How To Remove Scratches From CDs and DVDs

If you lend a movie, CD or game to a friend and get it back with scratches, it isn’t necessarily cause for rage. With the right technique you can easily remove the damage and have the disc playing as though it were new.

An ancient yet new-to-us post on Wise Bread tries out several ways to do it. Methods include filling in the scratches with toothpaste, a banana and metal polish, the latter of which the writer deems to be the most effective.

Here’s a video that explains how to get the job done:

Quickly Remove Scratches From CDs and DVDs [Wise Bread]

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    As someone naive to the technical explanation of how data is stored on a shiny disk, can anyone provide a good explanation as to why a scratch doesn’t automatically render the disk unusable? Isn’t that data now scratched off?

    • SerenityDan says:

      The bottom of the disk that gets scratched is a clear plastic protection layer. If you can fill the scratch back in the disk will be fine. If the silver part the data gets on is scratched then you are screwed.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the explanation (any everyone else’s as well)!

        • QuantumCat says:

          Just a quick note though: those solutions (not sure about the banana) don’t actually fill in the scratches–it buffs away the plastic around the scratch so the scratch disappears by lowering the level of the plastic to the depth of the scratch.

        • OnePumpChump says:

          If you want to know why a disc can still work even if it has a scratch that hasn’t been polished down: think about scratches and dirt on glasses. They’re so close you aren’t focusing on them.

    • PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

      Because the data is on the shiny bit on top of the plastic – and it’s the plastic itself that gets scratched. (Think of it this way: the plastic protects the data on the shiny.) If the shiny part gets scraped off, then the data’s gone.

      That being said, I have had pretty good luck with just toothpaste on my son’s games…

      • redskull says:

        Eh, sort of. At the plant where I used to work, CDs are actually molded in clear plastic. The shiny silver coating is applied to the non-data side, which is the side that has the song titles and graphics printed on it (those get printed over the shiny coating). On the other side of the disc, tiny little pits are molded into the surface. IIRC, a short pit represented a binary 0, while a long one was a 1. Then there’s a clear protective coating over all that.

        • framitz says:

          It really doesn’t sound like you understand how this works, weather or not you worked at a CD plant.

          • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

            It’s pretty accurate, though. It’s not the metal that has the pits, it’s a “data layer” that does. It’s loads easier to mold plastic cheaply than cast metal cheaply. The masters are actually big metal plates that are etched to become the plastic molds.

            Obviously CD-R technology is all pit, at a speific power level range of laser (depending on the photoreactive dye chemistry), the pit gets split up into sequences of short and long, as needed. The dye becomes less opaque in response to the energy input. That’s why it’s pretty easy to see the “line” of the recording if you don’t fill the whole disc.

          • ovalseven says:

            He’s pretty accurate. It explains why scratches on the label-side of the disc are much more damaging to scratches on the other.

        • Max Headroom says:

          So, in theory, I could just re-scratch the zero’s and one’s back in.

    • Ouze says:

      Some file types are more accepting of missing or corrupted data then others, up to a point. If you download an mpg, and then stop it at 98% or so, you can likely still watch the movie without a problem, other then a brief skip which may or may not be noticable.

      Well, your files on the CD are on a really long string wound up around a spool. So a scratch is likely to cause a small amount of damage to several files, rather then enormous damage to a single file. Additionally, a scratch might look more severe on the outer layer then the small portion of the scratch which actually penetrated to the data layer.

      there are a lot of other variables at play, tbh. Some hardware specifically handles missing bits better then others as well.

    • KellerMaverick says:

      The scratch is in the coating over the data storage medium…

    • Skeptic says:

      “As someone naive to the technical explanation of how data is stored on a shiny disk, can anyone provide a good explanation as to why a scratch doesn’t automatically render the disk unusable? Isn’t that data now scratched off?”

      Mass produced Audio CDs are stamped–on the top–with the pits that represent the digital information. Then a reflective layer is attached on top of that and the CD is lacquered and silk-screened. The bottom of the disk just has to be clear so the laser can shine through the thickness of the disk up to the stamped pits and the reflective layer and back down.

      If your disk gets scratched on the bottom you can polish out the scratches. If you scratch the top of the disk through the reflective layer you are SOL.

    • borgia says:

      The data is on a metal film on the top of the disk so as long as you don’t scrach through the film the information is still there. Basically, the laser reflects off of the film either “in phase” or “out of phase” when it is reflected in phase the light is reflected back as a strong pulse of light. When it is reflected back out of phase the light cancels its self out and there is no reflected light. This on off pulse as the phase shifts is how the data is stored in binary form on a disk. Thus the shorter the wavelength, the more data can be stored on a disk which is why the shorter wavelength blueray stores far more info than a CD.

    • whitecat says:

      The data is encoded with eight to fourteen modulation and error detection and correction so that it is redundant and a file’s contents are not contiguous. Therefore a scratch will not destroy the entire file and it can be retrieved and the “missing” bits extrapolated.

      I used to do tech support for a CD publishing/recording system manufacturer – back when it took a machine the size of a washer/dryer to do what we now do on laptops. We used to drill holes in discs to chow how effective the data retrieval was.

      Also: always rub discs straight across, not in a circular motion, and remember that the disc is read from the center out, unlike vinyl records.

      • Ducatisti says:

        Cool info! I knew they duplicated the data but not that much. You make me want to try the drill trick.

  2. Grungo says:

    Phil, you forgot to end this article with a question. I’ll help.

    “What are the titles of some CDs and DVDs that have been scratched by you or a friend?”

    • sixsevenco says:

      I lol’ed at this.

      But to answer your question… Years ago, I raged against my Rage Against the Machine CD. It was completely unplayable. I found a program called CDex that kept reading the disk until it got all of the bits and every song was recovered. I switched to MP3 shortly thereafter…

    • JennQPublic says:

      Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo for Playstation. My teenage stepbrother left it out and it got scratched bad enough it wouldn’t play anymore. It was my favorite game at the time, and cost me about $60 on eBay.

      Audio, data, and DVDs, I don’t worry about. But games never, EVER get left out of their case, not even for a second. Thankfully I can now download that game for my Xbox for $10, so all is good with the world (and I don’t have to turn the console upside down to play it like I did with the Playstation 2).

    • layton59 says:

      Grungo you got Phil good with that one.

      I truly laughed when I read your comment.

  3. Ouze says:

    I’ve tried toothpaste with mixed results. Good article, at least for the next few years till it’s solely digital distribution.

    • veritybrown says:

      I’ve usually had very good luck with toothpaste, but it has to be the traditional “white” toothpaste, not gel toothpaste. Since the only “white” toothpaste in our house contains baking soda, I’m guessing that provides an extra polishing bonus. Ultra-smooth white toothpastes may not work as well.

      • Earl42 says:

        You need the polishing grit in the white toothpaste to take off any material. Gel doesn’t really have any grit.

  4. FishtownYo says:

    I solved all my DVD scratches by not buying any DVD’s. Streaming baby, its the future, today.

    • Jarod says:

      That’s great – but we can’t all get streaming service. I have a hard enough time just getting any kind of cell service in my house – it’s known as the “Dead Zone” to anyone who visits!

  5. stock2mal says:

    We recently got some pretty scratched up discs from Netflix that wouldn’t play. I used Meguiar’s Scratch X on them with a microfiber cloth. Worked like a charm.

    ( After I removed most of the scratches from one disc, I then learned that my Toshiba HDdvd player is way better at reading scratched discs than my Bluray player. Removed a scratched disc from my Bluray player that wouldn’t play, put it in the HDdvd player, played the entire disc no problem)

    • QuantumCat says:

      I often use https://skippydisc.com to refurbish scratched discs. I know these home solutions work for many, but I’m clumsy and usually end up making a mess of things. It’s easier and more time effective for me to just sent it out and have it done with a machine.

      • QuantumCat says:

        Blarg, meant to be a general post, not a reply!

      • stock2mal says:

        $5 per disc is pretty pricey, especially for Netflix and/or rentals. You should try a local used game shop, most of the ones around here will fix them for $3 each.

        • QuantumCat says:

          Hmm I’ll give it a shot! Thanks for the tip. :)

          I generally only send it out if the disc is very hard to replace. Which begs the question of why I let it get scratched, but I’m clumsy. (as mentioned)

  6. framitz says:

    My granddaughter treats DVD and Bluray disk like toys.

    They get scratched. So, I’ve repaired many scratched disks.

    My method may sound harsh, but it has worked every single time.

    I start by washing the disk with soap and water.
    Dry it
    Use Mothers Polish, yes the stuff you polish aluminium with!
    Gently polish the surface with a damp soft cloth, a swirling motion is OK initially
    For the final polish rub across the surface, NOT around the surface.
    Polish until all residue is gone. Wash again if concerned.

    Play the disk and put it out of child’s reach when done.

    Why isn’t the disk ruined when scratched?
    The data is on the TOP side of the disk covered by the label, if you scratch the top, the disk will likely be ruined.
    The laser sees the data through the clear poly-carbonate disk from the bottom, so polishing scratches from the bottom surface can often save the disk.

    • aaron8301 says:

      Disc. DISC for crying out loud. DISC. Ok, really, it’s just a pet peeve of mine, it’s not that important. However, from http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/disc.html:

      ““Compact disc” is spelled with a “C” because that’s how its inventors decided it should be rendered, but a computer hard disk is spelled with a “K” In modern technological contexts, “disks” usually reproduce data magnetically, while “discs” (CD-ROMs, DVDs, etc.) reproduce it “optically,” with lasers.

      Although, I can’t give that much merit, as it’s coming from one of the top beer-drinking party schools in the country. Wikipedia does concur, but then, that’s Wikipedia… so really, I’m pulling it out of my ass with very little to back it up that a spinning optical media device should be spelled DISC.

  7. sirwired says:

    Plastic polish would probably work best. (This is available from auto-parts stores in the detailing section.)

    • framitz says:

      I have used military grade plastic polish. It does work but takes about 10X the effort of a fine metal polish.

      The plastic polish is an excellent finishing step though.

  8. Chmeeee says:

    For severely scratched discs where nothing else will work, I’ve found that boiling them works. Yes, boiling. Again, you shouldn’t do this as anything but a last resort, because if you mess it up, say goodbye to the disc.

    Step 1: Heat up the water to a full boil.
    Step 2: Insert the disc into the boiling water, holding it with tongs or something. DON’T let it touch the bottom. Keep it in the water for ~8 seconds.
    Step 3: Remove, dry.

    This has worked for me on 3 different discs which seemed otherwise unsalvageable.

    • dangermike says:

      Yeah, definitely a last resort. I’m not sure if it’s the same with pressed discs or even newer writeable discs but when I first started burning CD-R’s 11-12 years ago, I found out first hand what moisture will do to them. Water proved to be a highly effective solvent for completely delaminating the applied materials from the plastic substrate. As in, get it wet and you’ll end up with a clear plastic coaster instead of a shiny silver or green one.

      Proceed with caution.

  9. freejazz says:

    Anyone else find her kinda hot?

    • RenegadePlatypus says:

      I do!! (I couldn’t bear to let nobody respond in agreement, … what kind of savages are we to toy with someone’s self-esteem that tries to make a helpful video?) She is absolutely a lovely young lady with a charming charisma. How refreshing to see a young gal making a video where’s she’s not imitating a rap music video.

  10. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    This is why you make backup copies of your store-bought CDs, DVDs, etc etc.
    You are legally allowed to make a copy for yourself of music/movies that you buy. My CDs sit in their little CaseLogic cases, all snug and safe. I can listen to them on my network with my Roku and my Unslung LinkSys NAS.

  11. JulesWinnfield says:

    The best stuff for polishing out scratches was TR3 Resin Glaze, a car polish that was hawked by Mr. T back in the 80’s. Too bad it’s not available anymore. I now use the Discwasher scratch remover with acceptable results.

  12. shthar says:

    The problem isn’t scratches on the bottom.

    It’s scratches on the top.

    Everyone’s careful with the shiny side, but the data is right under the label side. And nobody worries about scratching that.

    • framitz says:

      People with a clue know the data is on top.

      I’ve proven it to a few people by putting a single scratch on top through the paint and showing it will no longer play. Those AOL CDs DID serve a useful purpose in education.

  13. shthar says:

    And am I the only one that remembers the commercials for CD’s when they first came out?

    The one’s showing future astronauts digging the CD out of the DIRT, and it playing rock around the clock.

    Talk about false advertising.

  14. nopirates says:

    you can’t un-scatch a cd or dvd. it’s impossible.

  15. ron704 says:

    What language is this woman speaking? I can barely understand a word she is saying. She sounds more like the living dead.

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      Just because she talks like she has a mouse up her nose is no reason to make fun of her.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        LOL! I didn’t watch the video until I read your comment. She does have kind of a funny little voice.

  16. framitz says:

    To create the effect shown in the photo accompanying the article:
    1. Find a disc you don’t like
    2. Microwave for 1 to 5 seconds depending on the power level
    3. enjoy the stink and enjoy the light show.

    • QuantumCat says:

      Haha. I have to try this sometime.

    • JonBoy470 says:

      Vaporizing aluminum FTW!

      Speaking from personal experience: Don’t do it in a microwave you care about. The oven will survive, but will stink to high heaven!

  17. JonBoy470 says:

    I’ve had mixed results with the toothpaste method. For my money, DVD Doctor FTW! http://www.digitalinnovations.com/disc-cleaning-repair/fix-scratched-discs/

    I have the manual one, and it’s recovered some knarly scratched up discs.

  18. Gravitational Eddy says:

    any good automotive plastic polish would work well, especially those made for basecoat/clearcoat car paint. That top clear finish coat on the car is plastic after all.
    Stay away from rub-out compounds and anything that has a grit designation, like stuff used in autobody shops…

    I’ve used Nu-finish ( the once a year car wax in the orange bottle) with good success
    (not a lot of need, mind you).
    In general, all my stuff’s in the cloud these days.

  19. cbrillow says:

    Yeesh — I wouldn’t waste my time trying to resurrect that particular CD! It’s just dying to be thrown away… ;>)

  20. PortlandBeavers says:

    I bought a product years ago called a Skip Doctor. It holds the disc and rotates it while a small belt gently sands it. It has worked pretty well, although you can tell a disc has been through it. The finish looks a little different.

  21. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Thanks for all the tips, you guys. I haven’t had to fix any discs yet but now I will know what to do and what NOT to do.

    I TOTALLY did not know the top was the important part.

  22. OnePumpChump says:

    Meguiar’s PlastX plastic polish. It’s meant for headlights and taillights and such.

  23. cameronl says:

    Toothpaste first. If it doesn’t work, Novus Plastic Polish #2. Brought a Wii game disk back to life with the Novus.
    Always swirl.