This Disc Won’t Play! (part 1, Fingering the Culprit)

imagesYou’ve put in your favorite CD or DVD, and the stupid thing just won’t play!  It skips, it freezes, it pixelates into pretty colors, or the player spits it out and declares “Bad Disc!”  Your heart was set on that, and now you’re out of luck and your kids are getting cranky.

Don’t despair! The solution is often very simple. By far, the most common, annoying, easily fixable problem with disc materials is FINGERPRINTS.  Turn it over and look at the non-label side. It should look like a mirror.  Are there fingerprints?  Is coffee spilled on it? Or maple syrup (that’s happened)?  CLEAN THE DISC.

“But it’s a library disc!” you say.  “If I damage it, they’ll charge me!”  Don’t worry.  While discs are fragile, they’re more durable than you think.  Some of our discs have been used more than 150 times and still play fine. CDs and DVDs are made from polycarbonate, with a layer of foil (gold or aluminum) protected by a layer of lacquer.  That’s the same plastic as your eyeglasses!  General rule is, if it’s safe for your eyeglasses, it’s perfectly safe for a disc.  You can clean them with eyeglass cleaner, water, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, even liquid dish soap, but *make sure you clean them with a liquid*.  You can even rinse them under the tap if you must. To dry them, you can use a glass-cleaning cloth, a clean piece of flannel, or in a pinch, a clean cotton dishcloth or Tshirt.

DON’T: rub the mark with something dry, use a paper towel, newspaper, or rough cloth.  All these things will leave fine scratches on the polycarbonate.  If the laser can’t penetrate the polycarbonate layer, it can’t read your disc.  You can clean them with Windex or window cleaner, but repeated exposure to the ammonia in them can eventually dull and damage your disc. Don’t run them through the dishwasher.

cd-cleaningClean the disc, try it again.  Audio CDs (music or audiobooks) are very forgiving.  They can look scratched and still play fine. Sometimes it’s the player: what plays perfectly in your computer or your cd player won’t play right in your car. DVDs, with their video component, are much fussier, and Blu-rays the fussiest of all.  If it still won’t play right, bring it back, but stick a note on it or tell us, and we’ll give it a more thorough diagnostic.  Be especially careful with those awful double-sided DVDs – always hold them from the very edge, or you’ll be cleaning one side while dirtying the other.

With a little polish and a little luck, you’ll be singing along again in no time!

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