How to Fix a Scratched CD

Eight Methods:Disc Cleaning MethodScratch Identification MethodFoil Scratch Repair MethodDo data recoverySlight Abrasive Polishing MethodWax MethodLight Bulb MethodProfessional refinishing

While compact discs (CDs) are remarkably durable, it can be impossible to prevent scratches and scuffs from occurring from time to time, especially with frequent use. The resulting damage can mean either a skip in a music track or the loss of a document. While CD repair kits and refinishing machines are commercially available, you can repair the damage on your own with products you already have.

Note: Read the Warnings section as well as the methods before proceeding so that you are fully aware of what can go wrong when attempting to repair a CD.

Method 1
Disc Cleaning Method

  1. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 1
    Clean the disc. Even if the disc is not actually scratched or scuffed, dust, oil and other surface contaminants prevent it from playing properly. Thus, cleaning the disc should always be the first step.
  2. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 2
    Run warm water over the damaged disc to remove dust.
  3. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 3
    If there is stubborn dirt or grease on the disc, gently rub it with a finger while washing it, and use a gentle detergent or liquid soap with water added, or rubbing alcohol. To rub or wipe a CD, start near the center of the disc and rub straight outward toward the edge to prevent further scratching.
    • When cleaning with rubbing alcohol, it is recommended that you use a cotton swab for cleaning the disc, since all cotton swabs are cotton, which is what is recommended to use to clean a disc.
  4. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 4
    Shake the water off and let the disc air-dry (do not use towel or cloth, or sun-dry).
  5. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 5
    Try to play the disc. A good cleaning is usually all that is needed. However, if problems continue after cleaning, try to play the disc in another CD player. Some players handle scratches better than others; computer CD drives and car stereos tend to be the best.
  6. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 6
    Burn a new disc. If you can get the CD to work in one CD player but not in others, try burning a new disc. The CD burner on your computer may be able to read the CD well enough to produce a perfect copy. You may wish to try this even if the CD does not play correctly on the computer.

Method 2
Scratch Identification Method

  1. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 7
    Locate the scratch. Actually looking at the disc will be easier if you can figure out where the scratch is. Visually inspect the CD's playing surface for scratches or scuffs.
    • Scratches that run perpendicular to the CD's spiral - that is, those that run generally from the center to the rim - may not affect playing at all, and in any case are generally less damaging than those that roughly follow the direction of the spiral. The latter indicates the loss of many consecutive data bits, which may make it difficult for the Reed-Solomon error correction algorithm to guess the missing data.
    • If there are several scratches, but the CD only skips in one or two places, you may be able to approximate the location of the offending scratches based on which track skips. The first track of a CD begins near the center, and the direction of play proceeds outward to the edge.
    • Make sure the disc is indeed scratched. If the disc is not visibly scratched, the problem likely lies elsewhere. Other problems could be surface dirt or a malfunctioning CD player.

Method 3
Foil Scratch Repair Method

  1. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 8
    To determine if you have a scratch in the disc's foil, hold it in clear view of a bright light, shiny side up. Look to see if there are any small areas of the disc that show signs of the foil missing.
    • See if any pinholes are visible. Holes in the foil layer of a CD are generally not repairable, not even by a professional.
  2. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 9
    Flip the disc front side up, and mark where these areas are with a whiteboard marker.
  3. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 10
    Get two small strips of masking tape, and lay them one on top of each other over the area you have just marked. The CD may run a little loudly, but it will more than 70 percent likely repair the little missing pieces of foil.

Method 4
Do data recovery

  1. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 11
    Engage in data recovery. Many burning programs can be set to continue reading after getting an error (such as not being able to read a section due to a scratch). If the program can not read a section at all, it will fill it with random data. They can also try to read the bad section by reading at a very slow speed multiple times.
  2. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 12
    For Windows, Nero does this, while Linux has the Ddrescue tool.[1] This can often fix damaged CDs, and is especially effective with audio CDs (where accuracy is not as important).
    • Since this method does not risk damaging the CD, it is a good idea to try it before attempting the more drastic methods listed below. If the other methods damage the disc, at least the data recovered by this method can still be used. Note that due to the slow reading, and multiple attempts at trying to read a damaged section, these programs can take a very long time to complete (a Windows XP disc recovered with this method can take about two hours).

Method 5
Slight Abrasive Polishing Method

Warning: The method outlined in this step can damage the disc further. Use only as a last resort, and read the instructions carefully.

  1. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 13
    Polish the CD. Though counter-intuitive, polishing a disc can repair a scratched CD by removing some of the outer plastic coating and thus making existing scratches shallower. A number of common household products can be used to polish the CD, but toothpaste (especially baking soda toothpaste) and Brasso are probably the most tried and true. You can also use a fine-grit polishing compound that is usually used for cars or hard finishes.
    • If you're using Brasso, make sure to do so in a well-ventilated area, and avoid breathing in the fumes. Always read the safety instructions and warnings on any chemical product as many (such as rubbing alcohol) are flammable and/or can cause skin, eye, or respiratory irritation.
  2. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 14
    Apply a small amount of toothpaste (must be paste, not gel) or Brasso to a soft, clean, lint-free (old undershirt) cloth: an eyeglass-cleaning cloth works well.
  3. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 15
    Gently rub the cloth on the scratch or scuff in a radial motion, (start at the center and rub out to the edge, like spokes on a wheel). Do this 10 or 12 times all around the CD. Rubbing in a circular motion can cause small scratches that throw off the laser tracking system in the player. Try to focus your efforts solely on the scratch or scratches that you have identified (if possible).
  4. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 16
    Polish in this manner for a couple of minutes, applying Brasso or toothpaste again to the cloth as necessary. Be careful not to apply much pressure, although you will still be able to feel the cloth gently rubbing the CD as it polishes.
  5. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 17
    Remove the polishing product from the disc. If you used toothpaste, rinse the disc thoroughly with warm water and let it dry. Make sure to remove all of the toothpaste and let the disc dry completely before trying to play it. With Brasso, wipe off excess product and let the rest dry. Then, using a clean cloth, gently wipe disc again.
  6. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 18
    Test the disc. If the problem persists, polish again for up to 15 minutes, or until the scratch is almost completely buffed out. The surface around the scratch should begin to look shiny with many tiny scratches. If you still do not notice any difference after polishing for a few minutes, the scratch may be extremely deep, or you may be polishing the wrong scratch.
  7. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 19
    If the disc is still not operational, take the disc to a trained professional at a gaming store (see below).

Method 6
Wax Method

  1. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 20
    Wax the tracks. If polishing does not work, apply a very thin coat of Vaseline, chap-stick, liquid car wax, neutral shoe polish, or furniture wax to the CD’s playing surface.
  2. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 21
    Wipe the excess off using clean, soft, lint-free cloth in a radial (inside-to-outside) motion. If using wax, follow the manufacturer’s instructions (some need to dry before you wipe them off, while others should be wiped off while still wet).
  3. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 22
    Test the disc again. If the wax or Vaseline does the trick, burn a new copy of the CD immediately. The waxing method is only a temporary solution.

Method 7
Light Bulb Method

Note: This method does not always work, but it is fairly simple.

  1. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 23
    Turn on a lamp with a 60 watt incandescent filament bulb.
  2. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 24
    Hold the CD with your index finger in the center opening and the recorded side towards the lamp. The distance from the bulb should be about 10cm (4 inches).
  3. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 25
    Hold the CD in place for about 20 seconds, rotating it slowly around your index finger. Then, while it is still hot, play it in the CD drive.
    • Do not hold the disc near the light bulb for more than 20 seconds. Even a 60W bulb produces enough heat to melt the CD if exposed longer than 30-40 seconds.

Method 8
Professional refinishing

  1. Image titled Fix a Scratched CD Step 26
    Have the CD professionally refinished. If the disc still does not play correctly, take it to a music store (especially one that sells used CD's) or a DVD rental store and ask if they can repair the disc for you. If the disc has valuable data on it, consider this option after the cleaning option, as you can make sure you do not damage the CD any further in your repair attempts.
    • Many of these businesses have CD refinishing machines that do a remarkable job, and they will probably charge you less than five dollars to repair the CD.
  2. 2
    If you have a lot of discs to repair, you might want to buy a CD refinishing machine. These can cost as little as $25, but highly effective industrial machines can cost $300 or more. You can search online for companies that build and market these. Or check online auction sites for used versions.


  • Never rub in a circular motion. Rub from the inside to the outside in a straight line.
  • With Xbox 360 discs, if you use one of the temporary methods, you can install the game to the hard drive by going to the game library, clicking on the game, then install game. This doesn't always work, as the Xbox has to access the disc to verify it as legitimate.
  • To avoid damage, always hold the CD by the sides.
  • If all else fails, you could always take it to your nearest video/gaming store to repair it.
  • The polycarbonate bottom layer of the disk acts as a lens, which focuses a larger patch of laser light down to a smaller size needed to see the track on the data layer. This lets the laser look through some small imperfections on the plastic surface which are much larger than the track on the data layer. Removing a lot of plastic can affect the refractive property of the lens making the data unreadable. This means that even a visibly scuffed or spider-web of scratches may play well because, though the defects are visible to your eye, the laser sees around/through them. This is why waxing can help. A repair does not have to look perfectly polished to work.
  • Severely damaged CDs may not be repairable. Very deep scratches and cracks that reach the CD's foil may render a CD forever useless. It does not take much to damage a CD. As a matter of fact, the Disc Eraser utilizes this principle to render CD's and DVD's unreadable, which is useful to have if you want to get rid of sensitive discs.
  • If the disc is an Xbox 360 game, attempt to return it for an exchange. Your mileage may vary, but Microsoft saved about 25¢ on the build cost of the Xbox 360 by not including safety measures which would prevent a lot of scratches. Most stores have deals worked out with the distributors to where they can get credit for damaged discs, but only discs that were damaged inside the 360. Such discs will have deep radial scratches, sometimes not around the entire circumference of the disc. It could not hurt to try. (Try a few stores actually; the worst they can do is say no.)
  • You can buy a disc scratch remover from most game stores. It works for all types of CD's with a light level of scratches.
  • To remove deep or stubborn scratches quickly, try using a dry "Mr. Clean Magic Eraser". This is a sponge impregnated with a micro abrasive. Use light pressure, wiping from the center of the disk to the outside edge just as described with other polishing methods. The repaired area can be buffed until shiny using the other polishing or waxing techniques described.
  • Practice repairing scratched CD's that you do not care much about before you set out to repair your favorites.
  • Use a quality CD drive from a desktop computer. If you are trying to read a dual layer disc or scratched disc with a front loaded (slip in) CD drive, you can pretty much forget about getting a good read. These drives are notorious for having poorly calibrated/calibrating lasers and are practical useless for anything but brand new CD's. This has been documented by many a repair technician.
  • It is a good idea to create a backup of any data disc before damage occurs.
  • Tracks on a musical CD go from the inside to the outside of the disc. Thus, scratches in the shape of a concentric circle causes the most damage due to the interruption of many consecutive data bits. This means that the Reed-Solomon error correction algorithm could fail to apply guesses and generate the missing data.
  • Deep gouges are not repairable. However, because of the way redundancy is used in the data on the disc and the way the data are distributed along the spiral track, cleaning a disc area away from a scratch can improve data recovery; a number of smaller defects distributed along the track can be as bad or worse than one larger defect.
  • A number of CD cleaning and repair kits are available for sale, but many users report that these do not work any better than Brasso, and they’re far more expensive.
  • If it still does not work after you tried everything, use it as a coaster for your beverages. Or, see how to reuse old CD's for lots more great ideas.
  • If a CD is scratched but continues to play correctly, make a backup, but do not bother trying to repair it yet.
  • Never touch the internal side of the cd.
  • Xbox discs can be returned directly to Microsoft and replaced for $20.[2]


  • Understand that you can cause further damage if you use toothpaste. It may scratch it even more.
  • No solvent is to be applied as this shall change the chemical composition of the polycarbonate substrate resulting in an opaque finish and an unreadable disc!
  • To prevent damage to your CD player, make sure that CD's are completely dry and free of excess polishing products or waxes before you attempt to play them.
  • When touching the CD, do not use a circular pattern (circumferential pattern, like when a CD is spinning). Go from the inside to the outside in a perfect line (a radial pattern), in order to prevent data loss.
  • When polishing the disc, make sure the surface upon which the disc is laid is flat and firm but not hard or abrasive. Data is stored on the foil or dye layers on the top of the disc (label side) and the protective top layer is very thin by comparison to the polycarbonate plastic bottom layer you will polish. The thin top layer can easily be scratched or perforated. If this happens, the data is lost forever as it is not repairable by any means. Pressing on a disc upon too soft a surface may crack it or cause it to de-laminate.
  • If you decide to try these steps with a DVD, be careful to never wipe a cloth on the side with the title of the DVD. Doing so will completely ruin your DVD. Only brush the plain silver side.
  • Doing any method incorrectly (for example, applying too much pressure while polishing or rubbing the CD in a circular motion) may shorten the life of a CD.
  • If you hold the CD up to a bright light to check for holes in the foil layer, remember not to stare at the light for long. A 60-100 Watt bulb should be more than enough to see pinholes in the foil layer. Do not use the sun!
  • Don't touch the CD, or you'll leave finger prints, causing it to get dirty again, and that may cause the CD to skip a track or pause. Hold it by the hole in the middle.
  • A CD's data is actually stored in microscopic grooves in material immediately under the thin but fairly hard paint side, which would bear any label.[3]. Generally one leaves that side alone and repairs a disc's readability by smoothing defects in the thick clear-plastic side, through which a light shines to read the data.

Things You'll Need

  • Clean, soft, lint-free cloth (microfiber cloths are excellent)
  • Water (or rubbing alcohol)
  • Brasso metal polisher, fine polishing compound or toothpaste
  • Liquid car wax or Vaseline (optional)
  • Cotton gloves or plastic food-handling gloves make it easier to handle CDs and not leave behind fingerprints
  • A lamp

Sources and Citations

Show more... (3)

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | CDs and DVDs