How to make your audiocassettes last longer

Basic maintenance tips

  • Cassettes should be stored vertically upright. Stacking or laying them flat on hard surfaces for an extended period causes the tape to become slack and makes tape edges prone to damage.
  • Keep tapes in a clean, dark and dry environment. (A 45 percent relative humidity is ideal.)
  • Moisture and sunlight are especially detrimental to all tape formats and need to be avoided at all costs.
  • Tape can tolerate temperatures ranging between 7°C and 21°C (45°F and 70°F), but major fluctuations in temperature should be kept to a minimum.
  • Bear in mind that audiotape is a magnetic medium, so be sure to keep tapes at least 7.5 centimetres (three inches) away from all magnetic sources, including stereo speakers, television sets and even headphones.
How to make your audiocassettes last longer

Cassette storage

  • Store audiocassettes in clean, plastic cases — the ones they come in are fine as long as the centre hubs are intact.
  • Always forward your tapes to the end of "Side One" before putting them into storage.
  • This is an important maintenance tip for all tape formats because it requires you to rewind the tape before playing it, an exercise that relieves any tape stress or stickiness that may develop through inactivity.
  • If you haven't played a tape for several months, rewind it two or three times before playing or copying it.

Clean your player

  • The best way to ensure the longevity of your tape collection has little to do with the tapes themselves and everything to do with the condition of the equipment you play them on.
  • More tapes are destroyed due to malfunctioning hardware than anything else.
  • That's why you should always make sure that your tape deck or player is working properly before you insert or spool up an important tape.
  • Every tape loses a bit of its microscopic particles with each pass through your tape deck — and the older the tape, the more particles it sheds.
  • Those particles, as well as everyday dust and debris, accumulate on the recording and playback heads and other tape-transport mechanisms inside the unit.
  • If they are not removed, they will ultimately impair the deck's operation, resulting in garbled or diminished sound or, worse, mangled or "eaten" tapes.
  • So don't forget to clean your tape-playing equipment on a regular basis, at least after every 25 hours of playing time.

Don’t rush playback

  • When moving tape from a cold and dry or warm and damp environment to room temperature, always let it sit for at least two hours before you put it in your tape deck or player.
  • This lets the tape acclimate to its new surroundings and minimizes the risk of it forming condensation, which could damage both the tape and the tape player.

Minimize wear and tear

  • Don't leave cassettes on your dashboard to bake for hours in the sun in the middle of summer.
  • Even in spring and fall, considerable heat can build up.
  • Don't subject the cassettes to strenuous workouts inside your tape player with constant stopping, starting, forwarding or rewinding. And keep those "music searches" — in which the tape is kept in contact with the deck's play head while it's forwarding or rewinding — to an absolute bare minimum.
  • Never leave your tapes partially played.
  • Rather, fast-forward or rewind them to the end of a side, and be sure to remove them from the player to avoid potential creases in the tape from the playback mechanism or putting unnecessary stress on the tape deck.
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