VR is an exciting learning tool and can have great benefits. Like other equipment in the classroom, it is important to keep everyone safe from illness by keeping VR equipment clean. These are some tips to help keep your VR hardware in top shape through prolonged use.
Limit Usage of VR to Healthy Individuals
The first measure of defense for preventing the spread of bacteria, viruses, and disease through the usage of VR hardware is to limit physical contact with the hardware by individuals who are ill. Being proactive is the safest measure.
The most common contagions transmitted through VR headsets include influenza, strep throat, pink eye, and meningitis. Due to a headset having close contact with the face, eyes, nose, and mouth, it can pick up the user’s saliva, nasal secretions, oils, sweat, and other facial products. Hand controllers can also be a vehicle for spreading microbes, especially if a user touches their face without washing their hands before and/or after usage.
Clean Equipment Before, During, and After Use
Headset manufacturers are rapidly creating methods to allow for quick and easy cleaning of their hardware, including removable face cushions and antimicrobial materials. Even with these developments, it is good to practice consistent sanitation.
Here are some cleaning tips for your VR stations:
- Use anti-bacterial, alcohol-free, hypoallergenic, and unscented wipes on surfaces (other than the headset lenses) that come in contact with the user. These will help kill bacteria and viruses while being safe for those who have allergies and/or skin conditions.
- Use moistened lens cleaning wipes (similar to what is used for eyeglasses) to clean the headset lenses. These individually wrapped wipes are convenient and do not damage the headset. Do not use abrasive materials such as paper towels, shirts, etc. on the lenses. After using a wipe, immediately dispose of it–a dried wipe can scratch the headset.
- Use compressed air to blow out dust and other particles that might accumulate in the headset.
It is recommended that these measures are practiced before usage (in case of contamination during storage or transit), during usage about every couple of users, and after usage (to prevent spread during storage or transit).
Use Hygiene Masks
In addition to cleaning VR equipment, it is recommended that users put on VR hygiene masks to add an additional barrier between their faces and the headset. These disposable masks protect a user from microbes already on the headset and help prevent the headset from accumulating more sweat, skin flakes, oils, etc.
The mask is worn over the face and stays in place via elastic straps that go around the ears (similar to a surgical mask). A user can reuse a mask multiple times during a single session (being careful to ensure the same side of the mask is always the side touching their face), but it should be disposed of after the session is done.
These masks can come in large packs, such as Kaizen Spirit VR’s masks that can be found on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07THCRC1L/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_wopCEbJPRG36B.
Additional Face Cushions
Many headset manufacturers produce replacement face cushions for their products in case the one that comes with the headset gets too dirty or damaged. It is recommended to purchase some of these replacement cushions to allow for quick and easy swapping as an extra hygiene measure. After switching a cushion out, users can continue the session with the new one while the old one gets sanitized.
When purchasing additional face cushions, look for those manufactured with antimicrobial materials. Some soft foam cushions can easily accumulate sweat and oils that promote the growth of bacteria and viruses despite cleaning–it is difficult to “deep clean” foam. If you believe the face cushion on your headset is too dirty, replace it and clean it or dispose of it.
Use Protective Covers on Equipment
Many third-party manufacturers have created silicone covers for headsets and controllers. These covers not only protect the hardware from bumps and scratches, but also provide an additional layer of hygiene protection that is easier to replace. These covers can be wiped down with the same products recommended for cleaning the VR hardware directly.
These covers are commonly found online such as Hyperkin’s GelShell Skins for the HTC VIVE Pro headset and controllers on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JVQ9G4T/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_FMpCEbNQ0WCKT and https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LEZO0OQ/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_xzpCEbVFGP2EN.
Read the Manufacturer’s Instructions
Before you do anything, make sure to read the instructions that come with your VR hardware and check if the manufacturer has any prescribed methods. Recommended cleaning measures can vary between one brand to another. Some manufacturers may also have additional sanitation precautions to further protect your equipment while keeping it clean.
Stay safe and healthy!