Picture of the Slightly dusty dual layer DVD disc, showing the gold data side

How to Fix a Scratched DVD Disc




We’ve played digital video discs (DVDs) for nearly twenty years now. Daily watching them has been a major filler of our leisure hours. So, to get the most of our entertainment pennies, we buy lots of used DVD discs. Thus, we’ve experienced freezing DVDs often, and learned various ways how to fix a scratched DVD movie disc.  Once repaired, these DVDs can last many more years without further play issues resulting from the scratches.

No DVD player, and no DVD disc is forever immune from this problem. Whether a home or car DVD player. Whether a cheap portable or most high-end home theater DVD player. All DVD movie players eventually go bad, and many of these start skipping during movie playback.

No kind of DVD is exempt either. All optical discs, including DVDs will eventually skip, no matter who makes them or what their content. So it’s useful for DVD movie buffs to know how to deal with the DVD skipping. For that, we’re here to offer tips on how to fix a skipping DVD movie disc.

How to Fix a Scratched DVD Video Disc

Don’t Assume that the DVD is Scratched too Badly

When you notice a scratched DVD, don’t immediately pitch it yet.  It may in fact be fixable. Or, it might not be the scratched disc at all. Often, even DVDs without any visible scratches on the play side can skip. Sometimes, the DVD players themselves are to blame. So with scratched DVDs, you must deduce the source of any skipping. This saves you the money for new DVD players. It also saves the cost of replacing good DVDs.  A visibly scratched DVD does not mean a no longer usable DVD.

how to fix a scratched DVD. Buy a new DVD player, like this one. This is a picture of the Sony DVP-SR210P DVD player packaging, top view. Newer DVD players play scratched DVDs better.
how to fix a scratched DVD. Buy a new DVD player, such as this Sony DVP-SR210P DVD player. Newer DVD players play scratched DVDs better.

The DVD is Damaged

The DVD itself may indeed be scratched. Or, It could be aging beyond its useful life (around fifty years). Or poor cleaning techniques scratched the DVD prior.  Scratches, while not the only cause of DVD failure, are by far the most likely cause.

The DVD Player is Worn Out

Or, the DVD player itself is defective. Your DVD may indeed have scratches.  But a decent player should be able to play through all but the deepest ones.  If your DVD player does not, then perhaps the laser that reads the digitized video data from the DVDs has weakened. A weak laser can’t read through scratches very well.  Or, perhaps dust has deposited on the player’s laser lens. Or maybe you have worn out the player’s servos and the motor that spins the DVD. Like DVDs, the DVD players age and defects show up as they do so. So again, don’t think that your scratched DVD disc is, by default, unplayable.  At least, try it in another DVD disc player.  How well a scratched DVD can play in today’s players just might surprise you, pleasantly.

Don’t Diagnose Prematurely

In any case, there are many reasons why a DVD movie may skip while playing. So don’t throw away that scratched DVD or the skipping DVD player.  At least, don’t do that until you figure out which is the real problem. How to fix a scratched DVD indeed entails some investigative work, since the skipping has so many possible causes.  It may not be the scratched disc at all.

Try the Scratched DVD in a Different DVD Player

If it plays fine there, then consider. If the DVD player that cannot play the scratched DVD is more than several years old, then it’s high time to buy a replacement player.

As mentioned, DVD players do indeed age. Their laser light output decreases the older they get. This leads to impairment of the player’s ability to read the optical data on the DVDs. With decent sub two-hundred dollar DVD players around today, just go out and buy a new one. It’s aggravating to put up with a bothersome DVD player that’s more than five years old, and can’t play scratched DVDs very well. If you’ve watched hundreds of movies on your player, then you got your money’s worth from it.  So, replace it.

But if the player only skips on just this one DVD, then perhaps there’s nothing wrong with either. This scratched disc and this player may never get along, no matter how much you clean each. This could mean that that particular player just won’t properly play that particular DVD, any scratched notwithstanding. So, just don’t watch that DVD in the player where it tends to skip. Remember that some players are better at reading accurately through dirt and scratches than others. This is particularly so of the newer players. Recently built DVD players have more advanced error fixing circuits and tightly focused lasers than older models. Now your 1999 vintage DVD player may still function ads designed. But those older units just don’t play DVD discs as well. Even if the player is brand new old stock, a DVD player upgrade is likely necessary.

Try Polishing the Scratched DVD Movie Disc

We detail how to clean discs in our How to Clean a DVD Disc post. Essentially, you should avoid any chemicals harsher than dish soap unless you plan on polishing the scratches out of the DVD. For simple cleaning though, just use dish soap and water. Wet the DVD with a filtered water and soap solution. Next, gently rub with smooth fingers. Then, rinse with more filtered water. Finally, dry with a lint-free lens cleaning cloth.

The washing removes fingerprints, oils, and loose dirt. Furthermore, the wiping dry with the cloth not only removes the water from the DVD. It also buffs out the microscopic scratches that often cause skipping during play.

If cleaning doesn’t render the DVD playable again, try polishing it with tooth paste. Again, wet the DVD with a filtered water. Next, place a dab of small grit toothpaste on the play side.  Then, gently work the toothpaste around the entire play surface of the DVD with smooth fingers. Focus on the areas showing the most visible scratches.  Then, rinse with more filtered water. Make sure you remove the toothpaste abrasives completely.  Finally, dry with a lint-free lens cleaning cloth.

 

How to fix a scratched DVD movie disc. Picture of the Slightly dusty dual layer DVD disc, showing the gold data side
How to fix a scratched DVD movie disc. Slightly dusty dual layer DVD disc, showing the gold data side

How to Prevent Scratches on DVDs

Never Scratch your DVD Movies in the First Place

A stitch in time saves nine when maintaining these sensitive DVD video discs. To preserve skip free playback, avoid ever scratching the DVDs. To keep them safe, always store them in their cases when not watching. Don’t leave DVDs out of their cases on the coffee table or on the floor.

Never Touch the DVD Data Surface

Avoid getting fingerprints on the play side of the DVD. Instead, grasp them by their edges. Do not grab them via their flat surfaces. This limits the need to ever clean skin oils from them.  Correct handling of the discs is perhaps the best way for how to fix a scratched DVD discs.

Keep Sharp Objects away from your DVDs

No knives, pins, pens, pencils, steel wool, or any other sharp or abrasive objects.  Ideally, no material should ever touch the play surfaces of your DVD discs.

Suggested Reading

References

Revision History

  • 2018-04-05: Originally published.