VCRs and videotape may be down, but they aren't out. There are still some old-school holdouts that have yet to replace their treasured tape collection with DVDs or Blu-ray discs. There are also a lot of family memories stored on videotapes that haven't been transferred yet. The motion picture business still uses larger video tape decks in some cases as well. So, while most people have joined the digital revolution, there's still a place for the VCR in this modern world. And because of this, there's also a need to clean those VCRs.
Over time, the enemy of the video tape -- the dreaded dust -- collects on the various heads and rollers inside the VCR. This dust can affect the picture quality, and if it gets dirty enough, it can also encounter playback and performance problems. There's no hard and fast rule about how often your VCR needs some attention. It depends on how dusty your home gets and how often you still use your machine. If you're a regular tape watcher, then one cleaning a month should do it.
You've probably seen the self-cleaning tapes that take a few minutes on the "play" setting to clean your VCR heads. Professionals don't recommend using these tapes because of claims of poor cleaning and sometimes even damaging the tape heads. The only real way to clean your VCR is by cracking it open and doing it yourself. It's not as scary as it seems, though. We'll break it down on the next page.