CD Scratch Repair 

CD scratch repair may be necessary to make scratched CDs playable. A CD scratch remover treatment can consist of a filler, a polish, or will involve a sanding and polishing procedure.

Scratches on compact discs are a common problem. The scratches are usually present because of improper handling, improper cleaning of the CD, storage of the disc in a paper or plastic sleeve, storage of the CD in thin jewel cases, or playing the compact disc in dirty equipment.

Label Side Scratches

Scratches can occur on the top side or label side of the CD and these scratches will likely damage important layers residing below the disc’s surface. In the structure of a CD the data layer, which carries the information on the disc, and the metal layer, which makes the disc readable, are extremely close to the top surface of the disc. The only protection for these layers is a thin plastic layer and the label. As shown in the schematic image below, a scratch of reasonable depth can damage the metal layer and data layer.

A schematic diagram of a CD with a top side scratch. The scratch has damaged the metal layer and data carrying layer of the CD. This damage is not repairable.

If a disc is held up to a light and light shines through the disc in the scratched area, then the metal layer has been damaged and CD scratch repair is not possible. A damaged metal layer or data layer are not repairable. Fortunately, CD technology utilizes an error correction system designed to correct problems caused by a certain flaws or damage on the disc. The error correction system may be able to compensate for the damage caused by the scratch so playing or reading the CD can occur without errors or problems.

The ability for the error correction system to correct errors depends on the orientation of the scratch. The correction of radial scratches occurs more easily than circular scratches. In many cases, there is no requirement for a scratch CD repair with a CD scratch remover for radial scratches. On the other hand, all but the very small circular scratches will likely cause an issue when playing or reading CDs and CD scratch repair will be required to restore proper CD performance.

Scratches to the Base of the CD

Scratches may also occur to the base (play side or reading side) of the compact disc. The same issues with respect to radial versus circular scratches exist as discussed above. However, an additional problem is that the scratches may disrupt the reading laser light and cause errors or readability/playability issues. Small CD scratches are not a problem and the laser light will simply ignore them. Larger CD scratches will require compact disc scratch repair if the disc is experiencing problems.

CD Scratch Repair with Fillers

CD scratch repair with a CD scratch remover may involve the use of fillers. These are different types of materials applied to the CD base to fill the scratch with a substance that matches the plastic base of the CD. The theory is that if the filler is a good match to the plastic, the laser reading the disc will not know the difference between the filler and the CD plastic base and ignore the scratch. Unfortunately, finding suitable filler materials is difficult to do. Typical fillers are waxes, such as those used to polish the finish on vehicles. One example is Turtle Wax or similar car waxing products. Overall, this is not an effective CD scratch remover method, but using this technique to repair scratches will not damage the disc.

Polishes to Remove CD Scratches

Using a polishing compound is another suggested method for CD scratch repair. For this technique, the theory is to use abrasive products to polish out the offending scratches. Suggested abrasives or polishes for scratch repair use include toothpaste, Brasso metal polish, Turtle Wax rubbing compound, Turtle Wax polishing compound and scratch remover, Novus 2 fine scratch remover, and Novus 3 heavy scratch remover. The problem with this technique is that in the act of trying to polish out problematic scratches, other scratches (usually smaller ones) form that can cause additional problems that previously did not exist.

Wipe out is a commercially available product for the repair of scratched CDs. This is a mild polish treatment.

In an unpublished study, many of the above polishes were used on scratched CDs. The results were: 33 percent showed no change, 24 percent showed an improvement, and 43 percent were worse after treatment. Therefore, improvement is possible but there is a good chance of the creation of more scratches and the situation with the playability or readability of the CD will become worse.

Sanding and Polishing

A third type of CD scratch repair involves sanding the plastic base down to the level of the scratch and then repolishing the plastic to restore its optical clarity. This involves the use of specialized equipment designed for compact disc scratch repair. Uneven sanding can lead to problems playing the CD. Also, changing the thickness of the CD may lead to issues as well. More information on this method is available on the DVD scratch repair page.

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