How are you cleaning your tools?

Hey everyone! 166 is currently talking about how we will get back into our shop while staying safe and staying socially distant. One of the topics that was brought up was how we will keep our tools sanitized before, throughout and after each meeting. What are other teams doing right now? What are other teams thinking?

Something to note, some of our tools we only have one of and there is always a chance that 2 students will need to use it during the same meeting.

Any comments regarding the situation are greatly appreciated.

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First instinct is a tub of IPA with some brushes and drying racks, but that’s not conducive to all tools.

Taking a step back, why? Does sanitizing tools between each student actually do anything other than help people get the warm fuzzies? By that logic, every doorknob, crash bar, sink handle, table, robot part, etc would need to be cleaned just as often.
Transmission points are mouth, nose, and eyes, which I hope you aren’t touching with tools. Mask + face shield (and the safety goggles you should already have on most of the time) covers this, and as long as a student isn’t touching their face, I don’t see the issue.

(of course, this assumes the team is absolutely going into the shop and working on the robot with multiple people)


I agree with @troy_dietz that cleaning tools should probably not be your highest priority. All the latest evidence seems to be indicating that you need to pay a lot more attention to the air you are breathing than the tools you are touching.

Having said that, we have been using Spray Nine to clean our work surfaces and tools. Since it is a de-greaser as well as a disinfectant, it is safe to use on metal tools without promoting rust the way some other cleaners might. It also is probably the best thing we have ever tried for cleaning off white boards that were not touched for several months…


While we haven’t resumed any operations yet and won’t any time soon, I too have been thinking about it. From what I’ve read in CDC guidelines, a mild bleach solution for about 5 minutes of wet contact and mechanical wiping seems to be the preferred disinfecting method for surfaces. I forget the exact concentration recommended. This bleach solution would be preceded by a mild detergent solution and mechanical wiping for cleaning of dirt, and followed by wiping with just straight distilled water to remove any residual bleach. So, it’s a 3 step process.

The other thought I had is perhaps you could have enough of everything to where it can just be left to sit around for several days after each use. Throw all your tools in a marked bin after use, and don’t touch them again until 3 days have passed.

Bleach and water are great for work surfaces like desks and work benches. But both bleach and water promote rust. So, this is not a good solution for tools. If you really feel like you need to use bleach, I would also plan to oil all your tools afterward with either a 3 in 1 or similar light oil, or WD-40. This could get really messy and if you forget to oil them, you may have a lot of rusty tools at the next meeting.


That’s what I’m thinking. I suspect we’ll have to meet as single subteams only, and build meetings will be enough far apart that we can just let the tools sit between them. We also have some spares, so we could set aside a few in case they’re needed for programming meetings.

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I see you’ve met our mentors.


4607 is looking into a lot of options - but haven’t settled on any yet. Our first priority is scheduling of members and spaces. Second is shields vs masks. Masks have already seemed problematic as they are difficult to make certain they are clean and are not inducing more hand to face contact than necessary.

Personal face shields seem to be the better option as they can be cleaned instantly, allow more freedom of expression (better communication between members), can contain most spittle, and are relatively cheap. Oh, and glasses don’t fog up as easy (vs masks).

As for other PPE - full coverage of body and extremities (pants, long sleeves) will be required.

Obviously these are not end all/be all answers - but as we understand the transmission of COVID19 is more along the lines of an aerosol than surface contact transmission (Transmission of SARS-CoV-2: implications for infection prevention precautions).

All of that being stated, we are currently developing procedures for our workspaces that will help to mitigate the transfer of illness through surface contact that includes a regimen of washing hands, use of nitrile gloves where safe, and scheduling of departments.

The Safety Dept will be busy in the coming weeks! I look forward to hear how others are planning to cope with the coming season.

really? we are talking about our student’s health and you are pull out the “warm and fuzzies?” Why does making children as safe as possible turn into something that should be shamed?

help me understand your response. Why wouldn’t a team try and work on a robot with more than one person:?

The question he was asking is this:

Does cleaning the tools ACTUALLY do anything–given that this is an airborne disease, less of a surface disease, AND given that there are other surfaces (doorknobs, sink handles, etc) that will need to be cleaned at least as often as the tools?

If cleaning the tools does nothing–or if the other surfaces don’t get cleaned regularly–then you put up posters about safety at your event as your entire safety program. But, if cleaning the tools does actually do something, AND the other surfaces are cleaned, then absolutely, it’s actually going to have a positive effect. See also: actually having and using a safety program.

For us… well, we’ll figure that out when we can get at the tools. School’s still shut down, and our tools are stored there. I suspect that if we start meeting in the shop again we’ll do a disinfection wipe all around, though if there’s been any COVID virus on them it’s long dead (we haven’t been in the shop since March), with the big windows and doors open for airflow.


By all means, sanitize every surface you can (that’s not sarcastic), but sanitizing tools is pretty low on the totem pole given how people should already be conducting themselves (not touching face and eyes, in addition to PPE), and how difficult it would be to do properly. There are other touch points that are contacted by far more people, more frequently.

IMO, if you’re opening the door to a school in the next 12 months you’ve already lost the game, but I understand people want to move on with their lives and FRC is a particularly difficult program to conduct without access to hardware.


Fundamental disagreement on the science here.

Wearing a mask both contains your much smaller, sub-“spittle” droplets that also carry virus & filters particles out of incoming air (40-60% with basic cloth, 80%+ with higher quality material, 95%+ with a properly fitted respirator).

Why are you cleaning the tools? see @EricH 's eloquent post, same as what Troy is getting at.

Right now, we don’t have students attending school. We’re looking at what we can do remotely, along with what can we provide “take-home kits” for. No plan to bring students into the shop - I’ll be arguing against it until after a vaccine is available & distributed.

In person (mentors only, 4-6 people), we dont’ come in when we’re sick or for a few days after per guidelines. Masks are on indoors at all times. We have no more than 1 person per 100sqft. The (12’ tall rollup) doors are open for airflow, and people keep space >6’ when doing tasks (summer organizing, new tool installs, etc).

Masks are “bring your own” but we do have spares for folks that don’t have them, and we’ve talked about avoiding touching/adjusting (or washing hands afterwards).

In addition (and only in addition) to masks, Face shields are available for those that want them, and I am looking into ANSI-rated face shields to replace safety glasses due to fogging. With no students on site we’re under 1 person per 100sqft. Latex gloves on when working together / sharing objects - still maintaining 6’ spacing.

Eating & drinking: Deglove with good technique, Wash hands [inside with mask on], go outside, space by 6’, demask, sanitize hands, eat or drink.

Cleaning high-touch surfaces hasn’t been a huge priority, since we’re in about once a week or so - anything that is on them will die before the next time we’re in the shop. Is this a fallacy I should be addressing?

I also have a bottle of sanitizer I keep in my car, so when I exit the shop / enter my vehicle, I can sanitize before I start driving. Keeping a separate “dirty area” (trunk?) to demask or change clothes & ppe into is recommended by many healthcare workers - if school does go into session in person, I will recommend that technique to teachers but will not go myself (lucky for me, “volunteer” means “power to remove myself from unsafe situations”)

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We’re opening up next week and this prompted to search for what industry is doing or what guidelines are out there. I found this on the CDC website:

For tool-intensive operations, employers should ensure tools are regularly cleaned and disinfected, including at least as often as workers change workstations or move to a new set of tools. Refer to List Nexternal icon on the EPA website for EPA-registered disinfectants that have qualified under EPA’s emerging viral pathogens program for use against SARS-CoV-2.
Source: Manufacturing Workers and Employers | CDC

I’m guessing we’ll abide by the CDC guidelines as best as possible with sanitizing wipes or something that meets those guidelines. We’re fortunate where our workstations and machines all have assigned tools so it’ll be easier for us to manage cross contamination to prevent us from needing the “throw everything in a bucket plan” (although that’s probably very effective for enforcement).

I feel like harassing kids about washing their hands is probably going to be the easiest thing for me to enforce since I can see every time somebody physically leaves a work station.

I believe a proper face mask shouldn’t lead to glasses fogging up. Additional fog is caused by air redirected underneath the glasses from your breathe. If the top of the mask forms a tight seal to the bridge of your nose and upper cheeks, it shouldn’t allow a major amount of airflow to go up your face and into your glasses.

Someone fact check me if I’m wrong, thanks!

We on 1646 agree with @troy_dietz. We have been focusing on statistically significant safety measures and we don’t believe disinfecting tools will be more beneficial than a focus on hand washing and awareness of hand interactions with masks and faces.


Thank you to everyone who has provided input so far

Face shields without masks are essentially useless at stopping infections.

Enforce mandatory masks at all times, and coat all of your tools in glitter.

The masks will prevent nearly all of the airborne transmissions, and the glitter will force nearly all remaining folks to genuinely want to not touch their face and thoroughly wash their hands after leaving the shop.

Semi /s

But more realistically, please be careful with the disinfectants that you use, as they can chemically attack various types of materials. For example, you should keep bleach (sodium hypochlorite) away from any Delrin/acetal/POM parts, and keep isopropyl alcohol away from ABS parts.


Thanks for those links. They don’t really seem like “science” though. One is an anecdotal story, the other is someone’s opinion.

I can see how masks or shields can help with face-to-face, but the reality is most of your breath goes out the sides/edges of the mask. Also, I’d think that after 15 minutes of exhaling, the amount of droplets coming out the side would greatly increase… then you’re just breathing on the person beside you.

Any mask (even N95) with an output port, those seem worse than a handkerchief because you’re directing a stream of breath out at other people.

From the physics as I picture it, I don’t see masks being that much superior to a shield.

An actual sealed respirator one might use for painting, yeah that would work to stop the spread.

here is some ‘science’ for ya:


Perfect is the enemy of good enough.

Whether we get sick with COVID-19 entirely depends on the viral load we are exposed to.

Everything we do to reduce the viral load we are exposed to makes us safer at preventing infection. N100 > N99 > N95 > layered cotton masks > single layer masks > nothing.


Thanks for this.

Have you seen one of these visualizations comparing it to a face shield?