Self Improvement

The 3 Dirtiest Workplace Objects That Can Get You Sick

Joel Lee 09-11-2015

1. Smartphones. These small devices are the perfect storm of bacterial growth. We touch them all throughout the day, we rarely clean them (and when we do, not satisfactorily), and they’re always in our pockets where it’s warm, dark, and moist.


According to a 2013 study by Which?:

On one particularly dirty tablet, we found a swab count of 600 units per swab for Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause a severe stomach bug.

To put this figure in context, the Health Protection Agency classes any count of between 20 and 10,000 units for Staphylococcus aureus as a potential risk. By comparison, a typical toilet seat we tested had a Staphylococcus count of less than 20 units.

2. Keyboards and mice. While keyboards and mice aren’t anywhere near as dirty as smartphones, they’re still extremely dirty. The weird thing is that we’ve all heard this before, but how many of us regularly wipe ours down with cleaning solution? Not enough, that’s for sure.

According to a 2012 study by Kimberly-Clark Professional:

The device does not specifically detect germs, although dirty surfaces do provide a breeding ground for bacteria. Overall, the study got “could-be-cleaner” readings of over 100 on … 69% of keyboards … and 51% of computer mice.

3. Workstation desktops. How often do you clean your office desk? Not in the “get rid of clutter” sense, but “spray and wipe” sense. Most people barely even disinfect their home workstations once or twice a year. Office workstations? Usually never.

According to a 2001 study by the University of Arizona, the average desktop has over 400 times the bacteria of an average toilet seat. On top of that, the area where you rest your hand harbors more than 10 million germs.


Other dirty office surfaces include: workstation phones, coffee pot and microwave handles in break rooms, water fountain dispensers, and vending machine buttons.

How often do you wash your hands? Did you realize how dirty these surfaces could be? Share with us in the comments below!

Image Credit: Dirty Keyboard by Dewitt via Shutterstock

Related topics: Health, Workspace.

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  1. Susan
    November 11, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    I have seen keyboards like the one in the picture above. I have used other people's keyboards that when you turn them upside down, half a grocery store falls out. Also sticky mice, ugh. I use sani wipes on mine at home regularly and I'm usually the only one touching it. I do try to keep my smartphone clean as well, but I usually find some kind of grunge around the edges. That's the stuff you can see, I can imagine the invisible critters, egad!

    • Joel Lee
      November 18, 2015 at 2:53 am

      True, if something is visibly dirty, then it's many times dirtier than you think!

  2. Anonymous
    November 10, 2015 at 8:32 am

    I work in an office with about 50 people. We use the same toilet, microwave and vending machine. I didn't realize how dirty these places could be. Usually, there is a cleaning lady that comes one a week to clean the workstations, but now I realize that it's not enough. I will offer my managers to change this and to be on a daily basis, because health should be our top priority!

  3. Tim Brookes
    November 10, 2015 at 3:02 am

    4. Your co-workers ;)

    • Joel Lee
      November 18, 2015 at 2:52 am

      Glad I work from home! :P

  4. Anonymous
    November 9, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    When it comes to the workplace, the air that the workers breathe in an office contains much more bacteria than a toilet seat. Desktop, keyboard, phone you can scrub and disinfect. There isn't much you can do about the air.

    • Joel Lee
      November 18, 2015 at 2:51 am

      Yeah, clean and undirtied air is a big issue in the workplace. Wonder what can be done about that?

      • Anonymous
        November 18, 2015 at 1:11 pm

        Universal telecommuting? Would also solve a lot of other problems, i.e. fuel use, road use, pollution, productivity, etc.

  5. Anonymous
    November 9, 2015 at 11:00 am

    My take: keep your workplace reasonably clean and tidy so people won't see you as an out-of-control slob (and all that implies). As for bacteria, don't even worry. Unless your immune system is already severely compromised, routine exposure everyday won't kill you - and what doesn't kill you will make you stronger!

    Many who fuss over routine bacteria exposure actually end up weak and allergy-proned.

    • Joel Lee
      November 18, 2015 at 2:50 am

      I agree that everyday exposure is good! Fussing over it might be detrimental, but knowing what's most dirty can still be useful too. Balance!