Tips: Repairing Scratched CDs
CDs and DVDs are remarkably resistant to casual scratches and gouges but sooner or later everyone has a disc that causes a CD player to skip, or, in the case of DVDs, show odd video artifacts. When a scratch prevents the laser beam from reading data, both CD and DVD players have built-in digital circuits with lots of redundancy to correct for "drop-outs." These correction circuits search for and replace missing data until eventually the damage exceeds the CD player’s ability to electronically compensate for the scratch. That’s when the machine skips.
Check to see if a scratch is beyond repair by holding a CD up to the light. If you can see light through the scratch, forget trying to fix the CD. Scratches on the upper label surface are impossible to repair. But on the shiny playing side of the disc, a quick polish with any liquid auto wax will often fix minor scratches. Apply a few drops of the liquid wax to the damaged area, then wait for it to dry to a haze. Carefully buff away the haze with a soft cloth or cotton ball. Don’t buff in a circular motion around the CD - do it across the disc. It’s easiest if you put the disc on an old towel on a flat surface to do the work.
You can buy special CD/DVD commercial polishes and scratch removers, of course, but I’ve found that liquid auto wax is just as effective. If scratches are too deep, there isn’t much to be done, although in the case of CDs, there are noticeable differences from one player to another in the sensitivity to damaged discs.
Read the next tip: "Cleaning Staticy Controls"
About the Author
Alan Lofft was, for 13 years, Editor in Chief of Sound & Vision, Canada's largest and most respected audio/video magazine. He edited Sound & Vision (Canada) until 1996, when he moved from Toronto to New York to become Senior Editor at Audio magazine.
Lofft has been writing about hi-fi and video professionally for over 20 years, ever since his first syndicated newspaper column, "Sound Advice", began appearing weekly in The Toronto Star, Canada's largest-circulation daily newspaper. In the late 1970s, he became a contributing editor, columnist, and equipment reviewer at AudioScene Canada, the leading national consumer electronics magazine at the time.
He also wrote on consumer electronics for Maclean's magazine and made occasional appearances on TV on "Canada AM," the national CTV morning show, and on June Callwood's national afternoon TV talk show.
In 1983, he was appointed editor of Sound Canada magazine, which he relaunched in 1985 as Sound & Vision, incorporating video content and reviews as well as hi-fi and audio features. He also became a contributing editor to Stereo Review in New York, and an audio columnist for Music Express, a Canadian rock magazine.
An audio and electronics enthusiast from childhood, Alan began building vacuum-tube hi-fi gear for his father, who was an audiophile in the 1950s. Lofft's passion for audio continued through college, during which time he hosted and produced "On Campus", a radio show taped on location (on a portable Ampex 650 open-reel recorder) at Wilfrid Laurier University and broadcast locally in Kitchener, Ontario.