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How to clean and spell CDs and DVDs

January 1, 2004

in All Articles,Audio,Photo and Video

You want to clean your compact disc. You’re worried about the scratches on your DVD disk. …Wait, is it “disc” or “disk”? Is this just a case of “poTAYto, poTAHto”, or is there a difference?

“Disk” and “disc” are indeed two different words. “Disk” is of American origin, while “disc” is British. “Disk” refers to computer storage media, while “discs” refer to music. So, if you’re an American data-backup expert, you’ll spell “disks”. If you’re a British phonograph collector (and aren’t we all, just a little?) you’ll spell “discs”.

For those not meeting the above nationality and job requirements, just use whatever word you want and hope nobody asks you to spell it.

Now that we know what we’re talking about, how to clean a CD or DVD? How to fix a skipping DVD?

I’m a Netflix man. But with great power (renting movies) comes great responsibility (cleaning those disks). Every once in a while I get an unplayable movie, or one that freezes or skips.

Certain scratches can be repaired with polishing. If you feel gutsy, get yourself some Brasso Metal Polish and (gently) get to work. Check this link for detail and an excellent analysis of disk scratch repair options.

If your disk is smudged or dirty, or looks unscratched but still has errors when you try to play it, it’s time for a cleaning.

Wash the CD or DVD surface. Not the label side, but the shiny reflective side.

You’ll need: Several drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid (or a similar sudsy liquid soap – no alcohol or solvents). A pair of clean hands. A soft towel. And some hot cocoa (this one’s really for me. What can I say, I like my Swiss Miss.)

Make sure the label is waterproof. If this disk was a retail purchase, or is from a public library or service like Netflix, the label should be fine. If it’s a low-quality label, like someone printed it themselves, don’t get it wet. The label ink may smudge or run.

Always hold the disc by it’s edges, or by sticking a finger through the center hole. Except for cleaning, never touch the flat part of the disk.

Squirt a few drops of dishwashing liquid on the disc surface. Run some water over it. Gently rub the soap on the disc with a back-and-forth motion.

Next, dry off the disc. Don’t let it stay wet. Make sure you don’t leave smears or water spots on the disc surface. I like to stick my finger through the center hole, then gently flick the disc to get the water off. Any remaining drops I buff out very gently with a soft towel.

So, you complain, I actually have to get my hands wet?! What about those CD and DVD cleaning kits you get at the store?

Automatic disk cleaners ultimately do the same thing we could do on our own, they just keep things less moist. If becoming most moist is a problem, you might be better off with a cleaning kit. And an antiperspirant.

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