cassette deck

Learn step-by-step instructions for how to properly maintain a cassette deck.

Cassette deck maintenance prevents and solves problems and improves recording and playback sound quality.

Cleaning Cassette Deck Heads

  1. Dip a cotton swab in anhydrous isopropyl alcohol and gently scrub heads (the parts that read the tape).
  2. Dry the heads with the other end of the swab.
  3. Use a fresh swab when one gets visibly dirty.
  4. Repeat until the swab does not appear to be discolored.
  5. Clean heads after about 30 hours of use or according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  6. Commercial head-cleaning fluids contain additives that will cause more harm than benefit.

Cleaning Tape Path Parts

  1. Use a cotton swab and alcohol.
  2. Clean capstan. Turn on deck to spin capstan (the metal spindle to the right of the tape heads that works with pinch roller to guide tape). Gently move swab up capstan shaft. Follow Steps 2 to 4 under “Clean Heads.”
  3. Clean pinch roller (the black rubber roller that works with a capstan to guide tape). Rotate pinch roller with a swab in tape path between capstan and pinch roller. Follow Steps 2 to 4 under “Clean Heads.”
  4. Clean stationary plastic and metal guideposts.
  5. Clean under reel hubs.
  6. Wipe the remainder of the tape well with a dry swab.

Tips & Warnings

  1. Some decks have two capstans and pinch rollers. See the information about your deck to see where the parts are on your equipment.
  2. Use rubber cleaner on the pinch roller if you have it.
  3. Clean the tape path when you clean the tape heads.


  1. Use a commercial tape deck demagnetizer.
  2. With the deck off, turn on (or plugin, if the demagnetizer doesn’t have a switch) demagnetizer away from the deck, other audio equipment and tapes.
  3. Slowly move the tip of the demagnetizer towards the head.
  4. Make sure the demagnetizer doesn’t touch the tape head (the magnetic field will cause it to try).
  5. Slowly move the tip back and forth across the tape head for a few seconds. Get close to the head without touching it.
  6. Slowly pull the demagnetizer far away from the head. Unplug the demagnetizer after demagnetizing both heads.

Tips & Warnings

  1. Look for a demagnetizer with a plastic-coated tip.
  2. Only demagnetize if you start to hear distortion on your tapes.
  3. A hi-fi shop might also demagnetize your heads for you.
  4. Used improperly, a demagnetizer will increase head magnetization.
  5. 5. A demagnetizer can damage tapes, speakers and other audio equipment.

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