How to clean a CD

Wipe the slate clean when polishing your collection.

Wipe the slate clean when polishing your collection.

Compact discs have changed the world, or at least the music, literary and education scene since they debuted in force in the 1980’s. You might remember visiting your local music store to discover that the latest tunes from your favorite artists were now going to cost twice as much as they had on cassette tape (or dare we say it, 8-track).

Their storage capacity is still considerable, even in the light of DVD (Digital Video Disc) as a medium. One modern CD can hold easily 700 megabytes of information, more than enough to store 80 minutes of high-fidelity music or with text, the complete Holy Bible nearly 180 times over.

How To Clean a CD Without Going To the Cleaners

How to clean a CD (or DVD) is sometimes a nagging question. Dirt on the disc’s surface can mar not only the quality heard and seen for audio/video, but ruin the sensitive mechanism inside your CD player unit permanently.

Discs often thought to be defective merely need a good cleaning. Cleaning machines and cleaning liquids typically run $10 – $20 and up and provide varied results.

You can get equally good if not better results to the professional brands by using a little soap and water with common sense. Run some cool tap water on the reflective, shiny side of the disc. Wet the CD sparingly and extra carefully if you used your own printer labels to mark the disc. Self-adhesive disc labels can easily peel from the CD and get inside your player’s mechanism.

Add a small amount of liquid soap (non-abrasive and easily removed) to the CD. Using a fingertip or two, work the soap and running water all around the disc before rinsing it clean again.

Stray hairs and minor streaks are easily lifted from the CD (or a DVD) with this method, but you’ll want to thoroughly dry both sides of the disc before returning it to the player or you risk ruining the player with an electrical shock to the system. Using a terrycloth towel, rub the CD dry, using strokes moving outward from the center of the disc toward its edge.

You can use another wipe or even a pants leg or shirt arm in a pinch. You are simply drying the CD without leaving residue behind on the disc like that left by a napkin or paper towel.

Work Around the Scratch

Even with a physical scratch cutting into the disc, the soap and water method can work wonders. CDs and DVDs with a deeper scratch often freeze during play at the spot where the scratch is read by the player laser rather than the disc track. If you are renting the CD, you may want to restart the player and skip to the track immediately following the scratch to get through the listening or viewing session before you return the item to the store.

Other CD Care

A fine idea is to backup all your CD storage onto an additional medium such as a tape drive or DVDs with an enlarged storage capacity. Even 300 music CDs will fit onto a single external hard drive attached to your PC.

For under $100, you can have a music collection worth a hundred times as much permanently stored on your extra PC drive. Many fine free software music programs will assist you in backing up your CDs to your computer in this way.