Cleaning compact discs or cleaning CDs is sometimes all that is required to make these discs play properly. The presence of dirt, debris, fingerprints, etc., are often the reasons why CD optical disc media cannot be read or played properly.
The laser light that reads a CD needs to shine through the base of the disc in order to read the information layer deeper into the disc structure. If the laser light beam is disrupted by dirt or other contaminants on the base, then problems are likely to occur.
Fortunately, all that is required in many cases to restore performance is a good cleaning. However, cleaning compact discs needs to be performed properly. If recommended cleaning procedures are not followed then damage to the disc may occur and even more playability or read problems will result.
Cleaning compact disks is fairly simple but depends on the type of contaminant present. For loose dust and debris, use a compressed air duster to blow the contaminants off of the disc. Note that care should be taken when using this procedure to clean the top of the disc (label side). If there is any label flaking or slight delamination of the top layers, the force of the compressed air will cause the layers to blow off of the disc and ruin it. Debris on the top side of the disc will not interfere will the laser light beam reading the disc, but the removal of the debris will ensure the equipment does not get contaminated.
If the debris cannot be removed with the compressed air, then wiping is required for cleaning compact discs. Wiping to remove contaminants should only be performed with a soft non abrasive cloth. Some cloths are sold especially for wiping compact discs. When cleaning CDs, the wiping should be only as hard as required to remove the debris. The wiping should be in a radial direction starting from the hub and ending at the outer portion of the disc. The wiping should not be in a circular direction. The reason for this is that in case the disc is scratched with wiping, a radial scratch is much less problematic than a circular scratch when it comes to disc performance.
Cleaning discs is often required because of fingerprints on the discs. Fingerprints can be very disruptive to the laser light that reads the disc. Fingerprints may be removed with dry wiping with a soft cloth but this may only spread around the grease and not remove it. A wipe with a wet cloth or soapy wet cloth may be required. After the wiping, the disc surface can be blotted dry with a clean soft cloth and then any lint can be blown off gently with a compressed air duster. Blotting prevents the formation of water spots.
Immersing the disc completely in water for cleaning compact discs should be avoided if possible. However, if there is a lot of greasy dirt/debris on the disc and the disc is intact and not damaged in any way, then immersing the disc in warm soapy water (dish washing liquid is fine) can be used to clean the disc. Once again any wiping should be in a radial direction. Ensure the disc is completely dry before playing it.