Tape head cleaner
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A tape head cleaner is a substance used for cleaning the record/playback heads of a magnetic tape drive (such as in a video tape machine, or audio tape machine).
Audio and video tape players (ie. cassette players, VCRs) require regular maintenance to perform properly. Particles that come off the magnetic tape (ie. compact cassette, videocassette) can build up on the magnetic record/playback heads, reducing the signal quality. Head cleaning may be done with a special cloth or special long swabs and/or a cleaning tape/cassette. This removes smudges and dirt on the recording head.
Cotton threads can snag the heads, so cotton balls and swabs should not be used.
Fluids used for cleaning video heads include (but are not limited to) the following solvents:
- Freon-Dichlorodifluoromethane (discontinued in 1995 due to damage to the ozone layer).
- Alcohols are effective for cleaning heads and guide rollers. Usually isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol.
- Acetone is an effective solvent, but can damage plastics.
- Amyl nitrite and other nitrites are marketed as video head cleaners.
- Xylene is an effective solvent, but can damage plastics.
Dry methods of cleaning include:
- Compact Cassette-shaped devices that can be inserted into tape decks and played for a short time to polish the recording heads to remove smudges and dirt. This may shorten the life of the unit and should not be overused.
- Compact Cassette-shaped devices that have a cloth tape that can have liquid cleaning fluids added to it before being inserted into a tape deck and played for a short time.
Video head cleaners are also used as a recreational drug: see Poppers.
- DIY Guide to Cleaning Your Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) - January, 1998 by Ralph Calabria 
- Notes on the Troubleshooting and Repair of Video Cassette Recorders by Samuel M. Goldwasser. 
- Betamax PALsite Guides - Head Cleaning 
- Fixer Corp. 
- How NOT to clean your video heads or a very expensive lesson. by Samuel M. Goldwasser