Some folks swear by those expensive commercial repair kits. Some folks swear by Brasso. Or even toothpaste.
Funny how some people get married to commercial CD repair kits. Over the years, I’ve bought them, tried them, and discarded every last one. Even the holy Disc DR. Yeah, it used to work great, back in the late 90’s when it first came out and used a more abrasive sanding wheel, but today it does little more than wipe away dirt. The abrasive wheels are too fine to remove serious scratches. Besides, they wear out after a couple of discs, which is probably by design, so consumers (an apt word) can go out and buy more. What a rip-off!
So I took a Metals class over the summer and learned more than I thought possible about sanding and polishing. We had to do some resin casting, so I got caught up on polishing plastics, too. Learning from people who do this stuff for a living is really the way to go.
Anyhow, I’m done with Brasso. It dries too slowly. Quite often, it would leave discs hazy, which is hard for a laser to read through. Some of the plastic polishers on the market also leave CDs hazy, which is to say that they’re not all created equal.
Use toothpaste on your teeth. Don’t spend a dime on mechanical or electric cleaners and polishers–it’s a scam! Manufacturers can’t make devices abrasive enough for fear of litigation, so all you’ll end up with is something that does the same thing as a squirt of Windex and an old T-shirt!
The WORST scratch I’ve EVER seen was made by an X-Box 360 on my kid’s Gears of War disc. We threw away the last game his X-Box scratched (Oblivion), because I didn’t know how to fix SERIOUS scratches–I was still using Brasso back then. But I fixed this last one, and if I can fix an X-Box 360-scratched disc, I can fix anything. The X-Box 360 can gouge DEEP circumferential scratches that are a bear to remove.
I also get a lot of CDs and DVDs from the local library. Many are scratched too badly to play or rip. I’m always able to fix them myself.
I use three grades of 3M wet-dry emery paper: 1500, 2000, and 2500. These papers do not polish CDs–they remove scratches by sanding the entire surface down. For final polishing, I use Meguiar’s PlastX Clear Plastic Cleaner & Polish.
I use 1500-grit on BADLY scratched surfaces. A bad X-Box 360 disc might require 1000-grit, if you want things to go a little faster. Otherwise, I start with 2000-grit.
You buy the emery paper in sheets from auto supply joints, and cut little pieces off as needed (roughly 1/2 inch by 2 inches). The stuff wears down after a few CDs, and you’ll want fresh pieces to keep things moving quickly.
You may have heard that you’re only supposed to sand or polish radially-- between the circumference and center of the disc. That’s wrong.
In practice, sanding and polishing are done with perpendicular movements and increasingly finer grades of emery paper. You sand in one direction with a rough paper, then sand in a perpendicular direction with a finer paper, repeating this until you’ve got the finish you desire. On a CD or DVD, it looks like this:
I let my emery paper soak in the sink for a few minutes before using it. I clean my work area off, then wet it. You wet the disc, and set it label side down on a wet surface.
After judging the severity of the scratches, I pick an emery paper that will do the rough work. Most often, this is 2000-grit. I will sand somewhat circumferentially around the disc. You can only sand comfortably in straight lines, thus the pattern you see above.
After working the scratches out with the rough paper, I switch to something finer–usually 2500-grit. Then a sand in a direction roughly perpendicular to the last bit of work. This is important–sanding and polishing has to be done with subsequently finer abrasives working in a crisscross pattern. Above is the roughly radial direction I work in.
After the 2500-grit, I towel-dry the disc and move to a dry work place. I put the disc label-side down on a piece of clean paper, then apply three or four small drops of Meguiar’s PlastX. Using a clean scrap of old cotton T-shirt, I polish in the circumferential pattern you see above–it’s fast and effective. The cool thing is that you don’t have to leave the Meguiar’s to dry on the disc–it’s not like waxing the car. You basically polish until your cloth has absorbed all the excess goop and the disc is bright & shiny, which doesn’t take long at all.
Since I always polish the same way, I have to think backwards through each step when choosing my initial grade of emery paper–I need to know which direction to sand in, so I can crisscross with every subsequent step.
Written down this way, it sounds like a terrible bit of effort. In reality, it’s five to ten minutes per disc, depending upon how bad the damage is.
You want to make sure you get a good polish on your discs, all the way out to the outermost edges. Don’t leave any haziness (from the wet sanding) behind, or you may have trouble reading & ripping later.
I use the Meguiar’s because it never leaves a hazy residue on the plastic, the way some other plastic polishers (including Brasso) often do.
There is no mechanical or electric CD scratch remover on the market that can do what you can do with your own two hands and a little emery paper. Serious scratches require more abrasive action than is available with any commercial product. Seriously, every last one is a money-wasting rip-off.
The Meguiar’s costs a few bucks and will last you the rest of your life. 3M wet-dry emery paper is very cheap. Don’t settle for other brands, as the abrasive may come off when the paper gets wet, which defeats the entire purpose of wet sanding, doesn’t it?
Emory paper is made to very high grades (up to 8000-grit, if memory serves), but these can only be had from suppliers who deal with jewelers and other artists. Besides, you don’t really need anything finer than 2500 or 3000-grit for work with plastics.
CDs and DVDs and console discs are all the same when it comes to fixing scratches. If you can fix one, you can fix them all. DVDs and console discs are more susceptible to error when scratched, because the data is packed in tighter physical spaces–a little scratch can obscure a LOT of data.
As I’ve said, the worst scratches I’ve seen are made by the X-Box 360. I suspect the laser lens is coming in direct contact with a spinning disc. I’ve started working these scratches out with 1000 or 1500-grit emery paper.
Scratches on the data side of a disc aren’t as serious as scratches on the label side. A disc’s data layer is closer to the label side than the other. For this reason, a good scratch on the label side can permanently destroy any disc–no amount of sanding or polishing can repair physical damage to the data layer.
That’s everything I can think of. I fix a LOT of discs, and I’d like to think I’ve pretty much got it down to a science at this point.
So go fix some scratches already!