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Workstations 'Dirtier Than Toilets'

CmdrTaco posted more than 11 years ago | from the crumbs-are-a-vital-source-of-nutrition dept.

Science 568

hettb writes "How often do you clean your keyboard and surrounding work area? A recent study (also discussed here) found that computer workstations harbour 400 times more health threatening bacteria than the average toilet seat. If you're anything like me, spending most of both professional and personal time in front of your computer, this is sobering news. "

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568 comments

I'll lick my space bar if you lick your toilet rim (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511752)

Deal? ;)

Re:I'll lick my space bar if you lick your toilet (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511758)

That's the best offer I've had all day.

Clean everything (3, Interesting)

ChocoboKnight (549139) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511754)

Every 6 months I disassemble my machine. Everything that can be washed on the kitchen sink is washed there; everything else is dusted and/or cleaned with q-tips and alcohol. A bit overkill but the keyboard keys never get stuck.

Re:Clean everything (3, Funny)

tenman (247215) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511890)

I have noticed that my keyboard gets sticky most, right after I have visited thehun.com. Other than that, that 33mm stride is perfect.

there's no reason to clean everything (1)

xeeno (313431) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511891)

Just throw away all of the empty beer bottles and put the empty plates in the sink.

Re:Clean everything (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511903)

Hey, your hands are dirty. Why don't you wash them? I bet you can't stand having hands that dirty.

Re:Clean everything (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511905)

Holy Christ you are a loser. With the amount of beating off you do at your computer you need to wash it every 6 days not every 6 months and please don't leave your house.

makes sense (1)

tps12 (105590) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511762)

It has always seemed that offices are among the more unhealthy places to work. I'm sure part of the reason that such deadly bacteria flourish is from being fed by fluorescent lights. The bathroom presumably has its lights off most of the day. Also, bathrooms are probably cleaned more frequently and more thoroughly since they tend to be more, er, visibly dirty.

This is why I don't lick my keyboard. ;)

Re:makes sense (5, Insightful)

saider (177166) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511872)

I'll bet your mouth has even more germs than your keyboard.

But really, isn't this what we have immune systems for? If we spent all our time chasing every last germ, we'd end up like Howard Huges or Mr Burns.

This is obviously the basis for a marketing campaign by the Clorox company.

Depends on the users (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511763)

I think this all depends on who you let use your computer and what kind of web sites they visit. :)

cooool (3, Insightful)

remou (146100) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511764)

I believe in constant exposure to bacteria
viruses and the like. Keeps your body tough
and your immune system strong...

all that antibacterial soap shit gonna
kill you one day...

not really kidding in case you are wondering

Re:cooool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511873)

well said.. i completely agree..

Re:cooool (2)

ocbwilg (259828) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511882)

all that antibacterial soap shit gonna kill you one day...

not really kidding in case you are wondering


If only I hadn't spent my mod points earlier today, I'd give you another +1. For the curious, check out The Coming Plague [amazon.com] . It's a good read and explains fairly well in layman's terms where we're going wrong, and what the consequences are.

Re:cooool (2)

William Tanksley (1752) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511892)

Makes sense to me. AFAIK, there are no known resistant strains of bacteria, but it's probably not impossible to be resistant, and sooner or later we're going to create an environment where such resistant bacteria will thrive. I don't want to be near that environment :-).

Of course, who knows how nasty the 'antibacterial' agent is to you, either. I don't.

-Billy (who DOES support the use of soap -- odd, perhaps I'm hypocritical or simply a luddite)

Re:cooool (2)

Nos. (179609) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511915)

I couldn't agree more. I keep telling my finace to quit buying that antibacterial soap. If doctors hadn't over-perscribed antibiotics for the last 20+ years, we probably wouldn't have stuff out there that can resist them (Flesh eacting Disease/bacteria/virus - whatever it is). The human body is an amazing machine, by making it work more, you actually make it stronger. Consider that the next time you take a pill for a minor discomfort.

have to ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511769)

If you're anything like me, spending most of both professional and personal time in front of your computer


Just what sort of personal time are people spending at their computer that it's dirtier than the toilet? Are you surfing one handed again or what?

hmmm... (1, Funny)

forau (536024) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511770)

"The premise of the study was to find the germiest place in the workplace," said Chuck Gerba, who headed the study. And you thought that you had a bad job.

it doesn't help... (-1, Troll)

AssFace (118098) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511772)

... that I take massive dumps on my keyboard... and piss too - on EVYERTHING

Re:it doesn't help... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511818)

post PICS dammit!

Re:it doesn't help... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511828)

... that I take massive dumps on my keyboard... and piss too - on EVYERTHING

This might help. Indeed, the strong acid in the urine will kill off most of the dangerous keyboard-dwelling bacteria. And the poop stains will prompt even the most lazy cleaning lady to do something about the issue. There's a reason toilets are cleaner than workstations, you know...

Re:it doesn't help... (2)

jlower (174474) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511878)

the poop stains will prompt even the most lazy cleaning lady to do something

Yeah, like quit her job!

Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511776)

If I masturbate to porn daily on my PC, is anyone surprised?

Well now considering (1)

Junky191 (549088) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511777)

that most of use geeks nervously bite nails and other sloppy habits, this bit of news probably explains why our life expectancy is 26 years.

Re:Well now considering (1)

PD (9577) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511920)

Actually that's because at about age 26 geeks start getting promoted into management.

keyboard cleaning (1)

joeldg (518249) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511779)

I found it interesting that you can wash your keyboard in a sink.. let it dry over a weekend and it is fine..a lot of people do not know this... I do this at least once a year.. I wonder how many bacteria actually are currently growing on my "g" key (which is the dirtiest on my keyboard right now)..

Re:keyboard cleaning (2)

ocbwilg (259828) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511911)

I found it interesting that you can wash your keyboard in a sink.. let it dry over a weekend and it is fine..a lot of people do not know this...

The dishwasher also works well, so long as you don't use the heat drying cycle or too much soap. I've taken home a stack of dirty keyboards from work on more than one occasion, though I admit that I do get odd stares from my coworkers for it.

Eww (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511780)

I could have gone the rest of my life without knowing that. Gee, thanks.

Sunlight? (1)

HisMother (413313) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511782)

Many bacteria are killed by the U.V. radiation in sunlight. Enclosed spaces with no natural light are obviously worse for us than is commonly realized.

Re:Sunlight? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511866)

Oh, good thing we have those open-roofed toilets then. That explains everything.

Getting things out of proportion (4, Insightful)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511783)

Exposure to bacteria is normal. We did not evolve with bleach and lavatories. Our bodies expect to encounter bacteria and to some expect we have to to keep out immune systems primed.

Why get paranoid about bacteria that naturally crawls over pretty much everything in our environment. Have you got ill off your keyboard? No, I didn't think so.

Re:Getting things out of proportion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511914)

Have you got ill off your keyboard? No, I didn't think so.

So you can explain exactly why you get sick every time it happens? I certainly can't rule out the keyboard.

gattaca (3, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511785)

For some reason I have that scene from gattaca in front of my eyes. Where the main character is vacuum cleaning his keyboard at the end of the training day. The interesting bit is that noone is really bothered or amused by this... It seems a bit overboard, but still within reasonable limits...

Americans are obsessed with microbes (5, Interesting)

_LORAX_ (4790) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511787)

Is it just me or is all of this really quite moot. Between what we are exposed to outside naturally or what we subject ourselves to daily what is on our workstation is hardly going to really make a difference one way or another.

Lets see some things that are probalw worse.

1) Any food/drink ordered from think geek
2) Coke
3) Paint fumes/dust and metal dust from people Modding their case.
4) Sitting in from of this damm irradating device for 12hrs/day
5) ..
6) ...
203331) some extra bactera on your desk

What? (0)

KDENCE (558103) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511789)

They haven't seen my toilet!

Just kidding folks!

However, how the heck are we supposed to clean keyboards easily? Maybe they can come up with optical keyboards? In regards to the mouse, no excuse! I guess I used to just wipe my butt, now I have to wipe my mouse and keyboard!

. . . and the lesson for the day is: Don't put your hands in your mouth and vice-versa!

"Entertain the Brutes"

Solution: move to the toilet... (5, Funny)

Insightfill (554828) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511791)

Think of it - cleaner environment - no more wasted trips, the possibilities...

So? (5, Funny)

Xenopax (238094) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511796)

I doubt many people catch that many diseases from toilets. I know it's common for people to become paranoid about using a public toilet for health reasons, but it's absurd. Just don't sit in anything wet or lick your hands afterwards and you'll be fine. That goes for using both a computer and a toilet.

Re:So? (5, Funny)

AntiNorm (155641) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511869)

Just don't sit in anything wet or lick your hands afterwards and you'll be fine. That goes for using both a computer and a toilet.

If you're sitting in something wet at your workstation, it's time to lay off the pr0n sites.

once (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511798)

At work, someone did an analysis of a guys keyboard..they founds spots of jisms....

Sobering? (3, Funny)

swordboy (472941) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511800)

If you're anything like me, spending most of both professional and personal time in front of your computer, this is sobering news.

Not if you are growing brewers yeast in the keyboard like me! I call the subsequent beer, Windows 99 [macobserver.com] .

There ought be a gubmint regulatory agency... (1)

WinPimp2K (301497) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511804)

And with sensationalistic crud like that masquerading as a "story" it probably won't be long before Ashcroft starts up a special task force to crack down on hackers as bio-terrorists.

Not as gross as it sounds (1)

TampaTim (201824) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511810)

Well, it's still pretty gross, but research as shown(sorry no link) that toilets are actually quite clean, and relatively bacteria free. It makes sense to cleana toilet often(I mean come on, you shit in the thing) but you don't shit on your keyboard, so you don't think to clean it as much. Unfortunately your hands have plenty of bacteria and the crumbs that fall in it provide such a great breeding ground...

Re:Not as gross as it sounds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511880)

It makes sense to cleana toilet often(I mean come on, you shit in the thing) but you don't shit on your keyboard...



I guess it depends just what you're into.

Well, I think we know what's in most geek's KBs... (-1, Troll)

Lethyos (408045) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511811)

Probably something along the lines of pubic hair and semen. I try to avoid using other people's keyboards - especially those of my friends who I know are single and frequent the pr0n pages. It's just... nasty.

As for less nasty contaminates in keyboards, mine has consumed at least two full cans of softdrinks (I spilled an entire Long Island in mine once ;). Not to mention crumbs, food of other types, and cat hair... I'm sure my keyboard has a very interesting soup brewing in it too.

Re:Well, I think we know what's in most geek's KBs (1)

geogeek6_7 (566395) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511850)

My keyboard has a mixture of the various food items I eat while surfing sorta ground into the keys. The "S" key is pretty disgusting.

Its a Logitech Deluxe access keyboard though, comes highly recommended.

Well DUH! (2, Funny)

fobbman (131816) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511815)

Have you seen some of the "crap" that comes preloaded on store-bought PC's these days? And most of it isn't worth a "piss" anyway.

This doesn't surprise me... (4, Interesting)

keep_it_simple_stupi (562690) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511817)

I am a sys admin for a large company. I see people in the restroom all the time that don't wash their hands... Normally this wouldn't bother me, but then I think of how I'll be at that same users pc in 20 minutes. It makes me want to wear latex gloves like the doctor's office uses.

In other news... (1)

geogeek6_7 (566395) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511820)

High crap concentrations have been found on the internet, lending to the health risk associated with computers.
"There is so much bull here!" said Melvin Dixon, referring to the Republican website from his workstation, located in Manhattan. "At least with my toilet its human, and you can use Mr. Clean to help the situation!"

Mr. Clean was unavailable for comment.

Coming soon... "QWERTY-WIPES" (5, Insightful)

rot26 (240034) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511822)

The study, funded by The Clorox Co.

Hmmm. Imagine that. A company that makes cleaning/germicidal products finds that a common workplace/home device is direly in need of disinfecting. I wonder if we'll be seeing Clorox Key-Wipes any time in the very very very near future?

plus all the sticky stuff (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511824)

plus all the sticky stuff from, uhh....watching sexually explicit art (translation: pr0n) in front of our computers :)

Getting Personal! (4, Informative)

4of12 (97621) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511829)


At school I remember some old ADM keyboards that had slippery keys, with much blackness just aside from the contact points. Shudder!

Those were public terminals, though.

I've noticed that keyboard cleanliness really depends on the person. Not whether they dump coffee and cheetos on them, but whether their hands are particularly heavy sources of oil.

EW (1)

rmadmin (532701) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511833)

I just turned my keyboard upside down and shook it. Now I need to go get the vacuum and a hazmat team *Passes out*

Funded by Clorox (1)

dfinney (210092) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511837)

"The study, funded by The Clorox Co., analyzed more than 7,000 samples from personal work spaces and common areas in offices in Tucson, New York, San Francisco and Tampa, Fla."

Hmm. What is the ratio of workspace surface area to toilet seat area? What is the ratio of Clorox money spent phrasing the results of the "scientific study" in such a way that it would cause readers to think about buying Clorox products to the amount spent on calculating this outrageous result? Is the inside of our mouths or stomachs dirtier than a toilet seat ("more bacteria")?

Thank god! (4, Funny)

soulsteal (104635) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511838)

I was browsing Slashdot, fighting the urge to lick my desk, when I saw this article. Good thing too....

Re:Thank god! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511904)

But if your normal, your hands will be touching your infested desk, mouse and keyboard, then you will pick your nose and then eat that, plus all those bacteria.

But is that a problem? (1)

gunnk (463227) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511841)

So there are more germs on my keyboard and mouse than on the toliet seat -- is that a problem? I'm the only one typically using my computer, so the germs are probably mine. I'm not likely to get sick from them since I put them there in the first place.

Oh my god (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511843)

I am so happy to know that. I can't believe that for years I've been touching a dirty computer and then touching my clean penis. I could be transferring germs from my computer to my penis without even knowing it.

I clean my cubicle every Friday (2)

jlower (174474) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511845)

I always thought I was just doing it because I needed to goof off that last half hour of the week but I guess I wasn't goofing off after all!

The absolute worst offender has to be phones though. If your phone gets used by anyone but you, you're well advised to disinfect the mouthpiece, especially during the cold/flu season.

Bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511847)

"Dirtier Than Toilets"

Ya wanna bet?

a pay increase (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511852)

Finally an excuse to put in for hazard pay.

Gee, A study funded by Clorox? (3, Interesting)

rcatarella (239076) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511854)

Who could have guessed what the conclusions would have been?

Let's see- after using our new "Desk Wipes" product for just two days you too can rid your desk of 99.9% of those nasty microbes.

Hmmm.....

'dirtier' is a matter of opinion (1)

zbuffered (125292) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511858)

Sure there are more germs, but they're my germs. That's like smelling your own fart -- no harm no foul

Who said that a toilet seat is diirty (2, Informative)

arivanov (12034) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511864)

A toilet seat is clean compared to some stuff some of us have to go through every day of their lives..

Un-Hygienic Data on the London Underground

During Autumn of 2000, a team of scientists at the Department of Forensics at University College London removed a row of passenger seats from a Central Line tube carriage for analysis into cleanliness. Despite London Underground's claim that the interior of their trains are cleaned on a regular basis, the scientists made some alarming discoveries:

This is what was found on the surface of the seats:

* 4 types of hair sample (human, mouse, rat, dog)
* 7 types of insect (mostly fleas, mostly alive)
* vomit originating from at least 9 separate people
* human urine originating from at least 4 separate people
* human excrement
* rodent excrement
* human semen

When the seats were taken apart, they found:

* the remains of 6 mice
* the remains of 2 large rats
* 1 previously unheard of fungus

It is estimated that by holding one of the armrests, you are transferring to your body the natural oils and sweat from as many as 400 different people. It is estimated that it is generally healthier to smoke five cigarettes a day than to travel for one hour a day on the London Underground. It is far more hygienic to wipe your hand on the inside of a recently flushed toilet bowl before eating, than to wipe your hand on a London Underground seat before eating. It is estimated that within London, more work sick-days are taken because of bugs picked up whilst traveling on the London Underground than for any other reason (including alcohol).

Sounds reasonable (4, Funny)

JHromadka (88188) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511867)

I completely believe this. I have a coworker that has a 3 year-old cup of coffee that he keeps on his desk. It's mighty furry. He jokes that it will cure cancer one day. :)

Re:Sounds reasonable (1)

azadrozny (576352) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511913)

If you wash out your coffee cup you wash out all of the flavor. Besides, it makes your boss think you work real hard :)

Alcohol wipes (2)

rnd() (118781) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511876)

Alcohol wipes (the kind you would find in a hospital) do wonders for cleaning up a keyboard and mouse. I'm sure that in most cases, it's the keyboard and mouse that harbor most of the grime.

I've used some campus computing sites where there is a brown slimy coating on everything. Probably a result of human oils produced during the many all-nighters around exam time.

It's quite logical and comes as no surprise... (3, Insightful)

Lethyos (408045) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511881)

How much time do you spend on or at the toilet on any given day? 5-10 minutes tops? Some people take a really long time in the rest room, but it still does not even begin to stack up against the amount of time we spend at our computers.

Human beings are inherently dirty creatures. We can go through the whole day, doing almost no physical activity, and all the while, we're pumping out grease and perspiration. Meanwhile, we're going around touching door handles, money, and all sorts of other unsanitary surfaces. We then proceed to touch our keyboards and mice with these filthy hands. On top of that, many of us eat at our workstations, providing an ongoing food supply to whatever may be living on our input devices.

Now, think about the toilet. We spend very little time there. We never touch the seat. When we urinate, we're dispending a liquid that contains amonia and is actually steril. When we deficate, we're not very likely to get the contents on any surface except inside the bowl, where it is promply removed by about 5 liters per second of water.

Again, it comes as no surprise that computers are just outright dirty. :)

I've always wondered... (1)

Gathers (78832) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511884)

Ah, so they envolve into health threatening bacteria.
I've always wondered what happens to everything that falls into my keyboard! =)

More from Gerba (1)

salange (126595) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511897)

The same guy has been used as a source by Cecil, for whatever its worth. His conclusions in the article above are pretty simillar to what he has said before, namely that toilet seats are pretty clean and everything else not so much.

Straight Dope article [straightdope.com]

And this is surprising, why? (2)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511902)

Looking into the ol' Happy Hacking Lite, I see a couple years' worth of dust kitties and random pieces of lint. Even if it were on top of the keys were I might actually touch it, and not well-hidden beneath the keys themselves, this would not disgust me.

On the other hand, no matter how yummy the burrito was, I'll be damned if I'd leave a single drop of its corpse sitting on the seat of my toilet. I mean, really, how often do you leave *ahem* "dirt particles" where they land? Roughly never, particularly if 1) you ever have or intend to have a female over to visit or 2) ever expect to use that particular toilet again.

So, tell me again why I should be surpised?

who says this is a bad thing? (1)

PhuCknuT (1703) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511907)

People who live in sterile environments develop more alergies and have weaker immune systems than people who's immune systems are kept active. It's been proven that people now have much worse alergies than they did 200 years ago, because people overuse medication and their immune systems never get the chance to build up immunities.

Unfair comparison (2)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511909)

One of the things that everyone seems to miss when people make this kind of comparison is that toilet seats are actually remarkably clean. They're engineered to be a very bad place for bacteria to grow, and people routinely clean them with strong antiseptic solutions. In fact, a typical toilet seat has fewer bacteria than a typical kitchen counter. Your toilet seat may very well be the cleanest place in your house.

toilet computing (1, Funny)

dirvish (574948) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511916)

What about sitting on the toilet, using my PDA? Would that be worse than just sitting on the toilet? Better than using my workstation?

To really amaze your users (3, Funny)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511918)

from now on, onsite pc support should put on disposable latex gloves before typing or touching the mouse. For a real gas, put on surgical garb and scrub up before opening the case.

There's a reliable study... (3, Funny)

szcx (81006) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511919)

The study, funded by The Clorox Co
Oh, well if Clorox says my keyboard is dirtier than a toilet, I guess I better do something about it. Excuse me while I go buy some Clorox Air Freshener to get rid of the air-bourne bacteria, Clorox Disinfectant Wipes for my keyboard, and Clorox General Purpose Cleaner to wash the microwave door with...

most folks don't think about it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#3511921)

i've found that when i am working on somebody else's stuff, sometimes, i can barely stand to touch their keyboard 'cause of the 'goo' all over it. they probably just develop some sort of cooperative finger/keyboard resin/film which prevents them from noticing the yuk factor of the whole thing.

Simple Rules: 1. Don't eat at your desk! (1)

Titusdot Groan (468949) | more than 11 years ago | (#3511924)

Some simple rules for workstation hygiene:
  1. Don't eat at you desk -- go the cafe, meet your coworkers in Marketing, go for a walk
  2. Wash your hands before and AFTER eating -- don't transfer Subway particles to your keyboard or desk
  3. Wash your hands after going to the washroom -- it's amazing how many people don't
  4. Don't sneeze onto your keyboard or desk :-)
If you're really a clean freak, wipe it down like they suggest. Don't use anti-biotical cleaners! Anti-biotics are for people with PNEUMONIA not for desks. Humanity is going to get wiped out by a simple bacteria made super by stupid antibacterial handwashes.

Of course the absolute worst problem is inheriting a laptop or keyboard or desk from somebody whose idea of personal hygiene doesn't even come close to yours ...

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