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From: (Sam Goldwasser)
Subject: Re: What is the Best VCR Head Cleaner?
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 1996 02:13:07 GMT

In article <> "Louis A. Iannotta" <> writes:

>   There is no such thing as the best VCR head cleaner, mainly because they 
>   don't always work or can cause damage.  To be safe a professional 
>   cleaning is the best but if you want a standby for emergencies, a dry 
>   cleaning tape made by Scotch will work if used sparingly.

I prefer the wet type since they tend to be less abrasive.  As noted,
a cleaning by hand - professional or otherwise - is best.

General Guide to VCR Cleaning and Rubber Parts Replacement:

All the guideposts, wheels, and rubber parts of a VCR should be cleaned
periodically - how often depends on usage.  Of course, no one really does it
unless something goes wrong.

Do not attempt to clean the video heads until you read the procedure
below, you can break them - very expensive lesson.  In most cases, they
do not need attention anyhow.

Qtips and alcohol (91% medicinal is ok, pure isopropyl is better. Avoid
rubbing alcohol especially if it contains any additives) can be used
everywhere except the video heads.  Just dry quickly to avoid leaving
residue behind.

Cleaning may get your machine going well enough to get by until any replacement
rubber parts arrive.

Things to clean:

1. Capstan and pinch roller.  These collect a lot of crud mostly oxide which
   flakes off of (old rental) tapes.  Use as many Q-tips (wet but not dripping
   with alcohol) as necessary to remove all foreign matter from the capstan
   (the shiny shaft that pulls the tape through the VCR for play and record).
   Just don't get impatient and use something sharp - the crud  will come off
   with the Qtips and maybe some help from a fingernail.

   Clean the pinch roller (presses against the capstan in Play and Record)
   and until no more black stuff comes off.  Use as many Qtips as necessary.

   If the pinch roller is still hard and/or shiny, it will probably need
   replacement.  Many are available for about $6 from the sources listed
   below.  It is sometimes possible to put the pinch roller in an electric
   drill, drill press, or lathe, and carefully file off the hard shiny dried
   out rubber surface layer, but only use a last resort - and this fix is
   probably temporary at best.

2. Various guideposts including the roller guides (the white rollers on metal
   posts which are near the video head drum when in play or record mode).
   When in FF or REW, or with no tape present, these move on tracks to
   a position toward the front of the VCR.

3. Idler tire (idler swings between reels and transfers motor power to
   reels - clean until no more black stuff comes off.  A dirty or worn idler
   tire is probably the single most common VCR problem.

   If the idler tire appears cracked, glazed, or dried out, it will need to be
   replaced.  About $.50-$1.00.  As a temporary measure, you can usually
   turn the tire inside-out and replace it.  The protected inner (now outer)
   surface will grip well enough to restore functionality until a replacement
   tire arrives - and verify the diagnosis as to the cause of your problem.

   Also, the idler assembly includes a slip clutch.  If this weakens, the
   idler may not have enough force to press on the reel table edges.  When in
   doubt, the entire idler assembly is often available as a replacement part.

4. Reel table edges - surface on the reel tables where the idler contacts.

5. Audio/control head (right side) and full erase head (if you have one, left
   side).  Q-tips and alcohol are ok for these.

6. Anything else that the tape contacts on its exciting journey through your

7. Rubber belts.  Access to some of these will probably require the removal
   of the bottom cover.  After noting where each belt goes, remove them
   individually (if possible) and clean with alcohol and Qtips or lint free
   cloth.  Dry quickly to avoid degrading the rubber from contact with the
   alcohol.  If a belt is trapped by some assembly and not easy to remove,
   use the Qtip on the belt and/or pulley in place.  However, if it is
   stretched, flabby, or damaged, you will need to figure out how to free it.

   Any belts that appear loose, flabby or do not return instantly to
   their relaxed size when stretched by 25% or so will need to be replaced
   and may be the cause of your problems.  Belts cost about $.30-$2.00
   and complete replacement belt kits are often available by model for $3.-$12.
   Meanwhile, the belts will function better once they are cleaned, maybe
   just enough to get by until your replacements arrive.

8. Video heads: READ CAREFULLY.

   While VCRs should be cleaned periodically, the video heads themselves
   usually do not need cleaning unless you have been playing old or defective
   rental tapes which may leave oxide deposits on the tips of the delicate
   ferrite head chips.  Unless you are experiencing video snow, intermittent
   color, or loss of or intermittent HiFi sound (HiFi VCRs only, the HiFi
   heads are located on the video head drum) leave the video heads alone.

   I have used wet type cleaning head cleaning tapes with some success.
   Follow the directions but wait sufficient time for everything to dry out
   or you will have a tangled mess - 15 minutes or so should do it..

   To clean by hand, you will need what are called 'head cleaning sticks'.
   These are covered by chamois and are safest.  DO NOT USE QTIPS (COTTON
   SWABS). These can catch on the ferrite cores and damage them or leave
   fibers stuck in the heads.  Qtips can be used for cleaning the other
   parts like the rollers and audio/control head as described above but
   not video heads.

   To use the cleaning stick, moisten it with head cleaner or alcohol.
   Pure isopropyl is best, however, the 91% medicinal stuff is ok as long
   as you dry everything pretty quickly.  Don't flood it as it will take
   a long time to dry and you run the risk of any water in the alcohol
   sitting on surfaces and resulting in rust (very unlikely, but don't
   take the chance).

   Gently hold the flat portion of the chamois against the upper cylinder
   where it is joined to the lower (non-rotating) cylinder.  Rotate the upper
   cylinder be hand so that the heads brush up against the moist
   will break the fragile ferrite of the heads - $$$$.  Side
   to side is ok as long as you are gentle.

   Depending on how dirty your heads are, a couple of passes may
   be enough.  Let everything dry out for at least 1/2 hour.  This
   process can be repeated.  However, one pass will usually do it.

The following are good sources for consumer electronics replacement parts,
especially for VCRs, TVs, and other audio and video equipment:

MCM Electronics			(VCR parts, Japanese semiconductors,
1-800-543-4330.			 tools, test equipment, audio, consumer
				 electronics including microwave oven parts
				 and electric range elements, etc.)

Dalbani				(Excellent Japanese semiconductor source,
1-800-325-2264.			 VCR parts, other consumer electronics,)

Premium Parts			(Very complete VCR parts, some tools, adapter
1-800-558-9572.			 cables, other replacement parts.)

--- sam

From: (Dave Platt)
Subject: Re: What is the Best VCR Head Cleaner?
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 1996 19:59:28 GMT

>The best VCR head cleaner is not to buy a cleaning tape at all. Go to 
>Radio Shack and buy a bottle video head cleaning fluid. Go home, take 
>the cover off your VCR, and clean the heads on your VCR yourself. A 
>small piece of cowhide works the best, but if you can get cowhide, you 
>can use english leather or something similar (I would not recommend 
>using cotton swabs, as the cotton can get hooked on the heads). Simply 
>soak the cowhide, and rub back on forth on the heads. Video heads are 
>very fragile, so be careful, but you can press hard enough to clean 

Yeek!  This is the first time I've ever heard anyone recommend actually
rubbing on the heads... it strikes me as a fairly risky technique.

The method I've read about, and have used: I use a "Chem-pad" (a folded
swatch of a lint-free fabric, which has been premoistened with
high-purity isopropyl alcohol and then sealed in a foil-and-plastic
packet).  An acceptable substitute would be a swab with a
chamois-covered head.  Definitely do NOT use cotton, or any fabric with
loose fibers.

Moisten the cleaning patch with video-head cleaner or electronics-grade
isopropyl alcohol (if it isn't premoistened).  With one hand, GENTLY
hold the surface of the patch/swab against the video drum, with just
barely enough pressure to hold it there.  Put one finger of your other
hand on the top of the video drum, and rotate the drum SLOWLY (do _not_
flip it with your finger to make it spin, and definitely do NOT turn on
the machine and have the motor spin the drum).  Rotate the drum three or
four times, so that all of the heads are wiped by the cleaning patch.
Take the patch away, check to see how much oxide and dirt came off, turn
it to a clean spot, hold it against the drum again, and rotate the drum
a few more times.  Repeat this process until there's longer any visible
dirt or oxide coming off on the cleaning patch.

This approach is gentle and is safe for the heads, since the cleaning
patch or swab isn't pushed into the heads, and isn't scrubbed up and
down - the heads travel _across_ the cleaning patch in the same basic
way that they travel across the tape during use, and with a similar
amount of pressure.

Oh - also - be aware that if you smoke (tobacco, or anything else)
around your VCR, you're constantly gooping up the drum, heads, pinch
rollers, tape guides, and all the other moving parts with tar.  Tobacco
tar is very bad for tape heads, and it's very difficult to remove
safely.  Consumer Reports uses tobacco-smoke tar on glass as its
"difficult to remove" test stain, when rating window and surface

You can probably extend the lifetime of your VCR by several years if
you'll refrain from smoking.  The same is true of your body's lifetime,
but I imagine you knew that ;-}
Dave Platt
      USNAIL: The 3DO Company, Systems Software group
              600 Galveston Drive
              Redwood City, CA  94063

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