CD Cover Label

A CD cover label is a peel and stick adhesive CD label that is placed on top of a CD in order to identify the contents stored within the CD or to make the top of the CD more decorative.

When a CD-R or CD-RW is written, there is no way of knowing what is stored on the disc (other than placing it in the CD drive) without some sort of labeling system. One of the methods that are available for labeling is the use of stick-on labels. These CD labels or CD cover templates can be circular and cover the full top surface of the CD (except for the hub) or partial labels that are placed on the CD at various spots. The labels are usually printed before being placed onto the CD with an inkjet or laser printer.

A CD cover label is not a recommended method for labeling CDs if your concern is preserving your information for the long term. In fact, even in the short term the use of CD labels can lead to disc failure and loss of the stored information.

partial or full adhesive labels should not be placed on CDs, DVDs, or Blu-rays

Standards for the storage of CDs advise against the use of adhesive labels and this is based on a number of negative effects that will result. First, a full circular label that is not properly centered on the disc or not smoothly placed on the disc will cause the CD to become unbalanced. This leads to an unplayable or unreadable disc or one that does not play properly. CDs spin at very high speeds when being played or read and errors and tracking problems are likely if the angle of spin is altered. The use of partial CD labels is even more of a concern when it comes to maintaining proper balance in the CD. Imbalance can also increase over time. As the CD cover label adhesive starts to age and become partially detached from the CD top surface, air bubbles will develop leading to more and more problems.

Another major concern with the use of CD adhesive labels is the reactivity of the label adhesive, paper or plastic used in the label, and the inks. These components may be chemically active and react with the CD causing it to degrade prematurely. Warping of the CD is likely to occur as well. As temperature and relative humidity fluctuate, the label and CD expand and contract at different rates and this stresses the CD and can lead to warping. A warped disc will not play properly. This expansion and contraction can also lead to the CD cover label causing the delamination of the CD disc layers (the protective layer, metal layer, and information layer). If delamination of these CD disc layers occurs, then the disc is not repairable and loss of information will occur.

What do to with a CD Cover Label

If digital scrapbooking projects or other digital information have been stored on a CD-R or CD-RW with an adhesive label on it, then the approach should be as follows. 

delamination of cd disc layers when peeling off an adhesive label

First, if the CD is readable, extract the information from the CD and record another (and do not use an adhesive label on the newly recorded disc) or store the information onto some other medium (e.g. hard drive). If the CD is not readable or only partially readable, then the adhesive label is the likely culprit. Try reading the disc on several over drives to see if one of those drives can read the CD properly and if yes extract the information. If problems still persist then label removal is required. Do not peel the label off dry because this will lead to the delamination of disc layers. Instead, wet the label with water slowly and cautiously and slowly try to peel the label off the top surface. Often a solvent such as ethyl alcohol may be required to dissolve the adhesive and remove the label. Note that using solvents and water on a CD and the act of peeling a label can lead to irreversible damage of the disc and therefore, this should be a last resort treatment.

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