How to fix a scratched DVD or CD

Want to save your favorite movie? Here's how to fix a scratched DVD or CD

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Methods for repairing your disc 

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

how to fix a scratched dvd or cd mr clean magic eraser

Mr. Clean’s budget pad may be geared toward household cleaning, but it’s also surprisingly useful when it comes to restoring the proper finish to optical discs. Although you typically wet the magic eraser, lightly rubbing a dry eraser over the reflective surface of the disc — again, always in straight lines from the center of the disc outward — may smooth out some of the scratches on the reflective surface without affecting the data underneath. The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is made from melamine foam, the same kind used for sound and heat insulation, and it takes advantage of the unique properties of the material rather than chemicals to clean surfaces.

The idea is that the foam acts as an abrasive, like sandpaper, and may smooth out the outer layer of a disc and result in a smooth surface to read from. Think of it like pumice stone against the rough skin of your heel; rub it and you’ll get some of the dead skin off, but if you rub too hard, you’ll take off the important bits underneath. Be really careful to not rub too vigorously on the disc, or you’ll risk damaging the data layer underneath.

Expensive machines

how to fix a scratched dvd or cd skip doctor

Unless you want to spend $500 or more on a professional resurfacing machine, it’s best just to avoid this option altogether. While these high-end devices are great for people who need to clean and fix hundreds of discs a month, they’re prohibitively expensive to buy and often require an upkeep cost that quickly exceeds the cost of simply replacing a few scratched DVDs. The less expensive versions, which you may see on clearance shelves for $10 or $20, tend to do more harm than good, often scratching recoverable discs beyond repair or simply dousing them in chemicals that only further damage their exterior. However, it’s common to find these machines at rental stores that sell used discs and they’ll often let you use theirs for a nominal fee.

Oil-based products

Scratched Disc PB

This is where things start to get messy. If you’ve reached this point in our guide, that probably means no other method has worked. If you can get a single computer to read a copy of the disc, you can burn a replacement copy on a new disc so that you don’t have to worry about scratches on the old disc. If the scratching is too severe on the data side of the disc, it may have permanently damaged the outer reflective layer. In this case, you may be able to get one more use out of the disc by replacing the material with something comparable in order to read the working portion of the disc again.

You can use a number of different materials at this point, some effective, and some born from rumors and common misconceptions. Chapstick, toothpaste, peanut butter, shoe polish, window cleaner, petroleum jelly, banana peels, and a number of other materials are purported to work for repairing a scratched disc, but they all have one commonality: Oil. The oils in these substances will help fill in some of the gaps left from scratching, even after they’ve been wiped clean. These oils provide a path for the laser to travel straight to the data and back.

Heat

how to fix a scratched dvd or cd desk lamp example

Again, if you really care about your disc and want to save it, you’ve probably already taken it to a professional by this point. Nonetheless, if you’re still committed to watching your scratched disc, you could try slightly heating it. Polycarbonate has a very low melting point and becomes very malleable with only a bit of warmth. A desk lamp will do just fine, and you can just hold the disc through the ring in the middle up to the bulb. You don’t need to bend or flatten it, either — we’re just hoping that a little bit of heat will correct any minor scratches in the imprinted data and make the disc easier to read.

If you don’t succeed …

The sad fact is that while each of the above methods has a chance to work, it’s just as likely that they won’t. Generally, once you’ve damaged a disc enough that it won’t play, you’re out of luck. Unless you really need some coasters and don’t mind the scratched-up, silvery look, your discs could be headed to the recycling bin.

If after reading this guide you still want to expand your film collection, consult our guide to the best Blu-Ray movies, or go digital with the best films on Netflix. And think about this: The Netflix option is permanently scratch-resistant.

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