May 12, 2008
Let's say, just as a hypothetical, you're sitting at your computer, casually chatting with a fellow programmer. You begin to describe some bit of code, then bring it up on your display to illustrate. You want to highlight some particular part of the code. Perhaps you move the cursor invitingly over the area to bring it to their attention, or gesture towards it with your hand.
What happens next?
When I said there were two types of programmers, here's what I really meant:
- Programmers who touch displays with their greasy, disgusting, bacteria-addled fingers.
- Programmers who don't.
I am incredibly anal about people not touching my displays. I'm not even going to apologize. If you touch my display, I'll kill you. Displays are for viewing, not touching. Put down your damn sticky bun and go touch your own filthy display. Here's my mental image of everyone who has ever touched my screen:
You know that's you. You know it. You do. And you just can't resist touching my display, can you?
Every time it happens, I replay it in slow motion, desperately trying to insert some part of my body between the toucher and my monitor. But I rarely succeed.
Not everyone considers displays inviolate and untouchable as I do. They should. But keyboards are another matter. They're designed to be touched. And boy, are they ever disgusting. They're literally dirtier than a toilet.
Out of 33 keyboards swabbed, four were regarded as a potential health hazard and one harboured five times more germs than one of the office's toilet seats.
Microbiologist Dr Peter Wilson said a keyboard was often "a reflection of what is in your nose and in your gut".
During the Which? tests in January this year, a microbiologist deemed one of the office's keyboards to be so dirty he ordered it to be removed, quarantined and cleaned.
It had 150 times the recommended limit for bacteria - five times as filthy as a lavatory seat tested at the same time, the research found.
After reading that, I'm not sure I want to touch my own keyboard any more, much less someone else's.
So then, how do we clean our screens and keyboards that are so casually defiled by our coworkers, family, and friends? This is apparently not a big concern for some. I am continually amazed by the horrifying state of many programmer's computer workstation keyboards and monitors. I'm not talking about dust, but utter and total neglect resulting in devices I'm afraid to touch. Given the data, maybe that's a good thing.
Cleaning screens is fairly straightforward.
Most manufacturers recommend basic soap and water -- no harsh detergents -- along with a soft cloth. I've used the Monster ScreenClean kit for a while with good results.
You don't have to buy a kit, of course, but I definitely recommend some kind of microfiber cloth like the one bundled here. Microfiber is a generic name for any synthetic fiber that's finer than silk, and the stuff is amazing. It works well on all kinds of displays: televisions, computer monitors, laptops -- I even use the kit to clean my glasses.
Cleaning keyboards is a much more challenging task.
Despite what you may have been told, compressed air dusters aren't just for sneaking up behind your unsuspecting coworkers and friends and spraying them in the neck and ears. I mean, yes, that's the ideal use, but it's also quite good at cleaning up computer equipment. Including keyboards. You can remove most of the dust and a substantial amount of the unmentionable gunk that builds up under the keys with a generous application of compressed air.
Compressed air is a reasonable first line of defense. But it does nothing to actually clean the keyboard. Sure, you could methodically disassemble your keyboard, or if you're hard core enough, even disassemble your laptop's keyboard, and painstakingly clean every part of it. But is all that work really worth it to clean a lousy keyboard? Short of buying a new keyboard every few years, is there a better way?
Maybe. Have you considered putting your keyboard in the dishwasher? It's not as crazy as it sounds; based on the volume of reader feedback to an old BoingBoing post on the topic, I'd say it works. It certainly seemed to work for Austin Matzko.
But lately the years of dirt build-up [on his 10 year old keyboard] have been really disgusting, so I decided to try something I read about a long time ago: cleaning the keyboard in the dishwasher.
Everything washed up beautifully and dried out by the next morning; check out the before and after pics. Total time disassembling and reassembling the keyboard was probably five minutes, which is a lot less than you'd spend trying to clean the thing with Q-tips. If that's too much work for you, just stick the whole thing in there, but give it several days to dry out.
Note that Austin removed the circuitry from the keyboard first, while some people stick the whole keyboard in the dishwasher as-is. There is a followup NPR article that toes the keyboard manufacturer party line and advises against doing this, so obviously, try at your own risk. Personally, I can't wait to give it a shot. I'll buy a new keyboard first, just in case something goes horribly wrong -- and because I need a second keyboard to use while the first one dries for a week.
If that's too radical an approach, you can fall back on using the old reliable soap-and-water damp rag to scrub your keyboard clean. There's even a neat Mac utility program, Keyboard Cleaner, which will lock out your keyboard while you're thoroughly wiping it down.
I'm no germophobe, but I like using clean keyboards and displays, and I'd prefer to see other people using clean equipment too. But remember -- just because I can clean my display doesn't mean you should be touching it, Poky McSmudgypants.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
I guess I have a double standard... I'm a poker on my own monitors, but I fly off the wall anytime somebody else takes a stab.
What really annoys me though is the keyboard-shaped caked on gunk on my Thinkpad's screen. Would it really have been that hard to move the keyboard half a millimeter down so that it doesn't hit the screen when I close my laptop?
and to think Microsoft Surface is coming up.. lol
of course, there might be cleanliness concerns before touching the screen..
Yes, there are some who take it too far, washing their hands every 15 minutes... But there are some who never wash their hands. Please try to find the happy medium.
I hate this whole imaginary war people seem to be running against germ-o-phobes. Yes, it is a fact that living your life in a virtual germless bubble has the effect of making your immune system weak. But there is a big diffrence between being a bubble-boy and washing your hands after dealing with fecal-matter and dirt.
This black or white wash/nowash mentality is not good for anyone. This mindset keeping your immune system working is being taken way out of perportion, to the point of rediculous-ness. Being germ-concious and germ-fearing are two diffrent things.
The fact of the matter is that most hand washing is suggested to prevent the nastier germs that even a good immune system can not prevent. Things like e-coli, influenza, heppitias, teburculosis, and many other types of ailment creating germs and virus aren't the kind you can simply get immune to.
There is a bactera that causes explosive diahreia and vomiting, which is passed from host to host by contact with these bodily fluids... it is the cause of a great portion of elderly and infant deaths. AND it is infective (travles in your shit) well before you show symptoms.. if people only washed their hands more, this deadly bacteria would become extinct very quickly.
If people washed their hands more, these heavily virulent strands eventually would evolve into less damaging variaties. The reason is simple: If you aren't bed-ridden, you are more likely to spread it, so the weaker varaties will be rule. THe more we resposibly wash our hands, the less likely the havock-wreaking explosive variaties will be allowed to propidgate.
Piss might be steril...
And I'm not talking from my ass, there have been numerous studies on the trends of bacteria in thirdworld/growing countries. See for yourself: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/259
Washing your hands does save lives.
As for washing computer screens, huge nasty smuges are always annoying - its not a germ issue. Who wants to be watching a movie on their monitor with a big o'l blur mark over the actors face?
I get cheapo bulk monitor wipes from walmart. They look like baby wipes in a dispenser. Their simple low alcohol content doesn't damage the screen lining like the ammonia in window cleaners, and the non fragrance/non-oily pad doesn't leave behind any streaks. These disposible micro-fiber cloths don't get a build of lint over time, and are easily recyclicable. The evaporating alcohol also has anti-static properties which repels dust for a few days.
I also use these whipes for mirrors, eyeglasses, and anything else that gets a build up of dingy grease (fridge door handles etc...)
Who died from a not-so-clean keyboard or even got sick?
I've had worse. I've seen someone pull out a sharpie and start annotating on a computer monitor. Not exactly sure WHAT he was thinking, but I'm sure he wont do it again after having to buy a new one.
Has anyone successfully dismantled an Ergo 4000 - I've had mine about two weeks and then spilled water on it. Annoyed because I had the last one for about 5 years and never once spilled anything on it...
i still cant see a keyboard
nah nah nah son yah got this all wrong yo . . . . . yah should INHALE the air dust and trust me yah gonna get that ill nice feeling ;-) lmao aiight mah dudes
I finally figured out how to dismantle my Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 v1 for cleaning!!! Here are the steps:
1. Remove the 10 screws nearest the front of the keyboard. These hold the two wrist rests. Pull them off to get access to two screws on the top of the keyboard.
2. Remove the three screws on the back that have little rings around them. These three screws are longer then the others.
3. Remove the remaining 8 screws on the back.
4. [THE TRICK] pry up the space bar. It really will pop off straight up.
5. Remove the four screws under the space bar. NOTE: These four screws are different from the rest of the keyboard. Two are really long and two are very short.
6. Pry up the front of the keyboard where there is a plastic catch on the very front between the wrist rests. Pull up from the front and over the back right side where there is a plastic lip.
I hate it too... people who poke or touch LCD screens. Those kinds of people belongs to the jungle. Ignorants! lol
excellent article with some funny comments, may i take the opportunity to introduce a revolutionary new screen cleaner? uses no solvents, causes no damage and is eco friendly.
The statistics regarding keyboard disgusting-ness are staggering.
Its worse when they use a pen or pencil. its not disgusting just impossible to clean.
yeah, I hate touching displays, but even worse is people touching the glass windows in their cars. I used to get a lift to university with a girl who had a permanently misted windscreen. I felt like screaming "use the fans! stop wiping the screen, it makes it worse!" but I never said anything.
I usually don't tell people not to touch the windows in my cars though, because if I did they surely would.
Here's a cleaning horror story, if you are squeamish, avert your eyes: http://episteme.arstechnica.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/34709834/m/834001402931?r=834001402931#834001402931
I am the same way. I can't stand someone touching my screens and I try to keep my keyboard very clean (never used the dishwasher before though). I have a ready supply of anti-bacterial wipes, compressed air and one of those brush things to help keep dust off. Some of my co-workers even call me Monk.
I will occasionally touch monitors, however I ALWAYS flip my hand over and use the back of my fingernail...no smudges, no gunk.
Distilled water works better for soaking electronics--it doesn't leave deposits on the circuit board as it dries.
I found this to be useful info on the subject of cleaning LCD screens:
1.Turn off the monitor. If the screen is dark, it will be easier to see the areas that are dirty or oily.
2.Use a dry, soft cloth and very gently wipe the screen. A great choice would be the microfiber type of cloth used to clean eyeglasses. See Tip #1 below for kinds of cloths to avoid.
3.If the dry cloth did not completely remove the dirt or oil, do not press harder in an attempt to scrub it off. Pushing directly on the LCD screen can often cause pixels to burn out.
4.If necessary, dampen the cloth with distilled water or with an equal ratio of distilled water to white vinegar. See Tip #2 below for products to avoid.
5.Many companies also sell small spray bottles of special cleaner for flat screen monitors but the vinegar mixture is usually just as effective.
6.The plastic edge that surrounds the screen can be cleaned with any multipurpose cleaner but take care to avoid contact with the screen itself.
1.Avoid using paper towels, toilet paper, tissue paper, or something like your shirt to wipe the LCD screen. These non-ultrasoft materials can easily scratch the screen.
2.Avoid cleaning products that contain ammonia, ethyl alcohol, acetone, toluene, ethyl acid, or methyl chloride. These chemicals can react with the materials that the LCD screen is made of which could yellow the screen or cause other kinds of damage.
3.Never spray liquid directly on the LCD screen or it could run inside the monitor and cause damage.
So how come no one dies or gets sick from all those "dirtier than toilet seats" keyboards and mice? Get over it, there are way more bacteria inside our bodies than anywhere else, it's called a bacterial flora.
Admit it... the real point of this is that you've justified an excuse to buy another keyboard. :P