How clean is your keyboard?

by Ali on May 20, 2008

I’ve written (rather light-heartedly) before about the hazards of the communal fridge, but there are plenty of other nasties that could be lurking on your desk. Your healthy living attempts are likely to get a nasty knock if you come down with a severe stomach bug … so don’t think that these are optional!

A study done by the UK consumer magazine, Which?, recently tested equipment in their own London offices and found such alarming results that they suggested “qwerty tummy”, could sweep through workplaces. In their office, four of the keyboards were considered a potential health hazard and one was “condemned”.

Two had “warning levels” of staphylococcus aureus and two others had “worryingly elevated” levels of coliforms and enterobacteria, “putting users at high risk of becoming ill from contact”.

So are you at risk of getting ill from your keyboard? And what can you do about it?

  • Here’s a quick test: nab a sheet of plain paper from the printer/photocopier and put it on your desk. Pick up your keyboard, turn it upside-down over the paper, and give it a shake. Bear in mind that everything which falls out is just the loose stuff…
  • Don’t eat at your desk, if you can avoid it: a major cause of bacteria on keyboards is from smears and crumbs of food, and spilt drinks. (Yet another reason to take a proper lunch break and get away from work!)
  • Clean your keyboard regularly. The simplest way to do this is to tilt the keyboard sideways (over a bin) and squirt compressed air into it – you can buy this from office supplies stores. Then wipe around the keys and edges of the keyboard with anti-bacterial wipes.
  • Don’t forget your mouse: if you have a traditional wired mouse with a roller ball, unscrew the casing and clean inside the mouse regularly (it’ll stop the mouse “sticking” when you’re using it.)
  • Which? Magazine’s computing editor said:

    Most people don’t give much thought to the grime that builds up on their PC, but if you don’t clean your computer, you might as well eat your lunch off a lavatory seat.

    If you’re reading this during your lunch break, I hope I’ve not put you off your food … ;-) And however disgusting your keyboard is, it’s probably not as bad as some of the keyboards mentioned in the comments on one of Lifehacker.com’s posts…

    (Image above by bayat)

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