From Door Handles to Desks: The Territories of Office Germs And Cleaning

Office cleaning and disinfecting the keyboard.

Every office battles against invisible foes: germs, bacteria, and contaminants. Office cleaning is not just about maintaining a tidy space; it’s about ensuring the health and safety of everyone who uses the facility. While we often prioritize the cleanliness of the rooms that meet the eye, lurking beneath the surface are numerous hotspots teeming with these unseen adversaries. This article sheds light on these often neglected areas, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive office cleaning in ensuring a healthy workspace.

Computer Keyboards and Mouse

Computer keyboards and mice are integral to our daily office tasks, yet they often go unnoticed as potential health hazards. Regular office cleaning practices should prioritize these devices. We transfer microorganisms from our fingers to these devices with each keystroke and click. Research has shown that keyboards can host up to five times more bacteria than a toilet seat. This high contamination level can be attributed to several factors.

Frequency of Use: The average office worker spends a significant portion of their day typing and navigating with a mouse. This constant contact makes these devices prime collectors of germs.

Eating Habits: Many of us are guilty of eating at our desks, leading to food particles getting lodged between keys or on the mouse surface. These particles can become breeding grounds for bacteria.

Lack of Regular Cleaning: Unlike other office surfaces, keyboards and mice are often overlooked during routine cleaning, allowing dust and skin oils to accumulate over time.

Keeping Them Clean

Ensuring the cleanliness of keyboards and mice is crucial for maintaining a healthy office environment. Here are some steps to achieve this.

Routine Cleaning: At least once a week, turn off your computer and gently shake out your keyboard to dislodge any debris. Use a soft brush or compressed air to remove particles from hard-to-reach areas. Wipe the top and bottom with a soft, damp cloth for the mouse.

Disinfection: Use disinfectant wipes or a cloth dampened with isopropyl alcohol to wipe down the keys and mouse surface. This will not only remove dirt but also kill harmful bacteria and viruses. Ensure the cloth isn’t too wet to prevent liquid from seeping into the devices.

Hand Hygiene: Encourage employees to wash their hands regularly, especially after eating or using the restroom. This simple act can significantly reduce the transfer of germs to computer peripherals.

Educate and Remind: Place reminders around the office about keeping keyboards and mice clean. Consider holding short training sessions on the proper cleaning techniques to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Office Phones

Office phones, a staple in many workplaces, are essential tools for communication. Due to frequent use, professional commercial office cleaning services often highlight phones as a primary concern.

Direct Contact: Unlike many other office devices, phones are held directly against the face, coming into close contact with the mouth, nose, and ears. This direct contact facilitates the transfer of microorganisms from the skin and respiratory droplets to the phone’s surface.

Shared Usage: In many offices, phones, especially those in conference rooms or reception areas, are used by multiple individuals throughout the day. Each user can introduce a new set of germs, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.

Natural Oils and Residue: As we speak, our skin releases natural oils. When combined with makeup, sweat, or other residues, these oils can create a film on the phone’s surface, providing an environment where bacteria can thrive.

Sanitizing Solutions

Maintaining the cleanliness of office phones is not just about aesthetics; it’s a health imperative. Here’s how to ensure they remain germ-free.

Regular Cleaning: At the end of each day, or after a particularly long call, give the phone a thorough wipe down. Pay special attention to the mouthpiece, earpiece, and keypads, as these areas come into the most direct contact with users.

Disinfection: Use a disinfectant wipe or a soft cloth lightly sprayed with a mild cleaning solution to sanitize the phone. Ensure the fabric is not overly damp to prevent moisture from entering the phone’s internal components. Remember, it’s not just about cleaning visible dirt; it’s about eliminating harmful pathogens.

Hand Hygiene: Encourage employees to practice good hand hygiene. Washing hands or using hand sanitizer before making a call can significantly reduce the transfer of germs to the phone.

Personal Headsets: Consider providing employees with personal headsets or earphones. This reduces the need for shared phones, especially for prolonged conversations, and can further reduce the risk of contamination.

Awareness and Training: Educate employees about the risks associated with shared phones and the importance of regular cleaning. Simple reminders or training sessions can go a long way in promoting a culture of hygiene.

By adopting these practices, businesses can ensure that their communication tools don’t become conduits for disease transmission, safeguarding the health of all employees.

Door Handles and Light Switches

Door handles and light switches are ubiquitous in every office environment, playing a vital role in our daily movements and activities. Effective office cleaning protocols should always include these high-touch areas.

Constant Contact: Throughout the day, countless individuals touch door handles and light switches, whether entering the office, accessing a conference room, or simply turning on a light. Each touch potentially transfers germs from one person to the next.

Variety of Users: From employees and clients to delivery personnel and visitors, diverse individuals interact with these surfaces. This variety increases the risk of introducing different pathogens into the office environment.

Regular Disinfection is Key

A proactive approach to cleaning and disinfection is essential to combat the risks posed by these high-touch surfaces.

Scheduled Cleanings: Incorporate door handles and light switches into the daily cleaning routine. Given their frequent use, they should be wiped down and disinfected at least twice daily, if not more.

Use of Effective Disinfectants: Choose cleaning agents that are proven to kill a broad spectrum of pathogens. Ensure the product is safe for regular use and won’t damage or degrade the surfaces over time.

Promote Hand Hygiene: Position hand sanitizing stations near high-traffic doors and entrances. Encouraging employees and visitors to sanitize their hands before and after touching these surfaces can significantly reduce germ transfer.

Educational Reminders: Place signs or stickers near door handles and light switches, reminding individuals of the importance of hand hygiene. This not only raises awareness but also reinforces a culture of cleanliness.

Special Attention During Outbreaks: During flu seasons, pandemics, or outbreaks of contagious diseases, increase the frequency of cleaning. Consider disinfectant wipes nearby, allowing individuals to clean the surface before touching it.

By recognizing the risks associated with door handles and light switches and taking proactive measures, businesses can create a safer, more hygienic environment for everyone.

Coffee Machines and Water Coolers

Coffee machines and water coolers serve as central hubs in many office environments. Office cleaning guidelines often emphasize regular maintenance of these communal areas. 

Frequent Interaction: Employees approach these machines for coffee or water throughout the day. Each interaction involves touching handles, pressing buttons, or using spouts, all of which can transfer germs.

Multiple Users: From the early riser grabbing the first cup of coffee to the late worker seeking a cold drink, a diverse range of individuals use these appliances. This variety of users means an array of germs and bacteria being introduced.

Residue Build-up: Over time, coffee drips, water splashes, or even fingerprints can accumulate on these machines. These residues can become breeding grounds for bacteria if not cleaned promptly.

Cleanliness Protocol

Maintaining their cleanliness is important, given the central role and frequent use of coffee machines and water coolers.

Scheduled Cleaning: Dedicate time each day, preferably at the start or end, to thoroughly clean these appliances. This includes wiping down external surfaces, cleaning drip trays, and ensuring no stagnant water is left in the cooler’s basin.

Disinfection: Focus on high-touch areas like handles, buttons, and spouts. Use a disinfectant safe for food-contact surfaces, effectively killing germs without leaving harmful residues.

Regular Maintenance: Beyond daily cleaning, schedule regular maintenance checks. For coffee machines, this might involve descaling or changing filters. For water coolers, ensure the internal tank is cleaned periodically to prevent mould or bacterial growth.

Hygiene Stations: Position sanitizing wipes or hand sanitizers near these appliances. This allows individuals to clean their hands before and after use and provides an option to wipe down any surface they’re about to touch.

User Education: Use signage or reminders to encourage employees to clean up any spills immediately and to use sanitizing wipes as needed. Promote a shared responsibility mindset, where everyone plays a part in maintaining a clean and safe environment.

By implementing a robust cleanliness protocol for coffee machines and water coolers, businesses can ensure that these communal hubs remain safe and hygienic, contributing positively to the overall health of the workplace.

Elevator Buttons

Elevator buttons, while small, play a significant role in the daily operations of multi-story office buildings. Incorporating them into the office cleaning checklist is essential for maintaining a germ-free environment. 

High Traffic: Elevators are essential for moving people between floors efficiently. As a result, their buttons are pressed by a myriad of individuals throughout the day, each bringing their own set of germs.

Limited Air Circulation: The confined space of an elevator means limited air circulation, which can allow airborne pathogens to linger for more extended periods. The risk of contamination increases when combined with the frequent touching of buttons.

Cross-Contamination: Consider the journey of a single employee – from public transport handles to office door handles and then to the elevator button. The potential for cross-contamination is high, especially if hands are not cleaned regularly.

Safe Usage and Cleaning

Regular Disinfection: Elevator buttons should be on the priority list for cleaning staff. Given their high-touch nature, they should be disinfected multiple times throughout the day. Using a disinfectant that’s both effective against a broad spectrum of pathogens and safe for frequent use is essential.

Hand Sanitizer Stations: Position hand sanitizing stations at elevator entrances on every floor. Clear signage encouraging individuals to sanitize their hands before and after exiting the elevator can significantly reduce the transfer of germs to and from the buttons.

Touchless Solutions: If feasible, consider investing in touchless elevator systems or voice-activated elevators. These technologies can reduce the need for physical contact, further minimizing the risk of contamination.

By recognizing the potential hazards associated with elevator buttons and implementing proactive safety measures, businesses can ensure the well-being of their employees and visitors, making the journey between floors both efficient and safe.

Photocopier and Printer Buttons

Photocopiers and printers are among the most frequently used equipment in an office setting. Office cleaning standards dictate that these machines be sanitized regularly due to their high-touch nature.

Direct Transfer of Contaminants: Employees often move directly from other tasks to using these machines. Whether after a meeting, handling mail, or even eating lunch, the potential for transferring contaminants from hands to the machine’s buttons and touchscreens is high.

Document Handling: Papers inserted into photocopiers or printers might have been handled by multiple individuals, each adding germs. People who collect printed or copied documents might pick up these germs.

Shared Use: In many offices, a single printer or photocopier serves multiple departments or teams. This communal use amplifies the risk of cross-contamination, as individuals from different parts of the office interact with the same machine with varying hygiene practices.

Ensuring Clean Operations

Routine Disinfection: Cleaning staff should prioritize the disinfection of photocopier and printer buttons and touchscreens. Given their frequent use, these surfaces should be wiped down with a suitable disinfectant at least twice daily, focusing on high-touch areas.

User Hygiene: Place hand sanitizing stations near these machines, accompanied by signs encouraging users to sanitize their hands before and after use. This simple step can significantly reduce the transfer of germs.

Use of Stylus: Consider providing employees with styluses when interacting with touchscreens. This can minimize direct contact with the screen, reducing the risk of contamination.

Maintenance Checks: Schedule regular maintenance checks for these machines beyond daily cleaning. Ensure that internal components are clean and functioning correctly, as contaminants can also affect machine performance.

By recognizing the hygiene challenges associated with photocopier and printer buttons and adopting proactive measures, businesses can ensure these essential office machines’ safe and efficient operation.

Restroom Faucets and Dispensers

By their very nature, restrooms are areas with high humidity and moisture. Any comprehensive office cleaning routine must prioritize these spaces to prevent microbial growth. Faucets and dispensers, in particular, present unique challenges.

Constant Wetness: Faucets directly associated with water are almost always wet. This continuous moisture can provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.

Residue Build-up: Soap dispensers, especially those that are manually operated, can have soap residues, which, when combined with water, can become a medium for germs.

Multiple Users: Numerous individuals use the faucets and dispensers throughout the day. Each interaction can introduce or transfer microbes significantly if the previous user had contaminated hands.

Post-Toilet Contact: Faucets and soap dispensers are typically the first items touched after using the toilet, making them especially vulnerable to contamination.

Ensuring Hygiene

Touchless Technology: Installing touchless faucets and dispensers can significantly reduce direct contact, minimizing contamination risk. These devices use sensors to detect hand movement dispensing water or soap without the need for touch.

Frequent Disinfection: Given their high-touch nature and vulnerability, faucets and dispensers should be disinfected daily. Cleaning staff should use effective disinfectants to combat a broad spectrum of pathogens.

Maintenance Checks: Regularly inspect faucets and dispensers for any signs of malfunction or leaks. Stagnant water or soap can exacerbate microbial growth.

User Education: Place signs in restrooms reminding users to turn off faucets using a tissue, to ensure hands are washed for at least 20 seconds, and to use paper towels or elbows to operate manual dispensers. Educating users can play a significant role in maintaining restroom hygiene.

Hand Drying: Ensure that hand drying options, where paper towels or air dryers are adequately maintained. Wet hands can transfer microbes more efficiently than dry hands, so proper hand drying is crucial.

By understanding the challenges associated with restroom faucets and dispensers and implementing robust hygiene protocols, businesses can ensure that these essential restroom fixtures remain clean and safe for all users.

Conference Room Equipment

Conference rooms are many businesses’ epicentres of collaboration, brainstorming, and decision-making. Office cleaning procedures should ensure that shared equipment in these rooms is sanitized after every use. However, the very nature of these spaces, with their shared equipment and frequent human interaction, presents unique hygiene challenges.

Diverse Users: Over a week, a conference room might host multiple meetings involving different departments, teams, or external clients. Each participant interacts with the equipment, bringing their own set of germs.

High-touch Equipment: Items like remote controls, microphones, projectors, and touchscreens are frequently handled during presentations and discussions. These high-touch surfaces can quickly become hotspots for bacteria and viruses.

Close Proximity: Conference room settings often involve close seating arrangements, facilitating the spread of airborne pathogens, especially when equipment is passed from one individual to another.

Infrequent Cleaning: Unlike more apparent areas like restrooms or break rooms, conference room equipment might not be on the regular cleaning schedule, accumulating contaminants over time.

A Clean Meeting Point

To ensure that collaboration comes at a manageable level of cleanliness, businesses should adopt proactive measures for their conference rooms.

Post-Meeting Cleaning Protocols: After every meeting, all equipment, from the remote control to the phone, should be thoroughly wiped down with disinfectant wipes. This ensures that any germs introduced during the meeting are promptly eliminated.

Disinfectant Stations: Consider setting up a station with disinfectant wipes, sprays, and hand sanitizers in every conference room. Clear signage can encourage participants to clean equipment before and after use.

Regular Maintenance: Beyond daily cleaning, schedule a regular deep cleaning for conference rooms. This includes disinfecting chairs, tables, and any built-in equipment like microphones or touchscreens.

User Education: Regularly remind employees of the importance of conference room hygiene. This can be achieved through emails, posters, or short training sessions. Encourage them to adopt best practices, such as not sharing equipment unless necessary and ensuring hands are clean before touching shared items.

Ventilation: Ensure that conference rooms have adequate ventilation. Fresh air circulation can reduce the concentration of airborne pathogens, further safeguarding attendees.

By recognizing the unique challenges associated with conference room equipment and implementing robust cleanliness protocols, businesses can ensure that their meeting spaces remain collaborative and clean.

Break Room Surfaces

Break rooms serve as communal spaces where employees can take a momentary respite from their tasks. Regular office cleaning schedules should include thorough sanitization of these areas to prevent the spread of germs. However, the nature of these shared spaces, with their frequent use and food-related activities, makes them susceptible to various contaminants.

Food Residue: Leftover crumbs, spills, and food particles can attract pests and become breeding grounds for bacteria. Microwaves, toasters, and other appliances can have remnants of food that, if not cleaned, can decay and produce unpleasant odours.

Multiple Users: Throughout the day, numerous employees access the break room, bringing germs from their workstations, restrooms, or the outside world.

Shared Appliances: Coffee makers, refrigerators, microwaves, and other communal appliances are touched by many hands daily. These touchpoints can quickly accumulate germs.

Infrequent Cleaning: While office spaces and restrooms might be cleaned daily, break rooms can sometimes be overlooked or cleaned less frequently, allowing contaminants to build up over time.

Maintaining a Clean Break Space

Businesses should adopt the following best practices to ensure the break room remains safe and hygienic for relaxation and meals.

Scheduled Cleanings: Implement a daily cleaning schedule for the break room, focusing on high-touch surfaces like countertops, tables, and appliance handles. This routine should involve both wiping down surfaces and disinfecting them.

Employee Participation: Encourage employees to take responsibility for their mess. Place signs reminding them to clean up, wipe down surfaces they’ve used, and ensure that food is stored correctly.

Provide Cleaning Supplies: Stock the break room with necessary cleaning supplies, such as disinfectant wipes, sprays, and paper towels. These readily available items make it easier for employees to clean up spills or messes immediately.

Regular Appliance Maintenance: Schedule regular deep cleans for communal appliances. For instance, microwaves should be cleaned inside and out to remove food splatters, and refrigerators should be cleared of expired items and wiped down weekly.

Pest Control: Given the presence of food, break rooms can attract pests. Regularly inspect the area for signs of pests and consider periodic pest control treatments as a preventive measure.

Educational Initiatives: Host occasional reminders or short training sessions on break room hygiene. Reinforce the importance of maintaining a clean communal space for the well-being of all employees.

By understanding the potential hygiene challenges of break rooms and taking proactive measures, businesses can ensure that these communal spaces remain clean, safe, and welcoming for all employees.

Office Plants and Decor

Office plants and decorative items undoubtedly add a touch of elegance and tranquillity to the workspace. However, office cleaning practices should consider these items as they can accumulate dust and allergens. 

Dust Magnets: Decorative items, especially those with intricate designs or rough surfaces, can easily trap dust particles from the air. Over time, this accumulation can become noticeable and even affect indoor air quality.

Allergen Havens: Plants, with their natural textures and surfaces, can become repositories for pollen, mould spores, and other allergens. If not addressed, these allergens can become airborne, potentially triggering allergic reactions among sensitive individuals.

Watering Concerns: Overwatering or under-watering plants can lead to mould growth or attract pests, respectively. The saucers beneath potted plants can also accumulate water, becoming potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes or mould.

Hidden Areas: The backsides of frames, undersides of decorative items, or the inner parts of potted plants are often overlooked during cleaning but can harbour significant amounts of dust and contaminants.

Regular Maintenance

Adopting a regular maintenance routine is essential to ensure that office plants and decor remain beautiful and hygienic.

Scheduled Dusting: Set a regular schedule for dusting all decorative items. Use microfiber cloths or specialized dusters to trap dust effectively, ensuring it’s removed rather than just displaced.

Plant Care: Understand the specific needs of each plant species in the office. Ensure they’re watered appropriately, receive the right amount of sunlight, and are pruned when necessary. Remove dead or yellowing leaves promptly, as they can decay and attract pests.

Rotate and Rearrange: Consider rotating or rearranging decorative items every few months. This not only refreshes the office look but also allows for a thorough cleaning of areas that might have been previously inaccessible.

Educate Office Staff: Ensure that all employees understand the importance of plant and decor maintenance. The overall maintenance workload can be significantly reduced if everyone takes responsibility for the items closest to their workstations.

A truly clean office goes beyond what meets the eye. It’s a space where every corner, every surface, and every frequently touched object is given the attention it deserves. By understanding and addressing the most contaminated areas in our workspaces, we foster a more aesthetically pleasing environment and take a significant step towards ensuring the health and safety of everyone who walks through the office doors. Consistent office cleaning is not just a task; it’s a commitment to well-being.