10 Dirtiest Places in the Office and How to Clean Them
The COVID-19 pandemic has many business owners and building managers reassessing the cleanliness of workplaces and making changes to create cleaner, more sanitary spaces. Although research indicates that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 isn’t transmitted via surfaces, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other dangers lurking in offices that need to be addressed.
Certain areas of any workplace are dirtier than others. Even when they look clean, many of these spots harbor harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can cause health effects — not to mention attract pests and contribute to lost productivity.
Employees bear some responsibility for keeping their work areas clean and sanitary, but management also needs to address the bigger picture of sanitation and cleanliness in shared commercial spaces.
The Dirtiest Spots in Any Office
As more employees return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping the following often-dirty areas clean and disinfected needs to be a priority.
1. Elevator Buttons
How many people use the elevator in your building every day? Every one of them touches several buttons in the process, calling the elevator, choosing a floor, and opening or closing the door. With so many fingers touching the buttons throughout the day, it’s no wonder they make the list of the germiest surfaces in the office. Research shows the average elevator button has 40 times as many bacteria as a public toilet seat, including E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Wiping the buttons after every ride is impractical, but they should be cleaned and disinfected at the end of every day. Encourage people to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after pushing the buttons as well.
The average desktop has 400 times as much bacteria as a toilet seat. Every square inch can contain more than 20,000 viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Not all of the germs on your desk are harmful, but not cleaning and disinfecting your desk can encourage infectious germs to spread.
Keeping your desktop sanitary starts with washing your hands throughout the day, especially after touching shared surfaces. Coughing or sneezing into your elbow and throwing away used tissues or napkins also stops the spread. Before you leave for the night, wipe down your desktop, including your keyboard and computer mouse, to kill any germs and start the next day with a clean slate.
Both shared and personal electronics can harbor germs that spread illness. You touch your phone and computer keyboard more than any other surface in your office. Your phone is the second most germ-filled spot on your desk, after your coffee cup, simply because you touch it so many times a day and it collects saliva while you talk. And your keyboard? That contains about 700 germs per square inch.
Shared equipment like photocopiers, fax machines, and printers also collect germs from multiple users throughout the day. Just think about how many times the “copy” button is pressed during a typical day. Unfortunately, shared electronics are often neglected when it comes to cleaning, making them a common source of illness outbreaks.
Wiping down your computer with electronics-friendly disinfecting wipes can reduce the germs in your workspace. Keeping some near shared equipment may encourage others to clean buttons and surfaces as well. Asking your cleaning service to pay attention to those shared items when cleaning can also help keep spaces sanitary.
4. Kitchen/Break Room
All surfaces in the shared kitchen should be disinfected daily. However, employees should also be responsible for cleaning up after themselves. Food waste should be properly disposed of to prevent pests, crumbs, and spills wiped off of counters and tables, and dishes washed or put in the dishwasher. At the end of the day, run the dishwasher on the sanitize cycle to ensure any shared dishes or utensils are cleaned.
Sponges should also be replaced often, ideally weekly. The moist environment allows harmful bacteria like E.coli and salmonella to grow, and when dirty sponges are used to clean other surfaces, that bacteria can spread. The garbage can might also harbor bacteria from food waste, which increases odors, so daily bag replacements and weekly deep cleaning are necessary.
5. The Coffee Maker
The coffee maker is one item in the kitchen that deserves special attention since it’s likely to be the most touched surface in the entire office. The pot handle is most likely to collect germs, but the pot and maker should also be cleaned to eliminate bacteria.
Coffee makers are common culprits for spreading harmful bacteria because they provide a warm, moist environment that supports bacterial growth. A 2011 National Sanitation Foundation study found that 50% of coffee makers contain mold or yeast, which can cause health effects. Although many models are self-cleaning, a weekly cleaning with vinegar gets the coffee maker squeaky-clean and germ-free.
Just like at home, bathrooms at the office are germ hotspots. Multiple people touch toilet and sink faucet handles, the door, and other surfaces, and not everyone washes their hands properly after using the toilet. Daily cleaning and disinfecting are a must for restrooms.
So many people using the same bathrooms also increases the risk for clogs and backups. A sewage backup causes serious contamination that should only be cleaned up by professionals who have the correct equipment for doing so. Sewage is full of bacteria like E.coli that can cause serious illness, and unless they have the proper safety gear, employees should be restricted from the area until it’s fully cleaned.
7. Door Handles
Like elevator buttons, door handles are touched by multiple people throughout the day and collect germs in the process. Encourage people to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer after touching door handles, and wipe them down with disinfecting wipes at least once a day. Your cleaning company should also make cleaning all door handles a priority, especially entrance and exit doors and bathroom doors.
8. Water Cooler
The water cooler might be a popular gathering place, but the handle and spigot can harbor germs that are more harmful than any company gossip. Employees often fill their personal glasses or water bottles at the cooler without washing them in between uses, which spreads germs, and touch the handle several times a day.
Providing disposable cups for water can reduce some of the germs, but water coolers should be cleaned and disinfected with wipes daily to reduce spread. During cold and flu season, encourage employees to get water from the faucet or bring bottled water from home instead of refilling at the cooler to limit the spread of illness.
9. Vents and Ducts
HVAC vents and ducts collect all manner of dust, allergens, and debris as air flows through. Although well-maintained HVAC systems typically don’t have too many problems, over time, the ducts and vents can collect contaminants that affect air quality. Dirty air can lead to a host of problems for employees, from headaches and fatigue to respiratory conditions, so regular professional vent cleaning is necessary.
10. Curtains & Blinds
Window coverings like curtains and blinds can gather dust, as well as harbor bacteria and viruses that spread through the air. If they aren’t cleaned, these contaminants can affect indoor air quality and contribute to respiratory issues, especially for those with allergies or asthma. Window treatments can also collect odors, keeping your office from smelling fresh.
Having blinds and curtains professionally cleaned regularly can help keep this from happening. A thorough cleaning typically involves removing the window coverings, accessing hard-to-reach areas, and the curtains themselves may need to be dry cleaned or laundered — that’s why this is a job best left to the pros. However, the payoff is clean, fresh-smelling air.
Why Is a Clean Office Space Important?
Maintaining a clean and sanitary office is important to your business for multiple reasons. These include:
- Improved appearance and first impressions from customers and vendors.
- A safer environment for workers with reduced risk of accidents or injuries.
- Improved productivity.
- Fewer sick days due to illnesses spreading between employees.
- Improved air quality.
- Improved employee morale.
Although employees play an important role in keeping their workplace clean, they shouldn’t be responsible for overall building maintenance. For deeper cleaning and disinfecting, as well as significant cleanup jobs involving major damage, working with a professional cleaning company is a must.