Cleaning VR headsets during COVID
Cleaning VR headsets during COVID

Guidance on Cleaning VR Headsets

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. This guidance should not overrule protocols your institution may already have in place or the need for specialist advice to be taken. Rather, this is guidance collated from various sources that you may find useful.

Background

The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus is thought to be able to survive up to 72 hours on plastic. The options are therefore to quarantine your equipment or decontaminate it. The information below covers decontamination as well as general measures to prevent transmitting COVID-19 during VR sessions.  

General measures

  1. Assess learners for potential symptoms or exposure risk before they use the VR headset and record who uses the headsets to facilitate contact tracing. 
  2. As per your departmental protocols, maintain a safe distance between learners, wear masks where practical and ensure regular hand-washing.
  3. Note that if a learner cannot use the VR headset they can always run OMS simulations on-screen using the mouse and keyboard. These should be cleaned using your usual protocols.

Cleaning methods

  • Wash your hands prior to using the VR headset and handling shared equipment. Use nitrile gloves while cleaning and dispose of gloves after each use. Between cleanings, either wash hands thoroughly or use hand-sanitizer. Wash hands thoroughly after each use.
  • Ensure the equipment is cleaned between each use. This should include the interior and exterior of the headset, the controllers and the computer – with special attention to the mouse, track-pad and keyboard. 
  • Let all equipment completely air dry after cleaning before the next use – ideally for at least 10 minutes. 
  • Use a dry microfiber cloth to clean the lenses to avoid smudging.
  • Never use abrasive cleaners on VR headsets or other plastic equipment.

Cleaning products

Alcohol-based cleaning products

Different products have different effects on the survival of COVID-19. Alcohol-based products appear to be most effective against COVID-19. However, many equipment manufacturers specifically advise against alcohol, as in the long term it can dissolve certain plastics, make plastic less flexible or discolor it. Non-alcohol-based products are also available and do appear to be effective, but a concession has to be made between potentially damaging your headset in the long term and achieving theoretical maximum protection for your learners. Note that alcohol-based products should not be applied to the lenses of the headset under any condition. 

Non-alcohol-based cleaning products

Non-alcohol-based products are recommended if you would like to avoid alcohol-based cleaning products to protect your headset. These appear to be highly effective provided they are used correctly. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions – in particular, ensure the headset’s surface becomes visibly wet and is then fully dried prior to the next learner. Examples: Wexford Cleancide; Lysol wipes.

Face pads

Your current headset face pads may be porous and therefore have the potential to harbor viruses. Cotton coverings and disposable face pads often allow moisture through, so are generally not advised. Instead, removable waterproof face pads may be used to increase the ease of disinfecting the whole headset. Examples: vrcover.com; kiwidesign.shop

UVC light

Headsets can be decontaminated by exposing them to UVC light for a specific amount of time with a specific wavelength. Such lights and light boxes are commercially available, and appear to be effective. However, they can be costly. Examples: Cleanbox; UVBox 

Further References

  1. RoadtoVR – how to clean your headset
  2. Iris VR – Guidelines for cleaning your headset
  3. Upload VR – Cleaning your Oculus
  4. VR Hygiene and Safety on LinkedIn
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