The protective layer of plastic is actually thinner on the label side than on the bottom. Click here for a handy-dandy cutaway drawing. One quick glance will explain what the heck I’m trying to say. It’s OK, I’ll wait…
See what I mean?
Just below the thin protective layer on top of your disc is the precious dye layer. The dye layer is where your data is stored. Scratch the top, and you’ve got a serious problem. If you puncture the data layer you will cause irreversible damage to your disc.
Practical Tips for CD Care
1. Make multiple copies. Digital copies are cheap! Take advantage of this fact and burn a second set of CDs. Ask a relative to store them away from your other copies. This will protect your data from catastrophic events such as fire, flood, etc. You can also store additional backup copies on a remote server. The more copies there are, the more likely any given image will survive.
2. Protect the top and bottom from scratches. That means storing CDs in jewel cases with a central hub. Avoid storing important CDs in a sleeve or envelope because every time you remove or return it, you risk scratches.
3. Never write on the top of a CD with a regular pen. This can also cause scratching. The safest way to label a CD is to write with a felt-tipped marker on the round space in the center of the disc. There’s not a lot of room in this area, so I recommend you number your CDs and record that number on the CD itself. The paper insert in your CD case can include detailed descriptions of what’s recorded there.
4. Never touch the surface of a CD. Gloves are a great idea, too. The oils on your fingers and hands contain salts and acids that are not good for CDs. If you absolutely can’t stand to wear gloves, be sure your hands are clean and free of lotion. See the photo above for an example of proper handling. Edges only, OK?
5. Store your CDs away from light, heat, and dust. All of these factors can cause damage. A box with a lid is a great option.
6. Leave unused CDs shrink-wrapped until you are ready to record one. This is more important for the CDs you consider your digital archive, not as important if you’re just burning a playlist to share with a friend.