Biometric Finger Scanners :
Best Practices for Cleanliness
TL;DR YES! Your biometric finger scanners are a safe and hygienic solution for students to use in your schools. According to a Purdue University study, a person is not any more likely to become ill from touching a biometric device than from a plain, old-fashioned doorknob. Not only is finger scanning biometrics simple, easy and fast, it also provides the additional value of efficiency, accountability and, most importantly, safety.
- What's the Best Way to Clean Your Finger Scanners?
- What About Cleaning & Disinfecting?
- Myth Busters: What’s Dirty, Clean - and Easy to Clean?
- What’s Next?
What's the Best Way to Clean Your Finger Scanners?
Simply wipe with alcohol. Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol are recommended by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use against a myriad of viruses.
Studies show that ID cards, PIN pads, swipe card machines and even cellphones are downright filthy and contaminated with viruses, bacteria and germs. Talking produces potentially dangerous respiratory droplets if the infected person is close enough. Even “contactless" ID card solutions require the user to present a card that’s full of contamination, easily spread onto your sanitary surfaces.
The beauty of the biometric finger scanner is that the outside covering is a simple plastic casing with a small glass plate. There are no nooks and crannies that harbor germs. It has only one spot to touch with the tip of one finger. Most importantly, in a world where there is little control over the sanitation of people and objects, you have control over the cleanliness of the finger scanners and the fingertips that touch them.
By using recommendations from the CDC along with Best Practices recommendations, your finger scanners can be the most hygienic spots your students and staff touch all day!
Best Practices for Keeping Hands Clean
♦ Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for 20 seconds.
♦ You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol.
♦ Remind students to avoid touching their eyes, noses, and mouths.
Best Practices for Keeping Finger Scanners Clean & Disinfected
♦ Use alcohol wipes or a soft paper towel moistened with rubbing alcohol.
♦ Gently clean off the finger scanner.
♦ Dry immediately with another paper towel or just air dry.
♦ Sterilize the finger scanners periodically throughout the day.
What About Cleaning & Disinfecting?
The CDC has issued guidelines on cleaning and disinfection. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a Best Practices measure for the prevention of viral illnesses as well as many bacterial illnesses.
Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. By removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill or inactivate germs on surfaces. By killing bacteria or inactivating viruses on surfaces after cleaning, disinfecting can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
And once again, the CDC recommends thoroughly washing hands often - with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use a 70% or higher alcohol-based hand sanitizer and routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
How Does Soap & Water Make Viruses Inactive?
Enveloped viruses, for example Covid-19, have a membrane which contains lipids or fats. Getting rid of that layer physically inactivates the virus, so it can't bind to and enter human cells.
Imagine that a virus is your butter dish, covered with buttery fat. If you try to wash your butter dish with water alone, the butter won’t come off the dish. But a little soap can dissolve the butter. So can some alcohol. That’s why soap and alcohol are extremely effective against dissolving that oily liquid coating of the virus.
Here’s how soap renders enveloped viruses inactive. Soap molecules have a head and tail. The head bonds with water, but the tail prefers fats. The tail of the soap molecule is drawn to the fatty outer layer of the virus and begins to pry it open until it splits open, spilling its guts into the soapy water and becoming inactive.
Using warm water with soap gets a much better lather than using cold water – and a good lather is the key. Washing hands thoroughly for about 20 seconds is important to this process because the combination of rubbing, soap molecules and warm water creates more soap bubbles. These soap bubbles disrupt the chemical bonds that allow many bacteria, viruses and other germs, including the Covid-19 virus, to stick to surfaces. Rinsing hands washes everything away.
How Do Alcohol-based Sanitizers Work?
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be as effective as soap if they are used properly. The CDC recommends they contain at least 70% alcohol. Alcohol is effective in rendering many bacteria, viruses and other germs inactive, but it doesn't wash away. Soap and water is better if hands or surfaces are visibly contaminated.
It’s important to use enough hand sanitizer and rub it all over hands, between fingers and on the back of hands. Alcohol has different chemical properties than soap. It helps break up the germ membranes, but it needs to get into direct contact with the virus.
Myth Busters: What’s Dirty, Clean - and Easy to Clean?
Did you ever wonder about the cleanliness of the objects we touch every day? Many scientists have. They’ve studied specific strains of virulent bacteria and/or viruses and they certainly tell a (very dirty) story!
Biometric Finger Scanners – Cleaner Than You Think!
Researchers at Purdue University observed that the use of biometric devices was rapidly expanding. They wanted to examine whether touching the small plate glass on the finger scanners would subject users to more germs than they would be exposed to by touching objects such as pens, doorknobs and elevator buttons.
The Purdue University researchers found that the glass surfaces of finger scanners have the same amount of bacteria as on a typical doorknob. The researchers concluded that a person is not any more likely to become ill from touching a biometric device than from a plain, old-fashioned doorknob.
In addition, they found that the majority of bacteria on the finger scanner were transferred to another surface within the first 10 touches. That means that rather than accumulating on the scanner surface, the bacteria travelled on hands. The researchers suggested that washing hands with soap and water or keeping antibacterial solution handy, as well as keeping all surfaces sanitary, are Best Practices in killing bacteria and rendering viruses inactive.
ID Cards & PIN Pads - Even Dirtier Than Public Toilets!
Researchers studied the cleanliness of other objects that we come in contact with every day like ID cards, PIN pads, card readers, wallets, backpacks, purses, cash and even cell phones.
All of the studies reviewed compared the types and levels of bacteria and/or viruses to what is lurking on the “grossest of the gross” — public toilets. Why use public toilets as the Gold Standard in filth? Because studies show that most people rank public toilets as #1 in being contaminated and downright filthy compared with all other items that we touch. How can anything be more disgusting than a public toilet, right?
WRONG! Researchers found that PIN pads are even dirtier than public toilets! PIN pads have nooks crannies and many areas to harbor bacteria and viruses. They're also more difficult to clean thoroughly.
Other studies showed that bacteria and viruses cling to ID cards, wallets, purses and backpacks. In a school setting, ID cards are typically stored in wallets, purses, backpacks or on lanyards hung around the students’ necks. They’re often passed from person to person and even end up on the floor and in mouths – in other words, ID cards are dirty and germ-ridden. Even cash was found to be cleaner than ID cards!
In the studies, purses were especially contaminated because they are often placed on bathroom floors and sink areas. Believe it or not, sink areas were found to be even more contaminated that public toilets.
Cellphones were found to be even filthier than cards. We now use our cell phones at the park, in the bathroom, during a meal and while in bed, sometimes all in one day.
Think about it...
During every phone call, the cell phone can come into close contact with strongly contaminated human body areas. For example, cell phones are handed to other people and are contaminated by the phone touching other body areas including mouths, noses and ears.
When was the last time you cleaned and disinfected your cell phone? (When was the last time you put your cell phone on the kitchen counter and then made yourself a sandwich?!)
So called “contactless” options aren’t so contactless when you look at the whole picture. These options generally require a card. Dirty cards mean that hands will immediately be contaminated - and so will all the sanitized surfaces those hands touch.
Even good old fashioned visual identification is challenging during physical distancing. (Did you ever try to hear a first grader say his name?) And you still have to deal with the same problems of accuracy, efficiency and accountability. The important thing here is to evaluate your entire process, rather than just a piece of it.
We’re not going to give up our cell phones, credit cards and purses. We adjust our behaviors, learn new techniques and incorporate innovative ideas to keep us all safe and healthy. At identiMetrics, some of our best ideas come from our amazing customers in schools and districts across the United States, and beyond. We’ll continue to share these exceptional ideas with you in the times to come.
School districts continue to see the value in finger scanning biometrics - not in spite of these times – but because of these times. Here's the point: Not only is finger scanning biometrics simple, easy and fast, it also provides the additional value of efficiency, accountability and, most importantly, safety. None of that has changed.