You know how it goes. You’re kicking back in your car or your favorite easy chair listening to your favorite song on the CD player, when bam, it starts jumping around incomprehensibly. Don’t trash your CD just yet, try these tips to send those scratches packing. These tips are also applicable to CD-ROMs and DVDs
Prep your CD
Clean any gunk off of the disc
The first thing you should do if your disc is skipping or is unreadable is to clean it. It could be that there is just some dust or other debris on it. Even if you can see a couple of scratches on it, you may be able to just clean it to get it in working order again. For the step by step instructions on cleaning your disc, see How to Clean CDs and DVDs. If this doesn’t resolve the problem, proceed to step two.
Locate and check the depth of the scratches
Taking a close look at the disc cab help you determine your course of action. Hold it up to the light by putting your thumb in the hole in the middle and grabbing the curved edges with your fingers. (Do not touch the main – shiny – part of the disc, since you could scratch it worse or add fingerprints). See if the scratches are minor scratches (barely breaking the surface), major scratches (about half the depth of the disc), very deep grooves or holes that cut through the entire surface of the disc.
Minor scratches should be a cinch to repair following the steps below. If there are any major scratches, you should concentrate your cleaning efforts on those areas and you may have to repeat the process a couple times. If the disc has a very deep groove or hole or the scratch is in the side of the disc with the label on it, it will be very difficult to repair, and you should either replace the disc or seek the help of a professional if this is not possible.
If you don’t see any scratches at all on your disc but it still won’t play properly, it is likely that the problem lies not with the disc but with your CD or DVD player. Try a few other discs in the player and you will likely come to the conclusion that this is the problem.
Assemble your cleaning supplies
There are several tricks that have proven helpful in getting scratched CDs and DVDs back to playable condition. Be aware that these tips will help the disc play better but not necessarily help it look better. In fact, the disc may even look worse after you fix it than it did before. It may be duller or have more minor scratches (key word: minor), but when you stick it in your CD player, DVD player or computer it should play cleanly – or at least skip a lot less than it did before.
- Toothpaste: Many swear by using toothpaste to smooth out the surface of CDs and DVDs. Most any variety of paste (not gel) will do, although plainer is better than fancier, i.e., ixnay on the fancy Crest with the polishing beads and breath strips. Do not use toothpastes containing abrasive particles such as baking soda or you will do more damage to your disc.
- Peanut butter: Okay, peanut butter does not seem like the optimal cleaning solution, but the oiliness and stickiness will actually help in this case, as they will smooth out the disc’s surface. Be sure to use creamy peanut butter, not crunchy. Talk about a way to scratch the disc worse.
- Metal polish: A somewhat more traditional route to take is using metal polish. Brasso is a brand that continually comes up as good for cleaning CDs and DVDs.
- Commercial disc repair liquid: Disc repair solutions can be found in most electronic stores, either by themselves or as part of a disc-cleaning kit. One example is Disk Doctor, but there are many others as well.
If your disc contains vital information, or you’re just nervous about polishing it with something you’d normally put on a sandwich, you can practice your polishing on a less important CD or DVD first to ensure that you apply the technique correctly.
Polish your disc
Whether you choose the metal polish or go with the peanut butter, you should basically follow the same technique in applying it to your scratched disc. Take a cotton cloth, like the sleeve of an old t-shirt, and dip it in your cleaning solution of choice. You won’t need a lot of your cleaning solution – a teaspoon at most for one disc.
Then use the cloth to gently buff the disc. Rub from the inner part of the disc to the edges in a straight line outward. Don’t move the cloth in circles or follow the lines imprinted in the disc. This could possibly scratch it worse.
Wipe or rinse off any excess solution
In many cases, you won’t even need to complete this step, as the disc will be pretty clean after you finish the polishing process. However it may be necessary to quickly rinse the disc with lukewarm water or window cleaner or wipe off any excess solution with a clean cloth. Washing with mild dish liquid can also be done if needed. Be sure to dry it afterwards by using the cloth or letting it air dry.
If none of the suggested solutions work for you, repeat the process again. If you used the peanut butter or the toothpaste, try covering the disc in the solution and letting it set on the disc for five to ten minutes before wiping it off.
Sanding and Polishing by Machine
Disc still doesn’t work? You may need to bring in the big guns: a disc sanding or polishing machine. These machines can be pricey, so it is recommended to use them as a last resort, or if you have a large number of scratched discs you need fixed at the same time.
To avoid having this problem in the future, make copies of your CDs and DVDs as soon as you notice any minor scratches on them. That way if the disc ever does become irreparable you won’t have a serious problem on your hands. You should always back up discs that contain important data anyway, or save the data in another format.
Also, be sure to store your discs in their cases, or at least in paper sleeves, when you’re not using them. And if your player, CD or DVD ROM or game system has a habit of scratching up discs, use the guide How to Clean Your DVD Drive to try to fix it. If that doesn’t work, it is probably time to invest in a new one.