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  1. I attempted to clean the video heads of my Hi8 camcorder with isopropyl alcohol and a Q-tip, and now it appears to have ruined it. I heard Q-tip are not that good for cleaning, but they should still work. I even let it sit a few hours before using it. I am not sure what I am doing wrong.

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  2. Member Cornucopia's Avatar
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    Normal Isopropyl has more impurities than the kind of head cleaning fluid you SHOULD be using (denatured alcohol, freon tf, etc), so you could have added residue to the heads. In effect, UN-cleaning them. Plus, the percentage of water in the solution may be enough to promote corrosion (unlikely).

    Also, Q-tips are a NO-NO, as the lint/fibers can get caught in the head gap and abrade the head and gap.

    Whoever told you to do this did NOT know what they were talking about. And, unfortunately, it seems you don't either.

    Before doing any more possible damage, either learn to do it the right way (proper solution, proper materials - such as lint-free sponge (foam) swabs, and proper technique), or take it to a professional, and get it RE-CLEANED. Then pray that you haven't already done too much unrepairable damage. Sometimes after such a cleaning (and ONLY after), you can "buff" the head with repeated recording/playback/trickplay of a pristine recorded tape, but since you are early in your learning curve in this, I don't recommend you try it yourself.

    Scott
    Last edited by Cornucopia; 9th Apr 2015 at 10:41.
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  3. Q-tips are probably as bad as using sandpaper, the cotton (or whatever the stuff is) on the end of the stick will hook itself aound the head and damage it. It isn't the alcohol, it's the physical damage that causes the problem.

    Try this but it may be too late:

    Take a strip of ordinary white copy paper, dip it in the alcohol and wrap it around the head, following the same path the tape would normally be. Then gently rotate the head a few times before removing the strip. The head will touch the paper and hopefully wipe any oxide deposit on to it. Leave it a couple of minutes for any remaining alcohol or the moisture it might leave from cooling the drum to evaporate then try with a tape again.

    The head(s) are not the spinning metal cyclinder, that's the drum, the heads are inside a tiny slot in the drum and quite often I've seen people break them off by using cleaning materials that snag and pull at them. Q-tips are a favorite for wrecking heads, they may reach awkward places in people but not in video heads! A strip of paper is safe and has just about the right abrasion to safely wipe but not hook the heads.

    Brian
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  4. It's 91% alcohol. I will have to remove the tape door in order to do what Brian suggests. I don't even have the right screwdriver for it. I might have to buy a new camcorder.
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  5. I don't want to make the same mistake for when I start using the VCR. I am afraid to clean that one, and I heard not to trust the tape cleaning kits.
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    Only use methylated spirits for cleaning and any lint free material,e.g. a sponge. I've used this method for over 50 years on reel to reel,cassette decks,needle/stylus on turntables,without a problem.
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  7. Member Cornucopia's Avatar
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    (US) "Denatured alcohol" = (UK/AUS) "Methylated spirits". Just what I was saying.

    Scott
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  8. For people who don't clean heads professionally, the best advice is to use a head cleaning tape. When you use this tape, follow the directions exactly. The most important part of those directions tells you to not run the tape for more than 10 seconds at a time.

    If you have to clean the heads manually, then you must use 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. The stuff you get at the local store usually contains a large percentage of water, and this will corrode parts and leave a residue.

    However, using the wrong alcohol is probably not the problem. The bigger issue, as already pointed out, is using Q-tip cotton swabs. The fibers come off and get everywhere. You can purchase cotton swabs designed for electronic servicing:

    Double Headed Cotton Swabs

    and use them to clean the pinch rollers and tape guide path. However, they still can shed a little, and are not the recommended tool with which to apply the head cleaner. The recommended tool for this job is a Chamosis Tip. When you use these, you rotate the head with your finger while holding the slightly moistened tip against the drum. You do NOT over-moisten the tip, and you do NOT rub up and down.

    This video demonstrates the technique, although this person is using a Pec pad (another good choice, available from photo stores). [edit]Upon second viewing, he is using a piece of paper. Wow, that's an old trick! Back in the early 1960s, with my Wollensak reel-to-reel, we cleaned the heads using a dollar bill. However, I think paper is too abrasive for this application.[/end edit]



    I realize that this is a VCR and not a camcorder, but the same principles apply.

    So, I'd recommend getting the cleaning tape and using that. If you can't get the camera working again, then you'll have to get it professionally serviced. I've had good luck with this guy:

    Dr. Sony

    but you'll need to send him an email to see if he can service your camcorder. He is somewhat of a specialist, although I think he does work on equipment other than Sony camcorders.
    Last edited by johnmeyer; 8th Apr 2015 at 17:40. Reason: Clarified content of instructional video
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  9. I can find my camcorder for under $100 on Ebay. I will probably just sell this one for parts and buy a working one. Thanks anyway.
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    Thanks for the interpretation Scott---Denatured has an unpleasant connotation,reminiscent of transforming normal to eunuch.I'll stick to the Queen's English and continue with methylated.
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  11. Joeandmarg0 - a sponge is fine on static heads like the ones you describe but a video head is motorized, it spins against the inclined tape path, or is itself on an inclined axis in order to helically scan the tape surface. A sponge would do as much damage as a Q-tip.

    The picture in post #1 suggests one of the two heads is still working, it looks like one interlaced field is OK and the other is missing. There are two heads, mounted on opposite sides of the drum so there is always one in contact with the tape as it partially wraps around it. The bottom few lines look to be normal for VHS interlacing which suggests the head switching signal is still OK. There is a chance you can still recover it.

    Try hitting 'pause' a few times while playing back your tape. If one head is still OK, there is a good chance you will randomly stop on a good picture.

    Brian.
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  12. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    I doubt the alcohol did this. It's probably the cotton that did it.
    I'd not use anything less than 91%, however.

    Heads are no so touchy that alcohol does damage. But cotton swabs are ruinous.
    You need chamois or foam tips, or sensor swabs -- not cotton.
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  13. Probably you corrupted heads which are fragile (micro-gap can be broken Name:  2012-06-21_225108_vcr_video_head.jpg
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Size:  34.9 KB) - for head cleaning in videotape recorder never use cotton or any fabric - best method is take special paper (used for cleaning optics) and wrap stripe around drum with isopropyl alcohol (so imitate a tape) - this is best method and only one recommended.

    http://www.repairfaq.org/sam/vcrfaq.htm
    Correct approach described:
    http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/printpage/How-to-Manually-Clean-Your-VCR-Heads/165
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  14. Member hech54's Avatar
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    I use cotton swabs and alcohol on EVERY type of recording/erase head except a video drum....mainly because a swab is obviously too small. I've done this for decades with absolutely ZERO problems.
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  15. Originally Posted by hech54 View Post
    I use cotton swabs and alcohol on EVERY type of recording/erase head except a video drum....mainly because a swab is obviously too small. I've done this for decades with absolutely ZERO problems.
    Take corrupted drum and extract video head - inspect how fragile it is under magnifying glass or microscope. Never use anything than stripe of lens paper, ordinary paper can be to hard (as usually glass powder is used to finish surface - glass powder is used as filler - that's why it is not recommended to use ordinary paper to clean optics - it can produce micro scratches).

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/510286-REG/Tiffen_EK1546027T_1_Lens_Cleaning_Tissue_50.html
    http://www.fishersci.com/ecomm/servlet/fsproductdetail_10652_700722__-1_0
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  16. Originally Posted by hech54 View Post
    I use cotton swabs and alcohol on EVERY type of recording/erase head except a video drum....mainly because a swab is obviously too small. I've done this for decades with absolutely ZERO problems.
    It's OK on audio heads, but not for video. That picture posted above show how the heads are nestled into a little gap in the drum. It is almost guaranteed that some cotton fluff from the swab will get entangled in that gap and this will then cause the head to not have the same tape clearance as before. In the worst case, the "pointy" end of the swab can press on the head and cause it to lose alignment. The correct tool, the chamois swab, is flat and therefore gets supported by the drum as it spins, and only makes the slightest contact with the head as it spins by.
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  17. Member Cornucopia's Avatar
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    Don't know what you're on about, @pandy. I've been using foam/sponge swabs successfully for DECADES (literally 32 years now) on professional decks. Pro supply shops don't even advertise the "optical paper" (or whatever you describe) for use in video head cleaning/repair, so that ought to tell you something.

    Also, @betwixt, the heads on a video drum are no different than the stationary ones on an audio recorder: the only difference is the drum. But nobody in their right mind would do work on a deck - particularly a fragile piece of pro electronics - with liquid solvents WHILE the deck was plugged in and turned on and spinning. One should ALWAYS unplug and open the case and manually swab the heads, using one's hand to "hold" the drum in place. Of course, that means you have to know where the heads lie on drum (or you would use up a lot of your time swabbing solid/empty circular areas of the drum). Video heads are made of softer metal than usual, but not soft enough that you would ruin them using foam swabs with proper solvent being applied manually on an unmoving drum.

    @johnmeyer, you seem to know your stuff and mean well, but I would NOT recommend "head cleaning tapes" to consumers, particularly because many/most of them ARE fabric-based and because (as was just mentioned), you have to use it while the deck is running (and heads spinning). For consumers, if they cannot be trained to properly service their own decks, they shouldn't try a half-assed consumer compromise, but instead should be taking them to (respectable) pro shop to be serviced. Those tapes OFTEN do more harm than good.

    Scott
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  18. Originally Posted by Cornucopia View Post
    @johnmeyer, you seem to know your stuff and mean well, but I would NOT recommend "head cleaning tapes" to consumers, particularly because many/most of them ARE fabric-based and because (as was just mentioned), you have to use it while the deck is running (and heads spinning). For consumers, if they cannot be trained to properly service their own decks, they shouldn't try a half-assed consumer compromise, but instead should be taking them to (respectable) pro shop to be serviced. Those tapes OFTEN do more harm than good.
    I disagree, and here's why.

    For full sized VHS & Beta decks, you can purchase 3rd-party abrasive tapes. I agree with you that these should not be used. Alsop made a cleaning cassette that used a chamois and cleaning fluid, and it was fantastic (I still own one), and very safe to use, but I don't think those are available anymore.

    So, we agree that no one should use those old, abrasive VHS head cleaners.

    However ...

    With the advent of DV camcorders, it became nearly impossible to do proper headcleaning without some disassembly of the transport mechanism. Realizing the problem, the camera manufacturers themselves created cleaning tapes that are compatible with their camcorder, and recommended by the manufacturers themselves. I have in front of me, while I am writing this, a Sony-branded cleaning tape (DVM12CLD) which was included with my FX-1 camcorder. This is a $2,000 prosumer camcorder, and in the manual it says -- in multiple places -- "clean the head using the cleaning cassette."

    So for modern camcorders, the manufacturers themselves are supplying the cleaning cassette and in their own manuals they recommend its usage, even for a professional camcorder.

    Therefore, I think I am pretty safe (and correct) providing the same advice that Sony provides.
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  19. Member Cornucopia's Avatar
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    For professional camcorders and professional decks, they have always (and still do) recommended professional servicing. Yours is a compromise, even if (recently) a more reasonable one from a consumer perspective.

    Scott
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    Originally Posted by Cornucopia View Post
    Don't know what you're on about, @pandy. I've been using foam/sponge swabs successfully for DECADES (literally 32 years now) on professional decks. Pro supply shops don't even advertise the "optical paper" (or whatever you describe) for use in video head cleaning/repair, so that ought to tell you something.

    Also, @betwixt, the heads on a video drum are no different than the stationary ones on an audio recorder: the only difference is the drum. But nobody in their right mind would do work on a deck - particularly a fragile piece of pro electronics - with liquid solvents WHILE the deck was plugged in and turned on and spinning. One should ALWAYS unplug and open the case and manually swab the heads, using one's hand to "hold" the drum in place. Of course, that means you have to know where the heads lie on drum (or you would use up a lot of your time swabbing solid/empty circular areas of the drum). Video heads are made of softer metal than usual, but not soft enough that you would ruin them using foam swabs with proper solvent being applied manually on an unmoving drum.

    @johnmeyer, you seem to know your stuff and mean well, but I would NOT recommend "head cleaning tapes" to consumers, particularly because many/most of them ARE fabric-based and because (as was just mentioned), you have to use it while the deck is running (and heads spinning). For consumers, if they cannot be trained to properly service their own decks, they shouldn't try a half-assed consumer compromise, but instead should be taking them to (respectable) pro shop to be serviced. Those tapes OFTEN do more harm than good.

    Scott
    ^ I agree with all of this.
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  21. Once again - i repairing electric current circuits in home without using circuit breaker - doing this 20 years or longer without electrocuting - this doesn't mean that i would recommend to everyone same approach.

    I know many shortcuts but i will never say use it and everything will be OK - hope it is clear.

    Paper (optic/lens paper is lint free and no abrasive addons) - if you have lint free non abrasive paper use it instead lens paper.
    I have audio and video cleaning tapes no fabric based - there is special tape inside similar to lens paper (gray - dull partially transparent).

    Paper for video head (drum) is general service recommendation (common practice for at least 2 service guys i know personally for more than 30 years).

    Originally Posted by Cornucopia View Post
    Don't know what you're on about, @pandy. I've been using foam/sponge swabs successfully for DECADES (literally 32 years now) on professional decks. Pro supply shops don't even advertise the "optical paper" (or whatever you describe) for use in video head cleaning/repair, so that ought to tell you something.
    Can You provide information what is advertised for video head cleaning/repair by those Pro supply shops?
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  22. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    I prefer DSLR sensor swabs for head cleaning.
    Perhaps this is what you refer to as "optical paper"?
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  23. Member hech54's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by lordsmurf View Post
    I prefer DSLR sensor swabs for head cleaning.
    Perhaps this is what you refer to as "optical paper"?
    Neat idea.
    Have they come down in price at all? There used to be some serious gouging going on with those things.
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  24. Lens paper is real product available from many manufacturers recommended to clean optics but not only (as such it can be use to clean video heads on drum).
    This is recommendation however without name "Video heads cleaning paper" - i use without problem regular printer (laser) paper as this one should be non abrasive too (photodrum in LP can't deal with abrasive) - works for me and by main principle you can't broke video heads.
    For tape rolls and other heads (stationary) i use ordinary cotton swab - works for me from over 30 years.
    I use pure IPA (lab grade) - never had any problems.
    Link how clean and why in such not different way provided already earlier - i can't add anything more to this topic.

    Waiting for Cornucopia feedback on advised materials and methodology from "Pro supply shops".

    TIA
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  25. Well, I quoted what Sony recommends in their own manuals, and gave the part number for the cleaning tape they supply with their own tape-based camcorders, but that didn't seem to make much of an impression. So perhaps this link won't help much either. This is one of several "pro supply shops" you can easily find using Google, and they provide very explicit warnings about not using cotton tipped swabs for head cleaning:

    Cleaning Tools and Supplies

    Under the "Cotton Tip Cleaning Swabs" it says:
    "Important note: Cotton swabs are not designed to be used on video heads, and using these swabs on a video head can easily damage the head. May be safely used on parts of a VCR other than the video head."
    You can easily find other similar links. This is precisely what I said in my previous post.

    BTW, here is Sony's recommendation, direct from their own site:

    How to clean the video tape heads of a camcorder

    Note that while Sony does recommend using their cleaning tape, their further advice echos what others have said, namely that the ultimate way to clean your deck or camera's heads is to have it done professionally.

    I generally take the advice of the manufacturer and their engineers, but that's just me ...
    Last edited by johnmeyer; 11th Apr 2015 at 12:29.
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  26. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    Yeah, but the owner manuals are written for goobers. Service manuals usually give better advice, though not always.

    Cleaning tapes are terrible items, made for consumers only.

    It's no coincidence that never-cleaned decks often work better than user-cleaned (with cleaning tape) decks.
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  27. Member budwzr's Avatar
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    What's a "goober"? Like Goober on Andy Griffith? What about Floyd, the barber? I think he was dumber.
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  28. "Goobers" are the things you're trying to clean off your tape.
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  29. Originally Posted by Cornucopia View Post
    Normal Isopropyl has more impurities than the kind of head cleaning fluid you SHOULD be using (denatured alcohol, freon tf, etc), so you could have added residue to the heads. In effect, UN-cleaning them. Plus, the percentage of water in the solution may be enough to promote corrosion (unlikely).

    Also, Q-tips are a NO-NO, as the lint/fibers can get caught in the head gap and abrade the head and gap.

    Whoever told you to do this did NOT know what they were talking about. And, unfortunately, it seems you don't either.

    Before doing any more possible damage, either learn to do it the right way (proper solution, proper materials - such as lint-free sponge (foam) swabs, and proper technique), or take it to a professional, and get it RE-CLEANED. Then pray that you haven't already done too much unrepairable damage. Sometimes after such a cleaning (and ONLY after), you can "buff" the head with repeated recording/playback/trickplay of a pristine recorded tape, but since you are early in your learning curve in this, I don't recommend you try it yourself.

    Scott
    I'm sorry that thread is almost 4 years old, but I did the same thing to my Digital8 camcorder. It wasn't working before (just a blue screen when I hit play), and I used 70% Isopropyl on a Q-tip. Should I try a cleaning cassette, or a microfiber cloth? And in worse case, could I replace the drum?
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    The wrong alcohol will not instantly kill your video heads, especially if they are allowed to dry thoroughly. Nor will a cotton swab unless you hook it and pull with enough force to break the head. If the heads don't look chipped or asymmetrical, they are probably fine. The best way to clean is with 99 percent isopropanol (probably have to order online these days) and a chamois swab. I don't recommend foam because it can get hooked on the head worse than cotton. Yes, the upper cylinder assembly can be replaced if you can find the part and have the experience and tools to do the job.
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