How to Clean Barcode Scanners, Printers, and Devices (Full Guide)

For hospitals, distributors, and grocery stores, knowing how to clean barcode scanners, printers, and kiosks is crucial. Read our guide based on CDC recommendations.

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General Cleaning and Disinfecting Information

CDC Tips Summarized

COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, is the new reality. To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we each have a duty to stay safe, maintain a difference of at least six feet from others, wash our hands regularly, and clean anything we touch. The most effective way to protect yourself from the virus is to limit exposure.

Hospital workers, grocery clerks, food distributors, first responders, and many more brave professionals have an increased risk of exposure. It’s more important than ever to follow CDC guidelines, but also not overlook the devices we are using thousands of times a day.

 

Cleaning vs. Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting Definitions

Keeping ourselves, our workspaces, and our homes clean and avoiding exposure to others are vital in flattening the Coronavirus curve. But do you know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing? According to the CDC guidelines:

  • Cleaning removes and reduces germs from people, objects, and surfaces. Cleaning lowers the number of germs, which helps make it more difficult for infectious diseases to spread.
  • Sanitizing reduces germs to a safe level, according to public health standards.
  • Disinfecting kills germs by using chemicals on surfaces and objects. Antimicrobial agents kill a wide range of living microorganisms on non-living surfaces. Antiseptics are different, and apply living tissue. We’ll be focusing on antimicrobial disinfectants in this guide.

There’s no guaranteed, catch-all solution or magical disinfectant spray, but if we can practice regular intervals of all three and limit exposure with gloves and masks, that can make a huge difference.

 

What Disinfectant Solution Should I Use?

It depends. Disinfectant solutions come in all shapes, sizes, and properties. The environment, be it residential, commercial, or healthcare, is going to require different disinfecting methods and products.

The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, expanded its list of disinfectant products meant for use against SARS-CoV-2. Please refer to the EPA registration number on your cleaning product label when you consult this list.

As a rule of thumb, carefully follow the instructions from the manufacturer on the product label for correct use.

Clorox Residential Wipes

Examples of disinfecting wipes for residential use via Clorox

Other important things to note when looking at the CDC spreadsheet:

  • Use Site - healthcare, institutional, and residential environments call for different disinfectant standards. Healthcare disinfectant products make sense in hospitals, dental, and other facilities. These will be much stronger chemicals ranging from quaternary ammonium (QAPs) to hydrogen peroxide. Institutional disinfectants are meant for schools, office buildings, and other essential businesses. Residential disinfectants are to be used in homes.
  • Contact time - this indicates how long a surface should be visibly wet for maximum treatment. A common mistake is to spray and wipe a surface down and start using that surface again immediately. Depending on the solution being used, you need to wait anywhere from one minute to ten minutes or more. As a rule of thumb, wipe the surface down thoroughly and wait at least ten minutes before wiping it down and using again.
  • Formulation type - this list is sorted by dilutable liquids, ready-to-use (RTU) disinfectants, impregnated materials, and wipes. Dilutable liquids are seen in the heavy duty chemical containers, and often require mixing in a specific ratio of water. RTUs, impregnated materials, and wipes don’t require additional dilution. Dilutable liquids are used while disinfecting a whole hospital room by trained maintenance staff. You’ll see RTUs and wipes being used more commonly by healthcare staff to disinfect scanners and monitors.
  • Virus - you might assume the “virus” column is what the disinfectant is designed for and jump to the “human coronavirus” products first. But this column actually indicates the stronger, harder to kill viruses the product is effective against. As long as the contact time and instructions are followed, the product meets the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2.

Again, inclusion on this list means the disinfectants listed meet the EPA criteria and should not be taken as a government endorsement for specific products.

 

FDA vs. EPA Regulations with Disinfectants

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is another primary regulatory body for disinfectants. While the EPA is focused on high-contact clinical surfaces, the FDA regulates disinfectants on critical and semi-critical patient care devices.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA Act) of 1947, as amended in 1996 goes into even more detail on the steps manufacturers need to take to register a product.

With a better understanding of disinfecting vs. cleaning and some background on cleaning agents, now we'll dive deep into how to disinfect and clean barcode scanners, handhelds, computers, and more through a variety of essential industries.

How to Clean Barcode Scanners and Mobile Devices

Automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) devices, such as barcode scanners, mobile computers, vehicle mount computers, and handheld RF guns are used daily in nearly every essential industry you can think of. These devices are a breeding ground for aggressive bacteria.

Some quick stats to put mobile device usage into perspective:

  • We “check” our personal mobile devices an average of 58 times a day
  • This adds up to an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes a day looking at our phones
  • We touch these same devices 2,617 times a day (2016 data - likely a higher number today)
  • We’re supposed to wash our hands a minimum of 12 times a day for 20 seconds with soap
  • Only 5% of people wash their hands long enough to kill germs after they use the bathroom (only two out of three use soap)
  • We touch our faces 16 times an hour

Aviator Handwashing

Be right back… washing my hands real quick.

If you're work in an office or remotely and touch a laptop keyboard and mouse, you’re likely putting up similar numbers.

If you’re working in a hospital scanning patient ID wristbands, a food distribution plant scanning barcodes while you pick dairy products, or you’re moving items across the register scanner at the grocery store as fast as you can right now, first of all - thank you.

Second of all, you’re touching mobile computers, scanners, point of sale kiosks, and other devices a thousand times a day. You’re not able to wash your hands as much as you should. Other humans are in the mix.

Latex gloves, warehouse work gloves, face masks, and social distancing play an important role - but these devices need to be thoroughly disinfected, too.

Let’s explore four different environments and use cases that are both essential during this pandemic and have a higher likelihood of daily device contact: healthcare, food processing and distribution centers, grocery stores, and remote offices.

 

About Hospital and Healthcare Grade Barcode Scanners

Hospital and health care environments rely on handheld barcode scanners for scanning patient wristbands in order to pull up patient medications, medical history, order tests, collect specimens, and many other pieces or pertinent information.

Healthcare Scanners

Examples of scanners commonly seen in hospitals include the Zebra DS8100, Honeywell Xenon 1950h/1952h, and Datalogic Memor.

Healthcare barcode scanners are marketed as “health-care grade” because they are constructed with antimicrobial and impregnable materials components. The casing is designed to help reduce the number of microorganisms that linger on their surface.

Similar scanners and handheld products in the healthcare grade category have “disinfectant-ready housing” to help withstand harsh chemicals as well. Honeywell claims to be the first in the industry to use DRH in its barcode scanners.

Take the term "health-care grade" with a grain of salt. Whatever claims you may see regarding a scanner’s antimicrobial surface properties, you’ll still need to regularly disinfect and clean the scanners.

 

Healthcare Scanners vs. Non-Healthcare Scanners

If you compare the COVID-19 EPA list of disinfectants mentioned to what barcode manufacturers might say on a sell sheet, there is sometimes conflicting information.

Warning: The disinfectant products recommended for use in hospitals is very effective against infectious diseases, but can severely damage the plastic housing on data capture devices.

Amorphous plastic is cheap and easy to mass produce, so it’s widely used in barcode scanners and handhelds. But harsh disinfectants can cause discoloration, swelling, and cracking in the housing.

Harmful ingredients such as ammonia, acetone, ketone, ether, chlorinated hydrocarbon, alcoholic alkaline solutions, and TB-lysoform should be avoided if possible, says Zebra Technologies

 

What Cleaning Agent Should I Use to Disinfect Hospital Scanners?

No matter what brand is listed on the healthcare barcode scanner, it’s important you follow your organization’s internal hygiene and infectious disease protocol first and foremost. Safety is #1.

Most hospitals contain ready to use sprays and wipes. Some are harsher than others.

If you have questions about which devices are the best solution for your healthcare organization, we can help.

 

How to Disinfect and Clean Healthcare Barcode Scanners

To disinfect and clean barcode scanners for hospital and healthcare environments, you will need disinfectant RTU sprays and/or wipes approved by your hospital, as well as protective medical gloves. This guide is assuming you’re using healthcare grade scanners.

Not sure? Please follow the manufacturer recommendations for the specific device to avoid damaging the plastic housing. You can find a serial number or part number on the bottom of the base.

Clean Healthcare Scanners

To disinfect handheld hospital scanner(s):

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Equip protective gloves and disinfectant wipes. Spray disinfectant solution onto a lint-free cloth or paper towel if you’re making your own wipe - don’t oversaturate
  3. Using a circular motion, thoroughly wipe the handheld grip and trigger of the scan gun for 20-30 seconds
  4. Clean the rest of the device housing for an additional 20-30 seconds
  5. Wipe the scanner window with care for another 30 seconds, taking care not to leave fogginess or streaks if possible
  6. Let the device sit for at least ten minutes before use again (great opportunity to put it on the charging base)
  7. Remove your gloves
  8. Wash your hands again

Again, please refer to infectious disease sanitization protocol and ask your supervisor for instructions unique to your organization.

 

How to Clean and Disinfect Industrial Handheld Computers

Rugged handhelds, scanners, vehicle mount computers, and tablets used in essential industrial environments require a similar level of care.

Disinfectant wipes are okay if that is all you have, but please reference the device manufacturer’s guide to see what chemical agents should be avoided (such as ammonia, acetone, and ether).

To ensure your devices last longer, Datalogic recommends simply using either isopropyl alcohol (70%) or a ½ cup of household bleach diluted with 1 gallon of water as a general rule (especially if you are relying on ingredients available on hand). ACL Staticide IPA cleaning wipes are great if you can procure them as well.

Again, these devices are housed in plastic casing that can be easily damaged with strong enough chemicals.

Clean Industrial Scanners

To properly clean and disinfect a mobile computer, it’s recommended you use 70% isopropyl alcohol, protective gloves, and a clean, lint free cloth.

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Equip protective gloves and your 70% isopropyl alcohol solution
  3. Turn off the device completely, and make sure the battery is secured to prevent moisture from getting inside the mobile computer
  4. Apply the solution onto a lint-free cloth or paper towel (do not oversaturate, you don’t want liquid getting into the seams of the plastic casing, either)
  5. Using a circular motion, thoroughly wipe the handheld grip and trigger of the device for 30 seconds
  6. Continue scrubbing the rest of the device casing for an additional 30-60 seconds (a cotton swab works wonders for cleaning between the small keys and buttons)
  7. Wipe the screen in one vertical direction for another 30 seconds, taking care not to leave fogginess or streaks if possible
  8. Let the device sit for at least ten minutes before use (bonus: put it on the charging base for a charge)
  9. Dry the device with a sterile cloth
  10. Remove your protective gloves
  11. Wash your hands again

A good rule of thumb: repeat this cleaning process at the beginning and end of a shift, or when the device changes hands. The process takes 12-15 minutes - after two or three times, it’s an easy habit to adapt.

Industrial data capture devices vary in form factor, but these disinfectant tips should apply to 99% of devices. Please consult with the device manufacturer if you have additional questions.

 

How to Clean and Disinfect Industrial Printers

Both mobile and desktop printers used in industrial and harsh environments require a similar level of care.

Disinfectant wipes are okay, but please reference the device manufacturer’s guide to see what chemical agents should be avoided (such as ammonia, acetone, and ether). As mentioned before, these devices are housed in plastic casing that can be easily damaged with harsh ingredients.

To properly clean and disinfect a printer, it’s recommended you use 70% isopropyl alcohol and a clean, lint free cloth.

Clean Industrial Printers

How to clean and disinfect industrial printer(s):

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Equip protective gloves and your 70% isopropyl alcohol solution
  3. Apply the solution onto a lint-free cloth or paper towel
  4. Using a circular motion, thoroughly wipe the surface of the printer, especially areas with frequent points of contact, for at least 30 seconds
  5. Clean the rest of the printer housing for an additional 30 seconds
  6. Avoid fogginess and streaks on the printer screen with an up and down motion for another 30 seconds
  7. Let the device sit for at least ten minutes before use
  8. Remove your gloves
  9. Wash your hands again

Mobile printers should be cleaned and disinfected any time they change hands. If a receiving contact or customer holds the printer to sign for a delivery or order, make it a habit to clean the printer for 12-15 minutes right afterwards.

On a tight schedule, this is hard to adapt. But living in the COVID-19 reality, management are focused on safety #1. These disinfectant guidelines should be a way of life and viewed as both customer and employee safety measures.

Stationary desktop printers should be cleaned as much as possible within reason. It’s common for many warehouse employees to stop by a printer to pick up a barcode label.

Everytime someone comes into contact with the printer is an opportunity for microorganisms to spread. If employee safety is emphasized, printers should be disinfected as often as possible.

 

How to Clean Point of Sale Kiosks, Registers, Screens, and Handhelds

Grocery store employees and customers are wearing face masks. Many employees are required to wear protective gloves as well. In a perfect world, every time an employee switches registers and someone else takes their place is an opportunity to disinfect the point of sale devices.

Harsh wipes and chemicals like ammonia are not good for plastic or screens - so we are sticking with the 70% isopropyl recommendation here.

Clean Point of Sale

To clean and disinfect point of sale kiosk screens, registers, and handhelds:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Equip protective gloves, 70% isopropyl alcohol, and a clean cloth
  3. Apply the solution onto a lint-free cloth (do not oversaturate, a few trickles is enough)
  4. Using a circular motion, thoroughly wipe the handheld grip and trigger for 30 seconds
  5. Continue scrubbing the rest of the device casing for an additional 30 seconds
  6. Wipe each point of sale screen (touchscreen, monitor, and/or payment terminal) with an up and down motion for 30 seconds
  7. Let the device(s) and screen(s) sit for at least ten minutes when possible to fully disinfect
  8. Remove your protective gloves
  9. Wash your hands again

We hear you. In a busy supermarket or drugstore, waiting 15 minutes before a register is sanitized is a long time and not possible in many cases.

In the world of COVID-19 and to promote employee safety, these are merely suggested times based on guidelines from the CDC.

It’s a behavioral shift in culture. Not everyone is going to listen to the rules. Management should use their best judgment and find a proper balance between cleaning downtime and POS uptime.

Self-serve checkouts should be considered a separate beast. Contactless devices and checkout processes are likely to be a major trend for the foreseeable future.

The reality? Self-checkouts are a breeding ground for microorganisms. These should be disinfected as often as possible.

If device contact is your only option for self-serve customers, an employee could be stationed at the self-checkout area and provide gloves or perform cleaning in between each checkout.

It’s not perfect or efficient, but a culture of safety for customers and employees should be promoted above all else, especially while a global pandemic continues to disrupt society. Office and work from home environments are no exception.

 

How to Clean Computer Screen, Keyboards, and Mouse

Your computer screen, keyboard, mouse, headset, and desk area should be cleaned regularly. Even if you’re fortunate enough to work remotely, regular device cleaning and disinfection is a vital habit to incorporate.

Take a 15 minute break a few times a day to shut the computer down, unplug the AC power, and perform routine cleaning and disinfecting.

Protective gloves, regular hand washing, 70% isopropyl alcohol, and a fresh lint-free cloth are important. Keyboard dusters are great to have as well.

Clean Computers Work from Home

To clean and disinfect a remote workstation:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Equip protective gloves, 70% isopropyl alcohol, and a clean cloth
  3. Turn off the device and unplug the AC power
  4. Apply disinfectant solution onto a lint-free cloth (do not oversaturate, a few trickles is enough)
  5. Using a circular motion, thoroughly wipe all sides of your mouse for at least 30 seconds (ten minute drying period)
  6. Wipe your keyboard thoroughly for at least 60 seconds - that means every key, surface, and in between crack (ten minute drying/disinfecting period)
  7. Wipe your screen with an up and down motion for 30 seconds (dry after ten minutes)
  8. Let the device(s) and screen(s) sit for at least ten minutes each when possible to fully disinfect
  9. Remove your protective gloves
  10. Wash your hands again

Yeah, it’s a lot. Steps 1 and 10 are key here - wash your hands as often as possible. Try to avoid touching your face (really, really difficult). Set reminders if you have to. Regular cleaning is so important. Stay healthy and keep that workstation disinfected. It’s a great and easy habit to incorporate into your routine.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Whether we return to the office or continue to work remotely, the “new normal” in a post-COVID world should absolutely include regular self-cleaning of our work areas.

 

Safety and Disinfecting Measures: What We're Doing

Carlton remains committed to keeping our employees and customers safe. Read a note from our CEO regarding COVID-19.

As for disinfecting barcode scanners, printers, and other data capture devices for customers, we’ve been using a proactive approach for all devices entering and leaving our facility.

Carlton technicians are using ACL Staticide IPA cleaning wipes for all devices and following the same CDC disinfecting guidelines as outlined above.

These IPA wipes have been used when passing any and all devices or parts to another employee. Whether its parts, QC, support, repair, or shipping, everyone is responsible for a device wipe-down every time they change hands.

Whether its a returned device, or a shipment of refurbished or new devices, customers receive a Carlton-branded package, air sealed with protective padding and every device disinfected and ready to use out of the box.

That is our guide on disinfecting barcode scanners, handhelds, printers, and more. If you have additional questions, or just want to talk about how your business is adapting in the world of COVID-19, please don’t hesitate to give us a call or send a message.

We will get through this - making one device work better (and cleaner) at a time.

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