Office Desk and Electronics Cleaning and Sanitization Tips

Posted on January 20, 2021 by Sridhar Balasubramanian

The global COVID-19 pandemic has significantly intensified OSHA safety requirements for minimizing infectious disease transmission among U.S. workers. Employer guidelines for social distancing, cleanliness and disinfection are outlined in lengthy recommendations for all businesses with workers in common office space.

The CDC addresses disinfection of all types of surfaces, providing a list of 515 disinfectants known to kill the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus. The manner and frequency of disinfection is outlined as well, with emphasis on frequently touched surfaces. For office workers, this includes such items as their desk, computer, keypad and telephone.

A recent article published by WeWork, a global workplace consulting firm, effectively outlines detailed procedures for achieving and maintaining the recommended level of desktop cleanliness. A review of their cleaning and sanitizing suggestions for some basic office electronic equipment is advantageous for the health of both individuals in the workplace and the community as a whole, particularly in the face of the highly transmissible COVID-19 virus.

Start with the Desk Surface

Before disinfecting electronics, it makes obvious sense to start with the desk surface itself. It is recommended that a thorough sanitization of office desks be done every two weeks. Between these deeper cleanings, daily spot disinfection should be conducted of frequently touched items like keyboards, mice and phones.

For safe desktop deep-cleaning, the power supply should be turned off for all electronic equipment such as computers, desk lamps, fans and monitors. The next step is to remove all the miscellaneous objects on the desk — things like pencil holders, tape dispensers, calendars and family photos. Each of these items will need to be thoroughly wiped down with an alcohol-based, antibacterial disinfectant wipe, and allowed to dry before they are replaced on the desk.

Once the desktop surface is clear, accumulated dust can be removed with a soft, dry cloth. Then, the surface should be thoroughly wiped with disinfectant wipes, focusing on places that are touched more frequently, like edges and the area around computer keyboards.

Office Electronic Equipment Cleaning

Computer Screens: Monitors are more sensitive to harsh disinfecting chemical cleaners than other workstation surfaces. It is therefore recommended that a microfiber cloth dampened with water only be used, and the screen be wiped with broad, side-to-side strokes.

If a cleanser is employed, its directions for use should be thoroughly reviewed first, because some chemicals can strip monitors’ anti-glare coatings or cause damage by permeating its thin outer layer. For extremely grimy screens, a half-and-half mixture of white vinegar and distilled water is recommended as a generally non-damaging cleaning solution. 

In the case of monitors, a bit of prevention goes a long way. Touching the screen to point things out or for any other reason is what causes oily smudges to accumulate. It makes better sense to avoid touching monitors at all.

Keyboards: A thought-provoking research study cited in the WeWork article found that the average computer keyboard holds from 400 to 20,000 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. It pays to clean and sanitize this piece of equipment frequently. The process starts with clearing away particles that have fallen down between the keys, like dust, hairs, any crumbs from eating while working, tiny bits of paper, etc. The keyboard should be turned upside down over a wastebasket and gently shaken to expel these bits of debris. Compressed air cleaners are also useful in forcing out dirt particles.

Once particulates are removed, the surface of the keyboard can be wiped clean with disinfectant wipes. This wipe-down should include the spaces between the rows and around individual keys, focusing particularly on those most-used, like the enter key, shift key and space bar. Allow to dry thoroughly, for at least 10 minutes, before use.

Laptops: Before cleaning a laptop, this piece of equipment should be fully powered down and the battery removed if possible. Crumbs, hairs, dust and other particles on the keyboard can be blasted away with short bursts of compressed air. Spots to focus on include spaces between keys, inside USB ports and along vents. 

The laptop screen should be cleaned in a manner similar to that described previously for computer monitors. Special care should be taken not to use too much liquid, which can cause moisture to become trapped underneath the display.

The outside of the keyboard can be cleaned with a microfiber cloth slightly dampened with an alcohol-based cleaner, or with a solution of two parts rubbing alcohol to one part water. For final sanitizing, a disinfectant wipe should be run gently across the keyboard, touchpad and other exterior surfaces. High-touch areas to focus on are the space bar, power button and upper edge of the lid.

Computer Mice. Bacteria-laden dirt and grime accumulate most heavily on the underside of computer mice, as well as on the portions where hands and fingers touch it. With the mouse lying on a paper towel, built-up sediment can be removed by running a toothpick or other pointed-tip instrument along the cracks surrounding the buttons and any other grooves. Remaining debris can be blasted out with compressed air.

The surface of the mouse can then be sanitized by wiping it with a disinfectant wipe or cloth dampened with an alcohol-based cleaning solution. Areas of particular focus are the left and right mouse buttons, where fingers transfer bacteria.

Desk Phones: Notorious for accumulating germs transferred by mouth and hands, a desk phone needs consistent daily wiping down with a disinfectant wipe, as well as immediately after someone else uses it. After the phone is unplugged, a disinfectant wipe should be rubbed over its entire surface, with special emphasis on the handset, mouthpiece and keypad. This process can be augmented using a cotton ball soaked with rubbing alcohol, to get the grime from every crack and crevice.

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