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What’s the germiest item in the office? According to Mark Searcy, a divisional manager of Coverall North America, Inc. a commercial cleaning service, it’s the faucet handles in the kitchen and break room. Surprised? We were, too. That’s why we contacted Dr. Jesse Miller, Director of the Applied Research Center, NSF International, and University of Arizona microbiologist, Dr. Charles Gerba, to tell us what other germ-magnets are lurking in the workplace.
Germ hotspot #1: The Break Room
According to NSF International, germs thrive in moist and warm environments, that’s why the following kitchen and break room items topped the list as hot beds for yeast, mold and bacteria.
NSF germ studies found coliform bacteria, an indicator of fecal contamination, in 50% of the coffee reservoirs of coffee makers. That's the last thing you want in your coffee!
The fix: Wash your hands before preparing coffee. Also, make sure to flush the reservoir with white distilled vinegar once a week, recommends Coverall North America. And don’t forget to wash and dry the coffee pot, especially the handle, every day.
200,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat, sponges and dish rags are tiny hotbeds for kitchen germs.
The fix: Run, don’t walk, to the office sponge/dish rag, toss it in the trash and replace it with paper towels pronto!
Sinks in the kitchen and bathroom are usually badly neglected. In fact, NSF found 45% had coliform and other bacteria.
The fix: Keep germs from overpopulating by cleaning the sink with a disinfecting wipe, like Clorox or Lysol, daily or as often as possible.
Because of contact with food, kitchen faucet handles have more germs than faucet handles in the bathroom. But they both pass along germs every time you turn on and off the tap.
The fix: Use a paper towel to turn faucets. Also, cut the germ-breeding cycle by wiping faucet handles with a disinfecting wipe first thing in the morning.
Between food prep debris and splashes from the sink, more than 32% of countertops tested harbored coliform bacteria.
The fix: Clean the counter after each use and wipe with a disinfecting wipe every morning.
Germ hotspot #2: Your desk
According to Dr. Gerba, if it’s on a desk and a hand touches it, it’s germy. Think about it. Hands turn dirty doorknobs, navigate public transportation, and push germ-rich elevator buttons — all before they enter the workplace. In order to break what Gerba calls the cycle of movement of these germs, wash your hands as soon as you enter the office. Hand sanitizer works as well. Also, wipe your work-area with a disinfecting wipe regularly, taking note, especially, of the following:
“When it comes to germs on a desk, the office phone wins hands-down,” says Gerba. “People don’t realize it but they talk ‘dirty’ all day long,” he laughs.
The fix: Wipe the phone every morning with a disinfecting wipe and make sure hands are clean and free of food before making calls.
“Most people don’t clean the desktop until they stick to it,” comments Gerba. But every day, the desktop is eaten on, sneezed on, coughed on and touched constantly by germy hands.
The fix: Clean it with a disinfecting wipe or microfiber cloth every morning before beginning work. Or as often as you can get around to it.
Probably the one item you touch most — and nosh bagels over, too — keyboards should be cleaned with a disinfecting wipe each morning and turned over often to shake out debris.
We carry our cell phone everywhere and that makes it a veritable germ-buffet for your fingers — the same fingers that touch your face, mouth and eyes. “Colds are spread more by the hand than by sneezing,” says Gerba, and now you know why.
The fix: Disinfecting wipes, microfiber cloth, E-cloth, and made-for-phone wipes are good ways to clean your cell phone. As always, follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Germ hotspot #3: Communal areas
The one thing that’s worse than your germy hands touching something is an office full of germy hands touching the same thing.
The fix: Use a disinfecting wipe every day to clean conference and dining tables, and buttons on things like the copier, elevator and water cooler. If it can't be done daily, do it as regularly as possible.
Communal coffee cups
“60% have fecal bacteria on them,” reports Gerba. Enough said!
The fix: Use disposable cups when you want some fresh-brewed java. Or keep your own on hand and don't share it.
Germ hotspot #4: Women's purses and guy's messenger bags
Beware the bottoms of these items — when you place them at your feet when riding the bus or train, it picks up some gnarly germs. One-third have coliform bacteria on them, says Gerba.
The fix: Wipe often with microfiber or E-cloth or use a disinfecting spray, like Clorox 4 in 1, that’s made for soft surfaces.