How To Disinfect Your VR Equipment During Pandemics

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How To Disinfect Your VR Equipment During Pandemics
March 17, 2020
Don't be like me. Clean your darn headset.
 JOE PARLOCK

 

VR headsets have always been a brilliant way to pick up diseases, especially ones meant for communal use. I've seen multiple events have outbreaks of skin and eye infections due to hundreds of people sharing headsets each day, and controllers are horrifically disgusting at the best of times.

 

You don’t even need a large number of people to cause problems. VR equipment is placed right up against your biggest portals of infection - the eyes, the nose and the mouth. It’s also in constant, close contact with your skin, which can cause infections and, in extreme cases, open sores.

 

With much of the world self-isolating and working from home at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's tempting to chuck on that VR headset and while away the hours in literally anywhere but here. Before that, though, you may want to learn how to clean your headset and its controllers.

 

For the majority of the headset, and its controllers, alcohol-free antibacterial wipes will do the job. Just wipe down all of the hard surfaces, with particular focus on the areas you're likely to touch the most. Key areas include the top and bottom of the eyepiece, which you grab when putting on and taking off the headset and, on the Oculus headsets, the halo adjustment ring on the back.

 

For the lenses, avoid using anything abrasive and just use a simple glasses cleaning wipe. And whatever you do, do not put your headset in direct sunlight to dry. It's tempting, as UV rays are great at disinfecting things, but it will cause irreparable damage to your headset's lenses.

 

The biggest harborer of infections is the soft areas, such as the headband and the foam interfacing found inside. These are ideal environments for everything from viruses to fungi to grow if not maintained properly, and it's even worse if you play high-intensity games. Sweat makes things warm and moist… and smelly.

 

If you just want a cheap, easy clean, the same wipes you used on the hard surfaces will be enough if done regularly. Make sure the whole thing gets nice and damp from the wipes, then leave them to air dry. Don't use your headset until everything is completely dry, or else you're just introducing more microorganisms to an already wet environment.

Use an antibacterial wipe on your facial interface.
 JOE PARLOCK

 

A better option is to invest in some replaceable pads. Oculus offers replacement faceplates and headbands, although these more delay the problem rather than fixing it, as eventually, you'll just have to buy another new one. Instead, third-party options like VR Cover and WidmoVR offer machine-washable covers that either replace your manufacturer's faceplate entirely (in the case of HTC Vive and Index) or provide padded sleeves that slide over the usual interfacing (for Oculus).

 

While cleaning your facial interfaces, don't forget to wipe down the nose area. Take it from personal experience – skin infections on your nose are sore. Some people recommend removing the nose guard in Oculus headsets entirely, although it does help block out more light and is simple enough to clean.

The nose guard is small and easily forgotten, but not cleaning it can cause nasty nose infections.
 JOE PARLOCK

 

It's not difficult keeping your VR equipment hygienic, although for beginners it can be a bit overwhelming. Removing faceplates, putting harsh chemicals where your eyes will soon go and avoiding ripping fabrics are all excuses sometimes made to just never clean them. But with a pandemic facing the entire world, it's worthwhile getting over your anxieties and just giving your kit a good scrub.

 

Wash your hands while you're at it.

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