Saturday, May 29, 2004

Myths & Legends

Since we were recently on the subject of urban legends I had decided to write a post on an urban legend I knew to be true based on personal experience. The legend: Sharpie permanent markers by Sanford should not be used to label CD-ROMs. A chemical in the ink will eventually eat through the plastic and damage the CD.

Curiously enough, while researching this post, I could find no information about this at and even found on a Sanford web site where Sanford says that Sharpies are safe for labeling CDs.

Go figure! As I heard it, Sanford had a notice on their web site validating this myth and even naming the chemical in the ink (probably diacetone alcohol) that was potentially damaging. The fix was to use a laundry marker (specifically named was Sanford’s Rub-a-dub marker) or one specifically formulated for marking on CDs.

Of course, I had dismissed this as pure crap as I had been using Sharpies to label CDs for years and had never encountered a problem. I had passed the information along to friends in an appropriate manner (i.e. I did not spam them) adding my own 2-cents about how “I’ve never had a problem.”

Then it happened. I was at work and a friend says, “Check this out,” as he was holding a CD I had witnessed him labeling with a Sharpie – that I most likely provided – just days before. He took the CD in his hands and rotated it so I could see the underside of the disc. I don’t know how it happened but there was a perfect mirror image of his labeling etched into the back side of the disc. It looked like someone had taken an awl, icepick or etching pencil and traced his writing.

I still have CDs I labeled with sharpies that work just fine. Some of them I’ve placed printable labels over for aesthetic reasons. The Sharpie ink sometimes bleeds through the label but almost any marker is going to do that.

To this day, that is the one and only instance I have ever witnessed or heard of where a Sharpie marker had damaged a CD. It was enough to convince me to stop using them. The Rub-a-dub markers don’t cost much more and I was actually fortunate enough to find some really nice TDK CD markers at Big Lots for $1 for a 4-pack.

Believe me or don’t. The choice is up to you.

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