How to Manually Clean Your VCR Heads
By Gabriel Torres on July 12, 2005
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 donít 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.
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 ďspecialĒ procedure. Donít use cotton swab on the drum or you can damage the VCR heads. Weíll 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.
Cleaning the erase head is very easy. Just locate it and rub the cotton swab on it, like you would do to clean a tape deck head.
The control and audio heads are two separated heads but located on the same place, as you can see in Figure 5. The cleaning process is the same as the one used for the erase head: just rub a cotton swab with alcohol on them.
The read/write heads are located on the VCR drum and they cannot be cleaned using a cotton swab or you will damage your VCR. In Figure 8 you see the drum and two of the read/write heads. If your VCR is a four-head VCR, you will find four of those heads there.
To clean the read/write heads you will need a 1.5Ē x 4Ē (3.5 cm x 10 cm) piece of paper. Just get a blank sheet of paper and cut it.
Get one piece of paper and wet half of it with alcohol.
To clean the heads you should put the wet piece of paper on the drum and rotate it counter-clock wise several times.
Now letís talk about the incorrect way of doing that. You cannot do like we show in Figure 11 or you can damage the heads. The correct way we show in Figure 12.
Press the wet paper against the drum and rotate it counter-clock wise with your other hand. You should rotate it several times, until you see no more dirt coming out of the heads (you should take a look at the paper from time to time to check the dirt level). You also should feel the heads passing by the paper with the finger you are using to press the paper against the drum (usually the index or middle finger). You donít need to press the paper too hard: not too hard that will damage the head nor too soft that wonít make any pressure with the heads.
If your VCR heads are too dirty you may need to discard the piece of paper you are using and repeat the process with a new piece of paper. The goal is to get a piece of paper that will return clean from the cleaning process, meaning that the heads are clean.
Thatís it. Now your VCR heads are clean and you will get a better image. Put your VCR cover back in place and start using it again.