Mind & Body

This Is How Often You Should Clean Your Keyboard

What's the dirtiest thing you come into contact with every day? A few things might come to mind, but you're likely missing the pretty germy one right in front of your fingertips. Forget the toilet seat — your computer's keyboard is a treasure trove of nastiness. How often are you cleaning yours?

Germs at Hand

Electronics don't mix well with soap and water — and maybe that's why we forget all too often that they need to be cleaned sometimes, somehow. But if you consider how often you use your laptop and smartphone, you'll realize that yeah, there are a lot of germs hiding out there. In fact, a 2012 study from the University of Arizona found that the typical desk has 400 times more bacteria than that a toilet seat. (To be fair, toilet seats get a bad rap in the germ department. "It's one of the cleanest things you'll run across in terms of micro-organisms," Dr. Chuck Gerba, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, tells BBC. "It's our gold standard — there are not many things cleaner than a toilet seat when it comes to germs.") If that didn't ruin your day, this might. A 2006 study at Northwestern Memorial Hospital found that two drug-resistant — and deadly — bacteria (vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA) could survive up to 24 hours on a keyboard. Another common, but slightly less dangerous bug (Pseudomonas aeruginosa) could survive for an hour.

The first obvious step to help remedy this situation is to always wash your hands with soap and water before and after typing on a keyboard. Still, we really need to clean our laptops more regardless. In a 2012 study of university computers, microbiologists concluded that public keyboards and mice should be disinfected at least once a week. If you don't feel like that's quite enough, feel free to follow the advice of a 2006 study of hospital workstations, which suggested disinfecting keyboards every single day. If you're the only one using your keyboard, there's a slimmer chance that you're contracting harmful, sickness-causing germs from it, but, hey, better safe than sorry.

Shake It Off

Like we mentioned, don't douse your computer in soap and water to scrub it down. Instead, as recommended by the National Center for Health Research, here's what you can do every week or so to maintain a clean keyboard:

  1. Wash your hands before and after doing anything on your keyboard. This is the only step where lots of soap and water are perfectly acceptable.
  2. Once your hands are all dry, shut down and unplug your computer.
  3. Turn the keyboard upside down and shake out any gross debris that's probably hiding out in those key crevices. Shake it well! If you have a can of compressed air, use it at this point to help blow out stubborn debris.
  4. Dampen a cotton swab with water or isopropyl alcohol. Don't get it soaking wet; just a slight dampness will do. Dab between the keys with your swab.
  5. Dampen a lint-free cloth (again, damp, not soaked) and wipe down the rest of the keyboard. You're good. Great job!

Want to keep on keepin' it clean? Check out Jessica Snyder Sachs' book "Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World." We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

The Dirtiest Thing in Your House

Written by Joanie Faletto May 11, 2018

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