How dirty is my keyboard_ Testing for bacteria around an office

It is a well-known fact that keyboards can harbour more bacteria than a toilet seat.   And for those of you reading this article on a PC or Mac, it is probably safe to say that you have a keyboard in front of you

Look down….

What do you see?

A few crumbs in between the keys?

A wee chocolate smudge from the time you were gorging on a muffin and trying to answer the phone?

Would it be fair to say that you would be quite happy to work on your keyboard then eat food without washing your hands?

Do you use a shared keyboard?

After this article you might want to grab a cloth and some sanitiser…….

We were carrying out some testing on various objects the other day and someone mentioned:

‘I wonder how dirty my keyboard is?’

So we thought we would find out; here is what we did;

How dirty is my keyboard?

Before we started testing the keyboards we thought we would test a few other things around the office.  So we looked at a:

  • Toilet seat
  • Landline telephone
  • Door Handle

After we tested the toilet seat, the door handle and the landline we gathered together 6 volunteers and swabbed their keyboards to measure the bacteria and compared these to the earlier objects.

How do you measure bacteria?

In order to measure it [bacteria/pathogens] you need to use an ATP hygiene monitoring system.  These come in the form of a unit and swabs; you swab the offending area, pop it in the unit, it does a little count down and gives you an RLU Count.  RLU stands for Relative Light Units.

ATP  or (Adenosine Triphosphate) is present in all organic material and is the universal unit of energy used in all living cells. Knowing the level of ATP indicates the levels of pathogens.

So what does an RLU reading really mean?

Acceptable RLU levels are dictated by each industry; for instance, a hospitals [acceptable] RLU levels would be lower than say an office or a school.

To put this in some context; a hospital may have pass or fail indicators set at 10 up to 30. Anything 10 or below is a pass, anything 30 or above is a fail.

Example of RLU pass/fail indicator levels for ATP swab testing

These are the results:

Toilet, door handle and phone RLU readings
Nick Jennifer and Kathleen RLU readings from keyboard
Mel, MIke and Billy keyboard RLU readings

So now you have seen how manky our keyboards are, what can you do around the office to keep bacteria at bay?

How can I clean my keyboard?

Before doing anything – unplug your keyboard (or for those of you on a laptop, switch it off)

There are various methods to clean a keyboard;

  • Spray in between keys with canned air you can buy it here
  • Hoover dust and crumbs with a small handheld hoover or attachment
  • Using blue-tac or putty press between the keys to remove dirt, fluff and crumbs

Once all dust and debris has been removed:

  • For really mucky keys, use an eraser to rub away tough spots
  • Wipe keys and surrounds with a safe sustainable sanitiser or a cloth rung out with hot soapy water

Can the bacteria on my keyboard harm me?

Most of the bacteria on a keyboard are not life threatening however it could put you at risk of ‘QWERTY tummy’ – the name given to stomach bugs transferred through workplace equipment, namely keyboards, and surfaces that may not have been cleaned properly.

There is also the fact that if you have any cuts or broken skin, bacteria from your keyboard may cause an infection.

 Our challenge to you - prevent bacteria build-up on your keyboards

Keep bacteria and bugs at bay on the surfaces around your office by following these 2 steps:

Daily - Wash your hands; before you eat your lunch, after you go to the toilet (that’s just a given) and after handling any mucky materials; give those paws a wash

Monthly - follow our tips on how to clean your keyboard above by removing debris and sanitising the equipment and surfaces

Remember; don't go all out and try and erradicate every single bacteria and virus that may be lurking in your office.  Unless you work in the food preperation industry or a similar environment that requires rigerous hygine standards, some of the bacteria around you is doing you good.

Try to choose an environmentally friendly sanitiser or disinfectant to be kind to you, the poeple around you and the environment.

Electrolysed water is a safe, effective alternative to bleach - want to find out more?

Related content: Electrolysed water an alternative to chlorine; 12 great facts

Realted content: Disinfecting vs Sanitising; do you know the difference?

Related content: Problems with strong bacteria; why bacteria are important

Related content: How do I kill bacteria safely? 4 readily available, eco-friendly cleaners and sanitisers

[convertkit form=770333]

2 thoughts to “How dirty is my keyboard? Testing for bacteria around an office

  • Claire Brotherton

    Very illuminating – if you’ll pardon the pun!

    Now, how do I clean my laptop keyboard, since I can’t unplug it first?

    • Bridge Biotechnology Team

      Ah Claire, there are no flies on you 🙂 We would suggest you switch your laptop off rather than unplugging it, thanks for pointing this out


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *