I’ve safely cleaned smudges off of pre-recorded DVDs using a soft cloth dampened with a little water, but I’ve never attempted to remove scratches. However, I know lots of librarians who do this routinely and manage to get a playable DVD out of the process.
I found a video tutorial you’ll likely remember for a long long time, but before you watch it I want you to read my disclaimers:
- 1. Your best bet is to treat your CDs correctly so they don’t get scratched in the first place. Put them back in a case with a center hub, don’t use sleeves, and don’t leave them lying around. I know that’s obvious, but prevention really is the best cure — in fact, it’s the foundation of every professional preservation program.
- 2. Keep in mind that a scratch on the top is far more dangerous than a scratch on the bottom. Why? Because the data layer is closer to the top. See my earlier article: Have You Been Protecting the Wrong Side of Your CDs?
- 3. When cleaning discs, always wipe from the center outward, not around the disc. You’ll see in the video that this rule is broken. It’s one of my main criticisms of it. This is because cleaning can cause it’s own scratches. If you have a scratch that travels in the same direction as the reading laser (around the disc) it’s difficult for the reader to compensate around it. A scratch that radiates outward is only passed by the laser once per revolution.
- 4. Using a window cleaner is kinda crazy. Don’t ever do this on a disc that holds critical data. Do whatever you want to music and movie discs — especially if they are skipping and pixelating. If you have scanned family photos and you want the data to survive long term, I simply can’t recommend using strong chemical sprays.
Ready for the fun video already?