How to Clean VHS Tapes

By Susan Sivek

Updated September 28, 2017

Items you will need

  • Soft lint-free cloth or tissues (like those for cleaning camera lenses)

  • High-quality adhesive tape

  • Scissors

  • Screwdriver

Clean VHS Tapes
i Photo by Flickr user Orin_Optiglot.

Even if VHS tapes are not exactly cutting-edge technology today, many of us still have them and enjoy playing them in our somewhat antiquated VCRs. What do you do if you find that your favorite tape has been badly damaged, and you can't or don't want to replace it with a shiny new DVD? Luckily, the repair is simple and low cost. You need only supplies you probably already have at home, and you'll be moments away from watching your tape again.

Allow the tape to dry if it is wet. Working with wet tape will likely cause additional damage.

Rewind the tape if it's possible to do so without ruining your VCR in the process. Open the cassette and pull out a foot or so of tape. Gently wipe each side of the tape with the cloth or tissues. Remove as much debris as possible. Continue for the entire length of the tape.

If sections of the tape are extremely wrinkled or torn, cut the tape on either side of the damage and use the adhesive tape to join the ends together again. Remove as little of the VHS tape as possible, as you'll be removing some of the content of the video with every inch that you cut. This type of splice is not extremely durable, and should be considered a temporary fix.

Disassemble the cassette if it contains additional dirt, dust or moisture. (Directions for this disassembly are at the link shown in Resources below.) Clean inside the cassette thoroughly, or move the tape itself into a new, cleaner cassette.

Reassemble the VHS tape and attempt to play it in the VCR. You may need to repeat this process if you continue to see poor picture quality or other flaws in the tape's playback.


Don't attempt this procedure yourself on a video you can't replace or that is extremely valuable to you. For example, it's probably best to let a professional repair your video of your child's first steps--and perhaps to have the VHS tape converted to digital form at the same time.