Disinfecting Headsets Best Practices
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An Open Letter from the Owner and President of E.S.S. Nashville
Information updated 05/15/2020
In this difficult time we are all striving to devise ways to keep our employees, customers and businesses safe. We want to be able to reopen our businesses safely and stay open while protecting ourselves, our employees, our families, our employee’s families and our customers. Towards this end, headset hygiene has become my new obsession. Therefore, I feel it vitally important to share with you what I have managed to learn about headset disinfection. The object of the game is to safely disinfect as much as possible without accidentally ruining your equipment. Below is a summary of information I have gathered thus far. I suggest that you save this page in your “favorites” because we are still working on determining alternative methods that are affordable, that are easy to manage and that can be sustained given present supply challenges. We will update this page with new information as we receive it.
Guidance from the headset system manufacturers:
HME, PAR (who acquired 3M’s headset business in late 2019) and Panasonic have all provided tech bulletins regarding best practices for headset hygiene. You can download each of these here:
HME Tech Bulletin: Cleaning and Sanitizing HME Equipment March 2020
HME Tech Bulletin: Cleaning and Disinfecting HME Drive-Thru Headset Surfaces May 2020
Panasonic Tech Bulletin: Panasonic Food Services Hardware Cleaning and Sanitizing 03/12/2020
PAR Tech Bulletin: Good hygiene with drive-thru equipment 03/20/2020
Key takeaways from these bulletins are as follows:
- It is not a good idea to spray ANY kind of cleaner directly onto a headset. This is because if liquid gets inside the equipment and onto circuit boards, it could damage it. Panasonic’s bulletin specifically states, “Under no circumstances should a Panasonic product be directly sprayed upon.” Instead, any cleaning solution should be applied with a soft cloth or paper towel.
- All manufacturers recommend the use of alcohol solution to clean surfaces on the headsets either by the use of an alcohol wipe, swab or by applying alcohol to a clean cloth. I should also note that HME’s March bulletin states that a 50% alcohol solution is sufficient, but the CDC is recommending 70%.We realize that obtaining and maintaining consistent supplies of alcohol, etc can be a challenge. If you need to find an alternative to alcohol for sanitizing your headsets, scroll down, or click here for additional information.
- HME has provided an alternative cleaning method for cleaning headset surfaces in their technical bulletin from May 2020 that utilizes a very specific peroxide based cleaning solution available from Kay Chemical. I would not substitute another peroxide based cleaner without consulting with HME 1st because other ingredients in those other cleaners could be damaging.
- PAR headsets have a unique feature that can be helpful at this time. PAR G5 headsets have the two parts (the “pod” and the “carrier”). The “carrier” consists of the headband, speaker and mic. Therefore, some organizations have purchased additional carriers so that each person can have their own. See the PAR Tech Bulletin for details. The carriers are relatively affordable at $131.87 each and have a two (2) year warranty. ESS stocks G5 carriers.
- HME and PAR recommend the use of disposable ear pad covers
Coincidentally, late last year, ESS signed up with a manufacturer that normally supplies these covers to schools and colleges. We offer our earpad covers in boxes of 100 for $16.50 and “master cases” containing twelve (12) boxes (1200 covers total) for $179.98. We also have thousands of earpads in stock. 89 cents each, or $80/100. You can call us at (615) 340-9033 to order them, or contact us via email. The new ESS web store where you can buy earpad covers, earpads etc is COMING SOON!
Here is PAR’s suggested source for the ear pad covers:
HME also has ear pad covers available for $19 per box of 100 covers. Call 800-848-4468 to order. As of this date, ESS has stock of disposable earpad covers
Here are additional important tips from us here at ESS:
- You can use a headset system’s greeter function to remind crew and managers to sanitize. Many headset systems have built in greeters that can be used to broadcast reminder messages to one or all headsets. Consult your user manual for details. If you don’t have your manual, you can download what you need from ESS’s tech help pages.
- Make sure the equipment is totally dry before use. It is very important to remember is that as you sanitize the headsets that you don’t inadvertently damage the equipment in the process.
- It is extremely important to power down the equipment and remove batteries before cleaning. If the headset is wet when you power it up, severe damage can result.
- Rice may or may not be nice: Some of you may wish to might try placing equipment in uncooked rice to dry it since this method works well for cell phones and other devices. However, we do not recommend this without further study because of the potential for rice grains and rice dust to get into the equipment circuit boards and cause other problems.
- Mind the gaps! (and holes) It is also very important to prevent any liquid from entering holes and gaps in the housings and getting onto the circuit boards. For this reason, we believe that disinfecting wipes (such as Lysol) are viable as an alternative to alcohol for sanitizing, but again, it is very important to try to keep liquid from the wipe from getting into the headset equipment circuitry. Specifically, care should be exercised around the microphone holes. Mind the gaps! (and holes) It is also very important to prevent any liquid from entering holes and gaps in the housings and getting onto the circuit boards. For this reason, we believe that disinfecting wipes (such as Lysol) are viable as an alternative to alcohol for sanitizing, but again, it is very important to try to keep liquid from the wipe from getting into the headset equipment circuitry. Specifically, care should be exercised around the microphone holes.
- Caution with the batteries: I must also specifically caution that you should exercise care when using a wet wipe or cloth of any kind for sanitizing a battery. If liquid touches the metal contacts on the battery, it is possible that one could get shocked. PAR has agreed to do some experiments to see if there is a hazard, but I would not want someone to learn the hard way. Most liquids are conductive, so I would be cautious. Panasonic appears to have a similar concern based on the wording in their bulletin.
- Wash your hands and your earpads! It would be wise to issue crew persons each their own earpads. It is possible to wash earpads in soap and water just as one would do for hands (20+ seconds!). Soap and water washing are definitely good practices to use for earpads, and HME’s May Tech Bulletin confirms this. Just make sure your earpads are dry before use since damp earpads can chafe.
- What about bleach? I have heard anecdotally that some restaurants are using a bleach solution to sanitize earpads. I can’t say how effective that might be since I don’t know what solutions or process they are using. A bleach solution could be very damaging to the equipment if it gets on circuit boards, and could discolor some plastics, so that would not be a good choice to wipe down headsets and other equipment. HME is specifically recommending against the use of bleach-based cleaners.
- What about other cleaning products? HME’s March 2020 bulletin specifically states that you should avoid using glass cleaners, ammonia-based products, abrasive or powered cleaners, peroxide-based cleaners, nail polish removers or any other acetone solution. I would heed that guidance for all brands of headsets. Acetone for example will discolor and damage the plastic. As mentioned above, HME revised their guidance in their May 2020 bulletin and is now recommending a specific peroxide-based cleaning solution and procedure for its use. HME recommends against Lysol or comparable disinfecting wipes. I am not sure why, but I will attempt to find out and will update the info asap. It is likely out of concern that liquid from the wipe could get inside the headset and damage circuit boards. Speaking for myself, I would use Lysol wipes on my own headsets just as I do on my cell phone, but I would use caution because the wipes can drip solution, and you don’t want that stuff on the circuit boards. You should be especially careful around the microphone holes.
- What about UV Light? Funny you should ask. We think that is a very promising idea. We are consulting with the manufacturers to see if there is any possibility that the UV light could damage the headsets. We do know that it should not be a problem for the circuit boards, but it could be for the plastic since exposure to UV can make some plastics brittle leading to breakage. We don’t want that of course. So far, PAR thinks limited exposure could be ok, and we await word from the others. If their feedback is positive, ESS will soon offer you the opportunity to purchase UV sanitizing devices for your restaurants that are ideally suited for sanitizing headsets. We want to devise a process and a system for you that is affordable and easy to manage from an operational standpoint.
- And for all you MacGyver’s out there: Please check with us if you would like to try another kind of disinfection method of your own devising. Again, you don’t want to accidentally ruin your equipment. We are exploring viable alternatives and will post those on our web site as the information becomes available.
PAR Technologies’ COVID-19 response web page
CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers
Nation’s Restaurant Association Corona Virus Information and Resources
Now more than ever, stay safe and healthy out there! Keep calm and wash your hands.
Ann E. Braun
“The Headset Lady”
203 McMillin Street
Nashville TN 37203
Need help? Please visit our “tech help” section at essnashville.com, call or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Live long, prosper, and please try not to touch your face!
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