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Cleaning, Care and Storage of Leader Tapes

Jan. 13, 2022

Used in analog tape recordings, this is a non-magnetic plastic or special paper tape that is spliced to the tape between musical selections and at the beginning and end of the tape. The tape leader protects the tape, identifies the beginning and end of the selection, and provides a nearly silent space between selections (even blank tapes have some hiss).

Cleaning, Care and Storage of Leader Tapes

Black PET leader tape


Tapes should be treated with the same care that you would give to a rare book or important photograph. As a general rule, handle tapes carefully, keep them clean, and use common sense.

Use and store tape reels and tapes in a clean environment.

Avoid contaminating tapes with dirt, dust, fingerprints, food, cigarette smoke and ashes, and airborne contaminants.

Be careful not to drop tapes or cassettes.

Keep tapes away from strong sunlight and avoid contact with water.

Do not store the tape on radiators, windowsills, televisions, electronic equipment or machinery.

When tapes are not in use, they should be returned to the storage shelf and stored eventually. They should not be allowed to sit flat for long periods of time. 

Frequent Access

Tapes that are accessed frequently may have a shortened life expectancy due to wear and tear. The life of the media may not be determined by the data error rate, but by the life of the media casing. In one example, the life of a tape cartridge is limited by the failure of the cartridge door, not by any failure of the tape media. How many insertion and ejection cycles does your media have to handle? This may limit the life of the tape.

The more a tape or cassette is handled, the more vulnerable it is to fingerprints and debris. It is also exposed to less-than-ideal conditions, especially when materials are removed from the building where they are normally stored.

 Cleaning, Care and Storage of Leader Tapes

PI Leader tape


Storing magnetic tapes in a clean, controlled environment is the most important precaution you can take to extend the life of your media. High temperatures, high humidity, and the presence of dust and corrosive elements in the air can affect the physical components that make up the tape and may lead to loss of readable data through reduced magnetic capacity and deterioration of the tape adhesive or backing. Excessively low temperatures should also be avoided. Rapid temperature changes are also undesirable because they can introduce stress in the wound tape pack.

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