It’s Time For My Bath! British Keyboards Beg to be Cleaned

By Andrew Moseman | June 16, 2008 11:18 am

If your keyboard looks like this, you might want to invest in the new British modelLast month, British microbiologist Peter Wilson released his revolting finding that a person’s keyboard could harbor five times as many bacteria as a toilet seat. That’s a recipe for sickness in any office, but it could be downright deadly in a hospital, with doctors and nurses passing germs as they type data into the computer. So Wilson is trying to change that, along with other researchers at University College London Hospital and American company Advanced Power Components. Specifically, they have designed a keyboard for the U.K.’s hospitals that notifies you when it’s dirty.

Two main factors contribute to keyboard filth: cleaning them is difficult, and people rarely remember to do it. Wilson and his team tackled both problems. First, it’s hard to get into a traditional keyboard’s dirty and germ-filled crevices, so the new design is flat, allowing it to be wiped down in a flash. And while you might only clean your keyboard when a story like this reminds you what a bacteria trap it can be, Wilson’s team programmed their keyboard to nag—a warning light comes on after a few hours, reminding the cleaning staff to disinfect it.

British hospitals everywhere will soon be trying out the flat keyboard, and those old tough-to-clean models couldn’t be gone soon enough. While normal British offices could have 150 times the recommended limit of bacteria on their keyboards, Wilson says, hospitals are worse: Doctors and nurses are cognizant that they need to wash their hands between patients, but they aren’t so diligent in cleaning up between working with a patient and typing on a computer. But, he says, using the new keyboards and cleaning them every 12 hours can cut the bacterial load by 70 percent.

If you’re stuck with an old-style keyboard, though, don’t despair—there are always Q-tips and alcohol. Or, if you don’t have time for such a meticulous process, you could just throw your keyboard in the dishwasher. We are not advocating this, however, so do so at your own risk.

  • Keletso Boitumelo Manamela

    i am quite worried about this ‘disinfect’ concept that the world has got etched in thier every-day deads! I believe that over disinfeting will end up leaving us in serious trouble as we kill weaker bacteria and pathogens but leave room for stronger and more dangerous ones to infest and grow. i also think that pathogens will eventually evolve and get immune to the disinfectents making them more stronger and dangerous! Please get back to me about my theories as soon as posible

  • rudy

    I do agree with you on such issue with it comes to natural selection we’ll see these organisms adapting thus becoming tougher to eradicate through these suggested methods. How about some good UV irradiation of these bacteria, no real transformation takes place for those survive (meaning they don;t take up remnants DNA fragments and become resistant). I would be in shock to hear of bacteria that are UV resistant now….

  • Pamela J

    I work in a high school in the US where the computer lab keyboards get so disgusting that you can’t even see the letters on the keys. While the excuse can be made that there is no money to pay someone to clean them, the real problem is that the school “administrators” have no clue that this is a real health problem that should be addressed on a regular basis. On a scale of 1 to 10, dirty keyboards rate a negative 5. Since the students are allowed to eat at the computers while typing, maybe the students themselves are developing a strong resistance to the germs – or, it might be the reason they get so sick. Personally – I don’t think a little alcohol is going to result in “super bugs”. It’s like washing your hands.

  • Deb H.

    My associate and I run a computer lab of 30 pcs in an elementary school.

    With the pcs off, we have tried: blue window cleaner, ammoniated name-brand cleaners full strength & properly diluted, chemically smelling cleaners such as Formula $)( [decode the upper case characters] and others.

    The ONLY thing that removed the graphite-imbedded, oily grime that was bonded to the plastic surfaces of both keyboards and mice were the WHITE name-brand magic cleaning sponges.

    These sponges only had to be damp so there is no dripping into the keyboards. The peripherals look like NEW. Plus, it works super fast and is easy on the skin without fumes.

    I came here while on a search to find devices to disinfect computer equipment with UVC sterilizing lights. It will stop noroviruses, MRSA and flu viruses as well as lice and bacteria. The search continues…

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