If you want to get the best possible quality when you transfer your VHS tape to digital you may want to clean your VHS tapes prior to digitizing them.
Most VHS tapes have been sitting literally for decades and have accumulated dust, dirt, and possibly mold if they are stored in a humid area or if you’ve experienced some sort of flood.
VHS tape cleaner machines were more popular back in the glory days of VHS. These are devices that you insert your VHS tape into and will “play” the tape while cleaning it using various methods.
VHS Tape cleaners are not to be confused with VHS / VCR head cleaners as those devices clean the play heads of your VCR. VHS Tape cleaner machines clean the actual VHS tape itself. They are quite hard to find but it is still possible, and if you have no luck you can always consider a video tape cleaning service.
Types of VHS Tape Cleaner Machines
Generally, there are 2 types of VHS Tape Cleaning Machines:
Originally manufactured for the general public. These were generally affordable devices that you could find at a consumer electronic store back in the 1980s. They would do a decent job to clean dirt or dust off your VHS tapes
Used by broadcast TV studios. These were used by TV studios to clean tapes prior to archiving and will not only clean the tape but analyze it and print a report on any damaged or unreadable sections of the tape.
Professional models like the TAPECHEK 470 cleans the tape in multiple ways:
- it has a special cleaning tissue that gently cleans any lose dirt and debris off the tape
- it uses a sapphire blade to gently polish the tape
How to Choose a VHS Tape Cleaning Machine
If you have dirty, moldy, or damaged tapes and are considering the purchase of a VHS tape-cleaning machine there are 2 factors you need to keep in mind:
- Availability – VHS tape cleaning machines have not been manufactured for decades, so the choices are very slim as to what models are available and where to purchase them
- Cost – any professional-grade VHS cleaner that you can find will cost you several thousand dollars at this point, I would think only a professional tape cleaning service would have any of these models. Consumer-grade tape cleaners will be more affordable – if you can find them anywhere.
Where to Buy VHS Tape Cleaning Machines
VHS tape cleaning machines are only sold through online retailers, ones that sell professional-grade equipment or used marketplaces like eBay or Facebook marketplace. Availability is slim.
By searching my brand/model I’ve been able to find some retailers. If interested I would contact them or continue searching the web using the model names below for more options
RTI TapeChek VHS Tape Cleaner
This is a professional-grade tape clean that will cost you several thousand to purchase, but you may be able to rent it as well.
Models: TapeChek 460 and TapeCheck480 are the most popular but there are several other models
Where to Buy:
- eBay – search back frequently for “TapeChek VHS Tape Cleaner“
See demonstration video below on the Tapecheck 470 VHS Tape Cleaner:
Kinyo VHS Tape Cleaner & Rewinder
This is a consumer-grade VHS tape cleaner that you may be able to find on eBay or Etsy
Models: these are the models that I’ve found clean as they rewind. Be careful because some models do not clean as they rewind:
- Kinyo TV-55 VHS Tape Cleaner and Rewinder
- Kinyo UV-230C 2-Way VHS Cassette Rewinder and Cleaner
Where to Buy
Cleanermate VC-8088AC VHS Video Tape Cleaner Machine
- This is another consumer-grade VHS tape cleaner
- Works by adding cleaning drops then running the tape in FF or Rewind and it gently cleans the tape.
Where to Buy
Last check eBay had a few models for sale
For more Info – see the video below
Geneva VHS Videotape Cleaner PF- 740
- consumer-grade effective VHS tape cleaner. Geneva also sells VHS / VCR tape head cleaners so do not get confused with those
- uses a cleaning pad and solution for cleaning your VHS tapes
Where to Buy
- currently under $500 on eBay
More Info – check out this video (below) on the Geneva VHS tape cleaner from GotMemories.com
Before purchasing any of this equipment read the descriptions carefully as to the state of the VHS tape cleaning machine, as well as the warranty and return policy.
Other Tape Cleaning Options
- If purchasing a VHS Tape Cleaner is proving to be too difficult or expensive then consider a VHS tape cleaning service. Generally for one cost, they will run your tape through a cleaner and also transfer it to a digital format. Best for people that aren’t DIY and just want their tapes cleaned and transfered.
- For the DIY people out there you can manually clean your own tapes. This generally requires a “spare” VHS player that you don’t mind if the heads get dirty. Then you tape the top off and gently clean tape manually as the tape fast forwards. I’ll put a video below on how to do this. Best for anyone that is handy and wants to save some money.
- Renting a VHS cleaning machine may be an option in your area like http://www.datadev.com/video-tape-cleaner.html
How to Clean a Moldy or Dirty VHS Tape Yourself
Here is the video I promised which shows you how to clean a moldy or dirty VHS tape yourself
Next Steps After Tape Cleaning
- If you got your tapes clean but did not transfer them to digital then that is the next critical step.
- Rip or Download DVD video files to your computer if that is how you received the files. Some services offer a download of the video file from their cloud service – always do this before the files “expire” or are no longer eligible.
- Backup any video files onto your computer
- Backup video files to cloud storage like Google Drive or DropBox – this is in case of a disaster/fire/lightning strike that can damage your computer