According to a recent study commissioned by Grand & Toy, a popular Canadian office products retailer, the average office desk contains up to 400 times more germs and bacteria than a toilet seat.

Yes, you read that correctly -- that same desk you lay your hands on (and perhaps eat snacks at) each day.

The good news is you can help reduce the number of germs at your desk by regularly cleaning your most used items -- likely your mouse, keyboard, and phone -- as well as keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby to apply after using the bathroom, eating lunch, or after a cigarette break.

Keyboard cleanliness

Keeping your desktop clean isn’t just for reducing germs that can cause illness but to keep your computer equipment working properly, says Ken Newman, spokesman for Falcon Safety Products, the Branchburg, N.J.-based manufacturer and marketer of Dust-Off consumer electronics cleaning products.

“Regularly cleaning maintains the performance of the product,” explains Newman. “You probably eat at your desk and crumbs fall in between the keys, as does dust and other particles, so you should clean underneath every so often to avoid the keys from sticking.”

Newman says to hold your keyboard on its side and take a compressed gas duster, which costs between $5 and $10 for a 10-ounce can, and then deliver a series of pressurized blasts in between the keys. “You’ll be amazed at what comes out.”

Not mousing around

For the top of a mouse, keyboard, or phone, Newman says to use a disinfectant wipe, also offered in the Dust-Off line of products.

In a pinch, even a baby wipe will do, suggests Mike Rogers, product marketing manager for hardware at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash. “Believe it or not baby wipes work well, or even a clean and slightly damp -- not wet -- cloth can clean away any residue on your mouse.”

“The issue boils down to germs and performance,” mirrors Rogers, “so anywhere you’ve got contact, you should keep it clean.” Rogers says Newman’s suggestion on compressed air or gas for underneath the keyboard is a good one, too “but just a couple of times a year is probably fine.”

Other computer parts

  • Rogers says it’s also a good idea for people to clean out the dust that often gets trapped inside a desktop computer’s fan -- especially when the tower is kept on the floor, perhaps underneath a desk. “People with allergies might do this, but dust stuck in the fan can also affect your computer performance as the PC might get too hot without proper ventilation,” he says.
  • A monitor can be cleaned to remove dust, but you need to be cautious about what kind of material you’re using to avoid possible damage. Be sure to first unplug the monitor from the wall socket before spraying a special LCD or CRT microfiber material or using pre-moistened wipes. When in doubt, check with the monitor manufacturer for recommended products.
  • Some products were designed for those concerned about germs. Belkin, for example, recently introduced a completely washable mouse. Fellowes’ line of PC accessories, such as mice and keyboards, feature Microban antimicrobial protection. Paper Mate’s new FlexGrip pen with anti-germ coating includes an antibacterial surface designed to protect the pen’s surface.

“Cleanliness will help keep you healthy while also providing you with a workstation that won’t give you too many performance frustrations,” concludes Newman.