Category_VHS, Tips -

VCR Cleaner Kit

Any voracious Videovore will be quick to recognize the fact that VHS is one durable format. If taken care of properly, tapes can last upwards of 30 years (this proven by tapes from the early 80s that are still kickin’). And when juxtaposed with CDs, DVD, and digital media, its longevity and stability rank only with the other physical media greats: vinyl records and the printed word. So in order to reciprocate that long life span, it’s good practice to keep your playback machine in top form. This would be the idea behind the creation and distribution of VCR cleaning devices. Most of us are very familiar with the most common VCR cleaner: the Head Cleaner Video. You know the one. It’s in your parent’s basement (or even better on your video shelf!) most likely sheathed in a side-loading, drably colored case and when played back, shoots out some muzak or displays a tedious graphic while ridding your machine of all those built up, nasty dirt and residue particles restoring your sound and picture to a crisp and clear state. (Running this tape after every 20 – 30 hours of use should keep your picture and sound crisp and clear.) But a few companies decided to go for the regal treatment when it came to keeping your beloved VCR in peak performance and released VCR Cleaning Kits. This one in particular goes under the REALISTIC moniker and was manufactured to be exclusively distributed in RadioShacks across the land. There’s no tape with this bad boy, but it does come with a nice little set of tools to show your VCR some serious love. Included in the kit (which is still shaped like a VHS, undoubtedly for easy and convenient storage) are five chamois-tipped head cleaners (the chamois tip is perfect for the job as it won’t leave any residue on your VCR heads, as, say, a cotton swab would), a bristle brush for those stubborn patches of debris, a mirrored probe for those impossible to see areas, a half ounce bottle of Freon cleaner, and of course, a protective glove to make sure none of your skin oils rub off on the delicate VCR heads. Now the one thing that these Cleaner kits had on the standard cleaner tape is it expanded into both the VHS and Beta format since there was no tape to insert into the machine. But even with its broader reach, the Cleaner Kit certainly wasn’t for the dabbling video fan. Using this kit would mean you’d have to disassemble your VCR. That means you’d be removing the top of the machine to get up all in them guts. This, as one might guess, is something that only a seriously confident videovore should be attempting. And to further reinforce this notion the kit does indeed come with a tri-fold, step-by-step manual that is rife with bolded “do not” warnings, persistent encouragement to be most careful and an intro explicitly stating that if you have any doubt whatsoever in using this kit, take it to a professional, which kind of defeats the purpose if you ask me. If you were going to take your machine to a pro, you would think they would have all of these tools all ready to employ, right? That’s an assumption, and we all know what happens when we assume things. But with all of the hints of danger running through the manual, it still does a good job of being lucid and informative with the aforementioned step-by-step instructions and even a few black and white illustrations and images of the inside of your VCR. It even has a few lines on the back of the manual to keep a record of the last time you cleaned your machine. Seems like they thought of everything, huh? You can pick up one of these kits online for a couple bucks at the most, and honestly, there’s probably one lurking in a basement of someone you know. That’s where I found mine. So, here’s the real question: is it worth it to snatch up one of these kits? Only if you have the utmost confidence that you won’t mar your machine. That, or you have a spare VCR where the picture and sound is kind of wonky and you want to see if this repair kit is can bring it back from the grave. In the case of the latter, think of yourself as Victor Frankenstein trying to repair his monsters vision and hearing. It would probably make it more fun. And for those of you who dare not put your VCR’s life in jeopardy, owning one of these neato kits will serve as a time capsule from when VHS was King. And it was good to be King. -Josh Schafer

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