Sound Advice: Best products for cleaning CDs and other electronics

Q. I could not find a cleaner for my CDs and a salesman recommended eyeglass cleaner as a substitute. Since then I have been using the eyeglass cleaner to clean my CDs and it does not seem like it is harming them. Is using eyeglass cleaner on my CDs OK? What do I do if the CDs are scratched and they skip?

—B.D., Minneapolis

A. The eyeglass cleaner is fine, but if you do not use it for cleaning eyeglasses as well there are better options that are either cheaper or have more applications. You can use something as simple as a bit of mild dishwashing liquid mixed with water, or a 1:1 solution of 90% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and water to clean your CDs.

Use a clean, soft cloth to clean and dry them (preferably using a separate cloth for each task) and always work from the middle out to the edge, like you are cleaning the spoke of a bicycle wheel. Wiping in circles may mar the surface and cause skips because the laser reads the discs in a circular direction.

(Here is a bit of trivia for everyone — did you know that CDs are read from the inside-out, opposite of the outside-in of a vinyl record?)

If you want a dedicated cleaner that does a great job and can clean many more things than CDs, I strongly recommend Austere V Series Clean & Protect. It uses mild agents that are safe with most electronics such as TV screens, computer displays, automobile touchscreens, and phone and tablet displays. It will work with CDs, too, and includes a special dual-sided cloth with clearly marked sides for cleaning and polishing. Both the solution and cloth are antibacterial as well. The spray bottle includes a generous amount of fluid that will last a long time, and Clean & Protect’s leading-edge quality, features and usefulness makes this a product an excellent purchase for most anyone. Austere V Series Clean & Protect sells for $29.99. austere.com

If your CDs are scratched, the industry standard repair device is the SkipDr (pronounced skip doctor) from Digital Innovations. The SkipDr comes in both manual and electrically driven versions and uses a mildly abrasive buffing wheel working perpendicularly to the disc surface, along with a special fluid to remove scratches by lightly buffing the surface of the CD.

The SkipDr works with both CDs and DVDs and I have used one for years, with great success. The CDs really look like new when they come out of the device, and inevitably all the scratches (and accompanying skips) are gone.

SkipDr is overkill unless the CDs are skipping, and I would only use the SkipDr as a last resort since it does remove a tiny bit of the CD surface when you use it.

I have used both the $22 manual (hand crank) version and the $28 motorized version and the latter is very nice to have, as making a complete revolution of the CD takes a lot of high-speed cranking. digitalinnovations.com

Please note that the SkipDr does not work with Blu-ray discs, which have a special hard protective coating. This coating makes it unlikely you will scratch a Blu-ray anyway, but I want to warn everyone before they put a Blu-ray into a SkipDr!

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