Touchscreens during COVID-19: Best Practices for Cleaning and New User Interfaces

Touch Screens during COVID-19: Best Practices for Cleaning + New User Interfaces

In this post, we will cover the cleaning of touchscreens, sanitation protocol suggestions, and new interface possibilities that can eliminate the necessity of touching screens altogether.

Along with door handles, escalator rails, and elevator buttons, public-facing touchscreens need to be thought of in the new viral conscious context of COVID-19. While hand washing, hand sanitizers, and gloves are initial preventative measures, regular disinfectant-grade cleaning is necessary to help ensure that surfaces do not harbor viruses and bacteria. Here are some guidelines that you can use for safely disinfecting touchscreen surfaces.

Basic Research

CDC guidelines state that “diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective” for disinfecting surfaces and preventing the spread of Coronavirus.

The Journal of Hospital Infection outlines  that disinfectants containing a solution of ethanol (62-71% alcohol), hydrogen peroxide (0.5% hydrogen peroxide), or sodium hypochlorite (0.1% bleach) can kill viruses in only one minute.

Recommended Products

In simpler terms, here is a quick list of disinfectants that meet CDC criteria: Ecolab Peroxide Disinfectant and Glass Cleaner, Lysol Disinfectant Spray (Professional), and Clorox Disinfecting Wipes (Commercial). The EPA provides a more comprehensive list but do be careful not to use abrasive or ammonia-based cleaners on touchscreens or electronics.


Cleaning Guidelines

Always make sure that all electronic devices are turned off and unplugged before beginning the cleaning process. Spray a very fine mist of Windex or similar glass cleaning product on the screen’s surface and frame and allow this to stay on the surface for one minute, (a single pass initial misting is adequate) then wipe clean with a microfiber cloth or soft paper towel. A couple of passes will suffice, so there’s no need for heavy wiping. Allow any residual moisture to evaporate.

Next, repeat this process using a disinfectant spray referenced above, again allowing a fine mist to stay on the surface for one minute, then wipe clean, or use a disinfecting wipe across all often touched surfaces for one minute, then allow any residual moisture to evaporate.

In case you’re wanting to clean your tablets and smart phones, Apple offers similar guidelines for their devices. Because these products can be more sensitive, disinfectants should be applied to a cloth or towel first, and not directly to their surfaces. To get started, here are some tips that apply to all handheld products:

  • Use only a soft, lint-free cloth. Avoid abrasive cloths, towels, paper towels, or similar items.
  • Avoid excessive wiping, which might cause damage.
  • Unplug all external power sources, devices, and cables.
  • Keep liquids away from the product, unless otherwise noted for specific products.
  • Don’t get moisture into any openings.
  • Don’t use aerosol sprays, bleaches, or abrasives.
  • Don’t spray cleaners directly onto the item. Spray cleaning solution on your cloth first, then wipe down the surface.

Creating + Posting a Cleaning Schedule

In the interest of fostering an environment of safety and education for anyone using touchscreens, it is advised that a protocol be established for when and how often to clean touchscreens, and how to make information regarding these procedures publicly visible to those using them. Depending on where and how often a touchscreen is used, frequency of cleaning may vary, but suffice it to say that the safest practice involves cleaning surfaces after each use.

Touchscreen applications can be authored with daily timers that display a cleaning schedule or when surfaces were last disinfected, or simple signage (utilizing dry erase markers or chalk) can be updated as necessary. Letting those using your touchscreens know that you have a policy in place that is being implemented throughout the day instills confidence in a safety-minded environment.

Along with that effort, providing hand sanitizers and encouraging the use of face masks is a must in being proactive and contributing toward recovery. Be sure that your sanitizing stations are always stocked with product, and wipe down the surfaces of these stations frequently.

Touchscreens Are Not Going Away

With the advent of smart phones and tablets, touch gestures are now a universal language used in every country across the world. The convenience, immediacy, and accessibility of this touch-based language has become invaluable.

But in this post-confinement culture, a distrust of surfaces must lead us towards new interactive solutions that move beyond a touch-based interface while employing the gestures (like zoom, pinch, and swipe) to which we’ve all become familiar.

The following alternatives for interactive experiences are being developed by several software companies, and are becoming more affordable and more available than ever before.

Interactive Touchless Alternatives

Proximity Sensors and Internet-of-Things (IOT): Though motion sensors have been around for some time, more sensitive instruments that determine how close a person is standing to a flatscreen are becoming increasingly available, and can be programmed to trigger content. While distance is one environmental factor, changes in temperature can be measured as well. With IOT integration, this information can be shared with other devices wirelessly.


Object and Motion Recognition: Multi-camera hardware, like the Xbox Kinect or Playstation Move, are by no means new, but the software used in these and other systems has become extremely sophisticated. Not only can body and arm positions be accurately recognized, but this capability has extended to understanding specific hand movements and finger positions, making familiar smart phone gesturing extend to new applications.


AI Enabled Cameras: Taking this technology a step further, a handful of developers are utilizing artificial intelligence to offer software that can anonymously determine the age range, emotional state, and gender of the person facing a screen. Content can be selected to fit towards selected demographics based upon these personal factors, in addition to collecting data for metrics and analytics.


Near Field Communication (NFC) and QR Codes for Remote Digital Content: NFC can be thought of as RFID 2.0, because it takes a radio frequency ID and upgrades it into a two-way digital communication platform. NFC enabled smart phones allow for small bits of information (like a website address) to be shared wirelessly. Similarly, QR Codes scanned with smart phone cameras can deliver customized content from temporary microsites. Couple this with a custom app download link, and visitors can potentially control touchscreen content from their personal wireless devices.

Voice Enabled AI: Though Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri are the most well known players this arena, Microsoft and other software developers are offering powerful tools for utilizing voice activation. By providing a menu of speakable items, creating touch-free applications are possible without the need for full-blown conversations or even full sentences.



Next Steps + Final Thoughts

As interactive screens and devices continue to engage and evolve during this time of great change and adjustment, by adopting new hygiene and cleaning procedures, and employing one or more of the touchless technologies described above, you can adapt and personalize your content to reach new customers.

We would love to help you create or modify your facility wellness protocol during this challenging period.  To get started, call us at 1-800-849-2601, or you can contact us through the form below.

Contact Holt Experiential