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The right way to keep your equipment clean

Businesses and organizations have a huge challenge right now; they have to use a cleaning agent that's suitable for the equipment to keep it clean and working properly, and they must do this while keeping employees and customers safe.

The right way to keep your equipment cleanImage courtesy of iStock.

| by Ken Pedersen — VP Business Development, KICTeam

The recent global pandemic has left us flooded with information about the spread of dirt and germs and how to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The pandemic has generated a new hyper-awareness of the need to regularly clean equipment we touch.

Many consumers don't just wipe their hands repeatedly with sanitizer; they often spray it directly on the keypads and touchscreens on all classes of kiosks, including ATMs, self-order kiosks at fast food restaurants, ticket vending machines, parking ticket machines, movie theatre ticketing stations and gas pumps. This is regularly causing damage to these systems and millions of dollars are wasted on repairs and replacements as a result.

For this reason, and because kiosks are a primary way for consumers to interact and transact with businesses, it is critically important to take a look at best practices for cleaning and disinfecting these devices, including how to communicate your efforts to consumers so their best intentions don't cost you pain.

Technology cleaning is different

First, it is important to note that the cleaning agents in common household and industrial cleaning products (think of Clorox and Lysol products) contain chemicals (bleach and quaternary ammonia) which are known to damage sensitive electronics.

Touchscreens will haze or crack, keypad legends will fade or disappear, and plastic housings will discolor and crack when cleaned regularly with such agents. Alternatives such as Isopropyl alcohol wipes just don't do a good job of cleaning the grease and grime that is typical on kiosks, and these wipes are not even effective disinfectants since they dry way too quickly on hard surfaces.

Thankfully, there are products which can be safely used on kiosks that are highly effective cleaners and EPA registered disinfectants.

Understand clean language

First, let's understand the language we are all using these days.

  • Cleaning — This is the process of removing contaminants and germs from a surface. Typically this is done by using a detergent product on a wiping material, along with some good ol' elbow grease. Cleaning does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing many of them, it lowers the risk of spreading infection.
  • Sanitizing — This lowers the number of germs on surfaces to a specific safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements – often to specified levels such as reducing harmful bacteria on food preparation surfaces.
  • Disinfecting — This kills 99+% of germs on surfaces. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill bacteria, fungi and viruses. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove the dead germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you cannot be confident you've disinfected a surface if you haven't cleaned it first. The cleaning process not only removes dirt and grime that may be covering germs, in heavily soiled areas you need to physically break up the surface protective coating on germs in order for a disinfectant to reach all the underlying organisms. So just spraying a high touch area with a disinfectant agent likely won't do the job.

All disinfecting chemicals require a specific period or "dwell time," where they must remain wet and undisturbed on a surface in order to function correctly. For technology-safe products this requires five minutes of wet time where your equipment cannot be used. Disinfectants that claim a shorter period (less than two minutes) are a powerful class of chemical, which is likely to cause the most damage to the kiosk. These agents are also typically toxic and require careful handling and personal protective equipment for the person doing the cleaning.

In practical terms then, you can clean regularly throughout the day with approved products and will likely have to wait until a shift change or the end of a day to correctly disinfect a kiosk.

Clean both interior and exterior surfaces

On the exterior of the kiosk, it's important that the device is both cleaned and disinfected. To clean, use a wipe saturated with an approved cleaning agent. Never spray a cleaning agent directly onto a kiosk! The liquid can easily be forced around the keypad, into card or payment slots, inside the printer, and behind the touchscreen bezel, and this can short out the electronics requiring costly repairs.

If you are using a cleaning agent in a spray bottle, spray the cleaning cloth, not the equipment. Using pre-saturated wipes is the best option. You can follow up with a fresh wipe saturated with an EPA registered disinfectant being careful to allow the surface to remain undisturbed for the full dwell time required.

The exterior and "high-touch" areas are not the only places that need to be cleaned, and businesses need to make sure the interior of a kiosk is properly cleaned too. If the pins or reader head inside the credit card slot can't make contact because it's contaminated, or the camera element of the bill validator can't confirm the cash is good, or if the print head is dirty and can't print clearly, then it's obviously going to affect the performance of the system.

The delays or failures are then frustrating for the consumer and can mean lost revenue. Making sure that all the right nooks and crannies are cleaned and removing all the debris that can cause performance issues will help the device continue to run smoothly and will also help eliminate a breeding ground for germs and bacteria.

There are unique cleaning procedures and products required to get this internal work done. This often requires specially designed "cleaning cards" that are inserted into a credit card or bill validator slot, swiped through a channel or run through a printer.

The future is keeping it clean

Businesses and organizations have a huge challenge right now; they have to use a cleaning agent that's suitable for the equipment to keep it clean and working properly, and they must do this while keeping employees and customers safe.

We will probably never go back to a pre-pandemic way of thinking about germs, dirt and grime. Implementing an ongoing cleaning regiment for kiosks will need to become a structured process and a standard operating procedure for any organization using self-service devices of any kind. Because now that you know, you can't unknow.

For an update on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting kiosks, click here.

Ken Pedersen

Ken has spent the last 10 years focused on technology, automation, processes and products that deliver best in class results.

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