It’s fitting that it’s 2020 because this has been a year where we are really seeing things a lot more clearly for the first time. One of the biggest eye-openers was the COVID-19 pandemic. This widespread virus changed life as we know it – face masks became the norm, hand sanitizer was a must, and sneeze guards popped up in almost every grocery and retail store across the country.

Sneeze guards sound like they’re super germy and gross, but they’re actually an effective way to prevent the spread of viruses. Get ready to find a new appreciation for these plexiglass or plastic barriers!

Social distancing mandates that people stand at least 6 feet away, but completing a financial transaction from a distance is nearly impossible. The sneeze guards help protect both cashiers and customers.

– Erica Chayes Wida, journalist for Today

What is a Sneeze Guard?

A sneeze guard is a protective barrier, typically made from either plexiglass or acrylic, that prevents bacteria or viruses from spreading. It works by blocking spittle or spray from a person’s nose or mouth before it can infect other areas.

The COVID-19 pandemic put sneeze guards in high demand. These protective shields are now popping up at cash registers, banks, and of course, doctor’s offices.

What is a Sneeze Guard Used For?

A sneeze guard is used as a barrier between shoppers and employees. They are a great way to prevent the spread of germs from one person to the other, which ultimately helps slow down a virus like COVID-19.

Sneeze guards are used for all of the following:

  • Restaurants and bakeries
  • Cash registers
  • Reception desks
  • Pharmacies & doctor’s offices
  • Public transportation
  • Gas stations
  • Schools
  • Gyms & fitness studios

Restaurants & Bakeries

The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) require that all food on display is protected by cases or sneeze guards. This is especially true at buffets, where people can easily breathe onto the food and cause contamination.

Source: https://www.cincinnati.com/story/money/2020/03/24/coronavirus-kroger-install-sneeze-guards-supermarket-checkouts/2909673001/

Cash Registers

Grocery and retail stores like Walmart, Kroger, Target, and Whole Foods have installed sneeze guards at all of their cash registers in response to COVID-19. This helps cut down on the germs that spread from one person to the other.

Reception Desks

Whether it’s a bank, hotel, or hair salon, many reception desks are now equipped with sneeze guards. This helps make transactions or greeting visitors a more hygienic process.

Pharmacies & Doctor’s Offices

Pharmacies or doctor’s offices may put up sneeze guards or shields to help block potential infections. This is a great way to keep both patients and healthcare workers safe.

Public Transportation

Limousines, taxi cabs, and buses have used plexiglass shields for years between the front and backseats. Now rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are starting to install these barriers inside of their vehicles.

Gas Stations

7-Eleven is among the gas stations that have installed plexiglass shields at every pump. These guards are placed over the credit card readers, helping to prevent germs from spreading when the next person comes to fill up their tank.

Schools

Do you remember going to the principal’s office as a kid? Many administrative offices are now equipping sneeze guards as a barrier between staff and students. Some schools are even using these shields in front of each teacher’s desk.

https://cbsaustin.com/news/local/social-distancing-and-sneeze-guards-gyms-prepare-to-reopen

Gyms & Fitness Studios

The COVID-19 pandemic caused gyms and fitness studios in many areas to close their doors. These facilities are getting ready to reopen by installing sneeze guards by the check-in counter.

The inventor of the sneeze guard was a restaurant owner in Pennsylvania named Johnny Garneau. He was a serious germaphobe, which is why he wanted to block his food from contamination.

Do Sneeze Guards Work?

Sneeze guards are effective and work the same as face masks. They stop spray and spittle from your nose and mouth from landing on other surfaces and people. These shields are another protective barrier from widespread viruses like COVID-19.

Control is key when it comes to slowing down the spread of a virus. One germ can multiply into more than 8 million in a single day, which is why sneeze guards are so valuable.

They help keep the germs contained and stop bacteria from landing in an area that’s close to another person. Some viruses live on surfaces for up to 72 hours, which is why it’s important to prevent the germs from spreading too rapidly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centers_for_Disease_Control_and_Prevention

Are Sneeze Guards Required?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centers_for_Disease_Control_and_Prevention

Sneeze guards are not required during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are recommended. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that every business should “place a barrier (e.g., sneeze guard) between employees and customers.”

This is a good thing to keep in mind if you’re reopening your store or restaurant after months of shelter-in-place. Every little action you take helps ensure the safety of your customers.

How a Sneeze Guard is Made

A sneeze guard is a very simple invention that contains anywhere between 1 to 3 pieces. It’s easy to assemble and fast to set up, which allows you to create a safe environment without much time or effort.

What is a Sneeze Guard Made Of?

Plexiglass and acrylic are both used to make sneeze guards because they’re water-resistant and durable. They are also accessible and affordable materials that are easy to install and use.

Here’s what you need to know about acrylic vs. plexiglass:

Acrylic

Acrylic is a type of plastic that’s often produced in sheets. It’s used not only for sneeze guards, but also for medical devices, paint, beauty supplies, furniture, and aquariums.

Plexiglass

Plexiglass is made in sheets and is a trademarked form of acrylic plastic. Aside from sneeze guards, plexiglass is used for windows, lights, signs, and digital screens.

Many other types of plastic are used to make sneeze guards like PVC and vinyl, but acrylic is the most common. Glass can also be used to make these shields, but it’s a lot heavier and more likely to be damaged.

Is Plexiglass Cheaper Than Acrylic?

Plexiglass is usually cheaper than acrylic. This is because acrylic is made with a process known as cell casting, which is more expensive and requires more manual labor. Plexiglass, on the other hand, is a type of acrylic plastic that’s made with a more budget-friendly process known as extrusion.

The main differences between acrylic and plexiglass comes down to price and how they’re made.

Cell Casting

This process is used to make acrylic shields. It involves liquid plastic being poured between two flat sheets and then sealed with heat.

Extrusion

This process is used to create plexiglass shields. A die cutter cuts each individual shield from one roll of acrylic plastic.

Cell casting is a more expensive process, which is why acrylic sneeze guards tend to have a higher price tag. Extrusion is more affordable, making plexiglass a good choice if you’re on a budget. Either way, you can’t go wrong using sneeze guards made from either of these materials.

How Do You Install a Sneeze Guard?

It’s easy to install a sneeze guard. Every shield is designed a bit differently, which is why you’ll likely get instructions or directions with your purchase. However, they almost all take about 10 minutes or less to set up.

There are two basic types of sneeze guards:

  1. Standing
  2. Hanging

Standing

You can put a permanent sneeze guard in place, or you can opt for the temporary models. These shields come with either triangular legs or a little mount. Attach all the pieces in their proper place and double check to make sure that it’s sturdy.

Hanging

A hanging sneeze guard takes a little more effort to set up, but it’s worth it if you want to keep your counter space clear. Screw the mount into the ceiling, attach a couple strong hooks, and then hang the shield with wire, cables, or ropes.

You can create makeshift versions of these sneeze guards, or buy them online in bulk through distributors like Quality Logo Products®. Most manufacturers will include instructions on how to set up your shields, so you won’t have to make an educated guess!

How Do You Make a Sneeze Guard?

Are you having a hard time finding sneeze guards online? You can make your own instead!*

What you’ll need:

  • Large plexiglass or acrylic sheet (available at most hardware stores)
  • 2 wooden blocks
  • Pencil
  • Circular saw
  • Safety glasses

Here’s how to make a sneeze guard:

  1. Step One: Line up a large plexiglass or acrylic sheet on top of two wooden blocks.
  2. Step Two: Mark the areas where you would like the plexiglass to be mounted with a pencil on both blocks.
  3. Step Three: Carefully use a circular saw to cut one small groove into each block.
  4. Step Four: Situate the plexiglass or acrylic sheet into the grooves.
  1. Step 1

    Line Up a Large Plexiglass or Acrylic Sheet

    Before you get started, line your plexiglass or acrylic sheet over the two wooden blocks. You don’t want there to be too much overhang on either end, and you also want to make sure the sheet will end up fitting comfortably into the wood.

  2. Step 2

    Mark the Areas With a Pencil

    Mark the wooden blocks with a pencil once you’ve figured out where you want your sheet to line up. This makes it easier for you to cut into the wood in the next step.

  3. Step 3

    Carefully Cut the Wood

    Put on your safety goggles and carefully cut one groove into each wooden block. Hold the circular saw at an angle and work slowly so you don’t cut all the way through the wood.

  4. Step 4

    Situate the Sheet Into the Wood

    The final step is putting the plexiglass or acrylic sheet into the two grooves. Your sneeze guard is now ready to start blocking those germs!

*DISCLAIMER: Please complete this project carefully and take your time. Quality Logo Products® is not responsible for any injuries that may occur while creating your sneeze guards.

Would you rather see this process in action? Check out this video!

How High Does a Sneeze Guard Have to Be?

It’s recommended that your sneeze guard is somewhere between 6 to 8 feet tall. This range helps ensure there’s always a physical barrier between your employees and customers.

According to the CDC, the average height for an American male is about 5’9,” while a woman is about 5’4.” There are obviously exceptions to this rule, but at least you’ll have an idea of what to expect when people walk into your store.

Stick with the 6 to 8 feet rule, and you’ll literally always be covered! Better yet, have your employees sit down so there’s even more blocking their personal bubble from the customers.

How Do You Clean a Sneeze Guard?

You should clean your sneeze guards while wearing disposable gloves, safety googles, and a face mask. After all, you don’t want the germs from the shield to end up on your hands or near your mouth or eyes!

This is how you should clean your sneeze guard:

#1: Mix warm water and mild soap or detergent in a spray bottle. Make sure the soap/detergent is food-safe if you’re putting the sneeze guards up at your restaurant.

#2: Spray the solution onto the sneeze guard from left to right and top to bottom.

#3: Clean out the spray bottle and refill it with cool water.

#4: Spray the cool water onto the sneeze guard from left to right and top to bottom.

#5: Thoroughly dry with a soft sponge to avoid leaving water spots. Do not use squeegees, razor blades, or other sharp tools as they can scrape the sneeze guard.

If you want to go the extra mile, consider adding one more step and spraying your sneeze guard down with a sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. You should then immediately get rid of your disposable gloves and throw your face mask directly into the washer or garbage can.

For good measure, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after you’re completely done cleaning.

https://www.pe.com/2020/03/25/sneeze-guards-go-up-at-grocery-checkouts-as-ufcw-petitions-for-coronavirus-policy/

Why Are Sneeze Guards Important?

The COVID-19 pandemic has made PPE (personal protective equipment) more popular than ever before. Sneeze guards belong to that category, and they’re an important way for businesses to keep transactions safe for their customers and employees.

https://www.pe.com/2020/03/25/sneeze-guards-go-up-at-grocery-checkouts-as-ufcw-petitions-for-coronavirus-policy/

The Bottom Line

It’s not a very glamorous product, but sneeze guards have been slowing down the spread of germs since the 1950s. You should definitely make sure they’re part of your store, restaurant, fitness center, salon, or whatever your business may be!

References

Versare. (2020, April 15). What is a Sneeze Guard? Retrieved from,
https://www.versare.com/blog/what-is-a-countertop-sneeze-screen/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What Airport Retail or Food Service Workers Need to Know About COVID-19. Retrieved from,
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/airport-retail-factsheet.html

Blink Signs. (2020, June 1). Rideshare Sneeze Guards & Disinfection | Here is What Rideshare and Taxi Drivers Can Do to Make the Rides Safer. Retrieved from,
https://www.blinksigns.com/blog/archive/rideshare-sneeze-guards-disinfection-here-is-what-rideshare-and-taxi-drivers-can-do-to-make-the-rides-safer/

Wida, E. (2020, March 25). Walmart, Kroger, and More Install Sneeze Guards to Help Protect Customers, Cashiers. Retrieved from,
https://www.today.com/food/walmart-kroger-more-install-sneeze-guards-help-protect-customers-cashiers-t176773

DillMeier Glass Company. (2020, April 3). The Evolution of Glass Shield Solutions to Combat COVID-19. Retrieved from,
https://www.dillmeierglass.com/news/the-evolution-of-glass-shield-solutions-to-combat-covid-19

Stockman, E. (2020, May 8). Sneeze Guards, Face Masks and No Cafeteria Lunches: Minn. Schools Plan Ahead for Summer and Fall. Retrieved from,
https://www.mprnews.org/story/2020/05/08/school-leaders-families-struggle-to-plan-for-summer-and-fall-learning

Tri County Healthcare. (2018, December 12). Gross! Hand Hygiene and Other Germy Facts. Retrieved from,
https://www.tchc.org/blog/2018/12/12/hand-hygiene-and-germ-facts/

Mono Foil. (2018, January 19). Jaw-Dropping Statistics About Germs You Need to Know. Retrieved from,
https://monofoilusa.com/blog/jaw-dropping-statistics-about-germs-you-need-to-know#:~:text=Food%2Dborne%20harmful%20germs%20cause,illnesses%20originate%20in%20the%20home

Balagtas, T. (2020, May 17). Social-Distancing and Sneeze Guards: Gyms Prepare to Reopen. Retrieved from,
https://cbsaustin.com/news/local/social-distancing-and-sneeze-guards-gyms-prepare-to-reopen

Dworski, B. (2020, March 27). 7-Eleven to Install Plexiglass Sneeze Guards. Retrieved from,
https://www.cspdailynews.com/company-news/7-eleven-install-plexiglass-sneeze-guards

Smith, K. (2013, December 6). How the “Sneeze Guard” Changed Buffet Tables Forever. Retrieved from,
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/how-the-sneeze-guard-changed-buffet-tables-forever-180949279/

Balk, S. How to Recycle Plexiglass. Retrieved from,
https://www.techwalla.com/articles/how-to-recycle-plexiglass

Creative Mechanisms Staff. (2016, March 16). Everything You Need to Know About Acrylic (PMMA). Retrieved from,
https://www.creativemechanisms.com/blog/injection-mold-3d-print-cnc-acrylic-plastic-pmma

Acme Plastics. What is Acrylic/Plexiglass? Retrieved from,
https://www.acmeplastics.com/what-is-acrylic-plexiglass

Glass Doctor. What is Plexiglass and What is it Made Of? Retrieved from,
https://glassdoctor.com/blog/what-is-plexiglass-and-what-is-it-made-of

Missouri Glass Co. Plexiglass Vs. Acrylic: What’s the Difference? Retrieved from,
http://www.missouriglass.com/blog/plexiglass-vs-acrylic-whats-the-difference/#:~:text=Because%20the%20process%20is%20more,paying%20for%20the%20brand%20name.

Ceiling Outfitters. (2020, June 4). COVID-19: Easily Hang Sneeze Guards from Ceilings. Retrieved from,
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Bakalar, N. (2019, January 14). You’re Not Getting Much Taller, America. But You Are Getting Bigger. Retrieved from,
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Patch, J. (2020, March 21). How to Make a Sneeze Guard for the Front Desk. Retrieved from,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zhdQ-uJYkY

Food Pros. Cleaning and Maintenance Instructions for Sneeze Guard. Retrieved from,
https://d2ch1jyy91788s.cloudfront.net/foodconcepts/uploads/user/files/foodpros-specs-cleaning/8033-8055-SG-Cleaning-Instruct.pdf

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https://www.michaelsglassco.com/maintaining-replacing-sneeze-guards/

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over four years of experience in the industry. She is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products and has had work published for the Promotional Products Association International and the Advertising Specialty Institute.