NOT HOPELESS: Retrieving both music and data from CDs scratched apparently beyond usability – Howard Popeck


This series, written by features editor Howard Popeck is designed to, in jargon-free terms, explain, introduce, educate and otherwise assist anyone who is interested in learning more about how music in the home is produced.

Thank you. Neil McCauley / editor in chief

Preliminary note:

I didn’t try any of this on cherished CDs. I look after mine and there are no visible scratches on them. So I bought 3 seriously marked ones from a charity shop. I strongly advise you to do the same.

Using an abrasive metal polish

I used Brasso to remove a slight layer of the scratched plastic on the disc in an attempt to get it playable. I repeat – don’t do this on anything you really care about, Try it on a disc that’s scratched beyond usability. There’s nothing to lose – right?

Stage #1 – gathering what you need

  1. Soft paper towel (softer is better)
  2. Polishing cloth (eyeglasses cloth will do fine)
  3. CD scratched beyond playability (Charity shop will do)
  4. Can of Brasso Metal Polish
  5. Turtle wax windshield water repellant

Stage #2 ­– Apply Brasso and start polishing!

Take some of the Brasso and pour it onto the CD. Please be careful with the Brasso, and only perform this in a well-ventilated area. The fumes are unpleasant..

Use the paper towel pieces to polish the CD from the center of the disk to the outside. This means you are polishing perpendicular to the tracks on the disc. Take your time with this. Add Brasso when it dries or gets polished off the CD. For the CD most badly marked this took about 15 mins. Others took far less.

You should feel the abrasiveness of the Brasso on the CD as you are doing this. If not, then use a different paper towel. The Brasso is removing part of the plastic from the disc – not adding to it. Bear in mind that you are scraping away part of the CD.

Once it looks as scratch-free as is possible then, rinse the CD off under tap water and check it again. I'm not a believer in ‘audiophile water’. The Brasso will have left small scratches on the disc as it wore down the CD. Keep going until the deep scratches are gone, and all that remains are the marks from the Brasso (they will diminish as you continue and get an even surface again).

After this, and I kid you not, I used toothpaste with the cloth. Any brand will do. Toothpaste is slight abrasive. I've used it to polish out mild marks on Perspex lids. No – there is no such thing as ‘audiophile toothpaste’.

When done, rinse the disc, and wipe it with the soft eyeglass cloth.

To finish the job, I used Turtle wax windshield water repellant.

The effort was worth it in that the CD, was after all this effort, fully playable.

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One thought on “NOT HOPELESS: Retrieving both music and data from CDs scratched apparently beyond usability – Howard Popeck

  1. I’ve done this my self and can testify to how well it works.
    Like yourself, my cd’s are in great condition. I only use this method on charity shop finds.

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