How to Clean Cassette Recorder Tape Heads

by James Clark
cassette tapes image by robert mobley from Fotolia.com

Cassette recorders work with tape heads to read the analog audio signal on the tape. Because tape is moving over the heads whenever the deck is in use, the build-up of dust and dirt over time can cause recording and playback problems with distorted or inaudible sound. Tape heads also need to be demagnetized periodically for similar reasons. Magnetized tape heads can devour a delicate cassette tape, dragging the tape into the machine where it becomes entangled on the rollers and other moving parts. This often ruins the cassette. Demagnetizers and tape head cleaners are available at electronics stores.

Step 1

Remove the cassette demagnetizer from its protective case.

Step 2

Insert the cassette demagnitizer in the recorder.

Step 3

Press the "Play" button on the recorder to start the demagnetizing process for one minute.

Step 4

Press the "Stop" button and remove the demagnetizer cassette.

Step 5

Add 3 to 4 drops of cleaning solution into the hole on the cassette tape-head cleaner. Add more solution only if recommended by the manufacturer.

Step 6

Insert the tape-head cleaning cassette into the recorder, close the compartment door and press the "Play" button. The cleaning cycle typically takes less than one minute.

Step 7

Dip the end of a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol if a cleaning cassette is unavailable.

Step 8

Open the cassette compartment door and press the "Play" button.

Step 9

Unplug the recorder to lock the tape heads in the extended, exposed position.

Step 10

Clean the chrome-colored metal cube and the two rigid wires extending from the cube with the cotton swab.

Allow the alcohol to evaporate for at least five minutes before playing or recording a tape.


  • Unplug the cassette recorder from the power while swabbing tape heads with alcohol. This prevents potential electric shock or a damaging short circuit.
  • Keep audio cassettes away from the demagnetizer, which is poweful enough to erase cassettes.

Items you will need

  • Demagnetizing cassette
  • Cassette head cleaner with cleaning solution
  • Cotton swabs
  • Rubbing alcohol

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