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It's easy. All you need is:

Put one or two drops of scratch remover on the cloth. Rub gently the affected CD surface, from the center to the border and back. Always rub this way, never sideways or in a circular motion.

That's it! This will remove light scratches completely and clean the big ones enough so your CD player can see through without distortion.

If you don't feel confident about this procedure, just get one of those useless AOL CDs, scratch it, and use as your test subject.

If you're a lazy bastard like me and you've got a scratched-up CD, then there's actually an even easier way to get better sound on it. All you need is:

  • a scratched up CD
  • a toilet
  • a little soap (optional)
  • Just stick it in the toilet and flush, then watch it swirl around. No joke, the flushing cleans it really well, and no, the CD won't go through the hole in the bottom (although there may be some risk of shigella contraction, but if you're as lazy as me this shouldn't be too much of a deterrent). Rinse the CD off if you used soap, then dry the CD with a soft cloth or towel and you're good to go.

    I've also heard that if you haven't got any scratch remover handy, toothpaste can also work. I've tried this before and it didn't work, but I'm entirely open to the possibility that I just did it wrong.

    Removing CD Scratches... The Cheap-Ass Way

    One of the cheapest, yet still effective, methods for removing scratches from CDs and DVDs is to use toothpaste. I haven't been able to find the principle behind it, but it works. It's basically the turtle wax method that Lobsang Rampa described above, but with toothpaste instead of turtle wax. You apply some toothpaste to a soft, lint-free cloth, gently rub it onto the CD from the center to the border and back in a radial manner (NOT sideways or circularly), let it sit for just a couple minutes, and then rub it off with a fresh piece of lint-free cloth in the same radial manner.

    There are only a few differences from the turtle wax method. The first is in your choice of toothpaste. The jury seems to be out on whether or not to use toothpaste that has baking soda in it. Patrick Norton from The Screen Savers recommended baking soda toothpaste. It worked for him and it worked for me, but a lot of sites tell you not to use it for vague reasons. The one thing that just about everyone can agree on is that you should not used colored toothpaste, toothpaste with gel in it, toothpaste with exotic additives, or generally anything besides plain white toothpaste and plain white baking soda toothpaste. Anything else is pointless crap that doesn't do anything for your CD, but some of it can make the process of removing the toothpaste much harder.

    The other possible difference is that the data side of discs with a lot of scratches on them, like the ones that you get from Blockbuster or other rental stores, are probably going to look like absolute crap after you use this method. I haven't heard much about this from the people that have recommended turtle wax or toothpaste, but the DVD from Blockbuster that I repaired came out with a permanent dull white coloring that was highlighted in the scratches. Regardless of this, the toothpaste method repaired the DVD and turned a scratched hunk of plastic back into a PS2 game.

    Oh, and if you're worried about using the cheap-ass method, just about everywhere that I've looked has told me that turtle wax, toothpaste, and scratch remover all work roughly the same, so if toothpaste doesn't work, you were probably going to end up with a useless hunk of plastic anyway. YMMV, though, so be as cautious as you feel comfortable with.

    The cheapest, and best CD / DVD scratch-removal compound in the world*:

    Purchase a can of Brasso metal polish at Wal-Mart, hardware store, or the supermarket (can be found with household cleansers). It's cheap at about US $4.00. The cans I've seen contain about 6 fluid oz: enough polishing compound to repair hundreds of scratched discs. You only need a little bit of Brasso per disc- about two or three "moistenings" worth. It dries very quickly, so you may need to re-moisten the paper towel / tissue. As Lobsang Rampa mentioned, working from the center out, radially, is the best way, but I'm a lazy guy and tend to use a series of small circular buffing motions, gradually working my way around the disc. One disc takes me about one to five minutes to treat. Brasso leaves a slight residue, so wash the disc in soapy water afterwards; you should be doing this anyway. Dry the thing and marvel at the slightly-hazed surface- it may appear hazy to you but it's perfectly transparent to the laser, which is all we care about (any "CD repair kit" will leave the same haze).

    If the scratches are deep you may want to have the disc refinished (milling and polishing the surface): just Google for this... there's a company called Auraltech that does it rather cheaply.

    Cap the Brasso tightly as soon as you're done moistening the towel- my sister spilled most of a can during a particularly aggressive disc-repair session, flailing arms, etc.

    For future reference: you may have to fight the urge, but for Bob's sake if you're going to set a bare disc on a counter, desktop, etc. do NOT set it label-side-down, shiny-side-up. You will be punished for your ignorance. Any grit on said surface will easily scratch through the whisper-thin layer of lacquer and ink on the label side of the disc, and tear up your aluminum substate... and this is the side on which your data are stored. Once the substrate has been scratched, you're fucked. Now, if you set your disc shiny side down, counterintuitively, I know, if it is scratched, at least you can polish the scratches out with Brasso. Think about it: would you rather be polishing a piece of plastic, which can take scratches up to a millimeter deep before they touch your data, or reapplying a several-molecules-thick layer of aluminum?

    * Brasso scored highest out of nine cleaning compounds, including commercial CD repair kits, AND toothpaste, which proved to be useless, in an article entitled "CD Repair Kits" on a site called "Burning Issues." They have before / after waveforms to prove it: quantifiable data for the whole family!

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