If you still own and use your VCR, the chances are that it has a tendency to create unwanted effects on your tapes like static, or lines through the picture. This is usually due to having dirtied up heads on your VCR.
The heads are what actually read the data from your tapes, and then transmits that data into your television screen. If these heads become dirty, over time the picture quality will degrade further and further until they’re cleaned. This is especially important if you’re attempting to transfer your important VHS to DVD because you’re going to want the best possible transfer you can get.
Over the years, you may have seen video tape cleaners, or cleaning devices in the shape of a video tape that you insert into the VCR to clean the heads. While this method can sometimes work, it’s often not advised because these can actually damage or dirty up the heads even further with repeated use.
The best way to clean the heads is a farily easy process, but requires attention to detail to avoid damaging critical components of your VCR. The items you’ll need are pieces of white paper, a screwdriver and a bottle of isopropyl alcohol. In all likelihood, you should already have these items around the home.
The first step is to unplug the VCR, and remove the top cover, exposing the internal components. All VCRs are slightly different, but they contain the same basic parts. The image below will show you the read/write heads you need to be aware of.
Now that you have the cover off and have visibility of the read/write head, you can begin the cleaning process. Cut your piece of white paper into strips about 1.5-2″ thick and about 4-5″ in length. Now, soak half of one of your strips with alcohol, making sure it’s wet. To clean the heads, place the wet piece of paper on the drum and rotate it counter clockwise several times. Lightly press your finger against the drum with the hand holding the paper while you spin it.
After a few rotations, take a look at the paper and you’ll probably notice some dirt or grime left on it. Keep repeating the process with new strips of paper until the paper no longer has any dirt on it. Keep in mind that VCR heads are very delicate, and you should use a very light touch when cleaning them, or risk damaging them even further.
Once you’re finished, that’s all there is to it! Your VCR should now provide you with more clarity until they dirty up again.