Going to the store is treacherous for me. So I prefer doing stuff at home, including cleaning up 5¼" floppy disks with only home supplies. Unfortunately, I do not know how or which materials/chemicals to use. This is a dilemma for me because I might accidentally damage a disk.

How can I safely clean these floppy drives with only supplies usually found at home instead of a NOS cleaning kit?

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    Is there a specific model of drive you're interested in here? – Mark Apr 19 '16 at 21:29
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    Are you asking how to clean a disk or a drive? Your title says drive but you talk about disks – Thraka Apr 19 '16 at 21:57
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    For reference, those disk cleaning systems they used to sell used mostly distilled water, with a small amount of dispersant. But as one answer gives, rubbing alcohol works, too. – user12 Apr 20 '16 at 0:28
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    Early in my career I was a bench engineer repairing 8”, 5.25” & 3.5” floppy disk drives. The method used to clean a head was isopropyl alcohol and a cotton bud or foam tip. The lower head is reasonably robust as they are bonded in place, but be careful when trying to clean the upper head. The head is mounted on a foil and it is possible to bend the foil which will put the upper head out of alignment – Nigel Filer Jan 19 '18 at 8:48

Ideally you should clean the drive read/write head(s) with a cotton swab dipped in 90+% cleaning alcohol (e.g. isopropyl). The aim is to leave nothing on the head - dirt, cotton, nor cleaner residue.

The Apple II drive head is quite hardy, and there are legends of people in a pinch cleaning it with a T-shirt - which I do not recommend unless your need is dire!

Finding the Apple II drive head is reasonably easy: if the drive is placed in its normal orientation, the head presses up onto the bottom of an inserted disk. Here is an excellent video tutorial.

Other drives might differ, but this PC 1.2MB drive also has the head on the bottom.

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    By my understanding, foam swabs are usually safer than cotton swabs (cotton ones can leave strands behind, foam ones won't). – JAB Jun 6 '16 at 20:03

You can simply cut open the disk -in side where you hold the disk and insert it into the floppy drive- and let it soak a few min in water and liquid dishwash soap.

To dry them you need to wipe from center and out with a paper towel or a soft cloth, lay the disc on top of a papertowel or soft cloth rather than table while doing so.

you can also do it the slow way, water/ipa and cottonstick. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01n8RgHgIwg


Check this out:


This guy tells you exactly how to make your own cleaning floppy disk drive.

  • Welcome to Retrocomputing! Answers that are mostly links are discouraged. Can you quote or paraphrase the essence of the information on your linked page? – DrSheldon Sep 19 '20 at 0:35

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