Guide to Cleaning CD & DVD Discs for Spotless Sound

All you need is a gentle touch to revive and free those CDs and DVDs of dust and grime.

Updated January 17, 2024
discs hanging on a drying line

In an era of streaming and downloads, the humble CD and DVD still hold an important place in our lives and hearts. But those glistening discs so quickly collect dust, grime, and scratches. Don’t lose hope! There are ways to restore those nostalgic mementos to their former glory. Use the following tips to banish those fingerprints and smudges to revive your CDs and DVDs with ease and restore your collection in no time.

Why Should You Clean Your Discs?

CDs and DVDs get dirty, scratched, smudged, and dusty. Dirt and scratches can interfere with a disc's ability to play without skipping or crackling. Over time, through handling, discs get covered with oil from your hands, dirt, and grime that could cause them to skip. And no one wants to miss their favorite lyrics or movie scene. Thankfully, cleaning your discs will prolong their life and ensure decent playback.

Quick Tip

There's no cleaning schedule for making sure your discs are spotless. The best method is to give them a glance before using them or putting them away. If you see a smudge or print, that's the best time to give them a cleaning. 

How to Clean DVD & CD Discs

You can start with the first method and progress through the list until you find one that works on your disc. Start by wiping down your disc with a lint-free towel, first rubbing the towel around the center hole and slowly working straight outward, making sure you don't skip any sections.

You can also dampen a clean, soft cloth with a little water for more stubborn dust, prints, or smudges. For truly stubborn spots, you can dampen a lint-free cloth with a small amount of rubbing alcohol and wipe the disc with soft, gentle motions. If you're nervous about using rubbing alcohol, you can always mix a half teaspoon of mild soap in water and dampen the soft cloth with this mix to clean the disc.

Take care to always make sure the disc is totally dry before storing or using. For a more professional and thorough cleaning, you can consider picking up or ordering a disc cleaning kit as well. 

How Not to Clean CDs & DVDs

Don't rub the disc in a circular motion, as this can scratch it. Instead, work in straight lines from the center to the edge. Always use a clean towel rather than the shirt you're wearing or a towel that's been in use. You don't want to risk something small giving the disc a scratch while you're buffing out a smudge. 

Repairing a Scratched Disc

When an important disc gets scratched, there's no need to panic. Try to repair it instead. You may be able to repair scratches in discs with a scratch repair kit. Scratch repair kits come with a polish or gel that cleans and fills the scratch until it hardens so the disc can be read in the player.

If you are able to fix the scratch so the disc can be read, you should make a copy of it as soon as possible in case the scratch reappears.

How to Not Scratch Your CD or DVD

person holding a disc by the edges

The material that discs are made from tends to scratch easily, and we've all learned this lesson in unfortunate ways. To avoid accruing scratches on your CD, make sure the laser lens in the machine you're using is clean.

Take care when handling your CDs and don't touch the grooves. Never clean them with clothes, abrasive cloths, or used towels. Always store them properly in their sleeves or cases, and never stack the CDs together or lay them onto a dirty surface. 

Related: How to Clean Sunglasses Without Scratching Them

Proper Storage of Discs

Properly storing, handling, and transporting your discs will reduce the amount of cleaning and replacement you need to do.

  • Store each disc in a protective sleeve.
  • Hold them by the rim only.
  • Don't touch the playing surface with your fingertips.
  • Don't stack discs on top of each other if they are not in a protective sleeve.

Develop Good Disc Habits

When thinking about tips for cleaning discs, you should consider avoiding products and habits that will damage your disc further.

  • Never use hydrogen peroxide to clean your disc because of its abrasive qualities.
  • Avoid using baking soda, metal cleaners, or abrasive pads.
  • Never leave your disc in a hot car in direct sunlight; it may warp.
  • Clean your CD or DVD player with a head cleaning kit.
Need to Know

If you have a disc that contains important information with no backup, it's best to call a professional to clean and retrieve the information from the disc.

Taking Your CDs From Smudges to Shining

Equipped with the knowledge to preserve and restore your CDs and DVDs, there’s no longer a need to fear a skip, crackle, or sudden silence the next time you break out your favorite CD. Whether you’re embracing a collection suddenly in your possession or polishing your favorite tunes, your life will soon be brimming with music once again.

Guide to Cleaning CD & DVD Discs for Spotless Sound