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How to Choose a VCR Head Cleaner: The Best VHS Video Head Cleaners

VCR Head Cleaner

Last updated on February 11th, 2024 at 05:18 am

Summary: You can use a VCR head cleaner to fix VCR picture problems before sending it to a service center.

VCRs can’t go on playing forever without acting up. There will come a time when you start getting a fuzzy picture on your TV.

Or it could be that a color movie playing in black and white. The picture may be distorted or pixellated.

Don’t panic and think you have a serious problem.

The above symptoms may not necessarily be the result of a mechanical or electronic failure.

The culprit could be a dirty VCR head.

That could easily be fixed, in most instances with a VHS video head cleaner. Without burning a hole in your pocket, that is.

You clean the VCR head. If it’s a dirty head that’s the problem, you’ll return your VCR to its normal working condition.

What Causes Dirty VCR Heads?

There are many causes of dirty VCR heads. Chief among them is dust. If you’re living in a dusty area, your VCR heads get dirtier faster. ‘Impurities’ sticking to your VHS tapes, especially when left exposed, can also be transferred to your VCR head.

The same goes for old tapes with mold not visible to the naked eye.

Ways to Clean Your VCR Head

The three main ways are manual cleaning, using a wet VCR head cleaner, and a dry VHS video head cleaner.

Cleaning VCR Without a VHS Video Head Cleaner

This manual cleaning is undertaken by removing your VCR cover. You then apply isopropyl alcohol to a soft, lint-free cloth and clean the tape head.

VCR service shops often use this method to clean VCR heads while they clean up the inner part of the VCR.

If you’re used to opening up electronic devices and putting them back together, you can employ this method.

Otherwise, you should avoid cleaning your VCR without a VHS video head cleaner.

Types of VCR Head Cleaners

The two types of VCR head cleaners are wet head cleaner tapes and dry head cleaner tapes.

Wet Head Cleaner Tapes

  • Function: Use a liquid cleaning solution embedded in fabric brushes to physically remove dust, debris, and magnetic buildup from the VCR heads.
  • Pros: Generally considered more effective at deep cleaning, especially for heavily clogged heads.
  • Cons: There is a risk of damaging the heads if the liquid leaks or the tape isn’t used properly. It can leave a residue if not used correctly. Not recommended for frequent use.
  • Availability: Harder to find these days, as they’re less popular due to potential risks. You might need to search online retailers or specialty stores.

Dry Head Cleaner Tapes

  • Function: Use soft, non-abrasive brushes or microfibers to dry-clean the heads, removing dust and light debris.
  • Pros: Safer for the heads, easier to use, and can be reused multiple times. Suitable for regular cleaning and maintenance.
  • Cons: It may not be as effective as wet cleaners for heavily clogged heads.
  • Availability: More readily available online and in some electronics stores.

Additional Notes:

  • Modern alternatives: Consider professional cleaning services if your VCR has significant playback issues. Alternatively, explore digital conversion services to preserve your VHS content in a more modern format.
  • Safety: Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a head cleaner tape.

Do VHS Video Head Cleaner Tapes Work?

Before we look at each of them, you may be wondering whether these cleaning tapes work.

They are proven to work. For laymen, these cleaners are easy to use and do a good job of cleaning VCR heads.

Are VCR Head Cleaners Safe to Use?

Some concerned users have asked whether using VCR head cleaning tapes would demagnetize their VCR heads.

The short answer is no. These cleaning tapes have been tested to ensure they don’t have any adverse effect on a VCR head.

Wet VCR Head Cleaner Tape

A wet system cleaning tape comes with built-in cleaning fabric attached to the spool. You put in a few drops of cleaning fluid into it. Then you play the tape.

Dry VCR Head Cleaner Tape

A dry VCR head cleaner tape comes minus the cleaning fluid. Instead of cleaning fabric, the material is an abrasive tape. You play it like any normal tape, for about 30 seconds.

Wet VCR Head Cleaner vs Dry VCR Head Cleaner

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each type of VCR head cleaner.

Wet VCR Head Cleaner Advantages

This head cleaner does more than clean your tape head. It removes dust in the tape guides, pinch rollers, and capstan, among others.

Wet VCR Head Cleaner Disdvantages

There’s a tendency for users to drop a little too much of the cleaning fluid. When this happens the VCR dew sensor issues a warning.

You also can’t use your VCR right after cleaning it. You run the risk of tape sticking to your VCR head. To be on the safe side, you would have to allow from 15 to 20 minutes for the tape head to dry.

Using an inferior quality tape cleaner poses problems. The cleaning fabric may damage the tape head and leave tiny pieces of the material on the head and other parts.

Dry VCR Head Cleaner Advantages

It’s easier to use. You don’t have to worry about dropping excessive cleaning fluid into the tape. You just have to pop in the tape and play.

Also, you can use the VCR right after cleaning it.

Dry VCR Head Cleaner Disdvantages

Although not visible to the naked eye, a dry VCR head cleaner uses an abrasive tape material. So, this is not a gentle approach like using the cleaning fluid method.

Imagine sandpaper, albeit an extra fine one, running through your VCR tape head.

Some folks may get overzealous when using a dry VCR tape head cleaner. They think the more they use it, the better their VCR tape head condition will be.

The reverse is true, actually. You should follow the instructions that come with the head cleaner tape.

If your VCR is performing well, don’t undertake routine cleaning, like once a week. It may do more harm than good.

Some VHS video head cleaners suggest you clean your VCR heads after it runs for a certain number of hours (20 to 30 hours). This advice can be safely ignored if your player is doing its job well.

How to Use a VCR Head Cleaner Tape

Using a VCR head cleaner tape is as easy as playing a tape. Only that, you play it for a very short while.

Some of the head cleaning tapes will state how long you should play the tape – for about 20 seconds.

The general rule is you should not rewind the tape after using it. You should wait until the tape is fully used before rewinding it.

Also, you can’t go on using the cleaning tape forever. The manufacturers will prescribe the number of times a VCR head cleaner tape can be used – usually up to 30 times, for normal cleaning.

Some even provide a table where you can tick off the number of times you’ve used the tape.

Where to Buy VCR Head Cleaning Tape

You may not find a VCR head cleaning tape in your neighborhood as VCRs are no longer in vogue in these days of high-definition video.

Your best bet would be to buy it online.

Check out the online buying suggestions below to find out where to buy VCR head cleaning tape. You may not find brand new VCR head cleaning tapes as VCRs are no longer in production.

There are some used ones, partially used or hardly used which you can get hold of. Most will do a good job of cleaning your VCR tape head.

The Best VHS Video Head Cleaners

Maxell VCR Head Cleaner Dry Tape

Maxell used to be a well-known brand when it came to VCR head cleaners.

Its VCR head cleaner tapes are still in demand although production has stopped. If you insist on using this brand, then you may have to go for a used one.

Used VCR head cleaners can still do a good job as most of them were seldom used by their owners.

This tape head cleaner comes with onscreen instructions. You just need to follow them to undertake your VCR head cleaning process.

You may also use the cleaning tape for VHS camcorders. The tape will last you up to 100 uses.

Check out the Maxell VCR Head Cleaner Dry Tape.

Arsvita VHS Dry Video Head Cleaner

Arsvita is a dry VHS video head cleaner. It uses a non-abrasive material.

This is one VCR head cleaner that is easy to use. Just let it run until the end. When it has reached the end, it will automatically pop out.

The cleaning tape can be reused up to 30 times.

There’s a 3-month replacement period, should anything go wrong with it. Also, 24/7 customer support is provided.

Check out the Arsvita VHS Dry Video Head Cleaner.

Reshow VCR Head Cleaner

You can use this VCR head cleaning tape for VHS and S-VHS machines. Depending on the condition of your VCR player, you would have to run it for between 30 to 45 seconds.

You can use the tape head cleaner for up to 30 sessions.

After each session, you’re required to rewind the tape before ejecting it.

There’s a usage record sticker on the tape to keep track of the number of cleaning sessions.

There are 50 boxes for you to check.

Check out the Reshow VCR Head Cleaner.

MEMOREX VHS Wet Video Head Cleaner 

If you would like a wet VCR head cleaner, then the Memorex wet video head cleaner may suit your preference.

This is a low-abrasive VCR head cleaner that comes with the cleaning fluid stored in the tape.

If you want the entire tape path of your VCR cleaned, then this VCR head cleaner does a good job.

Check out the MEMOREX VHS Wet Video Head Cleaner.

Also, check out more VCR head cleaner options.

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