How to Clean a Camcorder Head Without a Cleaning Tape

By Ty Wright

Updated February 10, 2017

Regular maintenance will keep your camcorder working properly.
i Zedcor Wholly Owned/ Images

Videotape camcorders and digital recording devices have become a part of daily life. The difference between the two is that digital devices do not have to be cleaned, as the footage can be easily uploaded to a computer. Camcorders must be cleaned regularly to remain in good working condition. A head-cleaning tape is the simplest and most common way, but sometimes this will not be enough to clean a camcorder. For a more through cleaning, or if you do not have a head-cleaning tape, you will have to manually clean the interior components that come into contact with the tape.

Open the tape compartment. Make sure that it is free from any debris or tape ends that might be stuck.

Blow the tape compartment clean with compressed air. Locate the components of the tape path. These are the roller guides, pinch roller, capstan and drum head. The roller guides are what pulls the tape against the capstan. The capstan is the rotating pin that creates tension and controls the tape speed. The pinch roller is the black rubber wheel that presses the tape against the capstan. The drum head rotates as the tape is pulled against it.

Wet a cotton swab with Freon TF head cleaner. Wipe the capstan with the swab. You may have to insert a tape and let it play for a moment before ejecting it again. This will expose more of the capstan each time it rotates. Wipe the capstan with the swab until it is clean.

Wet a swab with non-slip fluid. Rub the swab lightly against the pinch roller. Use one hand to spin the roller and the other to rotate the swab against it.

Wet a swab with the Freon TF. Wipe the swab on the roller guides until they are shiny.

Soak the tip of a chamois cloth in Freon TF. Wipe the tip of the chamois across the entire drum head. Rotate the drum head counterclockwise slowly using your finger. Do not press the chamois against the drum head. If the chamois appears dirty, turn it over and use the other side to continue cleaning the drum head.

Insert a video tape and play it to see that your camcorder is working properly.

Items you will need

  • Compressed canned air

  • Freon TF head cleaner

  • Double-headed cotton swabs

  • Non-slip fluid

  • Chamois cloths


All of the needed items, such as the compressed air, Freon TF and non-slip fluid, are commonly available at consumer-electronics stores.