You can clean scratched CDs using household cleaners, repair kits, and specialized products. If your favorite music or data CD is skipping or refuses to play, try cleaning the CD first before trashing it.
Is Your CD Scratched or Dirty?
Compact disks, or CDs, consist of a thin sheet of aluminum or other material covered by plastic. Lasers in computers or compact disk machines play over the surface of the CD and read the data. Dirt or scratches interfere with the laser, and it can't read certain sections of the disk. This causes skipping, stuttering, or disk failures.
Sometimes, plain old dirt, grease, or oils from fingertips mar the surface enough to cause the CD to skip. If that's the case, simple household cleaners can be used to remove surface contaminants. Many times this will do the trick and your CD will play like new. Try taking a plain cotton ball and gently wiping down the CD, starting from the center hole and swiping in short, firm strokes towards the edge. However, you never want to run a cotton ball, cleaner or rag around the disk, like an old fashioned record player. This can irreparably damage the CD. Instead, always work from the center towards the rim.
How to Clean Scratched CDs
If you've tried wiping the CD down with a cotton ball or using simple household cleaners and still can't play the CD, hold it up to the light, tilting it back and forth, to check for scratches. Scratches from the center to room usually don't affect performance, but scratches that follow around the disk can impair performance. Locate the scratch. Focus your polishing and cleaning efforts on the scratch to minimize accidental damage to the rest of the CD.
Because scratches are usually only in the plastic coating of the CD, they can be buffed out with abrasive polishes. Always test any polish, no matter how mild, on a CD that you don't care about before using it on something you favor. Test first to make sure you've got the technique down pat before using it on your favorite or irreplaceable CD's. Once you know it won't harm your particular CD, you can proceed.
Common household items that make good CD polishers to buff out scratches include:
- Paste toothpaste (Note: do not use gel toothpaste)
- Baking soda mixed with water to form a paste
To clean scratched CDs using household cleansers, follow these simple steps:
- Locate the scratch on the CD surface.
- Use a clean, soft cloth and wipe the CD from center to rim.
- Apply a small amount of toothpaste, baking soda mixture or Brasso, using only one cleanser at a time.
- Gently rub from center to rim only on the scratch itself with the cleanser.
- Rinse off the toothpaste or baking soda mixture. If using Brasso, simply wipe clean.
- Pat the CD dry with a cloth and try playing it. You may need to clean it twice to get the best results.
Remember to be very gentle with the polish. You're trying to buff the scratches off the plastic layer. Be careful, if you buff too hard, you can irreparably damage the under layer and the CD won't play.
Several companies make kits, machines and products to repair scratched CDs. Companies that repair airplanes use products like Prist to polish the acrylic surfaces of planes, and they do the same to the plastic surface of a CD. Glass cleaners and acrylic polishers can be used on CDs, but as with homemade cleansers, you should always test the product on a dispensable CD. In addition, you can purchase commercial cleaners that are specially formulated to clean discs, such as Scotch Disc Cleaner. The easy-to-use product removes dust, dirt, oil and debris without leaving behind a nasty residue.
In order to restore your CDs to their original appearance, follow this easy cleaning method:
- Find a clean, soft cloth and run it in the dryer for a few minutes to remove any dust or debris.
- Do not spray cleaner directly onto the discs; rather, apply the cleaner to the cloth.
- Without touching the shiny surface of the disc, gently wipe the CD from the center to outer edge. Never clean discs using a circular motion.
- Examine the disc for residual lint.
- Allow disc to completely dry before returning to jewel case or plastic protector.
Prevention is Key
To prevent future scratches, always replace CDs into their respective jewel cases when not in play. Keep a clean, soft cloth on hand and wipe them from center to rim before and after playing. Handle by gently picking them up on the rims, never touching the play surface. Many of these tips also apply to DVDs.
You can save a ton of money by cleaning your CDs on a regular basis. By caring for your discs you can help preserve their delicate exterior and avoid having to toss out CDs because they do not play properly. The cleaning process is quick and painless. What's more, it will increase the life of a CD, especially if you are careful when handling it and avoid leaving it out in direct sunlight. Finally, if you notice scratches on the surface of CDs, it's a good idea to make a copy of them before your player refuses to read them.