What Gets Touched More Often than Objects on Your Desk? Keyboard Cleaning 101.

You may have heard of Dr. Charles Gerba with Arizona University who has compared relative germ levels on a long list of surfaces both in the workplace and the home. He is quoted in articles carried widely, including on the BBC, where a portion of the background material for this article originated.

"Desks are really 'bacteria cafeterias'," according to Dr. Charles Gerba, also known as "Dr, Germ," a microbiologist who has studied a wide range of surfaces and how they collect, retain and re-distribute germs.

Among many other findings, Gerba's research has shown that office workers are exposed to more germs from their phones and keyboards than from toilet seats.

Work stations, in fact, contain nearly 400 times as many microbes as the toilet seats we come in contact with, according to Gerba's findings.

Office equipment and desktops themselves should be regularly disinfected to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria responsible for disease. The key offenders are telephones, which harbor up to 25,127 germs per square inch, keyboards 3,295 germs per sq. in. and computer mice 1,676 germs per sq. in.


1. Unplug your keyboard from your computer and remove any batteries. Turn laptops off.

2. Flip upside down and shake carefully to dislodge any particles that will drop out. 

3. Use a compressed-gas electronics duster following label instructions to blast away dust and particles. Don't be surprised that a lot of material stays in place, because hands deposit a lot of oil on surfaces. Those oils help "glue" down a lot of grime as well as forming a great environment for biofilm to eventually build up. Biofilms are areas where germs begin to anchor themselves, then link together in communities, forming a "plaque" that is harder to remove as time goes on. The plaque can actually help protect the germs from disinfectants.

cleaning keyboard with cotton-tipped swab

4. Apply a mild surface cleaner such as PUR-O-ZONE Crystal, (CRYSTAL-QT), to a microfiber cloth until damp, not dripping. Clean all surfaces using gentle pressure. 

5. Work in difficult to reach spots with a cotton-tipped swab.

6. Use a fresh microfiber cloth to polish and dry thoroughly before disinfection.


1. Utilize a disinfecting wipe product such as Clorox Healthcare Wipes or Medaphene Scrubs. If you have specific health threats you are responding to, you may need to compare that microorganism against the wiper "efficacy" list. In some cases, such as with clostridium difficile it is also important to know whether the product handles the vegitative or the endospore state.

On the other hand, many illnesses are not common enough to have products tested against them. If your product kills similar microorganisms, or members from the same family, it may have effectiveness. If it is critical, you need to find a product with the specific kill claim you seek, if it is available. If not, there may be a liquid form available that you can apply to a microfiber cloth.

In cases of pandemic or epidemic, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) or WHO (World Health Organization) may post on their sites advisories as to disinfectant types they believe are likely to kill or reduce a specific threat population. 

2. Put on appropriate PPE such as gloves (Hospeco large, #GL-N106FL). If doing this for the first time, read label instructions and assess risks to determine your written protocol for this process, including if additional PPE is required. 

2. Remove a single wipe, wringing any excess liquid. When the wiper is damp, not dripping, wipe all surfaces, including sides of keys. Consult the labeled "dwell time" and leave the surfaces damp for at least that many seconds or minutes.

3. Set keyboard aside until thoroughly dry. Do not attach to your computer or replace batteries, or turn on your laptop, until you are sure any moisture that may have gone to the circuit board level has dried completely.

Taking time to clean phones, keyboards and mice can have more of an effect on health than many cleaning procedures. Focusing on touchpoints (or fomites, as they are known in the healthcare industry) in your cleaning regimen can improve health, reduce the spread of illness and make building occupants and visitors feel better about their working environment.

Note: As with any cleaning or disinfecting protocol, before jumping in with both feet, test the product in a limited area and process to see that there are no long-term problems. There are so many varying compositions of materials used in keyboard production that limited testing is always advised before starting a new procedure. 


Cleaning screens and touchscreens (where you might want to disinfect) is a different animal. Here are some general guidelines provided by Lifehacker.