How To Choose The Right Record Sleeve

So you have bought some used records at your local record shop or on the internet, and you have carefully cleaned them.  Now you need to put your spotless record in an equally spotless record sleeve for protection.  Which sleeve is right for you?  To help direct you to the right purchase, we are offering this free guide to inner record sleeves.

A Word on Plastic Used in Record Sleeves:

There are two types of plastic used for inner record sleeves, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and low-density polyethylene (LDPE).  LDPE was commonly used for inner record sleeves years ago and is still seen, usually with polylined sleeves.  LDPE does not interact well with vinyl records and can even stick to the record and leave marks.  HDPE sleeves are identifiable due to their frosted appearance and very smooth satiny feel.  Because of this very smooth texture, there is no friction when sliding records in and out of the sleeve, so no static is introduced.  Anti-static sleeves will not remove static already present in your records, but they will not add any static either.

Simple Paper LP sleeves

Paper record sleeve have been the default generic sleeve for almost as long as there have been LP records.  They can come with rounded corners or square, with a hole for the label or not.  What they don’t do is protect your records very effectively.  The edges can (and will, eventually) scuff your records, and tiny bits of grit can adhere to the inside of the sleeve, damaging your vinyl every time you slide a record in or out of the sleeve.  Paper record sleeves should be avoided.

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Polylined Sleeves

Polylined paper sleeves are used by most audiophile reissue companies.  A very thin layer of HDPE plastic lines the inside of the sleeve, offering much better protection than paper sleeves.  These sleeves have a tendency to split with 180 or 200 gram records, and the paper edges can still scuff your records.  Polylined sleeves also often have one side of the opening slightly shorter to allow easy access to the record, but this leaves the outer rim of the record exposed.  They tend to be pricey, so there are much better alternatives available.

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HDPE Plastic Inner Sleeves

The first HDPE sleeves I’ve seen were for EMI records back in the ‘70s.  Nautilus Records introduced their own version soon thereafter.  The silky smooth HDPE does not attract dirt or grit, and your records will slide smoothly in and out of the sleeve.  They are not as thick as sleeves like rice paper, and the corners may fold over when sliding the sleeve into the jacket.  These are an excellent choice for those on a budget.

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HDPE Round Bottom Sleeves

Round bottom sleeves are seen with Japanese pressings.  Nagaoka was the first to sell them, but there are a few versions out there.  The round bottom makes sliding them in and out of a jacket very simple only if you keep the open end of the sleeve facing out, which you may decide defeats the purpose.  They do, however, fit very old record jackets where modern sleeves will often not fit, like ‘50s Columbia jackets.  Round bottom sleeves tend to be very thin, so they do not offer the best protection, but if you want to replace your Japanese sleeves with the same style or have some tight jackets, these can be a very good choice.

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“Rice Paper” Sleeves

The Cadillac of record sleeves.  Discwasher introduced them back in the ‘70s, followed by Mobile Fidelity.  Despite the name, there is no rice paper involved at all.  One side of the sleeve has two thin layers of HDPE sandwiching a paper layer, the other side is just a layer of HDPE.  The sandwiched side offers great protection, although you can only see one side of the label.  These sleeves are a bit bulkier, so they may not fit some very old record jackets.  These sleeves cost around the same as polylined sleeves, and will last much longer and offer better protection.

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Double Sided “Rice Paper” Sleeves

If you love your records as much as I do, or have old, rare pressings that would be very difficult or expensive to replace, these are the sleeves for you.  Both sides of the sleeve are 3 layer with HDPE sandwiching a paper layer.  A die-cut center hole allows you to see both labels.  This is like putting your records into a silk lined purse!  They are by design a fairly bulky sleeve, so they are not for smaller jackets.  They are also not cheap, but aren’t your records worth it?

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1 Comment

  • Very helpful. I appreciate people sharing their knowledge. I love my vinyl and I want to make the best inner sleeve choice to protect and preserve them.

    Thanks.

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