Top 10 Germiest Places at Work
Compiled by SpaceIQ
We spend more than 90,000 hours of our lives in the office, and our hands come in contact with a lot of items that aren’t the most sanitary. Here are the top 10 workplace items and areas that may make you want to wash your hands—a lot—in our COVID-19 world.
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Those crumbs aren’t the only things stuck in your computer keyboard. An estimated 16 million microbes that can include E.Coli, Staph, salmonella, and norovirus (a cousin of COVID-19) cover the nooks and crannies. Your mouse? There’s 46,000 times more icky stuff than on a toilet flush handle. Clean It Up: Sanitize at least once a week with antibacterial wipes; spray between keys with canned air. And don’t forget your cell phone!
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Research by the University of Arizona found that your desk harbors 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat and is 100 times less hygienic than your kitchen table. Common cold microbes can last on a desktop for 72 hours; dangerous bugs like MRSA can last up to seven months. Clean It Up: Wipe the top down at least once a week with antibacterial wipes. Do your office chair handles at the same time.
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Cell & Desktop Phones
Your phones may be even worse than your desktop, with an average of 25,000 germs per square inch. Think about where you take your cell phone, then consider you check it 50 times a day. And do you know who else is using your desk phone? Clean It Up: For cell phones, remove the case and use approved cleaning products so you don’t fry the circuits. Use a soft rag and disinfectant on desk phone keys and headset.
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According to WebMD, communal coffee mugs may not be the best to use in your office. One study found that even when they're washed and dried, about 90% had significant germs, including some with fecal matter (that's poop). Clean It Up: The problem isn’t with who uses them, it’s how they’re cleaned. Ideally, run mugs through a full dishwasher cycle that uses hot water and detergent. If you hand wash, make sure brushes and sponges are clean, use hot water, and rinse in a diluted bleach solution.
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Know why your coffee mugs are riddled with poop germs? Blame it on the sponge. These popular cleaning items are wet and absorbent, which makes them perfect for breeding germs. Most new sponges will have bacteria like E.Coli and salmonella within three weeks, according to WebMD. Clean It Up: Put the sponge in the microwave at least once a day for two minutes to kill most bacteria. Don’t leave it in the bottom of the sink; place it in a drying rack. Don’t wait for the sponge to disintegrate--replace it every two weeks.
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Did that take-out container just move? It wouldn’t be surprising, considering how long people leave leftovers in an office fridge. And it all might be making you sick. One study found the average refrigerator contains about 7,900 bacteria CFU (colony forming units) per square inch. A UK study found the produce drawer houses 750 times the amount of safe bacteria. Clean It Up: Clean out and wipe down the office fridge every two days with a strong antibacterial cleanser.
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Non-Automatic Soap Dispensers
You go to the bathroom and you wash your hands. Nice and clean, right? Not if you used a manual soap dispenser. A University of Arizona researcher found fecal matter on 25% of all office soap dispensers. Clean It Up: If you touch the handle, don’t worry. Scrub your hands and nails for at least 20 seconds and rinse under warm water. But most people stink at washing their hands, so you might want to use antibacterial hand products after using the restroom...just in case.
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Copier Start Button
Copiers may be going out of style, but they still see a lot of use—particularly, the Start button. Template maker Hloom found that this single button had more than 1.2 billion germ CFU (colony forming units) per square inch. The average school toilet seat? 3,200 CFU. Thank goodness for the cloud. Clean It Up: Sanitize the entire copier keypad with antibacterial wipes or a soft cloth with disinfectant at least once a week.
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Kitchen Sink and Faucet
When it comes to germs, the office kitchen sink and faucet may be the dirtiest. Scientists use an ATP measurement to determine the presence of bacteria on surfaces. An ATP level for a clean surface is 25. Kimberly-Clark researchers found 75% of office faucet handles had ATP counts of 300 or higher. If that doesn’t prompt you to go out to lunch, metal sink drains registered ATP levels of 1,391. Clean It Up: Keep dirty dishes out of the sink. Scrub the bowl, drain, and faucet at least once a week with a clean rag or sponge and antibacterial cleaning solution.
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South University researchers found that the spigot on a public water fountain can harbor as many as 2.7 million bacteria per square inch. And standalone water coolers aren’t any better. Employees routinely touch the spigot to fill glasses and bottles with germ-laden hands. Clean It Up: Wipe spigots with antibacterial wipes at least once a week. Even better, bring a water bottle from home and make sure not to touch the spigot when filling. Run your water bottle through the dishwasher at least once a week.