Simple Device Sanitizes Often Overlooked Breeding Ground for Bacteria and Viruses

Shared pens carry thousands of germs but are rarely cleaned between users

(ORLANDO, Florida) – Families do a lot to avoid illnesses — they get flu shots, wipe down surfaces, wash their hands and more. But one germy item that is often shared by dozens of people a day is rarely cleaned. About half of pens are contaminated with bacteria and viruses, yet you probably pick them up at the doctor’s office, the bank or your child’s school without a second thought. In fact, shared pens are found to have more than 46 thousand times more germs than the average toilet seat. But now, a device developed at Orlando Health quickly sanitizes shared pens between users with a simple swipe.

     “Places with a public pen can store it in the CleanBlock where visitors can pull it out, use it and push it back in,” said Todd Roberts, inventor of the CleanBlock and a clinical coordinator at Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center. “It is designed to be a one-way system, so there’s no cross-contamination from one user to another.” 

     Each swipe through the CleanBlock eliminates 99.9 percent of germs on pens. It’s an idea inspired by Roberts’ patients at the cancer center who all use the same pen throughout the day to sign in at their appointments. “For most people, the common cold isn’t a big deal, but for cancer patients it can be detrimental to their overall health,” Roberts said. 

     His idea was brought to fruition through The Foundry, a program that fosters healthcare innovations from Orlando Health physicians and employees. “We all observe patients and hospital operations from unique perspectives and that spurs a lot of ideas that can really help people,” said Roberts. “Orlando Health supports those ideas and helps to make them reality.”

     The plan is to have a CleanBlock in every medical office on Orlando Health’s campus by the end of the year and experts hope other offices and buildings will utilize this tool to help keep visitors healthy.


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Pens at places like doctor’s offices and schools harbor viruses and bacteria that can make you sick, yet they are rarely cleaned. The CleanBlock sanitizes shared pens between users with a quick swipe.

A patient signs in for an appointment at Orlando Health, where clinical coordinator Todd Roberts developed the CleanBlock, a simple device that quickly and easily sanitizes shared pens to help stop the spread of germs.

Erin Hoffman helps her 5-year-old daughter Jaelyn clean her hands. Families go a long way to avoid germs and illnesses, yet shared public pens are an often overlooked breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.

Todd Roberts (right) observes cultures from a pen. Shared pens in public places can harbor thousands of bacteria and viruses that can make you sick, so Roberts invented a simple device that easily sanitizes them between users.

Wiping surfaces, washing your hands and getting your flu shot are all great ways to avoid getting sick, but many people overlook a common germy item that can easily spread germs. Shared pens at places like doctor’s offices and banks are shared by dozens of people each day but are rarely cleaned.

Todd Roberts developed the CleanBlock, a simple device that sanitizes shared pens between users. Orlando Health plans to put one in every medical office on their campus to help protect patients from germs and illnesses.

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