How To Clean A Car CD Player; Tips and Tricks To Do It Right

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When servicing our cars, there’s one area we often forget – the CD player. However, as most car components, the stereo is also prone to wear and tear. Imagine pushing play on that “Phil Collins” CD to set the right romantic ambience only for the CD to skip. 

Tragic, right?

Instead of your CD player ruining the night, make sure you clean the CD player every 3 months. After all, you really shouldn’t be scared to pick up a lint free cloth or soft bristle brush to do a little cleaning of your vehicle.

If you use your car stereo regularly to play your favorite songs. Its in-depth cleaning — at the surface — might seem like a job that’ll require driving down to the corner auto shop to get done.

However, this is 100% wrong. Using the methods we’ll be examining in this in-depth guide. Transforming a dirty CD player prone to crackling and constant errors to a glitch-free variation is not only possible. But, also easily done. Unlike other difficult to clean things like seats, a CD player is easy to clean.  

Yearning to learn more about cleaning CD players yourself? Read to the end!

Cleaning Your Vehicle’s CD Player 

If you’ve got a dirty car CD player and would like to get rid of associated dirt and dust to aid those smooth plays during trips. Applying certain methods and the steps accompanying them will work the trick.

Method 1: Using Compressed Air or Air Bulbs to Clean Your Car’s CD Drive

After finding issues with their car’s DVD drive, most individuals use this method to dispel dust and other particles. However, if you’re using compressed air to complete this job. It’s important not to spray it while the can’s “upside down.” 


Because it could lead to spraying liquid directly onto the electrical parts of the CD player, thereby damaging it.

After you’ve come to terms with this crucial safety concern, follow these steps:

  1. Activate the CD player and empty the tray loaded drive by removing the CD(s) previously inserted.
  1. Unplug the CD player’s power cable. This action ensures the tray comes out and will remain open for the entirety of this activity.
  1. Using compressed air or your handheld air bulb, blow residue and dust from the tray. If you’re using compressed air, it’s vital to leave the tray open for about 10 minutes or so. That way, you’re certain any liquid embedded in the spray dries out and doesn’t affect other components.
  1. To test if this “dust blower” technique worked as it should have. Plug the CD player back in and insert a disc that works. If you press play and don’t encounter skips or reduced sound quality, this method has worked its CHARM.

If you tried out the “air rubber bulbs or compressed air” DIY method and your car CD player still presents issues, you might want to try out the subsequent alternative to see what result it yields.

cd player and radio in a vehicle with a brown interior

Method 2: Clean Your Vehicle’s CD Player By Removing Its Associated Lens Cover

If you used the air blower route to remove dust from your car stereo and still encountered a brick wall. Consider removing the lens cover to clean the internal (and hard to reach) parts of the CD player. 

To complete this job, you will need several items. These include a microfiber towel or cotton swabs, screw drivers (different sizes), high strength isopropyl alcohol (91% concentration), and a scratch-free disc.

Before you start, note that going through with this will void your car’s slot loading CD player’s warranty. 

Also, if you’re removing dust with cotton buds or a non scratch wipe. Make sure they’re not wet; rather, moisten them slightly to ensure liquid doesn’t enter the CD drive’s electronic areas and wreak havoc.

  1. Remove the CD drive from its compartment. If your car features a snap open portable player, you can seamlessly detach it.
  1. Once you’ve removed this area, identify the latches that hold the lens cover in place. Upon identification, unscrew associated nuts to uncover the circular lens head.
  1. Now, dip your cotton buds or microfiber cloth into isopropyl alcohol hosting concentration levels of at least 91%.
  1. Use your microfiber or lint-free cloth gently to wipe the lens head until a blue tinge becomes visible. Since this component fields some “hard to reach” layers, use a cotton swab — twirl it gently to avoid tints or scratches that could lead to a damaged CD player.
the end of a q tip
  1. After cleaning with diluted alcohol, leave the lens to dry. Once it’s totally dry, screw the lens cover into place. Although tightening its associated screws are great, overtightening them could break the plastic case. 

Using this method to clean a car CD player, may make you look like a DIY expert.  It is one of the most effective methods when you rank them in how to clean a car CD player.

NOTE: Isopropyl alcohol with a product label showcasing 91% concentration is usually advised for cleaning lenses as versions with less than this value can leave smudges and mist.

Method 3: Use a DIY CD Cleaning Disc to Clean Your Car’s CD Player

Creating a unique lens cleaning CD yourself might seem daunting on the surface. However, it’s possible. To create one for your slot loading CD player, these items will come in handy. A blank CD that plays fine, dust free cloth, scissors, industrial glue, and isopropyl alcohol.

Before you commence this step, you must be able to verify that your car’s CD player issues come from the player itself and not the compact disc. Also, ensure the industrial glue applied to the disc is dried up before insertion. If it isn’t, it could damage your vehicle’s stereo system.

Once you’re comfortable with this method, follow these steps:

  1. Cut your lint free cloth into two strips with a pair of sharpened scissors. Your cuts must be just under 2.5” in width. Its length should cover the CD’s hole and outer border areas.
  1. After cutting your preferred cloth into size, fold them in half and dip into isopropyl alcohol (91% concentrated).
  1. Now, apply your industrial glue from the inner edge (hole area) to the outside edge. Glue application must be done in a straight line.
  1. Leave the CD exposed for approximately 10 minutes to dry up the glue.
  1. Once the industrial glue dries up, trim the cloth to exceed the outer edge by ⅛ of an inch. Afterward, cut out any excess.
  1. Now, insert your homemade lens cleaner into the player and hit “Play.” While your player might reject this CD variation several times, it should accept it on the 5th or 6th insert. Once it does, let the disc spin for some minutes before ejecting it.
3 car cd's sitting on a desk

I agree that it can be difficult to measure the cloth in the right length for this job. Besides this step, the method really is not that complicated to complete. 

By following the steps you shouldn’t have issues during the cleaning process.

Method 4: Use a Lens Cleaning Disc to Clean Your Car CD Player

If you think creating a homemade cleaner disc might be too much work. You can buy a variation created by some of the finest lens cleaning manufacturers, including Memorix, Maxell, and Allsop.

Unlike homemade cleaner discs, a CD lens cleaner features anti-static brushes. As such, when inserted into a CD player, these discs brush softly against the “laser lens.” For context, a laser lens is crucial to sound quality and overall playback.

Before you insert a lens cleaner disc into the CD opening of your vehicle’s stereo, ensure you read the instructions provided as they vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

To use a lens cleaner disc on vehicle CD players, follow these simple steps:

  1. Press the power button and insert the lens cleaner disc into the CD opening.
  1. Hit play. The timeline to leave the cleaner disc running depends on what’s featured on the instructional guide. Although this period could be as short as five minutes on some, several iterations could need 15 to 20-minute “laser lens” cleans.
  1. Once the set time frame is up, eject the lens cleaner.
  1. Insert a CD to see if the issues you experienced still exist.

Although the “CD cleaner disc” route might seem straightforward for the most part (keep your eyes on the timer, though). Its ability to clean when compared to the other methods is limited.

 However, it won’t hurt to give it a TRY!

Cleaning the Exterior Area of Car CD Players

Although the issue of poor sound quality and lapses during disc plays stems from the interior area of a CD player, cleaning the external parts for aesthetics isn’t a bad idea.

To get the ball rolling, employ these 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Use a Soft Bristled Brush to Clean Dirt and Other Residue

The first step in cleaning the external area of your car’s slot loading CD player is by using a soft bristled brush to wipe away dust and accumulated dirt. This small brush doesn’t have to be special — a microfiber or anti-static variation should do.

Step 2: Use Compressed Air

Some car owners make the mistake of using air hoses to clean fine dust from around their CD players. While this might work, the pressure from air hoses are high and could inflict damage to the CD player’s internal components.

As such, we recommend using cans of compressed air. Fielding gentle air bursts, ensure you use yours in a way that doesn’t blow debris into the player’s opening.

Step 3: Use a Microfiber Towel With an Interior Cleaner

microfiber cloth cleaning a car cd player

To finish the exterior cleaning process, apply an interior cleaner onto a microfiber towel. Don’t wet your cloth with the interior cleaner; rather, spray it once or twice to moisten it. That way, excess liquid doesn’t find its way into the player’s internal mechanics. 

When purchasing an interior cleaner, purchase one that is certified for automotive usage. Purchasing household cleaners could prove detrimental as these agents integrate harsh chemicals bound to smear your car stereo’s aesthetics.

Parting Shot

If you sought insight into how to clean a car CD player, we’ve curated a comprehensive guide integrating proven and tested methods on how to clean a car CD player. 

Although compact disc players are tagged “vintage” in this era, they’re still revered for their accessibility and sound quality. Take good care of yours (externally and internally), and it’ll be your “music-themed” buddy on those long TRIPS!

John Morris
John Morris
John Morris is the technical editor for His years of experience in automotive repair as well as an automotive professor have prepared him to ensure that even the most technical information is accurate and concise at all times.

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