The Filthiest Spot in Your Office Is Where? Prepare to Be Shocked

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Can you name the dirtiest location in your workplace? Logic would dictate the hot spot for germs would be a high-traffic common area. Let's take a guess. It's the toilet seat, right?

Think again.

Your phone and desk are the most bacteria-ridden places in the office. According to a study funded by the Clorox Company, the phone and desktop have 400 times more germs than the toilet seat. The research, conducted by University of Arizona's Charles Gerba, Ph.D., found that the toilet seat ranked the cleanest of the 12 surfaces tested. The study also shows your personal work space gets germier over the course of the morning, culminating in a germ explosion following lunchtime.

The real-life implications of Gerba's findings are revolting. When you hold your phone receiver to your face, Staphylococcus, a bacteria normally carried by 25 percent of the population, could fuel your next pimple. If you work diligently while you eat a sandwich at your desk during your lunch break, you could be gearing up for a bout of diarrhea caused by E. coli. There is a simple reason your desk is so filthy and the toilet is pristine in comparison. Most common areas in offices are cleaned and disinfected every night by the cleaning staff. This means areas like the cafeteria and even the bathroom harbor far fewer germs than most desks. Look at where your hand typically rests on your desk. On average, this very spot is home to 10 million bacteria. Grossed out yet? Let's examine how you can cut down on illness and zits while boosting the cleanliness and hygiene of your work space. Here you'll find some aspects to consider.

Your Space, Your Responsibility

The burden of disinfecting your phone, desk, keyboard and mouse does not normally rest on your cleaning crew's shoulders. You must sanitize your work space yourself. The first step is to acquire a disinfectant that kills both viruses and bacteria. Chlorine bleach, alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are all effective microbe destroyers. A convenient option is to buy one of the many versions of disinfecting wipes sold in grocery and drug stores. Strapped for cash? Paper towels and old-fashioned rubbing alcohol are an economic alternative. Since germs multiply throughout the workday, it's best to get in the daily habit of wiping down your desk, mouse, keyboard and telephone. You might as well wipe your cell phone and PDA while you're at it. Your new disinfection routine can reduce the number of germs and bacteria in your work space by up to 99.9 percent.

Mom Was Right: Wash Your Hands

Now your desk is clean and you're feeling pretty superior. Don't relax just yet. Be wary of carrying germs from other dirty office locales back to your oasis of cleanliness. The water fountain handle and the microwave door handle placed in the top five of foul office spots. What's an office drone to do? Hand washing should become another regular habit. By "hand washing," I don't mean a quick swipe under the faucet. To ensure hands become germ-free, squirt a generous dollop of soap onto your paws and rub-a-dub-dub for a good 15 or 20 seconds before rinsing. Avoid touching contaminated surfaces afterward. Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet so you won't sully your freshly-washed palms. Try sudsing up before and after you eat, every time you use the bathroom, cough, sneeze, touch a door knob or an elevator button. Otherwise, your dirty mitts will contaminate your pristine desk and put you right back at risk for cold and flu, among other nasty afflictions.

Meticulous Measures

Is there a germy residue taking up residence at the bottom of your "World's Best Salesman" mug? Probably, if you're not scrubbing it after each use. Coffee cups need to be heated to 170 degrees (far hotter than tap water) for 30 seconds after being washed with heavy-duty cleanser. Pop them in the dishwasher if one is available. If not, take them home to clean or use disposable cups. Pitch the sponge you've used since the Clinton administration –- it's time for a change. Replace sponges frequently because their nooks and crannies are the perfect environment for mold and mildew to flourish. You can disinfect a damp sponge by microwaving it on high for a minute or so. Just make sure to clean the microwave first ... with a different sponge.

You Can't Take It With You

Perhaps you have witnessed a co-worker sneak into the bathroom carrying a newspaper or magazine. Maybe you regularly make a lavatory pit stop following a long meeting. During these bathroom breaks, you might carefully place your Blackberry on the counter next to the bathroom sink. Perhaps you have even made a quick call from the stall. Consider that these items can become contaminated and then spread germs and bacteria wherever you carry them. Next time, think twice before bringing your phone, PDA or other materials into the restroom.

Keep It Clean

Imagine a life with fewer colds and clearer skin. This vision probably doesn't bring to mind a spectacular change in your quality of life. However, the next time you catch yourself examining a pimple in the mirror, you could come to realize that your desk has gone without its daily swabbing. When you find yourself sniffling and achy while you suffer another cold, you might ask yourself just how diligent you have been about washing your hands.

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