I have two children; they have their favorite DVDs; and sometimes mommy needs them to be watching those DVDs. So when the favorite DVDs get scratched and stop playing, it's a problem!
Whether it's DVDs, CDs, or game disks for your Xbox or Wii, there are ways to fix and buff out scratches. The Internet is full of solutions — claims that handy products you might have around the house will fix those scratches. So here are the unscientific results of my attempts to fix disk scratches with common household substances — from best (#1) to worst (#4).
Methodology: I used two forms of scratched disks, ones that had small scratches resulting in a few skips or pixilation points on the disk, and then seriously scratched disks that wouldn't play at all in my DVD player.
#1 Car Wax
I took a fingernail file to a Barney disk (boy was that satisfying), and when I placed it in my DVD player, the screen read "invalid disk" (again, wonderfully joyful).
I put Turtle car wax (liquid form) onto a soft cloth and buffed the disk in an in-to-out motion (not wax on wax off /Mr. Miyagi style). I rinsed the disk thoroughly and let it dry.
I placed the disk back into the player and, amazingly, it went straight to the menu and played flawlessly. The purple dinosaur rides again, and car wax did the job!
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#2 Furniture Polish
I have always used Pledge furniture polish on scratched DVDs, and when I tried it on a minimally scratched disk, Pledge brought it back to life easily. But with a seriously scratched disk that wouldn't play, I had to polish twice with Pledge for it to come back to life. It was a close second to the car wax — and it smelled better. I think any furniture polish would work; I just used what I had under the sink.
WHAT? A banana? Yep, this was advised by multiple sites online, so I had to try it. First, I rubbed the banana itself all over the disk, then I finished by rubbing the waxy interior of the peel all around the disk's surface. I cleaned it well with water, polished with a soft cloth, and let it dry.
The results were pretty good, especially considering I had such low expectations. The minimally scratched disk was good as new after the banana treatment. It does make some sense: that waxy stuff on the peel is pretty slippery — as I'm sure you know from all those years watching cartoon characters slip on banana peels.
But apparently, it wasn't waxy enough to fix the seriously scratched and unplayable disk. Even after multiple banana cleanings including soft-cloth buff-outs in between, I couldn't get the unplayable disk back from the dead with just the Chiquita treatment.
Toothpaste, especially the abrasive baking soda kind seems too rough for removing scratches; I was worried it would add scratches of its own to the disk, but I gave it a try. On the minimally scratched disk, I rubbed very gently with Colgate as I tried to clean off scratches and scrapes. When I put the disk in the player, the area where the disk previously skipped was still skipping. So I tried again and this time used baking-soda paste and really rubbed it in hard. When I tried again, the skipping area played straight through — no problems. Turns out there is a fair amount of extra poly-carbonate layered over the data pits on the disk, so buffing can take a top layer off and minimize the scratches.
But when I tried the toothpaste trick on the seriously scratched and unplayable disk, it was completely unsuccessful at resurrecting it. I tried three separate times to buff with toothpaste and then rinse/dry, but it just didn't fix the disk.
If you have a lot of scratched or unplayable disks, it might be worth investing in something like the Skip Dr., which I bought for $30 online. You place your disks into it, crank the handle, and it uniformly takes the top layer of polycarbonate off the disk. It's a more abrasive solution than the toothpaste, and it worked on both my minimally scratched disks and the unplayable disk.
Trade-in your scratched DVDs
Both Walmart and BestBuy have trade-in programs for DVDs. At Walmart, you bring in a DVD, pay $2 per disk, and they give you access to that title via their Internet streaming service Vudu. At BestBuy, you trade in a physical disk and they give you a $5 coupon towards the purchase of a Blu-Ray movie. Neither store says anything about scratched or unplayable disks, but they do have stipulations about original packaging and other limits, so do read the fine print.
Finally, whenever I write a story that mentions a brand-name product, I see in the comments that people think I'm being paid for the promotion. But no, I'm not sponsored by Pledge any more than I'm getting a lifetime supply of Chiquitas for this article; I personally tested each of these products and give you my honest recommendations.
We'd love to hear your crazy solutions for fixing DVDs. Post them on our Facebook page. If your idea is crazier than the banana, I'll be seriously impressed.
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