Spring cleaning: Office edition


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A 2012 spring-cleaning survey of 1,000 adults conducted by Echo Research on behalf of the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) focused solely on — wait for it — the home. In case you’re interested, participants were asked which areas of their homes they pay special attention to, with the top focuses being windows at 72%; followed by blinds and curtains at 67%; ceiling fans and carpets, both at 65%; clothing, closets and drawers at 63%; and desks and home office spaces at 51%.

And speaking of desks and home offices, when was the last time you cleaned your actual office space? You know, the place at which we sit, work, eat and talk for eight hours a day, five days a week. Well it’s insisting you clean it. Right now.

A 2002 study conducted by University of Arizona microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba found that your office space is simply crawling with germs. Phones have up to 25,127 germs per square inch, keyboards 3,295 per square inch and computer mice 1,676 per square inch.

The study was funded by The Clorox Company, a fact that might give us pause about the results, but I think I’ll go out on a limb and say that if you tested your own office desk, you’d probably find some ghastly results. Not because we’re rubbing dirt and grime into them, but because we’re not taking the time to clean them — as we would our own homes.

ACI has a number of tips to combat the office grime. First things first: Clean your hands. As soon as you walk into the office, walk straight into the bathroom and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Rinse and repeat several times a day, including before and after lunch and after using the bathroom. And if you’re a bus or train commuter, carry a hand sanitizer and use it, particularly before your grab your first cup of coffee.

Now onto your desk. Keep a surface cleaner, disinfecting spray or wipes within reach, and use them on your desktop and telephone — the two things you touch most throughout your day. If you’re so inclined, take a swipe at office and restroom doorknobs as well.

When it comes to cleaning your computer, make sure it’s turned off before beginning. Don’t spray cleaner directly onto any part of it, but rather spray on a cloth first. If there’s dirt and dust in between keys on your keyboard, turn it upside down and gently shake or use an air duster. Use a microfiber cloth — either dry or dampened with water or with a specially formulated cleaner for computer screens —when cleaning your monitor. And don’t forget to take a good swipe at your mouse.

Now for some fun. Dr. Gerba conducted another study in 2007 — again funded by The Clorox Company — which set out to determine the “germiest” gender. Now this is painful: Researchers found that bacteria levels in women’s offices were nearly three times higher than in men’s offices. Even though the study found that women’s offices looked cleaner, the amount of stuff they had — from makeup bags and pictures to purses on their desks — amounted to more germs.

Best takeaway of the study: The surface of the Exclamation! Key! On! The! Keyboard! Was! Most! Germy! For! Women!!!!!!!