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Let's face it, germs are not just something to watch during the "cold" or "flu" season. They're everywhere and are yearlong threats to your health and the health of your business. That's why it's important to make sure you're keeping high-traffic areas clean and disinfected. One area which needs to be cleaned on a regular basis is your cash register, not only because many hands with varying degrees of dirt are handling it, but also because money is one of the biggest germ carriers around. That is why it is imperative to clean your register and clean it properly. I recently sat down with Robert Kravitz who is a writer for the professional cleaning, building, hotel, hospitality and education industries, and he let me in on the proper ways to clean a register and why there is no such thing as clean money.
Debra Gorgos: Money is dirty, therefore cash registers must be dirty, too?
Robert Kravitz: Because it is used as a means of exchange, money changes hands constantly, going from one person to pay for one thing, then on to someone else, and so on and so on. In the process, money becomes quite dirty. In fact, in the past, as a courtesy to their guests, many top-notch hotels once washed their money (especially coins) so that it would always be clean and shiny. Today, believe it or not, the St. Francis hotel in San Francisco still washes, rinses and dries the money that is collected and used in their facility three days per week.
If money is dirty, you can assume that over time, the cash registers that hold it become dirty as well. After all, bacteria, germs, and other contaminants have a nasty habit of moving easily from one surface to another. If a coin, for instance, is coated with bacteria, these microorganisms can be passed on to the next person who handles that coin, as well as to the area in which the coin is stored in the cash register.
So to answer your question, yes: Cash registers do indeed become dirty due to coming in contact with contaminated money.
Debra Gorgos: What do you want to tell business owners about why it's important to keep cash registers clean?
Robert Kravitz: The obvious reason to keep cash registers clean is because, as already discussed, currency often transfers contaminants from surface to surface. But there is another reason to keep cash registers clean, especially on the outside. Cash registers, as well as the related devices used to swipe credit cards and the like, are very visible. Therefore, their appearance and cleanliness make an impression on your customers. To a carwash customer, for instance, a soiled cash register implies that the place of business is dirty and that it is therefore likely that it is not operated efficiently. They may easily conclude, "This carwash is not for me."
Debra Gorgos: What are the proper cleaning tools and products to use?
Robert Kravitz: To clean inside a cash register, first remove all coins and bills. You can tip the register forward carefully to remove dust, but a far better way to achieve this goal is to vacuum the inside of the register. You can also use a paint brush to brush out debris. Next apply an all-purpose cleaner directly to a damp cloth and use it to wipe down the inside of the register. If you also plan to disinfect the machine, it is important to clean it with an all-purpose cleaner before using a disinfectant. Finally, allow the machine to air dry.
As for the exterior of the machine, the best way to clean those surfaces is the method that is also used to clean telephones: Rubbing alcohol and a clean cloth. Rubbing alcohol can be a surprisingly effective tool for removing soils on keyboards and the sides of cash registers, especially those made of plastic. Rubbing alcohol also tends to leave registers looking shiny and new and can kill some of the contaminants that may be present as well. You can also try this method on cash register screens. If this does not prove effective, use window cleaner and a soft cloth instead. Do not use paper towels, as these can scratch the screen.
Debra Gorgos: Can't you just use those cleaning wipes?
Robert Kravitz: Yes, cleaning wipes can be effective tools for cleaning cash registers. However, while these tools are convenient, they are not cheap. In the long run, you pay much more to use a wipe than you would to simply spray a cleaner or disinfectant on a cloth to clean surfaces.