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Can Damaged VHS Tapes Be Restored?

By Shelby Burr

We understand how important your home movies are, trust us. I mean, your home movies are the closest things to the past! You can rewatch your family reunion, see videos of your great grandparents, and enjoy that moment your cousin tripped down the aisle at your wedding.

Who knew your VHS tapes would be so important? We did!

So, as you get around to pulling your tubs of VHS tapes out of the closet or basement, you might find some alarming news. It could be damaged! “But, I have it stored away in a box. It should be safe, right?” We understand that you’ve treated your memories with care, but sometimes mother nature decided to intervene with our plans. Don’t worry, we are here to help ease your mind! Let’s discuss the kind of damage that can be done to your tapes and what you can do to restore them.


3 Common Ways VHS Tapes are Damaged


1. Water Damage

You may not know it, but your tapes are susceptible to water damage...even if you have it in a pretty dry spot. Moisture from the air can get into any space, including your VHS tapes. What happens with water damage? Droplets of water can ruin the tape on the inside. It can cause fading, discoloration, and it can make the tape very weak (if you tried to play your tape, it could snap). Additionally, water expands when it freezes. Meaning, if your tapes contract water in the summer, the winter temperature can cause those droplets to expand and crack your tape altogether.

What can you do if you discover water damage? DRY IT OUT. Lay your tapes out on a dry cloth and let them air dry in a temperature controlled room. Once dry, examine your tape, the film, the hardware. If you feel like your tapes are dry enough, carefully try to play them. The best trick to keep your home movies safe is to get them digitized. If they aren’t too damaged, it’s not too late!

2. Mold Damage

Okay, so we addressed the water. With water comes mold. Yep, you can have moldy VHS tapes and this is a little tricky to recover from. Mold can cause the exact same damage as water, with a few other things like: your film can be eaten through from the mold. Sounds extreme and it is! That means your memories can be gone completely forever. If you discover mold on your tapes, there are safe ways to clean them. However, once clean, get those things digitized!

3. Hardware Damage

Sure, VHS tapes are hefty, firm, and feel like they could last a century. But the truth is, life happens. There could be animals that decided to use your tape and film as a nice, warm bed, or there could be kids who decided it would be fun to see if your VHS tapes were baseball bat proof. Life happens. Maybe another box falls onto your box of VHS tapes and it cracks the hardware of your most precious tape. Either way, VHS tapes are tricky to fix. We all know that we are moving to the digital era, so it’s not often to find someone who can repair a broken VHS tape. That said, if your tapes are cracked, but the film seems to be okay - there are ways to transfer your tape to another tape. 

All this to say, damaged VHS tapes are never fun to discover and it can be hard to deal with. While there are some ways to restore your memories, the best way is to get them digitized before the damage is done. 

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