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How to Clean a DVD Player

If you want your DVD player to serve up movies without any glitches, you've got to keep it clean.
If you want your DVD player to serve up movies without any glitches, you've got to keep it clean.
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Taking care of a DVD player is a lot like taking care of a cactus. Provide a little moisture once a week by dusting it with a damp (not wet!) cloth and it'll be fine. Too much invasive cleaning isn't good for the DVD player -- in general, it's better to just leave it alone to get on with its movie-playing business. However, when your player does break down, a thorough cleaning can be just what it needs for another few years of life. DVD players aren't heavy-duty electronics, which makes their malfunctions mercifully easy to diagnose. If you didn't drop it off the roof and it's not on fire, all it needs is a good dusting.

There are basically three places that you need to keep clean on your DVD player: the case, the vents and the lens. While the case is only vulnerable to liquid spills and sticky-handed toddlers, both the vents and the lens are extremely sensitive to dust. Electronics are serious dust magnets, and particles that enter through the vents can work their way to the laser lens that reads the disc, making your picture go all weird or even forcing the DVD player give up on reading anything at all. Dust is the enemy.

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If your DVD is on the fritz, you need to get that dust out. Before you start cleaning, we have a word or two of caution. DVD players are usually cheerful, obliging machines, but start messing around with them, and even the cheap ones can become dusty little prima donnas. That's why DVD instruction manuals are virtually unanimous in forbidding the use of cleaning discs and alcohol swabs as well as generally mucking around with the hardware. Should you listen to them? That's up to you. Accidents are inevitable, and if the cleaning process somehow scratches the lens or accidentally breaks some fragile yet irreplaceable part, there won't be anyone to cry to. On the other hand, if your beloved but warranty-less DVD player isn't working, what are you supposed to do? Go up to the attic to watch videos on a VCR like some ape creature in a cave? No, thank you.

So, while there's definitely a risk factor to cleaning your DVD player, there are also safe ways to keep it dust-free and in good working order. Coming up, we've got some guidelines for ridding your DVD player of dust bunnies and dirt.

 

That feather duster is just perfect for keeping a DVD player lint-, dirt- and dust-free.
That feather duster is just perfect for keeping a DVD player lint-, dirt- and dust-free.
Jupiterimages/Thinkstock

There are two reasons to clean your DVD player: to perform general maintenance and to wipe up spills. For general, light cleaning, just dust the DVD player case once a week or so with a damp cloth, and try not to spill maple syrup directly into the vents. If you do somehow actually spill something wet or sticky onto the outer casing, unplug the player immediately and wipe down the surface with a soft cloth and a gentle cleanser. Make sure not to spray the surface of the DVD player directly, as any drips or seepage from the cleaning fluid can cause serious internal problems.

If you're having a serious problem with your DVD player, nine times out of 10 it's because the lens is dusty. This can be a pain because, as you may have noticed, the lens is located deep inside the DVD player and you probably won't be able to reach it without busting out an adorably tiny screwdriver. Instead, you'll have to rely on cleaning discs -- yes, the very same discs forbidden by DVD manuals! Cleaning discs are designed like regular DVDs, but with a tiny brush on one side. As the DVD spins, the brush knocks off dirt and dust particles from the lens. It's great when it works, but use with caution. The brush is really just moving around dust, which means it can also knock more dirt onto the lens or just move dust around inside the machine for it to settle later.

Unless you're watching DVDs in a lumber mill or a mummy's tomb, dust isn't going to be a problem for you. What will eventually prevent your DVD player from performing its best is dust accumulation around the vents. All you have to remember for cleaning the vents is to avoid blowing dust directly into the DVD player. For that, a vacuum cleaner or an electrostatic or microfiber duster work great. Just be sure that you always dust away from the vents and toward the floor to keep from spreading more dust into the air.

Raid your beauty arsenal for supplies to clean your DVD player's lens.
Raid your beauty arsenal for supplies to clean your DVD player's lens.
Jupiterimages/Thinkstock

Rule No. 1 for troubleshooting DVD player malfunctions is to clean the DVD itself first. It may just be that the disc you're using is scratched or smudged. Always try playing a few discs you can trust (ideally, you should test new ones) before monkeying with the DVD player.

If your DVD player is getting old and cranky (and not worth repairing), it might be time to open up the case and give the old insides a good dusting. Even if you've been diligently dusting the outer case and the vents for the past 10 years, there's still going to be buildup on the inside. If possible, try not to touch anything on the inside with your fingers, and don't drink soda from a leaky cup while you clean. But you knew that already.

Once you've got the case open, blast out dust from the corners with a compressed air canister. You can technically use a vacuum cleaner or a hair dryer to clean the inside of the case, but it might be safer not to do so. Both devices create a fair amount of static electricity, and while the risk is low when you're vacuuming or blowing away external dust, there's no reason to risk it. Compressed air canisters are cheap, static-free and easy to find at any electronics store.

We only advocate using this as a last resort, but you can actually clean the lens by hand. Again, don't touch it with your fingers, as the oils on your skin will smudge just about anything you touch. Instead, dip a cotton swab or a cotton ball in a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol to clean the lens, then dry it and pop in a working DVD to test it. Besides using just a little rubbing alcohol to clean the lens, you shouldn't use any solvents to clean your DVD player. The case of your DVD player will stain badly if you try to clean it with anything gentler than a mild soap.

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Sources

  • Bredenberg, Jeff. "Clean It Fast, Clean It Right: The Ultimate Guide to Making Absolutely Everything You Own Sparkle and Shine." St. Martin's Press. 1998.
  • Manuals Online. "DVD Player Manuals." 2010. (Dec. 3, 2010). http://tv.manualsonline.com/manuals/device/dvd_player.html

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