Medical COW carts, computer on wheels’ carts, have become a fixture in healthcare facilities. These point-of-care carts go everywhere in a hospital, often wheeled from one patient to the next.

Keeping the computers and various peripherals like keyboards clean and disinfected require as much diligence as washing your hands or wearing a surgical mask to help stop the spread of germs.

The Threat

Contaminated hands quickly pass any germs on to surfaces touched such as keyboards or computer screens. Bacteria such as clostridium difficile, strains of staphylococcus, E. coli, and others can survive for months on dry surfaces unless these surfaces are cleaned properly.

Infection Control Policy

All hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices should have a robust infection control policy in place that includes medical COW carts.

The critical components of any infection control policy are disinfection, cleaning, and sterilization.

High, Medium, and Low Risk

Equipment and the risk of infection fall into three categories: high, medium, and low risk.

Infection control experts consider COWs low risk, like the risk posed by inanimate objects like chairs, bed, nightstands, or walls.

Low risk objects in a healthcare setting still require regular cleaning to help control the risk of any infection spreading.

Basic Cleaning

Use detergent at regularly scheduled times for cleaning computers and peripherals. Wiping the PCs or laptops down with an alcohol disinfectant before each shift is also a good policy to follow.

How to Clean

Use friction to wipe away the dirt and contaminants, and rinse or wipe away any contaminants with water or some other fluid or sterile material. The detergent dissolves the proteins and oils while decreasing surface tension.


Disinfection takes cleaning a step further by using a chemical agent or heat to kill microorganisms. Disinfecting chemicals may not remove all bacteria but will reduce the amount present to harmless levels.


Sterilization kills all microbes and bacteria on the surface of the object sterilized. The best sterilization methods use steam and pressure, dry heat, or certain specific chemicals.

Components of many types of equipment, including computers, can’t withstand the sterilization process. COWs can tolerate cleaning and disinfecting.

COW Risk Reducing Strategies

In addition to cleaning regularly, you can reduce the risk of contamination to computers by implanting specific strategies.

Using a keyboard and mouse cover, for example, makes it simpler to keep these peripherals clean. Covers are easily washed and sterilized.

Washing your hands before using the keyboards and mouse will also help limit the risk of contamination.

If you have been using a computer, always wash or disinfect your hands before touching a patient.

Enforcing a policy of wiping down COWS before moving them from one patient room to the next can also reduce the risk of spreading germs.


Turn the keyboard upside down and gently shake out any dust or dirt that may have accumulated. Next, use sticky tape or a can of compressed air to clean around each key. Use a disinfectant wipe, but not one with bleach as that can harm the keyboard, to wipe each key.

Computer Mouse

Remove the battery from a wireless mouse or unplug it from your computer if it is wired. Turn the mouse upside down and shake any particles loose by turning the scroll wheel. Wipe the mouse down with a disinfectant wipe as you did with the keyboard.


Use disinfectant wipes or a mild spray disinfectant to clean off a touchscreen. Slightly damp cloths with cleaning detergent, followed by using a clean towel to dry off the screen will also work.

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