A simple and safe-to-do-at-home repair for scratched
and scuffed CDs
When CDs first came out, there was a remarkable amount of sales hype
about how indestructible they were. Those of us who work in radio stations
soon found out! CDs are easily rendered unplayable by a small scuff or
scratch to the playing surface. Fortunately, these minor abrasions can
be easily fixed.
I'm making the distinction between scuffs and scratches because they
interfere with the laser tracking and reading mechanism in two different
a scuff mark renders the surface of the polycarbonate milky, rather than
clear. This diffuses the laser beam, making it impossible for the tracking
mechanism to locate and focus on the pits which carry the sound and tracking
Both scratches and scuffs can be removed by the same method - by polishing
them out using Brasso. Engineers have been using Brasso as a polish for
plastics ever since it was released as a polish for brass.
a scratch which runs at an angle to the track usually poses no problem
for the tracking mechanism. Indeed a well adjusted CD player should be
able to track a disk on which a 1mm strip of black tape has been stuck
- providing it is stuck on radially. But if a scratch is approximately
tangential or circumferential, it can obscure the track below for enough
time that the tracking or error correction cannot cope.
Caution! Since writing this, I've been
advised that Brasso have changed their formulation and the new stuff
will damage rather than repair your CD's. So, if you have had your
Brasso for some time, it's probably fine, but watch out if you are
getting new supplies! If in doubt, try some on a useless CD first
- there are usually a few of these that came bundled with your computer!
Use the Brasso in the normal way. A drop or two is usually sufficient
(one tin will last you a lifetime of great listening!). Use a soft clean
cloth to rub the affected area with the Brasso until the mark is almost
gone. Polish scuff marks radially. Scratches are best handled by rubbing
along the direction of the scratch. With a scratch it usually is not necessary
to polish it completely away - just clean it up enough for the laser to
be able to see through it.
Finish up by letting the Brasso dry on the surface, then use a fresh
soft cloth to rub it off. Just for good form's sake, do this last stage
radially. Remember radial scratches won't generally interfere with the
When trying to work out which scratch is to blame for a mistracking,
keep in mind that ones at an angle to the direction of rotation are not
likely to cause problems. Also keep in mind that a CD plays from the inside
out, so that a problem on an early track is more likely to be near the
centre than the edge.
So far I have not found a scratched or scuffed CD I cannot fix using Brasso. I hope it works for you too!
It's now many years since I wrote and published this article.
Seems like not much has changed however. A recent study of the
various fancy products now available for fixing scratched CDs reveals
that they found Brasso is still the best! For more details:
Back to Terry McGee Flute
Maker home page