How to Clean or Repair Scratched DVDs CDs and Game Discs

The procedures described here can be used to repair scratched DVDs, Cds and game discs or used for cleaning up dirty, scuffed or marked discs.

If you arrived at this page seeking advice on recovering data from a disc that seems to have no physical damage then go to THIS PAGE to get started.

If the idea of a “Do It Yourself” solution to repairing your discs seems a little adventurous you can take a look here for the page on CD DVD Disc Repair Machines.

Some Information on Repairing Scratches

Before you start out you may feel a little better about some of the seemingly more drastic solutions on this page if you have a better understanding of exactly what it is that you are doing.

The main thing to keep in mind is that you are not actually undertaking some highly technical scratch repair operation requiring a college degree.

A DVD is just a burning surface made of a special dye that is sandwiched in between two pieces of clear poly carbonate plastic.

The label sits on the outside of one side.

A CD is made from the same poly-carbonate plastic and is, in fact, more delicate than a DVD because the burning surface is the underside of the label.

If you have a scratched DVD where the scratch is on the label then this does not affect the DVD’s playability in any way.

The same problem on a CD is fatal and almost always non-recoverable.

So, these techniques are nothing more than instructions on how to clean, polish or re-surface a piece of clear polycarbonate plastic… now that has to be totally easy right?

The points to remember are that it is a piece of plastic and it is easy to scratch (if you are reading this you probably know that already!) so the key is to be conservative in your approach.

Always use a VERY soft cotton cloth or optical grade cloth so that you are not adding to the problem.

Always clean or work the disc over the entire surface, not just the affected area and finish off with straight strokes from inside hole to the outer edge of the disc or vice versa.

Do not rub hard! Gentle persistence always wins out.

This is a sequence of scratch repair solutions that you can try in order of severity.

Start conservatively then move to the more abrasive solutions as you go until good disc reading software with correction abilities can get your data back for you or the disc now plays without error.

1. “How many times have I told you guys not to get your greasy fingers on my DVDs!”

At this level all you really need to do is take a weak solution of any dishwashing detergent and give the disc a bath. Try to polish it off after air drying with some optical cloth and you should be good to go.

2. “Good grief! What did you kids get on this disc? What IS that stuff?”

The dishwashing detergent solution may also work here provided the unidentified gunk is water based.

If not use Isopropyl alcohol 99%.

Clean with a soft cloth, air dry and test.

For very light marks or scuffs you can also use toothpaste (not gel).

Rub gently with a soft cloth, finish by buffing with straight strokes from center to outside edge.

Rinse, air dry and test.

3. “Dude! What did you do to my disc? What are all those little scratches?”

At this stage the toothpaste may be enough to restore the disc to a playable state so try that first.

Failing that go to a reputable furniture polish such as Pledge.

Rub gently with a soft cloth, buff to finish with straight strokes from center to outside edge.

Do a final clean and polish with isopropyl alcohol 99% or weak detergent solution, air dry and test.

4. “Honest to God! All I did was put it in the player and it started making this kind of grinding noise!”

Car polish or Brasso…. yes Brasso, the metal polish.

Rub gently with a soft cloth, buff to finish with straight strokes from center to outside edge. Do a final clean with isopropyl alcohol 99%, air dry and test.

5. “I’m looking at this disc and wondering what I did to you that would prompt you to drive over it with your car!”

Finally the big guns for gouges and heavy scratching!

Your chances of success here are limited to your understanding of the fact that you are re-surfacing a piece of polycarbonate.

Keep that in mind. However, considering the condition of the disc you have nothing to lose!

Start with superfine, 3000 grade grit abrasive paper.

This is available at hardware stores and is the product used for cutting back and finishing car paint after spraying.

Use it GENTLY to evenly score the entire surface of the disc. The direction of rubbing here is unimportant and it is easier to go in circles to maintain a consistent application to all areas.

Keep gently rubbing until the entire disc is evenly surfaced and looks totally sanded all over. What you are looking for is the fact that you have taken the entire surface down to the level of the deepest scratch.

Take a deep breath and relax!

Now go back to the car polish or Brasso and work over the entire surface again until the shine begins to return to the disc.

Clean off the disc with your cloth and re-apply the Brasso or car polish and continue the process until you have restored the full shine back to the disc.

Clean it off with isopropyl alcohol and let it air dry for a few minutes. Place in it the DVD drive of your computer and see how it goes.

Breathe a sigh of relief!

When you reach the point of a successful test immediately create two back-up copies using a good quality copying software.

One to be used as “master” that you will keep for archiving so you never have to do this again and one for daily use.

The reason it is important to use a quality program for copying is that they have error correction capabilities built in to them.

They will automatically be correcting any glitches in the file structure itself or still coming from the surface so that the copy on the computer will, most likely, be better than what you have on the original.

Using that corrected data is vital for when you burn a new copy for archiving and daily use.

If you have attempted to repair a scratched disc and you are still having problems check out the CD DVD Repair Machine page and see if that may be how you want to go or even go to the main Disc Repair page and follow the steps there.

View Comments (2)

  • my discs have doctor who recordings that i purchased from a proffessional who has the rights to record them so i purchased them the only problem is he put all of them on a data disc i have had them about a year used them about maybe three times now they hardly will play so help can they be repaired .

    • Hi Virginia,
      There are lot's of possibilities here as to why they aren't playing correctly so I am going to take this discussion to a direct email with you if that's ok.

Related Post