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How do I Clean a CD or DVD?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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If you have trouble playing discs, it may be because they are seriously damaged, or it could just be an indicator that cleaning is necessary. It is extremely handy to know how to clean a CD, as it is an important part of disc maintenance. Especially with rental discs, a quick cleaning can make the disc play more easily, and it will ensure that dust is not introduced to your CD or DVD player. Cleaning discs is also important when you are reading data, as dust or small scratches can corrupt the integrity of data.

Often, all that a disc requires is a quick dusting, ideally using a cloth which has been specifically designed to clean a CD. To remove dust from a DVD or CD, use a soft, lint-free cloth. Hold the disc in a pincer grip with one finger along the edge and another in the hole in the middle, without touching the shiny portion, and gently move the cloth radially outwards from the middle. Do not rub the disc or move the cloth in circular motions, and avoid following the circular lines in the disc.

If the disc still looks dirty after dusting or you are having trouble playing it, a more serious cleaning effort may be required. Several companies make special chemical formulas for the purpose of cleaning DVDs, but you can also use household cleaning supplies. One of the best cleaners is rubbing alcohol, but you can also use a warm water and mild soap solution. Avoid any heavy duty solvents when you clean your CDs, as they can damage the disc.

Apply the cleaning solution to a clean lint-free cloth, and wipe the disc, again radially. When you clean a CD with a liquid material, make sure to wipe the excess liquid off, and never put the disc back into its packaging when it is still wet. Allow the cleaned disc to dry completely before attempting to play it again. When you clean a CD with alcohol or a specialized cleaning solution, often the cleaner dries so quickly that this is not a major concern, but check for spots and marks which may interfere with clean play.

Even after cleaning, a disc may fail to play properly because of scratches. Some companies manufacture products which are designed to resurface discs, smoothing out scratches so that they will play again. Depending on how severe the damage is, these products can be quite effective, but it is a good idea to back up the data as soon as you have repaired the disc, in case it fails again.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon989617 — On Mar 14, 2015

I cleaned a disc once with my eye glasses cloth. It messed my disc up worse. Was that the wrong thing to use?

By anon924850 — On Jan 08, 2014

Here is the best way: re-buy all movies on Blu-Ray! Blu-Ray is more expensive, because it is a scratch-free disc, has better sound and better picture.

By anon331547 — On Apr 23, 2013

After storing CDs and DVDs for years in plastic bags, I noticed they have dry stains. I just wonder have I damaged the discs for storing them like that? Most are in their original box set cases.

By anon319995 — On Feb 15, 2013

I am lost. I "inherited" about 300 commercially made DVDs; movies, series, etc. They play worse than stuff from Redbox. We've tried all the ideas except having a store cleaning. I have four DVD players and the results vary somewhat on the playing time. They will play for an hour and then start pixelating. Any ideas?

By anon310631 — On Dec 25, 2012

I just got a new five CD box collection from Amazon and one cd has (I'm guessing) ink from the wet packaging. Any idea what will take it off without harming it?

By turquoise — On Dec 01, 2012

If you're finding that your DVD player fails to play DVDs even after you've cleaned them with some of the tips here, it might just be your DVD player.

I had the same problem where my DVDs would not play. Then, I got a new DVD player and all of my DVDs play on it just fine. These are the same slightly scratched DVDs that didn't play in the previous DVD player!

So definitely clean your DVDs, but just keep in mind that it's not always the DVDs that are the problem.

By fBoyle — On Nov 30, 2012

I don't know much about cleaning CDs but my neighbor used to clean his with a tissue and dish washing liquid. It seemed to work well but I've been afraid to try it myself. If I have to clean a CD, I try to do it with just a dry soft tissue.

By clintflint — On Nov 30, 2012

@Ana1234 - People still use DVDs all the time though. Streaming large amounts of information is inconvenient and expensive, plus it's better to have your information stored physically, I find, as well as in virtual memory. I've had more external hard drives lose my information than CDs or DVDs.

With that said, if your DVD or CD is really scratched you might want to consider bringing it into a DVD store to see if they have a professional cleaning machine. It can sometimes do what you can't at home and it's the best way to clean a CD.

By Ana1234 — On Nov 29, 2012

People have been dealing with dust in their machines for years. One of my most vivid memories as a child was my father getting angry at me for trying to play a video he had told me not to play. I thought it was a forbidden movie and I was being cheeky, but it was actually a really dusty video that ended up damaging the VCR. It took ages for the dust to work itself out.

I guess now that we're moving into an age where most things are played off memory or streamed over the internet, dust is no longer such a concern! It's still useful to know how to clean a cd or player though.

By anon276981 — On Jun 27, 2012

Does using compressed air to remove dust ruin a DVD?

By anon256531 — On Mar 22, 2012

Does using toothpaste on a disc really work?

By anon131712 — On Dec 03, 2010

I followed this article because a dvd was freezing in one spot all the time. After cleaning as outlined with rubbing alcohol, dvd player no longer recognized dvd. Be warned.

By anon125207 — On Nov 08, 2010

Can you clean a DVD with rubbing alcohol? I've been told you shouldn't.

By anon123197 — On Oct 31, 2010

can i use bleach?

By anon106444 — On Aug 25, 2010

sometimes I use a very fine sandpaper!

By anon104813 — On Aug 18, 2010

Thank you! i had fabric paint on my sims cd and been trying to find solutions for over two weeks and the alcohol actually worked perfectly!

By anon84419 — On May 15, 2010

the shiny bottom dude. Not that hard to figure out.

By anon79771 — On Apr 24, 2010

Thank you. CDs from library, tried mild dish soap, removed food and grease but one CD had some kind of marker on tracks. Was afraid to try alcohol until I read your article, it worked without damage.

By anon77813 — On Apr 15, 2010

does it matter if it is a cd or a dvd?

By anon77478 — On Apr 14, 2010

Just cleaned it with soap. i'll let it dry and try playing after some time.

By anon61693 — On Jan 21, 2010

The rubbing alcohol worked perfectly. Thanks for the advice!

By anon28020 — On Mar 10, 2009

Do I clean the shiny 'bottom' or the logo'd 'top' of the DVD ?

By dbbrase — On Jun 18, 2008

does this procedure change if the discs went through a flood?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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