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How to Repair a CD or DVD for Under Ten Cents

by Robert Seth on May 9, 2011

Has this ever happened to you? Your popcorn and liquid refreshments are ready. You’re snuggling with your favorite person. You’ve selected the perfect movie and the whirring of the player has begun. Then suddenly, you get a blue screen with something like “unable to read disc.” Or part way through your movie it looks like the picture has been chopped up and randomly rearranged.
No matter what you do, it just won’t play and your hopes for the perfect evening seem ruined. You discover your disc is scratched and you’re probably looking at buying a replacement. Of course you can take it to a video store for repair but that will cost you and it’s not available in time to save the evening.
This used to happen to me a lot, until I discovered the perfect solution! It costs less than ten cents and it’s almost instant, so your evening is hardly even interrupted.
Believe it or not, the answer is toothpaste! Yes, you heard me right, toothpaste. Before I tell you the process, let’s talk a little about how discs are made.
CD’s and DVD’s are several layers thick. They have a clear-plastic layer on the top and bottom. The recording media is tucked safely between the layers. So when a disc is scratched, unless the scratches are very deep, the recording is usually not damaged. A DVD player reads the disc by bouncing a laser beam off the media inside the disc. The laser must pass through the clear layer, bounce off the inside, and then pass back out to be read by a sensor. Scratches on the outside layer deflect the laser making it more difficult to read the data precisely. Heavy scratching will make this process impossible.
Those fancy machines at the video store repair discs by buffing out the scratches. But did you know that you can do the same thing at home? You don’t even need a fancy machine. All you need is a toothbrush or fingers, and some toothpaste. Most modern toothpaste has micro-fine grit that helps remove tarter and polish your teeth. This same grit is perfect for polishing your discs. It’s the same principal behind rubbing compound for your car or jewelers rouge.
Simply apply a half inch of toothpaste to your disk, wet your fingers, and rub. The rubbing should be in small circular motions or back and forth from the middle hole to the outside.  Never rub in the direction of the disc’s rotation.  You can also use a toothbrush or a small piece of cloth. For deep scratches it may take 5 or 10 minutes of buffing. Don’t use too much water. The toothpaste should remain a pasty consistency but not too dry.
Most modern discs are completely waterproof so it doesn’t matter how wet it gets. If it has a paper label on the opposite side, try to keep it as dry as possible.  Rinse the disc after this process and examine it carefully to see if any scratches remain.  Repeat as many times as necessary until all scratches are gone. It takes a long time (several hours) to buff through a disc layer so don’t worry about causing more damage. Make sure the disc is completely dry and spotlessly clean before replacing in the player.
Your disc should now play perfectly. You can also enjoy the fact that the repair cost you less than ten cents and was nearly instant. Before I go though, let me give you another little tip. When you clean your discs, make sure you rub from the center to the outside, or in small circles. Never, go around the disc. This will cause tiny scratches that run in the same direction as the recorded media. Scratches of this type seem to cause more laser distortion than other types.
If this article was helpful to you, please leave a comment and click the “like” button. Also consider tweeting it to your friends. Don’t forget to sign up in the upper right of this page. This will entitle you to receive more free tips and special offers as they become available.
Thanks for visiting!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Tee January 28, 2012 at 5:52 am

i’m laughing. not because i find this funny, but because i’m actually giddy with excitement to try this out. 😀 hehe!

thanks very much for this tip, Robert!

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Tina Winterlik July 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Thanks so much, I have a bunch of damaged DVD’s because when we were traveling around Mexico I took them off the spindle and carried them in a plastic bag.(Dumb, I realize now, as they slid about and scratched. But I was very short on space. ) Anyways some of my best are wrecked and so this really awesome advice. Thanks so much. Tina 🙂

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Vicky May 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Thanks Robert, you’ve rescued Norah Jones! I’m going to use this tip today.

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Paul Crowson May 10, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Thanks Robert!!!! never knew that , but it makes sense, always just had to throw it out!!!

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Jandi Theis May 10, 2011 at 3:35 am

Love this tip!  It's one I will definitely put to use & easy to remember! Thanks!

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Cat Ebeling May 10, 2011 at 2:49 am

This is a great trick! I never knew that. With teenagers, we have so many CD's lying around the house or car that have been scratched and wont play anymore. Now I can restore them and enjoy them again! Thank you!

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Robert Seth May 10, 2011 at 3:08 am

I’m glad it was helpful Cat! Take care and enjoy the savings!

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Olga Hermans May 10, 2011 at 12:27 am

Oh..Robert, love this tip. Will show my guys in the house; they love this stuff. I will be back for more Robert, keep it coming.

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Robert Seth May 10, 2011 at 1:12 am

Olga, thanks so much for the comment. It’s so much fun when people learn lots from these posts!

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Lori May 10, 2011 at 12:01 am

What a great tip!  I never knew this trick.

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