Washing hands is key, but so is cleaning retail devices

by Mark Thomson. It may seem counterproductive to wash your hands multiple times a day if you’re just going to touch a dirty device immediately after, which puts both employees and consumers at risk.

by Mark Thomson. While corner stores, pharmacies and supermarkets continue to operate, it is imperative that they implement a generally higher level of cleaning and as part of that, disinfection of technology devices is critical to workplace infection control. But there is a right and wrong way to do it. For retailers, this can be point-of-sale solutions, tablets or mobile computers, as well as receipt and label printers used by store associates or personal shopping solutions (PSS) for self-checkout.

It may seem counterproductive to wash your hands multiple times a day if you’re just going to touch a dirty device immediately after, which puts both employees and consumers at risk. From constant handling by staff, mobile devices become contaminated with bacteria. According to a  whitepaper on devices used in healthcare, a typical mobile device has 18 times more bacteria than a public toilet door handle.

Given the rapidly evolving COVID-19 coronavirus situation, how should retailers clean their devices properly to not only reduce the spread of germs, but to mitigate the risk of damaging those devices which is critical in protecting front-line workers and ultimately shoppers? Here are some best practices that do just that.

Disinfection vs cleaning

It’s not enough to just clean the glass components or the surfaces of buttons. Supermarkets, pharmacies and corner stores must thoroughly disinfect the plastic parts, such as the housing, as well as the nooks and crannies to prevent the transmission of contagions. Wiping down a device is not always enough. Even when fingerprints are cleaned from a device, the surface may still be covered with bacteria, so unless the right cleaning agent has been used, it may not necessarily be completely disinfected to use in the current environment.

Implementing immediate processes

The most important thing to consider before implementing a cleaning protocol for devices, is that most guidance information on how and what to clean with, differs for each device. The first step is to refer to the device user guide to confirm which cleaning agents are safe to use. This includes the purity or formulation levels for each ingredient, including cleaning agents that should never be used.

It is recommended that retailers should implement a device cleaning policy as soon as possible using original suppliers’ guidelines. This will help ensure that employees are properly disinfecting mobile computers, PSS (self-scanning as you shop), scanners and printers, regularly. In addition, it will reassure store associates that everything has been taken into consideration to help prevent shared technology devices from becoming a potential source of virus transmission.

Lastly, it is important to implement precautions and best practices for handling the device during the cleaning process so that all staff are fully aligned.


Mark Thomson is director of hospitality and retail, EMEA, Zebra Technologies. He works closely with retailers and hospitality businesses to provide input on how to face the challenge of a new digital retail landscape, where customers are often more connected and informed than shop floor staff; helping retailers focus on developing a vision for their retail business that aims to improve customer experience and drive business efficiencies.

– Receive the Retailing Africa newsletter every Monday and Thursday • Subscribe here

– Take advantage of Retailing Africa’s ‘Pay-what-you-can’ business support package • Read more