Why I keep toothpaste on my desk

This entry was originally posted at Bird & Co Creative Design

Our desks have some odd things on them.

As I look around I can see two yoyos (A henry’s viper and a promotional FCA yoyo), a rope made from those red rubber bands that the post lady brings all our suppliers invoices (otherwise known as post) wrapped in, an ‘England’ megaphone which I won in the World cup raffle we had in the office, a skype phone I’ve never used (if the owner would like it back, just ask).

Yoyos. A misspent youth...

Yoyos. A misspent youth...

Megaphone - useful for tea round orders...

Megaphone - useful for tea round orders...

Perhaps the oddest though, is a tube of toothpaste.


At first you might think I’m simply spending too much time in the office but there is a better explanation.

Scratched CDs and DVDs

At Bird & Co we are always receiving disks full of images from clients. Sometimes these disks are in cases, nicely labled and we have no problem reading them. Other times they have no case, we only have a vague idea of what they contain due to unrecognisable scrawlings, and in worst cases they are dirty and scratched so not even our computers can make sense of them.

Scrathed CD's. Hard to photograph

Scratched CDs. Hard to photograph

The Solution!

To remedy the situation we use a trick I first learnt back in the day of the Playstation 1.

Step 1. Take CD or DVD and apply a small blob of toothpaste to the scratched area

apply toothpaste to the scratched DVD or CD

Step 2. Rub the toothpaste in to the surface in a circular motion with tissue or a lint free cloth.
Do this for 3 to 5 minutes concentrating on the scratch you are trying to fix.

rub the scratched cd in a circular motion

Step 3. Rinse the toothpaste from the scratched CD or DVD making sure you don’t leave any on the surface. Dry and then inspect to make sure all the toothpaste has been removed. Pay special attention to the ridges in the centre of the disk.

cds are waterproof!

Step 4. Place in your machine and backup your data!

scratched cd fixed!

If your CD is still unreadable, you should try the process again for a bit longer. I would also recommend trying it in a proper tray loading CD drive. In my experience, the slot loading drives on macs don’t seem to be as good at reading damaged disks.

Hopefully you should by now have got your scratched CD working again, but why does it work?

Why it works

The data on a CD isn’t stored on the surface of the disk. The colour you see in the disk is actually the data layer underneath some polycarbonate plastic. When you get a scratch, a barrier is created between the data layer, and the laser in your CD Drive.

Toothpaste is slightly abrasive, so when you rub it in to the surface it acts like very fine sandpaper and wears down the surface of the plastic. As long as the scratch isn’t too deep, it is possible to reduce the depth of it to the point where the CD drive can read the disk again.

This method works best with paste rather than the Gel stuff. Unfortunately it won’t work every time, but as long as the scratches aren’t too deep, you have a good chance of recovering the data. If it doesn’t, at least it will smell a lot nicer :)

Have fun!


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