Germs, not just employees, hard at work at the office

Paul V. Arnold, Noria Corporation

In the United States' work-driven society, 75 percent of office workers eat lunch at their desks two or three times a week. In addition to increased productivity, this also leads to an increase in something else - the level of bacteria on office desks. According to a recent study by Dr. Charles Gerba from the University of Arizona, the average office desk is home to 5,015 germs per square inch, 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. And, the average office phone harbors even more bacteria at 5,585 per square inch. Without proper daily cleaning, the office environment can be a breeding ground for germs and bacteria, leading to illness and lost time in productivity.

"While the term 'clean' is ambiguous, the desired result is one that meets or exceeds the cleanliness and sanitation standards of the particular facility," said Peter Sheldon, vice president of operations for Florida-based Coverall Cleaning Concepts. "To increase staff productivity and quality control, we recommend implementing 'team cleaning' - a system of specialists who concentrate on specific tasks - wherever possible."

Of equal importance to the cleaning process are the products used to perform the task of daily cleaning.

"Disinfectant cleaners, glass cleaners, all-purpose cleaners and floor cleaners are the basic lineups in most cleaning arsenals," Sheldon said. "At Coverall, we recommend using cleaning products that multi-task to increase productivity. For example, we like Spic & Span 3-in-1 disinfecting all-purpose spray and glass cleaner to clean and disinfect not only glass but a wide variety of other office surfaces as well."

These products can help kill the bacteria found on desks, phones, keyboards and water fountains - all among the top five office surfaces that collect bacteria, according to Gerba's study.

Aside from cleaning personal office spaces, there are other areas of the office where bacteria linger, including kitchenettes and bathrooms. In fact, according to Gerba's study, also among the top five office surfaces to collect bacteria are microwave door handles. In addition to the handles, think of all the grease splatter inside the microwave from lunches being prepared.

According to Kevin Boyd, owner of Boyd's Cleaning Service in Gainesville, Ga., if you don't remove grease effectively, you will never be able to keep the kitchen clean.

"The right cleaning product can make grease clean up a snap," he said. "A lot of people think bleach does the trick, but the truth is that there are a lot of great alternatives that are easy to use and kill the germs just as well, but are a lot less harsh than bleach."

And while the average toilet seat harbors 400 times less bacteria than the average desk, according to Gerba's study, Sheldon feels that restrooms are arguably the single most critical area in a cleaning regimen.

"They represent the highest profile area because everyone in the facility uses them at some point each day," Sheldon said. "In addition to appearance, proper sanitization is critical to keep the employees safe and free of potential hazards."

The following seven steps comprise a successful daily restroom cleaning program:

1)  Close the restroom with a wet floor sign. Check the lights and fans
       for operation.
   2)  Empty trash, refill empty stock items, spray the outside of
       dispensers and wipe them dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.
   3)  Check for clogged or damaged toilets and report required maintenance.
       Apply a disinfecting toilet bowl cleaner and let stand 10 minutes to
       kill germs and odors.
   4)  Remove dust and cobwebs; remove gum from floors and other surfaces.
       Sweep surface.
   5)  Spray a disinfectant cleaner onto sinks, counter tops, fixtures,
       walls, stall partitions, light switches and doors, and wipe clean.
   6)  Spray a disinfecting cleaner onto exterior surfaces and wipe with a
       clean cloth or paper towel.
   7)  Damp mop floors with a disinfecting floor cleaner, working your way
       out of the restroom so as to not recontaminate cleaned or disinfected

Keeping an office environment clean should not be the sole responsibility of the cleaning staff - employees should also be empowered to take charge of cleaning their space. One of the best ways to do this is to leave brands employees know and trust around the office for their individual use.

"One of the best ways to get rid of bacteria on office desks is to wipe the surface clean each day with a disinfecting spray," Gerba said.

That, coupled with the daily cleaning procedures recommended by Sheldon and Boyd will help ensure a healthier office work environment.

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