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.
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