Does Toothpaste Truly Make A CD Or DVD Work Again?

Posted October 27, 2009 6:00 am by with 13 comments

image There are times when one is so desperate to get the data off a CD or DVD that you’re willing to try anything no matter how stupid it may be. This is exactly what happened to me last Sunday night.

For years I’ve heard that toothpaste will make a scratched optical disc readable again. I never believed it.

I’ve had in my possession a CD I burned 6 years ago that would fail on every attempt to have an optical drive read it, but kept it anyway in the hopes someday I could find a way to get it readable again. The disc was scratched slightly and I’ve definitely seen ones in much worse condition. In fact one time I was able to get a CD read that was cracked – although I wouldn’t recommend that because it can break apart in the drive and spread itty bits all over the place, ruining the the inside of the optical bay completely. That didn’t happen to me, but it could have.

As a last-ditch effort, I tried the toothpaste method because darn it, I want the f**king data off this disc, and if not it’s getting tossed. Six years is long enough to wait for anything. I smeared the paste so it completely covered the data side of the disc, let it dry for a few minutes, then washed it off thoroughly and dried with paper towels.

I expected this to do nothing but make the disc really clean and nothing else, thinking, "This will make a good article for PCMech because it will totally prove without a shadow of a doubt that this never works."

After the disc was completely dried, I popped it in the bay and waited a few seconds.

Nothing.

But the read pattern was slightly different compared to before (I could tell by the sound,) and the activity light was flickering rapidly.

Okay then.. I’ll just let it sit in the drive for a minute or two, then give up because I know this is going to fail again.

About 90 seconds later, Windows pops up a prompt asking me if I want to see the contents of the disc. What? This disc is now readable? No way!

Way.

I was surprised, elated, shocked and whatever other descriptive feeling you want to throw in there.

Not only did the disc read, but I was able to copy every single file off of it, at a numbingly slow speed, but it did work. No corrupted files, either!

HOWEVER..

I’m still not convinced it was the toothpaste that saved the disc. For all I know this could have been sheer dumb luck that the disc read this time and not all those other times.

Articles, some of which go back years like this one, claim toothpaste works on optical discs as a mild polish. What supposedly occurs is that when you polish enough, this will remove a tiny layer of plastic, fill in the areas caused by the scratches and make scratched optical discs readable again.

But I still don’t know if I buy that either.

What do you think? Was I just lucky or did the toothpaste actually work?

13 responses to Does Toothpaste Truly Make A CD Or DVD Work Again?

  1. David M October 27th, 2009 at 9:38 am

    I have found that cleaning a disk exceptionally well with soap and water and rinsing it very well helps quite often. My theory is that there is sometimes a speck of crud within the micro scratches that we just don’t see.

        Reply

  2. Sage Crispin October 27th, 2009 at 10:22 am

    TOOTHPASTE???!!! Everybody knows you use Peanut Butter-hold the crunchy. But seriously folks, I too have, so far, been able to save everything with soap and water-both CD’s and DVD’s. If that didn’t work though, I would escalate the war, first to toothpaste, then the Peanut Butter followed by a REALLY good washing. Some guy on the TODAY show said Peanut Butter followed by a wipe, not a wash-I’ll pass on that one.

    Has anyone tried a dishwasher? That’s suppose to work too, as long as they come out before the drying cycle.

    Sage

        Reply

  3. MartYn October 27th, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Rich. I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that it was the toothpaste that fixed it. I’ve been using that trick for years with a very high success rate of it making a scratched disc readable. I’ve used it on PC discs and also playstation discs that have been scratched. After the toothpast treatment the playstation disc worked again. It truely is a handy little thing to try. I mean what does anyone have to lose by trying it, maybe a small splodge of toothpast they could have cleaned their teeth with? The key is to do what you did, rub the toothpaste right it, let it dry, then wash it off and leave it to dry. Then you have residue on the disc so i just use a glasses lense cloth to finish it off and remove any water marks, then boom! it works :-D
    Another thing i do which has people gasping in horror is when i spill a drink on my keyboard (who hasn’t done that) i immediately unplug it and put it under a tap drowning it in water. I think dry it off as best i can, stick it in the sun or airing cupboard until its completely dry and plug it back in. Hey presto no sticky keys!

        Reply

  4. JimmyDee October 28th, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Yes toothpaste will bring a disk back. I had a software disk that came damaged from the store. It was scratched so bad it would not work. About 15 min of polishing the disk with toothpaste and a good rinse, all was well. I’ve done a few data disks as well.

        Reply

  5. Puchu October 28th, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    This also worked for me too. My DVD was not even getting detected ,then I tried the toothpaste method and some how it got detected but showing blank. But I was able to recover all the data on that disc by a few opensource tools.

        Reply

  6. Peter Cully October 28th, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Toothpaste, like any mild (and mild is the operative word) abrasive will take a thin layer of plastic from the surface of the disc except for where the scratches are which reduces the depth of the scratch, thus reducing the likelyhood of the scratch rendering the disc unreadable. A commercial metal polish used for either silver or brass (known in this part of the world {New Zealand} as “Silvo” or “Brasso”, Brasso being more agressive) will also work but whatever is used the disc must be washed with plenty of water and a good quality hand soap then thoroughly rinsed and allowed to air dry in a place where there is no direct sunshine. Do not use a cloth or paper towel to dry the disc as this can give more scratches. I have never tried this with data or video discs but it works well on music CDs.

        Reply

  7. LuisR October 28th, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    This works because toothpaste is abrasive. It is meant for polishing the hard surface of our teeth but it is very mild to avoid damaging their hard yet delicate surface. I purchased a CD repair kit many years ago that has an abrasive paste not unlike toothpaste which works wonders for damaged discs.

        Reply

  8. pogo October 29th, 2009 at 12:35 am

    have never used it on a disk, but should work. toothpaste is very good polish for silver and gold, so should work very well on a disk. I use special cleaning fluid for camera lenses. you might test baking soda paste sometime since it is good substitute for toothpaste.

        Reply

  9. Della R October 29th, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    I have used toothpaste successfully for some years now, and it’s always worked for me. For bad greasy fingerprints on DVD’s I’ve also used Dawn dishwashing liquid & warm water. I use a corner of a paper towel wetted with warm water & just a very small touch of the soap. I lightly go around the disc until i can actually see the suds (about 4 to 5 times) in a circular motion. I then take a clean paper towel wetted in warm water and lightly wipe off the suds, then buff it up with an old piece of clean T shirt. Most of the time this works well for me, but sometimes the discs are just too far gone to rescue. Anything is worth a try if the information on the discs was something important or personal to you. Otherwise into the old shredder it goes.

        Reply

  10. Eric November 1st, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Back when CD’s were new and there were no optical computer drives yet, I used to use cigarette ash and a cd cleaning kit with a very soft cloth to polish scratches and make my music playable again. The important thing is to use a center to edge motion. The reason is that if you use a circular motion you could scratch a track down it’s length and make it unreadable. An optical drive has error correction built into it and if it is missing a bit or a byte from a track/file it can usually fill it in and make it work or angle the laser a little and read around the scratch. I have a machine I got from Office Depot with an abrasive pad on the edge of a 1/4 inch wide soft disk which will evenly take off a layer of plastic from a damaged disk and correct most scratch errors.

    The only thing is that if the scratch gets into the foil layer you are out of luck since that is the data layer and when enough of it is missing no optical drive can correct the problem. If you are lucky you can read the other files on the disk but not the ones with the scratch.

        Reply

  11. marc November 2nd, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Toothpaste is also handy for polishing out light scratches in automotive paint as well as removing water marks on furniture.

        Reply

  12. 3dSurveyor November 6th, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    I would not use a paper towel for this, as it is abrasive and could scratch the disc even more. Use a soft, lint free cloth. Also, when polishing, you need to go in an edge-to-middle direction, not parallel with the side of the disc, or so I have always read.

        Reply

  13. Tim November 8th, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I have heard that rubbing a disk with the inside of a freshly peled banana skin is supposed to do the same thing. Although I have never tried it myself.

        Reply

Leave a Reply