How to Clean Your CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray Discs
Proper care and cleaning of your CD, DVD and Blu-ray is important to ensure the data contained on the disc plays correctly, and lasts for lifespan of the disc, which should be about 20 years.
Fingerprints, scratches, dust and dirt on the data side of the discs are usually the main cause of any damage incurred to a disc.
Unlike CDs and DVDs, Blu-Ray discs usually have a harder coating and are therefore slightly less prone to the data being unreadable due to scratches. However, Blu-ray are susceptible to smudges dirt and dust, so should be thoroughly cleaned to remove these artefacts as soon as possible; this will maintain the playability quality of the disc, as well as its lifespan.
For discs that are vitally important, it would be advisable to duplicate these and make back-up copies. This can be physical backups or using disc imaging software to create soft backups. This would apply to your critical data, and music. If your master disc was to get damaged beyond readability then you would have a backed up version to revert to if necessary.
What you need
To clean a CD or DVD a microfiber cleaning cloth or cotton based tissue or cloth is recommended.
Any materials used should be checked to ensure they are non-abrasive. In most instances water will suffice as a cleaning agent. If water does not remove everything then a more powerful cleaner such as isopropyl alcohol can be used, but this should only be used in the most extreme of cases.
Dedicated CD and DVD wipes are also available which are already coated in a suitable cleaning solution.
For Blu-ray discs a soft cloth can be used instead of the tissue because it has a much harder surface, and a very mild detergent can also be used if necessary.
How to clean
Once you have your cloth and appropriate detergent ready, you’re ready to start cleaning.
Hold the disc from the outer edges with the index finger and thumb of one hand. Avoid directly holding the playing surface, as this is likely to introduce further smudges, and possible damage. If a detergent is being used then it should be sprayed on the cloth or tissue rather than directly to the disc.
The discs must be cleaned in a specific pattern; Do not move the cloth in a circular pattern, rather wipe the disc from the centre, out towards the edges. This greatly reduces the chances of spoiling the disc as any scratches caused by such a motion will have very minimal effect on the readability of music or data. Specifically, Blu-ray discs should never be wiped in a circular pattern.
How to dry and maintain the discs
After the initial cleaning using water or any other detergent, it is important to wipe off the cleaning agent from the surface of the DVD, CD or Blu-ray using a dry cloth; if it is still not as clean, repeat the process again until the grease, fingerprints or any other smudges are removed. Make sure you repeat the cleaning in the same motion as described above.
Once you are satisfied that the disc is clean, let it dry completely before attempting to play it, or place it inside any electronic equipment. Playing a wet CD, DVD or Blu-Ray will damage the machine and the disc.
It is also advisable to routinely clean the internals of your equipment used to play the discs, as this can also contribute to the dirt on a disc, due to years or months of accumulated dust within the machine.
Ideally, discs should be looked after from the start to avoid emergency cleaning, and the best way to store discs is in their original casing, or a multi-pocket CD wallet. Well maintained discs will last for a long time and will need very little cleaning.
If you have a large collection of discs that require cleaning then it is advisable to invest in a disc cleaning kit which will have a selection of cleaning cloths and liquid solutions.