Best Practices for Cleaning Credit Card Machines and Other Hardware

The National Institutes of Health caution that the COVID-19 virus can persist on hard surfaces like plastic and stainless steel for up to two to three days. Best practices call for cleaning such surfaces, including credit card machines and other payment processing hardware.

Basic Steps

Before cleaning a credit card machine or other gadget, check the manufacturer’s guidelines. Touchscreens, for example, may require special products due to their potential sensitivity to alcohol-based cleaning solutions. The manufacturer will also likely advise using a specially designed cleaning card to clear any dust and dirt out of the card slot. But unless the manufacturer says otherwise, surface dust and dirt can be removed with a soft, lint-free cloth. Then disinfect with disposable wipes recommended by the CDC, and follow CDC guidelines for wearing protective gear like masks and gloves during the cleaning process. Afterward, remove and/or dispose of protective items per CDC guidelines, before thoroughly washing hands with soap and water.

Special Precautions

Unplug the card reader before cleaning, and turn off the terminal if that’s possible and adheres to manufacturer recommendations. But always avoid getting moisture inside the machine, where it can do serious harm to delicate internal electronics. Don’t spray a liquid disinfectant or aerosol cleaner on the card machine, because that could inadvertently force moisture into the crevices and ports of the device. Instead, use a cloth that is dampened but not moist enough to leave droplets of liquid standing on the surfaces of the machine.

Wiping the Surface

When wiping down the outside of the card machine or other hardware, do one side at a time in a methodical way. Common household disinfectants such as bleach wipes or Lysol spray, which can be applied to the cleaning cloth, have guidelines regarding how long to leave the disinfectant on the surface. For stubborn corona viruses it is usually important to leave it on the surface for an extended period before wiping it dry. Check the product recommendations for specific guidance in that regard. Also be especially vigilant about disinfecting buttons and other parts of the gadget that customers tend to touch when using it.

Other Helpful Tips

There are covers made for card machines that fit over the touchpad or keys. They can then be removed and cleaned after each customer uses the device, to avoid having to unplug and disinfect the entire unit each time. But one of the most useful practices is to accept touchless payments with zero contact. If the business and the customer have mobile payment app technology like Apple Pay or Google Pay, this kind of “tap and go” transaction may be a great solution. Or customers can phone in their orders and payments or process them online and receive an electronic receipt. Be sure to clean card readers and other hardware frequently, even if those who used them were wearing gloves.

The COVID-19 pandemic is both an economic and a healthcare crisis. But following best practices to prevent the virus from spreading further is the most effective way to address both of those challenges in a positive, proactive way.