How to Clean a DVD

A dvd in a dvd player.

Words simply cannot describe the kind of dismay one feels when a DVD received from Netflix or Blockbuster makes it half way through a movie and then refuses to play toward the climax of a film. Whether it’s just regular maintenance on our collection of Frasier episodes, or an emergency resurfacing of a movie we’ve been waiting for months to be delivered, we’ll teach you how to clean a DVD and get you back to your regularly scheduled programs…well, not scheduled, obviously, since you can watch ’em any time.

The pros and video-philes will tell you that you need to wipe a DVD in a straight line from the center of the disc to the outside edge of a disc because DVD lasers are lead astray more often by a circular scratch or a scratch that follows the path of the laser than by a straight scratch, perpindicular to the path of the laser. Also, never use a paper towel or any paper product to clean your DVDs because these products often have pieces of dirt and particles that will scratch the surface of the DVD.

Steps to Cleaning a DVD

  1. microfiber cltohMicrofiber cloths are a quick way to clean a DVD. These are the same kind of cloths people use to clean eyeglasses, monitors, and laptop or LCD monitors. Because of microfiber’s very tight weave and the synthetic materials used to make microfiber, dust and particles of dirt are attracted and lifted up into the microfiber, which prevents you from simply spreading the dust around and scratching the DVD further. Every serious DVD collector should have one of these and wash it regularly.
  2. rubbing alcohol by dvdRubbing alcohol is used to clean DVDs and just about every sensitive piece of technology out there because it doesn’t act like strong solvents do, and it evaporates quickly without leaving a residue. Usually a 1:1 mixture of 90%+ Isopropyl alcohol and water will do the trick. Simply dab a small, clean cotton cloth into the mixture and wipe in straight lines from the center of the DVD to the outside edge. To dry the DVD, just let it sit for a moment or two in a vertical position.
  3. Bottle of windex by dvdWindow cleaner, like rubbing alcohol, is a great way to clean sticky residues and dirt off of a DVD. This isn’t a very “organic solution” but it works. Like rubbing alcohol, window cleaner is not a very strong solvent, and it evaporates quickly without leaving residue as well. Instead of spraying the DVD, spray a little bit onto a soft, cotton cloth and wipe from the center of the DVD to the outside edge—leaving it to dry by propping it up in a vertical position for a few minutes.
  4. DVD up against the lightCheck the DVD for deep scratches by holding it up to a bright lamp. If you can see light through the scratch, this means you’ve actually damaged the layers of data protected by the clear plastic. If this is the case, then it is perhaps time to find yourself a new copy of the DVD, or if it will play, then copy the DVD yourself using something like DVD Shrink to compress and burn the contents of your disc to a DVD-R or DVD+R to prevent skipping.
  5. bottle of toothpaste by dvdIf you have minor scratches that are interfering with your movie watching, you can always use toothpaste to polish them out. Toothpaste is a natural abrasive; that’s how it cleans your teeth, and it will do the same for a DVD. Avoid extra-whitening formulas. Just dab a little bit of Crest or Colgate on that DVD, mix it with a little water and with either your finger or a small piece of cloth, buff those scratches away. But be careful not to over to it. DVDs aren’t as resilient as your teeth.
  6. dvdUsing these methods to clean a DVD really does work!To test these theories, I used a DVD-R that I’ve been using as a drink coaster for over a year. On this particular DVD, I used rubbing alcohol to clean it, and toothpaste to polish the scratches out. Sure, it’s not as shiny as it used to be, but it works now.

DVD Cleaning Kits and Solvents

Sometimes it’s hard to find a DVD cleaning kit at your local Target or Wal-mart, if not for the size of the store, than because they’re rarely in stock, but DVD cleaning are a plenty on the market today. Several reputable brands and products are listed in Amazon for your perusal. DVD and CD cases are good things to have if your collection consists of burned DVDs. DVD wipes made of microfiber from such brands as Memorex and 3M (also labeled Scotch) will help keep your DVD collection spick-and-span. For those more serious complications like deep scratches or particularly scuffed DVDs, there are also a number of kits to help you resurface your DVDs at home instead of having to pay a CD/DVD shop $3 to do it for you.

More DVD Cleaning Products

Bottle of Brasso Metal PolisherBrasso metal polisher is yet another household product people are using to clean their DVDs, or to remove scratches from their DVDs. Actually, only scratches. Because Brasso is an abrasive like toothpaste or any other polishing substance, it works by grinding down a very fine layer of the clear protective coating on the DVD, to help the laser read your DVD better. Small dabs of this stuff and a soft cotton cloth should do the trick. You can order bottles of Brasso from Amazon.

resurfacing machineYour local record shop, cd shop, dvd shop, whatever, should have a resurfacing machine in-house to help you fix any DVDs that may be more important to you than a bottle of toothpaste. The going rate for a professional resurfacing is about 3-4 dollars per disc.