How to fix a scratched disc CD/DVD/Blu-ray

Despite the fact that CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray are nowadays rather rare and outdated (or maybe because by becoming rare they got into the category of collectibles) many people like having hard copies of their favorite games, music albums, movies, etc. on these carriers. Plus, many more still have discs with their beloved photos, images, films, music albums, books, and what else. Those can be a true treasure, unique and irreplaceable.

Scratched disc
Scratched disc

So, what if something happens to a favorite disc of yours, can it be saved if got exposed to scratches or built-up dirt? We are going to explore several options how such cases can be prevented and discs can be saved, including:

  1. How to store DVDs, CDs, Blu-ray discs so they don’t get damaged
  2. Most common ways to damage your disc (avoid these!)
  3. How to fix a scratched disc (CD)
  4. How to fix scratched DVD and How to fix a scratched Blu-ray
  5. How to get rid of the built-up dirt

How to store DVDs, CDs, Blu-rays so they don’t get damaged

How to store DVDs, CDs, Blu-rays
How to store DVDs, CDs, Blu-rays

If you are planning to keep your discs functional for as long a time as possible, then the first thing to do is organize a separate place to store them. Such a place must be located on a cold, dust-free side of your house and away from the direct sunlight. Of course, the discs should each be in separate cases and not have a certain distance between them. What comes to mind here is some sort of special (wooden) shelves with little notches separating the disc cases. Wood is a preferred material for the shelves as it keeps the temperature smoothly, does not collect static electricity that can damage the discs, plus looks cool if done right. Needless to say that no abrasive compounds should be anywhere near such shelves.

Further advice on how to handle the discs will include:

  1. Handle them by the edges. Never put your fingers on a disc surface.
  2. When taking the disc out of the case or putting it back in, one must never force the disc.
  3. Do not spin the disc on your finger or when in a case.
  4. Do not write on discs using a pen or a pencil, even if on the backside one should use special markers only.
  5. Do not put stickers (sticky notes) on the discs.

Most common ways to damage your disc (avoid these!)

Scratches on the disc due to dust
Scratches on the disc due to dust

CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Rays are technically well-done but they do require special treatment. As was mentioned, they are highly vulnerable to the destructive influence of dust, heat, moisture, sunlight, and mechanical damage. Even more so than vinyl records. If enough dust accumulates on a disc’s working surface, the disc drive will not be able to read the information of such CD, DVD, etc. and it’ll require careful cleaning. Direct sunlight and/or moisture destroy the discs physically, only not as fast as high temperatures, which can obviously burn anything within seconds. Under the bright sun, the disc may warp, after which it will not only stop being read but may even “explode” when one tries to run it in the disc reader and damage it.

Another way to damage your disc is by putting sticky notes on a disc surface. They are harmful not only when placed on the working surface (which is almost never done by the users for obvious reasons) but when placed on the back of the disc as well. The thing is it can break the balance when spinning in the fast drive. So only sign the non-working side of the disc.

Better still if you do not write on the disc at all. If you have a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray with some personal info and need to mark it somehow, then do not use a pen or pencil under any circumstances. Only the marker.  

Most common ways to damage your disc
Most common ways to damage your disc

How to fix a scratched CD disc

A scratch on a CD disc does not necessarily mean you’ve lost its contents. Even if the scratch looks pretty deep. In fact, a scratch on the top of a CD causes more problems than a scratch on the bottom. Why? The researches show that optical format standards include error correction circuits that help fix scratched CDs on the bottom side of discs. But since the reflective layer is only covered with a thin acrylic layer, scratches on the top surface can penetrate this layer and damage the reflective layer. What follows from this is do not try to polish the cd, instead leave it as is if the scratch did not destroy the functionality of your disc.

If, however, the scratch is bad enough to prevent your CD from working correctly, step one in removing scratches from the CD would be to carefully polish the protective coating. A simple toothpaste diluted mixed with warm water can serve as a material for such polish. The toothpaste should be of high quality, without large abrasive particles. Since these substances do not dissolve completely it is necessary to carry out the procedure easily, without using excessive force. So that new scratches do not appear on the disc during the efforts to fix the scratched CDs.

In case this did not help, there is no choice left, will have to try to restore the information with help of a special CD scratch repair tool. We cannot recommend any specific name here, but they all work on a pretty much similar basis. Disc data recovery programs are able to read data while skipping bad sectors. Special algorithms of such programs allow to not only read the data from the scratched disc but also to restore the structure of damaged files.

How to fix scratched DVD and how to fix a scratched Blu-ray

Scratched DVD & Blu-ray
Scratched DVD & Blu-ray

A scratched DVD is not a greater (or lesser) problem than a scratched CD. And the advice on how to get rid of scratches on a disc here is pretty much similar with a few minor differences that we will mention. In general, DVDs are more reliable than CDs because the disc’s reflective layer is pressed inside the polycarbonate discs. But these discs are more prone to breakage due to the chemical reactions that take place between the layers and the polycarbonate – as a result, the discs can delaminate over time. Dual-layer discs are even worse. Translation – DVDs are a bit harder to scratch and they better withstand direct sunlight and heat effects, but they are likely to degrade in the time simply because of the way they were created.

Similar advice on how to fix a scratched disc that works for DVD also works for Blu-ray. The toothpaste tip is probably bad in the case of the Blu-ray because of its more layered structure. So, a disc scratch remover program should actually be the first choice. In other words, try to copy or restore the data from the disc with more willingness than you try to fix the scratched Bluray. It will probably be more rewarding. 

How to get rid of the built-up dirt

Before you declare a disc damaged and unplayable try cleaning it first. Even a badly scratched disc may still play fine once the dirt is removed. Be sure to clean discs with a soft lint-free cloth and a non-alcohol or ammonia-free cleaner. Rub the disc in a straight line from the outside edge in or the inside edge out, but never in a circle. Cleaning in a circular direction runs the risk of putting a circular scratch on the disc. Eyeglass cleaner and micro-fiber cloths work great.

How to get rid of the built-up dirt
How to get rid of the built-up dirt

To sum things up, a scratched disc is not something that can’t be worked with. There are ways to safely clean from dirt, to eliminate the scratch, or at least restore the data from such disc. Just remember to run a test after the recovery to see if no information is lost.