Cleaning Video Tape Path and Heads
You Will Need:
- Lint-free cloth (fine-weaved)
- Cleaning swabs
- Isopropyl alcohol (pure)
Most video appliance stores can supply these products.
- Cleaning video heads isn't particularly complicated, but it should still be approached with caution. Don't start unless you're confident and only use cleaning materials which you know are appropriate for this job.
- Be very very careful about operating electrical equipment with internal parts exposed. Most jurisdictions have regulations about who is qualified to undertake live electrical work. Be legal and safe!
The main reason for needing to clean your heads is that the picture and/or sound quality has deteriorated. Although it's probably a good idea to clean your heads periodically, don't get too carried away. Most VCRs can go at least several years between cleans.
If your picture or sound quality deteriorates suddenly, your heads may have become clogged with a piece of dirt. You may find that shuttling your tape or leaving it to play for a couple of hours may fix the problem. If not, you need to get under the hood.
The actual cleaning process doesn't just involve the heads - you need to clean the entire tape path. This means every part of the VCR which comes into contact with the tape. An easy way to see this is to remove the top cover of the VCR and play a tape. You'll see the tape get pulled onto it's path with a system of rollers and guides.
Eject the tape and disconnect the VCR before you begin cleaning.
Cleaning the Tape Path
(1) Soak a cloth in the isopropyl alcohol - enough to make it completely wet but not dripping.
(2) Carefully wipe each part of the tape path - rollers, guides, pins, etc. Although these parts are not as sensitive as the heads, you still need to treat them nicely.
(3) Wet a new cloth with isopropyl alcohol and gently wipe the audio and erase heads with a side-to-side motion.
(4) Now the most delicate part - the video heads. The large round spinning part is the "drum assembly" and the heads are actually tiny components imbedded into the drum. It's very important that the cloth you use cannot get caught on the heads, which is why you must use fine-woven, lint-free cloth.
Wet a cloth with isopropyl alcohol. Steady the drum with one hand and carefully begin rubbing the head drum in a side-to-side motion. Slowly rotate the drum and clean the entire circumference once or twice. Now see if your cloth is dirty. If so, repeat the process with a clean cloth until no more dirt is removed.
Video Cleaning Cassettes
A simpler option is to use a specialised cleaning cassette, in which you simply insert the casette and play it. Opinions vary about how safe and effective these are, but if you buy a reputable brand it's unlikely that the occasional use will damage your machine. However this method is not generally considered to be the best approach.