What Do I Need to Clean a DVD Laser Lens?
By Michael Cox
A DVD player works by focusing a laser on the pits in the surface of the spinning disc. Whether you just suspect some dust is interfering with smooth playback or you saw your toddler using it as a toaster, cleaning a DVD or Blu-ray player's laser lens is basic maintenance that you can perform at home with a few simple tools.
Unless your player is in a grimy environment or was abused, the reason your DVD player is skipping or sticking may be the discs themselves. The top cause of misplaying discs is dirt or scratches on the discs. If the problem occurs with some discs and not others, the problem is likely your discs. If you clean your discs by hand, use a radiating motion out from the center of the disc and not a circular motion, which could leave concentric scratches. A number of manufacturers offer kits to clean and repair your discs, or in a pinch you may use a home remedy such as furniture polish or toothpaste to fill in surface scratches.
To prevent dust buildup inside your player, gently blow out the dust periodically. A hand-operated photographic dust blower works well. If you use a can of compressed air, be gentle and don't blast the lens from close range, because the air stream can be quite strong and some of the internal parts of your DVD player are delicate.
Lens Cleaning Disc
A more expensive option is to use a commercial lens cleaning disc. A cleaning disc works best when you suspect dust is the problem, and not smoke, grease or other substances, which require cleaning by hand. A lens cleaning disc looks like a DVD with tiny brushes for the lens; it is inserted and "played" like a DVD for the time specified in its user guide. Be sure to use a cleaning disc designed for your player -- a CD player cleaning disc could damage a DVD player.
If other means don't work, you may need to open up your DVD player and clean the lens assembly by hand. First, gently blow any excess dust from the lens assembly using a photographic dust blower or compressed air, then use a cotton or foam swab with lens cleaning fluid or isopropyl alcohol -- 91 percent or better -- to gently wipe the lens. While you have the DVD player open, look for any other problems or grime that may be impacting play. Make sure the lens and any other parts you may have cleaned are dry before you put the case back on the player. If the lens appears scratched, it or your entire DVD player may need to be replaced.
- University of Pennsylvania: Notes on the Troubleshooting and Repair of Compact Disc Players and CDROM Drives
- Digital Innovations: DVD Laser Lens Cleaning - White Paper
- Lifehacker: MacGyver Tip: Smooth a scratched DVD with Pledge
- Digital Innovations: How to Properly Diagnose and Repair a Scratched Disc
Michael Cox writes about lifestyle issues, popular culture, sports and technology. In a career spanning more than 10 years, he has contributed to dozens of magazines, books and websites, including MSN.com and "Adobe Magazine." Cox holds a professional certificate in technical communications from the University of Washington.