Keep it clean

No matter how high-tech your office, there are still some basic tenets for clean living that are best not forgotten. PAUL WALLBANK

Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

By Paul Wallbank

Having been sick for the last two weeks, the story from the British consumer organisation’s magazine Which? that many computer keyboards carry more bacteria than toilet seats resonates strongly with me.

Their survey of keyboards in a London office found many were bug infested, and one had 150 times the recommended level of bacteria. These are not items you want in a healthy workplace.

Much of this problem is caused by eating and drinking around keyboards. Avoiding this raises some challenges for most computer users, managers and business owners.

It’s easy to have a blanket ban on food and drink near the computer, but the truth is using a computer without some sort of caffeinated drink within arm’s reach is cruel and unusual punishment for most of us.

Another truth is that while the idea of getting away from the computer to have lunch is great, we don’t always have the time to do that and it’s always tempting to graze on a snack while working.

It’s a good idea to tuck the keyboard beside the monitor while eating and giving your desk a good wipe afterwards. Avoid munching biscuits while typing as well – that will help both your keyboard and your waistline.

Laptop owners need to be even more careful; replacing a portable’s keyboard is expensive, if it’s possible at all. There’s few IT support people that haven’t received distressed calls after a spillage of red wine the night before an important presentation.

Incidentally if you do spill anything on a keyboard you must turn it upside down immediately. If it’s a laptop, it’s even more important as you don’t want the liquids to get near the workings of the system.

As my line of business often sees me using other people’s keyboards, I’m always suspicious about what I’m touching and make sure to wash my hands often.

If you are a heavy user of other people’s equipment in offices, business centres or internet cafes, you should be careful of these keyboards. And show other users of the keyboard some courtesy and don’t eat, bite your nails or pick your nose while using the computer.

Keeping your own keyboard clean can be a challenge as well. Which? magazine has some recommendations on keeping your keyboard clean, which includes shaking out dust and food crumbs and regularly wiping with alcohol wipes.

Food, drink and computers aren’t the best combination. Try to make time to get away for the computer for lunch and snacks and remember to keep your drinks at a safe distance.

And don’t forget to clean your keyboard regularly.


Paul Wallbank is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on technology issues. He founded national support organisation PC Rescue in 1995 and has spent over 14 years helping businesses get the most from their IT investment. His PC Rescue and IT Queries websites provide free advice to business computer users and his monthly newsletter has over 3000 subscribers.

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Paul D Hauck from writes: You should also speak to Chris Kennett at Australian IT Services – they do a great job of cleaning all this stuff. The crumbs from the keyboard, the hair from the box, and the sticky, staticy stalactites from the monitor – but it’s best if you don’t watch.



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