Computer Hygiene is a set of practices performed to preserve health at work or at home. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Hygiene refers to conditions and practices that help to maintain health and prevent the spread of diseases. As our computers and other electronic devices are often used by others in many workplaces, they are subject to each user’s bacteria or viruses and are a medium for passing them on to others. As frequent handwashing has become a regular part of our workplace hygiene, so should cleaning your computers and other technological devices. Most of the large computer companies have advice on their websites for why and how to clean your computers and their attachments safely and effectively.
Many people equate computer hygiene with ‘cleanliness,’ but hygiene is a broad term. It includes personal habit and choices; that how frequently to clean hands, keyboard, mouse, and other contaminated parts of a computer system. It also includes attention to keeping surfaces of computer clean and pathogen-free.
Hygiene is a concept related to cleanliness, health and medicine. It is as well related to personal and professional care practices. In medicine and everyday life settings, hygiene practices are employed as preventative measures to reduce the incidence and spreading of disease.
The terms cleanliness and hygiene are often used interchangeably, which can cause confusion. In general, hygiene refers to practices that prevent spread of disease-causing organisms. Cleaning processes (e.g., handwashing) remove infectious microbes as well as dirt and soil and are thus often the means to achieve hygiene.
This facts sheet will focus on computer keyboards, mice, headsets, and hand-held devices. It will touch briefly on monitors and computer cases, with resources for further information.
Germs per square inch
“Germiest Jobs Report”, a study done by Dr. Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona, found that a telephone is contaminated with up to 25,127 germs per square inch, keyboards at 3,295 per square inch, and the mouse at 1,676 per square inch. It also found that surfaces commonly used by teachers – phones and keyboards – had the most bacteria per square inch, nearly ten times more than other professions. The report states that “The number of bacteria or germs found on each surface is thought to be directly related to item usage and cleaning practices” noting that teachers’ work items are commonly shared between staff and students. The results of this study draw attention to the need for effective and preventative cleaning protocols.
Whether they are dedicated use or shared, they should be cleaned frequently. Headsets that are shared should have removable ear components that are dedicated for each user. Ear infections are a common ailment for headset users. Headsets should be avoided as much as possible, as frequent use can lead to a compromised hearing. Headsets should be cleaned weekly or as often as needed, with soap and water. Foam cushions should not be shared and should be replaced as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Clean your keyboard weekly. It is recommended that you keep all food and drink away from the keyboard area, not just because of messy spills, but because the crumbs that sit in the keyboards can breed bacteria and fungi, especially if they get wet. Turn the keyboard upside down and gently shake out any particles. Using compressed air, blow any remaining particles and dust from in and around the keys. Using a cotton swab dipped in alcohol, or a slightly damp cloth with soap and water, clean the sides and tops of the keys.
Monitor, LCD Screens and Computer Cases
LCD screens are not made of glass and need to be cleaned differently from CRT monitors. Do not spray anything on them. Use a soft cotton cloth, with a little rubbing alcohol, if needed. Only the exterior of the computer case should be cleaned. Use a soft cloth and rubbing alcohol.
Clean your mouse monthly. If there is a ball, remove it. Gently blow compressed air into the ball seat. Using a clean cloth dipped in alcohol or slightly damp with soap and water, rub the outside surfaces clean.
Phones and hand-held devices
The hazard most associated with these devices is potential hearing impairment people rarely think of hazards associated with cleanliness. Yet, these are the most used and shared of all work equipment. General cleaning for dust, dirt and stickiness is simple:
Gentle rubbing with a clean cloth and water. For a more thorough disinfecting, especially for shared equipment, use rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab. This should be done weekly for single usage and before use each time when shared.
Protecting IT Staff
Workplace computers and other devices are usually serviced and maintained by on-site or contract IT staff. Direct contact with dirty and contaminated workstations is a particular hazard to them, including the desk, floor and chair.