CD-DVD Using A Sharpie or Labels – Is There A Problem?

I was asked a question last week about whether it is OK to use a sharpie or stick on CD labels on CD’s and DVD’s. Good question since there is some debate on using either method to label your disks.

There are labeling pens that are specifically made for writing on disks which is one of the preferable ways to label your disks. And then there is also LightScibe [here] for which your hardware must support this process.

Using a sharpie pen. Sharpies contain solvent based inks, that in theory MAY attack certain CD/DVD protective coatings. If this happens data could be lost. I use shapie’s to label my disk, and thus far have not had this problem. But your mileage my vary. So I took at look at Sanford’s site, the makers of Sharpie pens and sure enough they do have a model made specifically for CD / DVD’s. Look here.
CD stick on labels. I have read that a misaligned label stuck onto a CD/DVD could cause wobble and a misread of data. Since I do not use stick ons, I don’t know how true this maybe or not. It does seem possible. I have heard of CD disks exploding inside of drives before, but have fortunately not experience this as well. It should be noted that exploding CD’s have nothing to do with labels being affixed but more with high speed rotation.

So here is my question to you the reader. What has been your experiences with using sharpies or stick on labels? Have you had any problems? Let us all know.

Your comments are highly appreciated.

And here is a very good site for answers on CD /DVD disk problems and solutions located here.
[tags]cd, dvd, sharpie pens, labels, problems, lightscribe, [/tags]

Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • Scott King

    I have used paint pens for several years now and have had no problems so far.I use Unipaint medium pens and the marking stays on with no streaks or fading.

  • Ron Schenone

    Hi Scott,
    Thanks for the tip.

  • Lisa Miller

    I remembered that Fred Langa did some research on this subject and found the article.

    Don’t know if he’s done anything in this vein lately but he decided that stick-on labels are NOT the way to go.

  • Ron Schenone

    Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for the information and for sharing it with us.

  • Guest

    I’ve used sharpie, Avery cd-stickers, and special cd-pens and haven’t had any problems with any of them.

    The only trouble with the stickers is they occationally “jam” my laptop cd tray (although that’s happened with store-baught discs too) if they are too thick. I say “jam” but I mean it will stop it from turning and then the firmware shuts down the tray to prevent damage so I have to reboot and try again…

  • Ron Schenone

    Hi Guest,

    Thanks for the comment.


  • Guest

    Mixed experience with labelled discs. I have no problems with my standalone DVD player, with my Dell portable or the Lite-on drive on which they were burned. One son can play my DVDs on his standalone. But other son can’t play on his new Philips standalone, or, more suprisingly, on either of his DVD drives in his PC, or in his MAC portable. Gave him some discs last night with no labels, and they played fine. THe problem is usually worse towards end of DVD, so I guess it is a balance issue, which would throw off the tracking more towards the outside of the disc. Very irritating – it would seem to be a trivial engineering problem to fix, and clearly many drives can handle it.

  • Scott

    I’ve never had problems with labeled CDs. However, recently I purchased a new car and the manual explicitly warned against using adhesive-labeled CDs in its (single-slot dashmount) player, as the heat buildup over a period of extended play could cause the label to delaminate from the disk and jam the mechanism. Since I can feel some heat buildup even in my PC’s player, and the manual stated that damage of this sort would NOT be covered by the warranty, I have taken care not to use labeled CDs in that player.

    I’ve used Sharpies for years now on both CDs and DVDs, and have never had a problem yet, either in terms of physically observable damage or playability. Dunno what that spells for the future…

  • Daniel

    I just put a label on a DVD and my DVD player couldn’t play it. Probably because I have a feeder and not a tray, when I ejected the DVD the label was half off.

  • Wagner Lip

    Hi, today I experienced the label on CD problem, and yes, it is very much positive to appear when reading the CD on a DVD drive, in my case, both DVD burners, a Lite-On and a HP lightscribe unit.

    But I found the problem. It has nothing to do with alignment or something like that. It is caused by heating the label, the paper contracts and bent the disk in a funel shape. Laying down the warm CD over a desk, label down, the border all around is touching the desk, but the center hole is almost 3/8″ above the desk. As is cools down, the center goes down too.

    The problem appears more on DVD drivers, since they heat the media much more than bare CD drives. I don’t have the minimum idea why they heat up the media more than CD, but they do. With it, the paper contracts and bent the disk.

    Solution? warm water, soap, slowly remove the label rubbing your fingers until all the paper (from the label) is removed, then continue the job until you remove all the glue that stay there… be careful to not scratch or pull the aluminium film (where you write on when using pen), since it is the guy that holds the recorded information. If the film lift, it is gone.

    I rubbed somehow hard, mostly to remove the glue, the aluminum stands such pressure, but be careful.

    At the end, use some soft paper tissue with alchool to clean and remove any remaining little balls of glue, mostly form the recorded side (during the removal process some go there).

    Then, clean well under tap water and soap, wash, dry using a not so dry soft towel and good readings.

    I was able to read two CDs that previously (with labels) were impossible.

    After removing from the machine, warm, they now sit flat over the desk.

    The problem is basically focus alignment. The drive can not focus correctly with the media so lifter at the edge.


    Wagner Lip
    Orlando Florida

  • Ron Schenone

    Wagner Lip,
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. It is appreciated.
    Hopefully it will help someone else as well.

    Regards, Ron

  • Robert

    Sharpie’s are in fact Alchohol based NOT solvent

    Here’s an interesting excerpt;

    “There are pens recommended specifically for writing on CD-Rs. Examples include the Dixon Ticonderoga “Redi Sharp Plus”, the Sanford “Powermark”, TDK “CD Writer”, and Smart and Friendly “CD Speed Marker”. Some of these are relabeled Staedtler Lumocolor transparency markers (#317-9), which are alcohol-based. Never use a solvent-based “permanent” marker on a CD-R — it can eat through the lacquer coat and destroy the disc. Memorex sells water-based color “CD Markers” in four-packs (black, blue, red, green).

    Many people have had no problems with the popular Sanford “Sharpie” pens, which are alcohol-based. Other people say they’ve damaged discs by writing on them with a Sharpie, though those discs may have been particularly susceptible. The official word from Sanford is:

    “Sanford has used Sharpie Markers on CDs for years and we have never experienced a problem. We do not believe that the Sharpie ink can affect these CDs, however we have not performed any long-term laboratory testing to verify this. We have spoken to many major CD manufacturers about this issue. They use the Sharpie Markers on CDs internally as well, and do not believe that the Sharpie Ink will cause any harm to their products.

    Sanford Consumer Affairs”

    • Ron Schenone

      Thanks for the info.