Cleaning VCR tapes - possible?

My kids left several vcr tapes in the basement where the humidity can get very high. The cassettes now have what appears to be mold on the tape itself. Of course, we only discovered this when someone attempted to play one of the tapes in our upstairs VCR, immediately gunking up the heads.

Is there a way to clean the tapes, or are they gone for good?

It might be possible, depending on the extent of the mold growth. Get some cotton gloves and follow these instructions to open the cassette. Carefully pull some of the tape off one of the reels (while wearing the gloves, of course) and see if the mold has grown under the layers of tape. If not, you can either try cleaning the mold off with a mild detergent solution and a soft, lint-free cloth like those used to clean lenses, and allow the cassette to dry thoroughly (about a day or two in a very dry location ought to do) before reassembling and testing it, or get a VHS tape splicing kit and try cutting out the moldy part. Also, be sure to run a cleaning cassette through your VCR. Maybe even twice.

I worked at a video store in college, and we had a device that we would drop the tape into when it absolutely would not play properly in any machine. It had a soft pad that was soaked in alcohol, and it would just run through the length of the tape in about 10 minutes.

Alan (may I call you Alan?) That sound like what I am looking for - an automated method of cleaning the tape. Do you remember what it was called? I’m having no luck Googling ““vcr tape” +cleaner” or combinations thereof. If worse comes to worse I’ll try Q.E.D’s method - I’ve got nothing to lose - but an automated answer would be ducky!

If I were doing it manually, I’d disassemble the cassette. (It’s really rather easy, but practice on some dead cassettes first.) This would let me inspect/wipe the sides of the reel of tape and contamination inside the case. If necessary, I’d transfer the reel to another disassembled case (like the dead cassettes I practiced on)

The tape is usually held on the take-up reel by a plastic wedge that slides out easily with your finger. Though I’ve spliced many tapes and films in my time, I think removing re-attaching the new leading end to the take-up real is both easier and more durable than a splice. also this lets you discard the “leader” (from the take-up reel to the flap) which is probably as contaminated as the outermost layer of the main reel. The first 2-3 feet of tape don’t contain any video on commercial cassettess, anyway – not even the FBI warning.

You can often find tape “rewinder/cleaners” on sale on the internet or in stores, but the ones I’ve seen are oddly pricey. You might try making one yourself from a $5 battery-powered rewinder by pulling out a loop of of the tape to thread around pegs covered in lens cloth or paper and (the critical step) replacing all but 1-2 of the batteries with a conductor. Cheap tape rewinders often free-wheel at low torque byt high tape velocity with the flap closed; reducing the voltage (plus the small amount of friction you’ve added) can make it slow and gentle. It’s probably better for rewinding, too. I’ve had to fix many tapes that were rewound so fast by cheap rewinders that they pulled the leading end out of the take-up reel.

I’ve never seen one available on the commercial market, and I never figured out who made the device we had or who sold them. I know I could have sold quite a few of the devices at one time.

Here’s one. Looks like just the ticket, if the OP is willing to spend $54 + $19 S&H. I bet he could find a similar unit cheaper on eBay.

Thanks, Q.E.D., that’s exactly what I am looking for.! Off now to find a bargain on one of these jewels…