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Vintage Television and Video Vintage television and video equipment, programmes, VCRs etc.

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Old 13th Oct 2018, 6:37 pm   #1
Paul Stenning
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Default Cleaning video heads etc

What is the best and safest way to clean video heads? I'm referring to a 1990s hi-fi VHS machine but some general information would probably be useful to many of us (and could justify making this thread sticky later).

I am aware that the cleaning tapes that used to be available are a bad idea as they cause wear. Cotton buds are also risky because they can snag on the heads and damage them.

So what is the best thing and fluid to use? Preferably readily available.

Also what are the signs that heads need cleaning, and are they different to worn heads?
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Old 13th Oct 2018, 6:46 pm   #2
ms660
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

Use to use a chamy leather pad on the end of a flat plastic stick and some meths back in the '70's.

Lawrence.
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Old 13th Oct 2018, 7:04 pm   #3
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

That was the recommend way, not sure about the 90's though.
Never move the stick vertically, it will break the head, I used to gently place the stick on the head and rock the drum slowly from side to side, changing the position of the stick to keep a clean piece next to the head.

Never damaged one doing it that way but as always open to other suggestions.
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Old 13th Oct 2018, 7:13 pm   #4
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

When I worked for in the rental trade we used a business card held against a spinning head, worked 90% of the time (not edge on) held at a slight angle in the same direction of the spinning head.
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Old 13th Oct 2018, 7:18 pm   #5
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

One dodge on badly-fouled heads was to play a tape as normal, and to feed in a strip of newspaper between the tape & head drum. The paper would pass slowly over the drum et voila! It was generally frowned upon but I've seen it shift muck off heads that had been condemned.
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Old 13th Oct 2018, 7:32 pm   #6
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

used same method as ms660 but with isopropyl alcohol .this was the recommended method by sharp technical training .used to have to get the isopropyl from the local chemist in the early days ,but now everyone sells it cpc etc .
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Old 13th Oct 2018, 7:38 pm   #7
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

IPA and a lint free cloth only.I use nail polish remover cloths (perfect).Sorry,Never Meths on a video head,tape head yes.
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Old 13th Oct 2018, 8:27 pm   #8
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

It's also worth mentioning, if you're cleaning the video heads, the rest of the tape path will most likely need a good clean too, especially the tape entry & exit points on the lower drum.

Often the muck migrates from the FE head to the lower drum tape entry point, builds up & then it's smeared around the video head.

The signs of dirty video heads, playback can look as if the tracking has been maladjusted. Poor picture in playback when 'paused' or when playing a tape & rewind has been selected, as in, picture review mode, picture looks grainy/unwatchable. On a HiFi machine, with a mucky drum, it'll toggle between mono & HiFi, even with a good tape. If it's S-VHS too, the S-VHS indicator may erroneously flicker with normal tapes in playback mode.

As has been said, for cleaning use chamois pads on sticks, isopropyl, gentle pressure and rock the drum. Once done, clean the rest of the upper & lower drum plus, the rest of the tape path.

For worn heads, 'its' own recordings will play back with black & white horizontal streaks on peak whites, much like playing an S-VHS recording on a non S-VHS machine.

Hope this helps,

Mark
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Old 13th Oct 2018, 8:28 pm   #9
dave walsh
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

I've got some machines that give trouble from time to time. They are ok after cleaning but aren't badly fouled [as described]. I do use Meths and a very clean cloth, being careful not to touch the head surface and rotating them by hand. It seems to work very well resulting in a clear picture without slippage but there's no obvious gunge involved and I'm no expert. Polishing doubtful DVD's [from the outside in] with Meths often seems to work as well. There's no difference whether if it's the clear or purple stuff in my limited experience.

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Old 13th Oct 2018, 11:27 pm   #10
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

Usually clogged heads are as a result of a damaged bit of tape that sheds it's oxide rather than accumulated dirt on the tape path.

I still use VHS Hi-Fi machines to play old music compilations which have been played many many times over the years. I get occasional head clogs when a damaged bit of tape goes past- you can hear as the chewed bit of tape physically goes past the heads. Sometimes the Hi Fi sound will disappear, sometimes the picture.
It takes two heads to play back one complete frame of picture (each head plays one field). If one head clogs, you will get a picture that flickers at 25Hz with a complete screen of noise over the top. ie one field of the picture followed by the next field of snow.

To clean them, I use a clean finger moistened with IPA (isopropyl alcohol)held against the head drum with the machine in stop. The drum is rotated back and forth keeping the finger absolutely stationary. Each head on the drum is done in turn and then allowed to dry. That's vital, as if the machine laces up with a damp drum, the tape will stick to it and be pulled out of the cassette rapidly until the whole thing turns into a big tangle!!

Obviously, the finger used needs to be in good condition and similar to a chamois pad and keep the nail away from the head tip!

I've been servicing VHS machines since the mid '80's and then timelapse ones during the '90's, although we did used to use chamois sticks. Fingers, though, tend to always be on hand and seem to work just as well!

IPA is the safest solvent to use. Usually though, for most head clogs, the above method with just a dry finger works fine. Only for stubborn problems do I get out the IPA.

As has been pointed out, NEVER use any vertical motion as you will break off the head tip. Also NEVER use anything with fibres that will get caught in the head tip- I learnt that lesson with a cotton bud and a N1700 head when I was a kid!

The visual effects of clogged heads on the screen will vary depending on the machine. Some machines display snow, some strange patterns or vertical blocks of moving shapes. If only one Hi Fi sound head gets clogged, there will be a 25Hz flutter on the sound.

Hope that helps
Cheers
Nick

Last edited by 1100 man; 13th Oct 2018 at 11:33 pm.
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Old 13th Oct 2018, 11:43 pm   #11
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

Dont forget to remove the the cleaning roller especially when they are dirty or deteriorated. The VCRs from 90 and then, had auto clean function.

Last edited by vhs doctor; 14th Oct 2018 at 12:04 am.
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Old 14th Oct 2018, 12:36 am   #12
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

I've always used Servisol Video 40 to clean heads. That's what the TV engineers used too.
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Old 14th Oct 2018, 7:47 am   #13
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

That wasn’t available when I was fixing them, early on was meths and then IPA when I realised it was available from a chemist, I wonder if it’s still available from that source.
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Old 14th Oct 2018, 8:23 am   #14
Paul Stenning
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

Any idea where we can get chamois pads on sticks now? I remember they used to be available for this purpose but can't find anything like it now. Or the best way to make up something? I note that both natural and synthetic chamois leather is available for car cleaning purposes.

I have a tin of IPA, bought from CPC several years ago. I don't know whether they still sell it.
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Old 14th Oct 2018, 8:45 am   #15
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

https://www.amazon.co.uk/MG-Chemical.../dp/B008OA7YG6
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Old 14th Oct 2018, 8:49 am   #16
Mike Phelan
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Stenning View Post

I have a tin of IPA, bought from CPC several years ago. I don't know whether they still sell it.
They do, Paul. I use it frequently.
When I worked at Thorn they always used IPA for cleaning video heads, pinch rollers and other parts in contact with the tape.
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Old 14th Oct 2018, 8:54 am   #17
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sean Williams View Post
That specific one is for Amazon Prime members only. It looks like "Chamois Swab" is the thing to search for though, and there are plenty of others online.
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Old 14th Oct 2018, 9:16 am   #18
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

I am surprised that no one has mentioned using plain paper soaked in isopropyl alcohol, simply hold it perfectly still against the upper drum and rotate the head by hand.
This works well and can be repeated until the paper looks clean.

It is always worth cleaning the tape path, audio/control & erase heads, capstan & pinch roller at the same time. Cotton buds soaked in isopropyl alcohol are fine for this, but NEVER use on the video heads!

I always remove those automatic head cleaners fitted to later machines, they are always clogged with muck and do more harm than good.

I only play known good tapes in my decent machines, old worn tapes not only clog video heads, they can also accelerate head wear. I have some cheap later machines to play tapes of unknown condition, be aware that badly stored tapes can shed oxide, some that have been subject to storage in damp conditions actually go mouldy, this can be dealt with by cleaning the tape itself.

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Old 14th Oct 2018, 9:56 am   #19
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

I use the writing paper + IPA method that Mark mentioned. Works really well.
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Old 14th Oct 2018, 10:08 am   #20
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Default Re: Cleaning video heads etc

Mark's method is the safest way of cleaning video heads but instead of paper I use Colclene lint free cleaning cloths specificaly made for the job and ipa, if you want some pm your address and I will stick some in the post.

Colin
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