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Thread: Any issues cleaning tape with alcohol ?

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    Question Any issues cleaning tape with alcohol ?

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    Hi,
    I got several prerecorded tapes on 5" and 3" reels, which came with a SONY portable deck, looks like home recorded family stuff from the 60 - 70's.. Some back-coated tapes in there and some not but that's not really important here... I am aware of sticky shed, various ways to deal with it etc... but I wanted to play these tapes maybe once (just curious what's on them) but they are somewhat dirty, looking for a simple - quick way to clean these and I don't want to run the tape on a cleaned transport... So my question is, is it alright to forward/rewind the tape (direct rewind/forward from reel to reel - not threading through head transport) with some 99% alcohol dampened cloth or make up cotton remover pads to clean some of the debris off those tapes before playing them? Will it dry the tape out too much or otherwise harm it? Thanks in advance for any advice.

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    I've used alcohol to remove a clump of sticky shed off the tape in spots...but never the whole tape.
    You can try the Nu-FInish car polish.....JUST KIDDING!

    What I have done some of the used 2" tapes I acquired, is to dry-clean them. On the 2", the transport is in the horizontal, which makes it easy, and there's plenty of room to work in between the guides, plus the deck has strong motors, so it will put up with a mild rub/friction on the tape without kicking back or stopping...though it's still a delicate operation ad RW/FW speeds.

    So I would take a pencil, and wrap some lint-free wipes around it that I have for this kind of thing...at the eraser end. I would then set the pencil on the eraser, on the deck plate, at a point between the guide and the reel, holding the end of the paper at the top, and facing the wrap of the paper so it work with the direction of the tape (otherwise it will unravel on you).
    I then set it in RW or FW...and apply just a slight pressure against the tape. I do maybe 4 passes, two on each side, always rolling the pencil and wrap to a clean spot and/or tearing off a bit to expose more clean paper.

    I do this with the tape normally threaded and then I go back and clean the heads/lifters/guides after the tape is done.
    It's more work...but if you try to run the tape without threading the normal way, you can run into problems, as the tape motion sensors may not operate correctly, and suddenly you have tape all over the place, even possible jamming it all up and making a mess of the tape and maybe damaging something on the deck.
    Nothing wrong with running it across the heads...just put the cleaning paper BEFORE the heads based on the direction you are going...RW or FW.

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    I have no idea on audio tapes but I did have some old Sony reel to reel video tapes "Baked" @ $300 and transferred to digital. They were unplayable would gum up the heads in seconds causing the tape to actually stop. You can do this with cheap dehydrator I hear tell but in my case I wasn't willing to take the risk so I paid for the "experts" to do it. Albeit with no guarantees.

    I used to use rubbing alcohol to clean the tape heads but I am dubious of what would happen to the tapes if you did...for sure it could clean em but would it take the metal particles with it..guess you'd have to do a little test area before going whole hog.

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    Daniel I'd be hesitant to use any solvent on the tape...that's the first thing that comes off the top of my head. Otherwise I think your idea is fine, or even something like Miro is saying. If it was me, I think I might be dampening a t-shirt rag with a dilute solution of window cleaner, and gently pinching the tape in that while it winds from reel to reel...finding a way to change the position of my grip in a way that doesn't at any point release cleaning pressure on the tape, but changes the pressure to a clean spot on the cloth...and then I might do a couple passes some method but with a dry cloth. Something like that.

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    Guys, thank you so much for your prompt and informative replies, much appreciated.. I'd def try the Nu-Finish but it's too damn time consuming and can get messy (but I did read good things about it though ..) and baking etc... but, again, I'm looking just to clean off the gunk that is on there and perhaps even some loose oxide (and God knows what else...)... Would something like Windex (diluted) be really safer/better though, Cory? I'm thinking it might leave a residue vs something like alcohol (99%)...?? Although I can def see the alcohol being stronger of the two, which might be a problem.... Hmm, not sure what to do now but you know what? I do recall soaking a cotton make up remover pad in 99 alcohol (squeezing the excess), pinching between two fingers and running one of the worse condition tapes through it... It did remove some oxide, cleaned it up really well and played back like new, never even left a trace of oxide on the tape transport.... I think that with old tapes such as this, opened for many decades, any lubricant probably has evaporated so using alcohol to clean these tapes should present no problem... Do you think that the alcohol might remove excess oxide or it's mostly surface loose oxide here? I mean, I'll try the dilution of Windex if it's really better but I'd like to know why? Dry cleaning is fine but I'm just kinda disgusted by the dirt on some of those tapes to tell you the truth... My immediate reaction to something like this is to put it in a bath with lots of soap! LOL!!! Anyway, thanks again.

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    Hell, you guys are getting all technical and anal here.
    I just take mine out into the driveway, un-spool the tape and hit it with a pressure washer. Let it dry in the hot sun and Bingo!

    You have clean tape and baking all in the same day!

    I haven't figured out how to deal with the gravel yet though.

    Maybe bring out the air compressor?


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