HR & Management

Five shocking facts about your dirty keyboard – and one thing you can do about it

3 min read

15 October 2015

Columnist Simon Brooke doles out advice on why you should clean your computer keyboard, which can harbor more bacteria than a toilet.

As you read this at your computer are you eating your lunchtime sandwich? Or treating yourself to a freshly baked croissant for breakfast? Perhaps you’re satisfying those mid-afternoon cravings with a bag of crisps?

The cold season is nearly upon us – but when it comes to health in the office you should be more concerned about your keyboard than the person at the desk near you who’s coughing and sneezing. Keyboard health is not just about correct posture and ergonomics.

(1) A computer keyboard can typically have 7,500 bacteria per swab. The figure for headphones is 2,550 and for the bottom of a handbag it’s 2,520.

(2) Research by Which? magazine, carried out on keyboards and office technology at its own offices, revealed that a keyboard can harbour more harmful bacteria than a lavatory seat

In fact, one keyboard had so many germs that it had to be taken away and put into quarantine, after it was discovered that it had 150 times the acceptable limit for bacteria. It was also five times as dirty as a lavatory seat.

(3) The Royal Society of Chemistry found that in some offices mice are not only scurrying over computer keyboards at night looking for food, but they’re then leaving their droppings in them.

(4) According to Peter Wilson, a consultant microbiologist at University College London Hospital, sharing a keyboard can pass on diseases and illnesses between those who work in offices. “If you look at what grows on computer keyboards, and hospitals are worse, believe it or not, it’s more or less a reflection of what’s in your nose and in your gut,” he said in a BBC interview. “Should somebody have a cold in your office, or even have gastroenteritis, you’re very likely to pick it up from a keyboard.”

(5) Microbes find the kind of plastic on keyboards and computer mice very comfortable and easy to live in. In fact, anything with grooves, crevices and little spaces that can hold dirt and specks of food are perfect for them.

Finally some good news – an American company has created a keyboard that you can actually put in the dishwasher. Seal Shield, a provider of infection control products, offers a range of keyboards, computer mice and TV remote controls with facilities such as Bluetooth that you can just pop into the dishwasher or scrub in the kitchen sink while you’re doing your washing up.

Alternatively, you can regularly hold your keyboard upside down and shake it, blow out dirt from between the keys with compressed air from compressed air aerosol and run the sticky side of a Post-it note alongside the key and the space bar to dislodge dirt and crumbs.