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  #1  
06-08-2011, 03:32 PM
Superstar Superstar is offline
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Hi, I have a really stupid question for you lol..and I feel really stupid asking you this..and I'm sure you'll think I'm really stupid after you read this..but..here goes. I know there's markers that are made exclusively for writing on CDs/DVDs...however, I bought a Sharpie marker today to write on the front of my DVDs...will that do any damage to the DVDs at all? Is it ok to use?


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  #2  
06-09-2011, 02:40 AM
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In the pre-Internet world, yes, this probably would have been a stupid question. While the current times are often referred to as the "Age of Information" due to vast technological advances in communication (the Internet, mobile devices, worldwide fiber networks, etc), it's also the Age of Misinformation. Myths, propaganda and straight-up bullplop spread quickly online. So it's sadly quite easy to become confused or unsure of yourself, when presented with so much baloney online. And that extends well into video and media products. You get a free pass on this one -- it's not your fault that you're asking a stupid question.

Let's start with a DVD...

A Sharpie marker will not damage a DVD, no. It's physically and scientifically impossible. Think back to the physical structure of a standard recordable DVD:

| Label and lacquer layers
| Upper polycarbonate layer
| Foil layer
| Dye layer
| Lower polycarbonate layer

For the sake of being mentioned, note that: (1) Pressed/replicated DVDs lack the dye layer. (2) Burner double-layer (or dual-layer) discs have an added dye layer plus a dye layer spacer. (3) Rewriteable discs like DVD-R, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM lack a dye, but instead use phase-changing crystalline structure alloys at the same layer location. --- Not that any of this is really germane to the conversation, but I want to be sure every aspect is fully addressed. Let's fully 100% dispel this myth here.

The important piece of this puzzle is that upper polycarbonate. It's a very dense and transparent plastic polymer. Note the "carbon" in the polycarbonate. Carbon is a very dense and durable material. Ever hear of carbon fiber? It's stronger than steel, thanks to the carbon.

The myth used to sell "DVD safe" markers is that so-called "acids" will eat through the disc. This is false. In fact, it's so false as to be ridiculous, and should be mocked for its stupidity. Sharpie pens would have to be very toxic and have a high concentration of lethal acids, in order to cause that sort of destruction to a DVD. Of course, such a nasty cocktail would also fair poorly as a writing utensil, so it would be difficult to call such an acid stick a "pen" (or marker). It would not really be able to write.

The weakest part of a DVD is the binders (or glues) that hold the polycarbonates together, forming your DVD layer sandwich. I guess in theory, if you coated the edge of a disc in standard non-AF (acid free) ink, you could accelerate aging and cause decay. It would not be immediate, however -- none of that ridiculous "6 months" type paranoid rambling you may have read in forums or on blogs. (Notice that all such non-sense tends to generate from lower-knowledge users. Although it's worth mentioning that some of this ridiculousness has leeched into the archival sector, and those who would parrot it lack proper knowledge to know otherwise.)

Now let's look a CD...

A CD could potentially suffer damage from so-called "acids" in markers, but it's still unlikely. Again, we need to consider the structure of the disc in question:

| Lacquer and/or labeling layer
| Foil layer
| Dye layer
| Lower polycarbonate, which actually creates the bulk of the thickness of a CD

To actually cause major harm to the disc, acid would have to first eat through the lacquers, which is certainly quite plausible. Next it would need to attack the sputtered foil layer, which is where the myth of "acid eating a CD" falls apart. The sputtered foil layers are a mix of primarily gold or silver, with a few other alloys to fortify it, and it would take a pretty potent cocktail to eat through gold or silver. Again, you'd have to use a lethal acid stick -- not a writing tool with trace amounts of acid in the writing ink.

A CD does not have bonding agents like DVD, so writing on the edge of the disc won't have any effect.

The easiest way to "fight" this is to write on a CD with a branded or inkjet writing surface -- don't write on the mirror "shiny silver" part of a disc, as that's nothing more than lacquer on foil. Keep the writing off the lacquer, and you should be fine. The label areas are there for a reason. If your discs lack a writing area, then write in the hub. Or use a hub label. Note that full-face CD labels are not suggested, as it tends to throw off the balance of the disc over time. (There's also the issue of sticky label glues eating at the lacquer layer!)

Can acid eat a disc?

In fact, the only way you can easily screw up a disc, by using an acid, is to subject it to something where acetone is present, as acetone eats plastic. Or in this case, destroys the polymer.

Why does this myth exist?

This is all due to weak extrapolation based on various papers, such as photo paper, and how long-term exposure to certain inks/acids will ruin paper over time. Acid-free plastic storage, acid-free reinforments (comics backing board, for example), and acid-free pens are very important to long-term viability of papers. Even the papers themselves can have too high of an acid content to have long-term shelf life. Photo paper is especially succeptible, because it's chemically active, and further chemical reactions happen over time. It's why photos turn yellow or brown over time, and why writing can bleed through from the reverse side. Not inkjet photo paper, but photographic lab paper.

Discs are essentially a continuation of both traditional print storage and computer magnetic discs. Paper users were concerned about acidity, and acid-free "safe" products sold well. Since those same people are involved in modern media use, the old concerns of acidity still exist. Therefore the market exists, because the product was demanded.

Nevermind that it's something that exists solely because people are stupid enough to buy it.

Sharpie has already fully investigated the concerns resolving Sharpie branded markers (and several competitor markers, from what I recall), and came up with the scientifically-likely conclusions that it was all bollocks. There's no truth to acid in markers "eating" your CDs or DVDs. At one point, I saw their white paper on this, and I may have even saved a copy, but it's not within easy reach at this moment.

Another issue is that the inks would fade over time, and may even change tint (yellow faded writing instead of black, for example), which many mistook for some sort of damage. It's simply an issue of the inks not really being permanent, as propanol is a major ingredient. (Yes, that brings up the misleading idea of a "permanent marker", but that's another conversation entirely.)

Is it safe to write on a CD or DVD with a Sharpie marker? Yes, it is!

Hopefully we'll save you from wasting money on those "safe" markers. Note to mention Sharpie has so many choices in colors and tip styles!
I suggest the Extra Fine tipped markers: http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.ht...reative=390957

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  #3  
06-15-2011, 02:45 PM
Superstar Superstar is offline
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Thanks for the very helpful post. I did read some articles online about how they would damage the DVD over time, and I didn't want to take that risk. I use "CD Markers" now to write on my DVDs, however when I write on them, I don't like how big the words come out, because of the texture of the marker, no matter how hard I try to write small on them, I just can't with these markers.
I bought a Sharpie "Fine Point" marker, and I really like how it allows me to write on the DVDs, then I decided to do some research on them and I came across some articles saying they would damage a DVD over time, so I figured I'd come here and find for sure

I'll keep using them, I feel much more at ease after reading your post. Thanks again!
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  #4  
06-15-2011, 04:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superstar View Post
came across some articles saying they would damage a DVD over time
Generally speaking, these were written by people who only "heard" something, or "read it" at a non-reference website. When you look at the science of how markers are made, coupled with the science of how discs are manufactured, the idea that "pen acid eats discs" comes across as not only wrong but outright ridiculous. It's yet another modern urban myth.

I would imagine most of the "articles" you read were online junk written by content mills. In other words, average people with zero specialty knowledge on the topic. They're just writing for the sake of being able to claim they're a "writer", hoping to cash in on the ad money promised by content mills. (In reality, you make just a few cents per "article" at most, making it a waste of time, as well as a blight of crap writing on the Internet. That's what the recent Google SERPs updates were targeting. They're tired of BS "articles", too.)

Although from time to time you will see garbage written by an actual journalist -- somebody who rushed without doing any in-depth research, and relying on sources that are not really authoritative. That's where those "DVDs dies in 2-5 years" myth articles came from -- sloppy journalism.

Glad I could set you straight.

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  #5  
06-16-2011, 05:29 PM
Superstar Superstar is offline
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Would or have you used them to write on DVDs?
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  #6  
06-16-2011, 06:21 PM
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I write on DVDs with Sharpie extra-fine tipped markers all the time.
I especially like black, blue, green and purple.

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  #7  
06-16-2011, 11:03 PM
Superstar Superstar is offline
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I just found Sharpie DVD/CD specific markers. I didn't think they made them specifically geared towards DVDs/CDs, hence why I asked originally about them, but apparently they do. So that puts this post to rest

Thanks again for your help!
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  #8  
06-17-2011, 06:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superstar View Post
I just found Sharpie DVD/CD specific markers.
This just exemplifies the statement that certain things are sold only because people are dumb enough to demand it be sold (and also buy it). The myth that a marker will "eat" a disc is ridiculous from a scientific stance. Chemistry, to be precise.

Sure, Sharpie sells markers to the gullible suckers who insist on using them. Sharpie probably lost some sales when the big bad boogieman told them Sharpie markers would eat their precious music, videos, photos and backup files. I can't say I blame Sharpie entirely for simply providing the product being demanded -- even if it is a foolish demand. When a person is in the store (or at an online store), and buying markers, what do you think he/she is going to buy? The no-name "safe" marker or the Sharpie? Sharpie being the brand name for markers. Why, the Sharpie marker, of course! But only if it was "safe" as the mythical "they" said it had to be.

The evil acid being shunned by the myth is usually xylene, often used in "industrial strength" types of markers. These are the markers that generally smell awful, and garner jokes about "getting high" from those who are offended by the foul smell. In my drawer here, I have a 1" wide Sharpie marker that I use to scribble out writing on shipping boxes (recycling for re-use), and it smells like rotten eggs dunked in whiskey. Xylene is a weak acid -- technically known as a "weak acid" -- and is no more harsh than comparable acids found in foods or in vinegar. (Although it should be noted that xylene is a toxic chemical to animals, especially inhaled or imbibed.) The idea that it can eat through polycarbonate or even foil alloys is ridiculous. A compound made with xylene actually forms a kind of plastic (PET), so the idea that it will destroy plastic is rather absurd.

Alcohol, xylene, and toluene are the three common additives in markers, used as thinning agents to allow the flow of inks. When the ink is released from the pen/marker, the additive evaporates, leaving just the pigment. It's "permanent" because it's not soluble with water, and requires a solvent to remove (isopropyl alcohol, for example). Note that there are different ways to define "permanent" as there are solvent-resistant markers, though those are more like paint than standard inks.

Acetones and acetates would be harmful to discs; neither are present in markers.

I've never seen a chemist prove that a marker can harm a compact disc (CD) or digital versatile disc (DVD), either pressed or recordable/rewritable. Another site that prides itself on media research, mscience, has a similar page dedicated to this issue (although targeting only CD, and not mentioning DVD). Discs strenuously tested showed no affect between control groups that were marked, and those that were unmarked, after accelerated aging and proper testing/analysis of the aged media.

This is one of those myths that just needs go away. It's been a nuisance for too long.

The worst thing that comes from marking a CD is that the pigment can fade over time, becoming an ugly yellow or green that smears. I need to take some photos of 15- to 20-year-old burned CD-R, to show how marker aging appears.

I hope this has been educational.

Again, I suggest the Extra Fine tipped markers: http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.ht...reative=390957
Very nice for CD/DVD writing.

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  #9  
06-22-2011, 11:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by admin View Post
Although from time to time you will see garbage written by an actual journalist -- somebody who rushed without doing any in-depth research, and relying on sources that are not really authoritative. That's where those "DVDs dies in 2-5 years" myth articles came from -- sloppy journalism.
I saw an interview with Jon Stewart today, and he was being grilled by a Fox News personality about how all media has a liberal bias, blah blah blah. And Stewart came back with a perfect retort: It's not that the so-called "mainstream" media has a liberal bias, but rather a bias for sensationalism and for being lazy. This "DVD safe marker" situation perfectly exemplifies that remark!

Reporters at magazines who simply repeat myths that "acids eat DVDs" or "DVDs die in 2-5 years" have clearly
(1) Never done an iota of research on optical media or markers, and
(2) Run with scaremongering headlines to pump up ratings and readership.

Media fail.

Thanks, Jon.

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  #10  
01-08-2016, 02:15 PM
twobitcoder twobitcoder is offline
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A ball-point pen will wreck a CDR/DVDR. Ask me how I know this. Not because I'm an idiot repeating a "stupid rumor". And, dude, you sure spent a long time coming to the point. "No, a sharpie will not wreck a CDR/DVDR". But a ballpoint pen will. Not instantly, but give it a few days to soak in... I lost a half dozen discs. Just adding to this old thread to correct the misinformation provided.
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  #11  
01-08-2016, 06:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twobitcoder View Post
...Just adding to this old thread to correct the misinformation provided.
Surely you came across the thread below from about the same period as well.

What's best surface for writing on - inkjet or thermal?
From post 06-15-2011 by lordsmurf
"** Important note:
NEVER use a ball point pen on a disc!
!!"
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  #12  
01-10-2016, 12:25 PM
Superstar Superstar is offline
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Wow, I can't believe I made that post 4 and a half years ago..time flies!

As an update, I've only used Sharpie markers on DVDs since I made this post.
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  #13  
08-24-2016, 12:45 PM
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I'm in the video transfer business and I have seen discs that were permanently damaged from using regular sharpies. Over time, the surface was eaten through so the laser lens could not read the disc data. You could see through the disc from the data side where the Sharpie writing was.
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  #14  
08-24-2016, 10:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vidserv View Post
I'm in the video transfer business and I have seen discs that were permanently damaged from using regular sharpies. Over time, the surface was eaten through so the laser lens could not read the disc data. You could see through the disc from the data side where the Sharpie writing was.
That's simply not possible. Science says otherwise. The polycarbonate layer is simply too strong to be damaged (at all) by such a weak acid. Wiping it with most cleaners is actually more harmful.

More likely, what you've seen, are translucent discs -- hence, you can see the Sharpie writing. And this the surface of the disc was separately damaged. Too often, this is the root cause of this myth.

Or more likely, the disc was always terrible (be it burned or pressed).

Finally, CD, DVD and BD are all different, including presses, and dye or phase-change recordables.

CD can indeed be harmed by markers, if the thin foil was damaged. But it can also be harmed by simple air. The damage was the breakdown of the foil, and that's also not caused by the weak acid of the marker.

You simply cannot place blame on Sharpies, when there are so many other variables with more likely causality.

As we've said on this site before:
John like blue.
John like bananas.
Bananas must be blue? < That's the logic you're using here, by simply blaming Sharpies.

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  #15  
08-25-2016, 01:30 PM
vidserv vidserv is offline
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I strongly disagree.
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09-13-2019, 11:23 PM
HeyMcfly HeyMcfly is offline
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Hi guys,new to this place,but after googling I was brought here,as someone who burns a lot of dvd-r, I was worried about using those handy Sharpies I've got in my drawer, so read a lot of places where they'll eventually damage my discs,but confused and a little paranoid I'm reading a commercial for Sharpies, can you clear this up that most permanent markers are OK to write on your dvd-r discs not just the brand name of Sharpie? Cheers
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  #17  
09-13-2019, 11:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeyMcfly View Post
Hi guys,new to this place,but after googling I was brought here,as someone who burns a lot of dvd-r, I was worried about using those handy Sharpies I've got in my drawer, so read a lot of places where they'll eventually damage my discs,but confused and a little paranoid I'm reading a commercial for Sharpies, can you clear this up that most permanent markers are OK to write on your dvd-r discs not just the brand name of Sharpie? Cheers
Yes, this applies to all "permanent" (not actually permanent whatsoever) markers.

Those "lots of places" are just parroting unsubstantiated nonsense.

The best marker for writing are the Sharpie Extra Fine tips. Sadly, it seems to have been discontinued. The Ultra Fine are next best, but the narrow tall tip was never my favorite.

The only exception would be if a marker contains acetone. But I'm not aware of any that do. In fact, I'm not aware of it being possible to have a writing instrument that contains acetone. If such a thing could exist, it would likely be from a no-name marker (mis)using the word "permanent".

This is really nothing more than chemistry.
More in-depth info on chemicals used is at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permanent_marker

Seeing how so many people fail that class in high school, I'm, really not surprised myths like this exist.

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  #18  
09-14-2019, 06:31 AM
HeyMcfly HeyMcfly is offline
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Thanks LordSmurf
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  #19  
09-15-2019, 11:35 PM
latreche34 latreche34 is offline
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They are also safer to redraw weather maps...! Aside from the joke, Keep in mind that the label face is much closer to the data layer than the transparent face so try not to push hard while writing especially if the sharpie is getting dry.
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  #20  
09-15-2019, 11:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by latreche34 View Post
They are also safer to redraw weather maps...! Aside from the joke, Keep in mind that the label face is much closer to the data layer so try not to push hard while writing.
For CD, yes, top is barely protected, bottom is most polycarb.
For DVD, no, it's 50/50 sandwich.
For BD, no, top is most of polycarb, bottom layer is thin.

It's hard to mash with a felt tip Sharpie.

Quote:
They are also safer to redraw weather maps...
Saw this in this week's The Week magazine:

Rogers-2019-09-06-policartoon-75p.jpg



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