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Care and Feeding of CDs and DVDs

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How well do you take care of your CDs and DVDs? I am pretty fanatical about it, figuring once it’s mine it’s mine and I don’t want to screw it up. I even have our 4-year-old pretty much down with the sickness: she knows to not touch the surface, to handle by the edges, to not put the disc down outside of its case – yes, I said “its case,” not a random case, but the case specifically created for that particular disc. Now if only the 34, 19 and 16-year-olds were as meticulous…

But enough about us, you think I’m anal, check out this report, “Care and Handling of CDs and DVDsA Guide for Librarians and Archivists” by Fred R. Byers for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Here are the key recommendations:


    1. Handle discs by the outer edge or the center hole.
    2. Use a non-solvent-based felt-tip permanent marker to mark the label side of the disc.
    3. Keep dirt or other foreign matter from the disc.
    4. Store discs upright (book style) in plastic cases specified for CDs and DVDs.
    5. Return discs to storage cases immediately after use.
    6. Leave discs in their packaging (or cases) to minimize the effects of environmental changes.
    7. Open a recordable disc package only when you are ready to record data on that disc.
    8. Store discs in a cool, dry, dark environment in which the air is clean.
    9. Remove dirt, foreign material, fingerprints, smudges, and liquids by wiping with a clean cotton fabric in a straight line from the center of the disc toward the outer edge.
    10. Use CD/DVD-cleaning detergent, isopropyl alcohol, or methanol to remove stubborn dirt or material.
    11. Check the disc surface before recording.

    Do not:

    1. Touch the surface of the disc.
    2. Bend the disc.
    3. Use adhesive labels.
    4. Store discs horizontally for a long time (years).
    5. Open a recordable optical disc package if you are not ready to record.
    6. Expose discs to extreme heat or high humidity.
    7. Expose discs to extremely rapid temperature or humidity changes.
    8. Expose recordable discs to prolonged sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet light.
    9. Write or mark in the data area of the disc (the area the laser “reads”).
    10. Clean by wiping in a direction going around the disc.

    For CDs especially do not:

    1. Scratch the label side of the disc.
    2. Use a pen, pencil, or fine-tip marker to write on the disc.
    3. Write on the disc with markers that contain solvents.
    4. Try to peel off or reposition a label.

    General recommendations for long-term storage conditions:

    For archiving recordable (R) discs, it is recommended to use discs that have a gold metal reflective layer.

    Archival Storage Facility – Recommendation for storing CDs and DVDs together
    Media Temperature Relative Humidity (RH)
    CD, DVD Less than 20°C (68°F) 20% to 50% RH
    Greater than 4°C (39°F)
    A temperature of 18°C and 40% RH would be considered suitable for long-term storage. A lower temperature and RH is recommended for extended-term storage.

Those librarians.

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About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.
  • BB

    bookofjoe … thank God for MP3 players so we can dispense with CDs altogether! Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

  • JR

    Right, they’re like lightbulbs. They COULD make one that will last forever, but then you wouldn’t have to buy anymore.

  • Eric, I have learned this: if my now 20 year old daughter listens even ONCE to a CD of mine, I might as well order a new one from amazon right then, because it’s ALWAYS damaged when returned. Thank God our musical tastes are not at all congruent!

  • BB

    JR, I think it is all part and parcel of the RIAA conspiracy to keep you buying CDs. Eureka! I’ve finally figured it out!

  • Eric Olsen

    Okay, so one time I got mad and went after a recalcitrant CD with a wire brush dipped in bleach and battery acid in a dusty tanning bed, then left it flat, out of its case. Tough shit.

  • Mark, comment #4: now it sounds even more screwy!

    Dude, you could totally use that as a sound source for electronic music like Oval did for years. Skips, pops, repeats, that’s practically all their music was – and it was damn cool at that!

  • JR

    “anybody have any cd’s that have deteriorated over time?

    “i’ve got one that looks like the aluminum layer is being eaten by moths. maybe it wasn’t sealed properly or something.”

    I had a similar thing happen to two of the three discs from my copy of Deep Purple’s “Live In Japan”. The aluminum seemed to rot a year or two after I bought it, and now the discs don’t play at all. I’m guessing it was a seal problem, although I’ve had CD’s crack and nothing happened to the aluminum.

    I’ve also had a number of discs develop skips that don’t seem to be associated with scratches, although it may also be my main CD player getting old. I notice that many skipping problems are not consistent between players.

    Somehow, the record companies were never particularly forthcoming with regard to what can go wrong with CD’s.

  • “anybody have any cd’s that have deteriorated over time?”

    I’ve got a copy I made of “Jazz At the Pawnshop” that became unreadable (even though stored vertically 🙂

    That worked out for the best, though, as the reissue is better than the original release was.


    11. Continued-or like the what the oriental dude in the James Bond flick used his hat for.


    Do Not:

    11. Use as a beer coaster, washer for large bolts, or as a throwing star

  • anybody have any cd’s that have deteriorated over time?

    i’ve got one that looks like the aluminum layer is being eaten by moths. maybe it wasn’t sealed properly or something.

    you’ll appreciate this tom: it’s a Marc Ribot album (Rootless Cosmopolitans. so now it sounds even more screwy!

  • 2. Use a non-solvent-based felt-tip permanent marker to mark the label side of the disc.

    Solvent based markers have not proven to do anything to discs. I’ve been using Sharpies (ultra fine point too – the important thing is to only use felt-tip markers) and have never had a single problem – many years after having been labeled with Sharpies, my discs are still in perfect condition. This can filed as an “old librarian’s tale” now, I believe.

    If you want to keep your discs in good condition, I will offer a little piece of advice: treat them as if they were vinyl. If you wouldn’t do it to vinyl, don’t do it to CDs, either.

    Another little bit I found out the hard way, so some may learn from my mistakes. Many years ago I bought a bunch of those notebook-style holders for discs (which go in sleeves inside.) After a while I noticed that my discs were skipping or having other problems. Upon inspection, I found out that the reflective layer had been scratched through by – surprise surprise – other discs rubbing on them. I had this happen to dozens of CDs, and even one day found a disc that had been cracked when something heavy inadvertently hit the notebook. These things are CRAP, unless they close in such a way that absolutely no pressure can be applied to the contents (like a briefcase – never seen one of those, however.)

  • Eric Olsen

    The storage angle issue I think stems from the very real likelihood of vinyl records warping if stored flat. I am not sure how likely CDs and DVDs are to warp simply from being stored horizontally. Heat is a factor also.

  • 4. Store discs upright (book style) in plastic cases specified for CDs and DVDs.

    LOL, I wonder why there are so many upright, stacking CD shelves (cheap ones, mostly) available at Walmart and other department stores.

    And that CD/DVD doctor thing can put some nasty grooves in a CD. I’d be cautious about using that thing, despite what they tell you on the packaging (or in the ads on TV).