety. For extra protection, you can also make it a point to keep the open side of the inner sleeve facing the top of the main cover so that when you pick it up the record doesn't just fall right out because sometimes that can happen.
It's very important to keep your records clean. There are a couple of ways you can do this. You'll want to use a dry cleaning method before trying a wet cleaning method. First, use a carbon fiber brush to dust of the record which will remove dust and dirt from the grooves. Be gentle! When you're ready for a deep clean, you can use distilled water and a record cleaning solution. Use a micro fiber cloth to apply the cleaning mixture and a separate micro fiber cloth to dry the record when you're done. There are record cleaning kits you can purchase and even record cleaning machines as well. Whatever your preferred method, it's good to get into the habit of cleaning your records after every use. There is a multitude of ways you can clean your records but you can research that in more depth since it is a lengthy topic.
Whatever records you end up with, whether they're brand new or decades old, you must take good care of them if you want them to last a long time. With these few simple guidelines you should be able to keep them in good shape. The longer your records are well taken care of, the longer their quality and value hold up. Don't let rookie mistakes ruin your collection! Keeping records is fun but there is also some work involved. Good luck!