Internal view of inside a VCR

How To Clean The Heads On Your VCR. An Easy Fix For Bad Picture Quality

8 Simple Steps To A Longer VCR Life


    Cleaning the heads on your VCR is very important to ensure your VCR lasts for a long time. VCRs are no longer manufactured, so you should be doing everything you can to keep yours alive and running. This process is very easy, simple to do, and it will only take a few minutes.

What you will need:

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • 90%-99% isopropyl rubbing alcohol (anything below 90% won't be good enough)
  • A blank sheet of copy/printer paper 
  • A can of canned air (Dust Off) or an air compressor

How to clean the heads on your VCR

  1. Remove any screws holding the top panel to the VCR. There are usually three or four on the back.
  2. Gently remove the top. If it does not come off easily, check to make sure you have gotten all the screws out. Some VCR tops will easily lift straight up, but there are a few that you might have to slide back and then lift off.
  3. The next thing that you should do is blow all of the dust out of the machine. You can do this with a can of Dust Off, an air compressor or even a blow dryer. You might want to do this step outside.
  4. Take your piece of copy paper and fold it lengthwise 5 times.
  5. Add rubbing alcohol to one end of the paper. It is okay if it is dripping a little bit. Alcohol dries fast, so you'll need to wet the paper often.Where are the audio video heads at inside of a VCR VHS player
  6. Clean all of the tape guides and everything that the tape rubs on until there is nothing left to clean off. Make sure to get the audio head and all the chrome spindles poking up too. If it looks like it's supposed to be shiny and it's not, make it shiny again.
  7. Clean the video heads. Hold the paper straight up with the wet end down. With the paper dampened, hold it against the rotating head and spin the head, making sure to only touch the top part of the head. There are 2 or 4 little holes, those are what create the image. Those are the main thing that needs to be cleaned. Spin it a few times and look at the paper. You will notice some black streaks on the paper. Tear or cut off the dirty part of the paper and continue wetting and cleaning until there is nothing else coming off the head. This might take awhile, depending on how much use your VCR has had since it was last cleaned, so be patient and make sure to get everything.
  8. Put the top back on and place the screws in their appropriate holes.



Now that you know how to do this, you should do it every 40-80 hours of use or once a year.


Some people ask if Head Cleaning tapes actually work.

Head cleaning tapes do work, but not nearly as good as manually cleaning the heads. There is no substitute for a little elbow grease



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RIchard E MCKelvey - February 1, 2021

Thanks Spencer I will do this I also have reel to reel tape machine so I am aware of clean tape heads.

Wayne - February 1, 2021

i do clean my video heads using a head cleaning tape but will try the manual way you showed. hope it is as easy as you showed. thanks for the tip.

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