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disinfecting

  • How to clean and disinfect your two way radios

    Cleaning and Disinfecting RadiosThe two way radio is an important tool for both business and personal short range communications, particularly during a national emergency such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. From curbside service to personal home care, radios can keep us in constant, instant communication with one another while we practice social distancing and protect our personal space to minimize the spread of germs.

    But what about the radios? Don't they need to be cleaned and disinfected as well?

    Absolutely! Your radios should be cleaned regularly for general maintenance. They should be disinfected as well, especially when used in environments and situations involving possible contagions. This becomes even more critical when the radios are shared between users, or handled and operated directly by the user close to the face or mouth.

    Think about it for a moment. Like any portable personal device, a handheld radio or walkie talkie can pick up and carry germs at the very first touch. When you hold and or carry it around in the palm of your hand, press the buttons, bring it up to your face, and speak into the microphone, you are transmitting any germs you carry directly to your radio, both on the surface and into any crevice that can catch them. Pass the same radio around to others, and, well, you get the idea.

    In such cases, the radios should be thoroughly disinfected immediately after each shift or use. This applies to any type of operating environment, business or personal. Germs don't discriminate, and neither should you. Keep your radios clean and sanitized for your personal protection and the safety of those around you.

    But you can't just dump your radio in the water and give it a twenty second washing like you would with your hands. As with any electronic device, cleaning and disinfecting a two way radio requires some care. There are some specific things you can do but there are also some things that you shouldn't do, primarily because they could be harmful to you and/or the radio itself.

    While not all radio manufacturers have specific instructions for such maintenance, some manufacturers including Motorola, Kenwood and Midland do have guidelines and recommendations about how to properly clean and disinfect their radios. With a few slight differences and variations, the instructions are pretty much the same. It is important to note, however, that all radios are not the same. Some are rather basic in design, with few buttons, no displays, simple speaker grilles and non-detachable antennas. Others have full keypads, large displays, large, deeply penetrable audio jacks, external battery contacts or terminals, rotating knobs and various other physical features that can make a thorough cleaning session a little more involved.

    Also, the materials used for the radio housings may vary. Consumer grade radios often use lighter, lower grade plastics that may not withstand a lot of stress and strenuous cleaning or liquid solutions. Business grade radios tend to use heavier duty materials capable of withstanding external elements and stress. The housings of most quality business and marine radios are often designed to be more water resistant, and may even repel some liquids. Many Motorola on-site business radios even have antimicrobial properties. While these antimicrobial housings do not protect against viruses, they can help slow the growth of bacteria and make the radios easier to clean and disinfect.

    So, how do you clean and disinfect your two way radios?

    Before you start, let's talk about what not to do. Especially the don'ts.

    Don't

    • Do not immerse the radio in water.
    • Do not clean the radio while it is turned on or charging.
    • Do not pour or spray any cleaning solution or liquid directly to the surface of the radio.
    • Don't use anything abrasive. Do not use metallic or heavy duty brushes. Do not use any rough or abrasive cloths. Don't use any abrasive cleansers.
    • Do not use bleach or solvents or cleaning sprays or anything like that to clean or disinfect the device. At the very least these chemicals can discolor the surface of the radio, and at worst they may melt the plastics or eat away at the surface of the radio. They can also scratch or damage the displays, so you really don't want to do that sort of thing.

    Do

    • Be sure the radio is turned off.
    • Remove the batteries or battery pack before cleaning.
    • Clean a battery pack housing separately, and only the outer facing plastic shell or housing.
    • Remove the belt clip if possible and clean it separately.
    • Remove any externally connected accessories such as earpieces, headsets or hand microphones before cleaning.
    • Clean your radios in a well ventilated area and away from heat sources.
      Avoid breathing vapors or fumes from approved cleaning solutions.

    General Cleaning of your radio

    • Removing heavy dust, soil, mud, grime, stains, etc.
    • Prepare a solution of a non-abrasive dish detergent and water, with no more than 0.5% detergent in the solution. Some manufacturers recommend using distilled water.
    • Apply the solution to the surface of the radio with a soft, non-abrasive cloth. Note: do not apply any liquid directly to the surface of the radio. Apply it to the cloth first, then to the radio from the cloth.
    • Use a stiff, non-metallic and short bristled brush to loosen and remove the dirt from the surface and crevices of the radio.
    • Wipe the debris and moisture from the radio with a dry, soft, lintless, absorbent cloth.
    • Be sure to remove all moisture from the radio, including any metallic contacts, connector ports, cracks and crevices.
    • Allow the radio to fully dry before attempting to install the battery(ies), charge or use the device.

    Disinfecting your radio

    • Wipe down the radio using isopropyl alcohol with a 70%-80% concentration. Below 70% will not be effective.
    • Apply the isopropyl alcohol to the surface of the radio with a soft, non-abrasive cloth first, then to the radio from the cloth. Do not apply it directly to the radio.
    • Be sure wipe down into the cracks and crevices in the radio to effectively disinfect from germs.
    • Some manufacturers allow the use of an antibacterial wipe, but excess liquid must be squeezed out of the wipe before use so that it is merely damp, not wet, to avoid over saturating the radio with fluid.
    • Be sure to remove all moisture from the radio, including any metallic contacts, connector ports, cracks and crevices.
    • Allow the radio to fully dry before attempting to install the battery(ies), charge or use the device.

    Your radio is a powerful tool for communication, but as with any object, it can also be a germ magnet. Whether they are used in a dental office, medical facility, warehouse, retail store, restaurant, on the water, in a cockpit, on the trail, at home with the family or out in the field, clean and disinfect your radios regularly to ensure maximum personal protection and health.

    For an in-depth discussion on cleaning and disinfecting two way radios, listen to The Two Way Radio Show Podcast TWRS-148 - The COVID-19 Pandemic and Two Way Radios.

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