How to Clean Barcode Scanners?

How to clean barcode scanners

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Barcode scanners are pivotal tools in numerous industries, streamlining operations and enhancing efficiency. Maintaining the cleanliness of barcode scanners is paramount, not just for their efficient operation and longevity but also for public health. 

However, the cleaning process comes with its set of challenges, from avoiding moisture damage and preventing scratches on the scanner window to selecting the right cleaning agents.

This article provides a detailed guide on effectively cleaning barcode scanners, ensuring they function at their best and remain hygienic. 

Guidelines to Follow While Cleaning and Disinfecting

The cleaning guidelines in this section have been researched and compiled based on recommendations from barcode scanner manufacturers like Zebra, Honeywell, Datalogic, and Symbol, to name a few. Adhering to these guidelines ensures the effective and safe maintenance of barcode scanners.

  • Before starting the cleaning process, unplug the scanner from its power source to prevent potential damage to the internal components and circuits of the scanner. 
  • Lock the battery suitably into the unit to prevent liquid from entering the electronics.
  • Use only approved cleaning and disinfecting agents to avoid damage to your device. 
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions on the approved cleaning and disinfecting agents. 
  • Use pre-moistened wipes or a damp cloth/cotton-tipped swab with an approved cleaning agent. Ensure it is not all wet, as too much moisture can damage internal components. 
  • Do not spray or pour chemicals directly onto the surface of the device because it can lead to excessive moisture, potentially causing damage or malfunction.
  • Before reconnecting or reapplying power, ensure the scanner is completely dry to avoid any short circuits or damage to the inside parts.

What are Some Approved Cleaning and Disinfectant Solutions?

The solutions listed below are recommended by manufacturers and are approved by the EPA for their disinfecting properties. These solutions ensure the device’s safety while effectively eliminating dirt and pathogens. 

  • Isopropyl Alcohol (preferably a concentration of 70%)
  • Disinfectant Wipes (as per the recommendations of the manufacturer)
  • Mild soap solutions ( make sure the device does not get too wet)

What Materials are Required for Cleaning Barcode Scanners?

The following materials are required for cleaning barcode scanners. 

  • Soft, lint-free cloth / Non-abrasive cloth
  • Cotton-tipped swabs
  • Lens cloth/tissue
  • Isopropyl alcohol (70% concentration)
  • Disinfectant wipes (Preferably the ones recommended by the manufacturer)
  • Air duster / Compressed air
  • Gloves

How to Clean a Barcode Scanner?

Before starting, put some gloves on, preferably nitrile gloves, to avoid leaving oils or dirt on the barcode scanner. Then, use compressed air or an air duster to clear loose dust or debris.

How to Clean the Scanner Housing?

The scanner housing is the outer protective case that encloses the device’s components.

  1. Dampen a soft, lint-free cloth with isopropyl alcohol (70 % concentration) or use pre-moistened wipes. Gently wipe all surfaces, including the front, back, top, bottom, and sides. Avoid pooling the liquid on any part of the product. Note – You can also use a solution approved by the manufacturer instead of isopropyl alcohol. 
  2. Clean the trigger using a damp cotton swab. Dip the cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol just enough to make it slightly wet. For tight spots between the trigger and the outer case, gently swipe with the swab. After cleaning, ensure no cotton bits are left behind. 
  3. Let the device dry naturally or gently pat it dry using a soft, non-abrasive cloth. Ensure the unit is dry before connecting power.  
Three steps to clean scanner housing of the barcode scanner
Two steps to clean scanner display of the barcode scanner

How to Clean the Scanner Display?

The scanner display is the screen that shows scanning results and device information.

  1. Wipe the display with alcohol wipes, ensuring no liquid pools around the edges.
  2. Dry the screen immediately with a soft, lint-free cloth to prevent streaking.

How to Clean the Exit Window?

The exit window is the clear surface through which the scanner reads barcodes.

  1. Wipe the scanner exit window with a material suitable for cleaning optical materials, such as a lens cloth.
  2. Do not spray water or other chemicals directly onto the exit window. Avoid using abrasive materials. Let the scanner window dry.  
Two steps to clean Exit window of the barcode scanner
Three steps to clean the scanner connector of the barcode scanner

How to Clean the Scanner Connector?

The scanner connector is the point of attachment that allows the device to interface with other systems or power sources.

  1. Take a cotton-tipped swab and dip it in isopropyl alcohol. Rub it back and forth across the connector to remove any grease or dirt near the connector area. 
  2. Repeat the same thing three times. 
  3. Use a dry cotton-tipped swab and repeat the first step with no isopropyl alcohol this time. Make sure to leave no cotton residue behind. 

How to Clean the Cradle Connector?

The barcode scanner cradle connector is the interface on the docking station that links the scanner to power or data connections.

  1. Take a cotton-tipped swab, dip it in isopropyl alcohol or the approved solution, and rub it along the pins of the cradle connector. 
  2. Move the applicator slowly from one side of the connector to the other, and ensure no cotton residue is left behind. Rub all the sides of the connector. 
  3. Take compressed air and spray it on the connector area by pointing the nozzle about ½ inch away from the surface. Take necessary precautions while using compressed air. 
  4. Remove any lint left by the cotton-tipped swab. If you still notice dirt or grease on other areas of the cradle, then use a lint-free cloth and isopropyl alcohol solution to clean it. 
  5. Allow 10 to 30 minutes for the isopropyl alcohol to air dry before applying power to the cradle. 
List of three steps to clean cradle connector of the barcode scanner

How to Disinfect a Barcode Scanner?

Three steps to disinfect a barcode scanner

Barcode scanners can become carriers of germs and bacteria. When many people use the same scanner, like in stores or hospitals, it can spread germs. So, it is essential to disinfect them regularly. Follow the steps below to disinfect your barcode scanner. 

  1. Use a chemical solution or a disinfectant wipe.
  2. Wipe the scanner thoroughly for 30-60 seconds.
  3. Let the scanner dry for at least 10 minutes to ensure proper disinfection.

Cleaning vs. Disinfecting

Cleaning and disinfecting are two frequently used terms that are often confused with one another.

Cleaning removes dirt, debris, and germs from the barcode scanner’s surface. It lowers the number of germs, making it difficult for infectious diseases to spread.

Disinfecting kills a higher percentage of germs and viruses on the scanner’s surface and uses specific chemical agents. 

Simply put, cleaning is about removing contaminants, while disinfecting is about killing pathogens. 

Special Considerations for Different Types of Barcode Scanners

In this section, we will briefly touch upon the distinct characteristics of different barcode scanners, highlighting their unique features and offering general cleaning advice tailored to their specific needs.

Healthcare Scanner

Healthcare scanners have the following unique properties.

  • Antimicrobial Properties: Healthcare scanners often have special antimicrobial coatings to stop bacteria from growing. This is important in hospitals to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Disinfectant-Ready Housing: Some healthcare scanners have housing to withstand frequent disinfection, allowing them to be cleaned more aggressively without degrading the material.


Cleaning Healthcare Scanners: While these features enhance the scanner’s resistance to microbes, regular disinfection is still essential. The cleaning method might be similar to non-healthcare scanners, but the frequency of disinfection is higher. There are a few recommended disinfectants that would not degrade the antimicrobial coating.

Industrial Scanners

Industrial scanners are built rugged to withstand harsh environments like warehouses or manufacturing plants. They are designed to resist factors like dust, moisture, drops, and extreme temperatures, ensuring reliable performance. 

Cleaning Industrial Scanners: Given their exposure, they might require more frequent cleaning. However, it is essential to avoid harsh chemicals that can damage the plastic housing or internal components. Manufacturers might recommend specific cleaning agents for these scanners.

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Point of Sale (POS) Kiosks and Screens

Touch Screens: Many POS systems have touch screens, which can accumulate fingerprints, oils, and other residues.

Cleaning Method: When cleaning these screens, it’s essential to use a soft, lint-free cloth, moving it in up and down motion to prevent streaks. Avoid using abrasive materials that might scratch the screen. Given the frequent touch interaction, regular disinfection is also crucial.

Healthcare vs. Non-Healthcare Scanners

While the cleaning method (using isopropyl alcohol or approved disinfectants on a cloth) might be similar for both healthcare and non-healthcare scanners, there are some differences:

  • Frequency: Healthcare scanners might require more frequent disinfection due to the environment they’re used in.
  • Disinfectants: Healthcare scanners might have specific recommended disinfectants that are effective against pathogens and safe for the scanner’s antimicrobial coating.
  • Durability: Healthcare scanners are often built to withstand frequent cleaning and disinfection, while some non-healthcare scanners might not be as durable to aggressive cleaning.


To sum it up, even though cleaning techniques can be alike, where and how the scanner is used, along with its design, determine the cleaning details. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations for the right way to clean.

Additional Tips for Cleaning a Barcode Reader

  • Always follow manufacturer recommendations and cleaning guidelines.
  • Avoid using bleach, ammonia, or other harsh chemicals unless specified. 
  • Establish a regular cleaning routine. 
  • Store the scanner in a clean, dry place when not in use. Avoid direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. 
  • Regularly check for updates from the manufacturer or relevant health organisations for best cleaning practices, especially during health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Know When to Clean My Barcode Scanner?

If you notice your scanner slowing down, misreading information, or not turning on, it’s a clear signal that it’s time for a cleaning session.

How Often Should I Clean Barcode Scanners?

The cleaning frequency largely depends on how often you use the scanner. While daily cleaning ensures top-notch performance, you might opt for alternate days or even weekly cleaning based on your usage. 

Remember, consistent maintenance is the key to keeping your scanner in prime condition. 

What Is the Best Cloth to Clean Barcode Scanners?

For best results, use a soft, lint-free cloth. Avoid abrasive materials to ensure the scanner’s surface remains scratch-free.

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