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How to Securely Destroy a CD

If you’re like me, you may have at some point tried to record personal or sensitive data onto a CD only to find that there was an error recording and that you would have to try recording it again. But what do you do with the bad CD? You can’t just throw it away, because then any snoop could retrieve it from your trash and have all the data you wanted to keep private. In this article, I will show you my method of CD disposal that requires only easily obtainable items. Note that this method requires that the CD have its label side directly exposed; I have some Verbatim brand DVD+R discs that have an extra plastic layer over the label that gives them very good protection from intentional and unintentional damage.

Ok, first, here are the items you need to have (Fig. 1):

  • Scissors
  • Paper
  • CD to be destroyed
  • Whiteboard cleaner (not shown)

Necessary Equipment
Figure 1: Necessary Equipment

Step 1: Take the scissors and scrape them across the label side of the CD (Fig. 2). As you can see, small flakes of the label fly off as you do this. This step helps to loosen the label for the next step.

Scraping the Disc
Figure 2: Scraping the Disc

Step 2: Now use the scissors to scrape off the label completely onto a piece of paper (Fig. 3-5). Start scraping at the grooves you made earlier and continue until there is no label left on the CD (Fig. 6). This step will probably take up to half an hour.

Label 25% Removed
Figure 3: Label 25% Removed

Label 50% Removed
Figure 4: Label 50% Removed

Label 75% Removed
Figure 5: Label 75% Removed

Label Completely Removed
Figure 6: Label Completely Removed

Step 3: You should now have a plastic disc that used to be a CD and a bunch of label shavings. The disc will appear to have a slight color to it when you hold it up to a white background. This is the dye on the CD that is used in order to record data on it, and it needs to be thoroughly scrambled. You can use whiteboard cleaner to do this (Fig. 7), although it does take a bit of work. I used cleaner containing 2-butoxyethanol acetate and isopropyl alcohol, and while it did not completely remove the dye everywhere, it did remove it from some places and undoubtedly ruined the data stored everywhere else. Warning: The whiteboard cleaner is somewhat toxic, and the CD dye may be as well. When you are finished cleaning and handling the disc, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly. Once you are done cleaning the disc as much as possible, it should be okay to throw away.

Removing the Dye
Figure 7: Removing the Dye

Step 4: At this point, all that is left is to mash up the shavings into tiny bits. If you have a mortar and pestle, it would be great for this task. Otherwise, gather all the shavings into the center of a piece of paper and fold it into quarters in a coffee filter-like shape with the shavings at the corner (Fig. 8). You can then mash them from the outside of the “filter” until you get pieces about the size of your pinkie nail or smaller (Fig. 9).

Pieces Ready to Be Mashed
Figure 8: Pieces Ready to Be Mashed

Figure 9: Confetti!

These pieces should now be safe to throw away. If you want to be extra safe, you can split the pieces up into separate lots and throw each lot away in garbages at different locations several blocks or more away from each other. If you want, you can keep the shavings and do something creative like using a plastic figurine, an Easter egg with one clear end, some glue, and water to make a snow globe with shiny snow. Use your imagination and you can surely come up with something.