From time to time you need to clean your VCR heads in order to get a better image quality from your VHS tapes. If you are planning to convert your VHS collection into DVDs, this should be your first task before starting the process.

There are on the market cleaning tapes from several different manufacturers. Of course you can use one of these tapes, but in our opinion they don’t clean correctly the VCR heads. In some extreme situations, even using these tapes your VCR heads will continue dirty.

The cleaning process is easy but requires some attention or you can damage the read/write reads from your VCR. There are some tricks we will teach you in this tutorial.

The material you will need you probably already have at home: cotton swabs, blank sheet of paper and a bottle of alcohol.

The first step is to unplug your VCR from AC power and remove its cover. In Figure 1 we show what you need to look for inside your VCR: the drum, the erase head and the audio and control heads.

How to Clean Your VCR HeadsFigure 1: A look inside your VCR.

You will use a cotton swab wet in alcohol to clean the erase, audio and control heads. The read/write reads are located on the drum and require a “special” procedure. Don’t use cotton swab on the drum or you can damage the VCR heads. We’ll show in details how to clean the heads. Keep reading.

Attention: The procedures described on the following pages CANNOT be used on optical units like CD and DVD players.


Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.