My office desk isn't complete without a giant cup of coffee, followed by a giant cup of tea — but after learning that office coffee mugs might be full of bacteria, I may have to opt for dehydration instead. The germaphobe inside of me is seriously grossed out but this new study — but the good news is that we may not have panic about it quite yet. It's actually a pretty easy problem to solve.
The research comes from Charles Gerba, PhD, out of the University of Arizona. Gerba discovered that 20 percent of office mugs tested carry fecal (read: poop) bacteria, and 90 percent carry other kinds of germs. What's more, these nasty guys can survive as many as three days.
So where is all the bacteria coming from? Well, it sometimes starts from the filthy sponge you used in your office's kitchen, which may have been sitting around repeatedly used and yet unwashed for far too long. Some studies have found that sponges are 200,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat and can carry as many as 10 million bacteria per square inch. Now, imagine using that sponge to wash your cup. Literally, you're safer washer your mug on the toilet seat.
Bacteria also breeds when you don't use hot water and soap to clean your dirty kitchen items, so if you're not waiting for the tap to warm up and making sure you add a healthy amount of lather, that might contribute to the issue. Hot water kills more bacteria than cold water, and hot dishes also air dry faster than ones washed in cold water — which further prevents more bacteria growth. (In order for this to work, the water needs to be hotter than your skin can handle. So grab some rubber gloves before you crank up that heat!)
Then there are the people who delay or skip washing their cup entirely, instead letting it sit on the desk after having been used. Make no mistake about it: Germs start to form immediately, even if the cup is empty.
The solution probably seems like an obvious one: Wash that nasty ish with a clean sponge, soap, and hot water ASAP. Worried your office sponge is dirtier than the bottom of your shoe? Then wash the sponge with soap and hot water first. Or, avoid the problem completely and bring a clean mug from home. I trust my mugs. My mugs are immaculate. Disposable cups are also an option, but pretty please, no styrofoam, and recycle whatever you use.
And finally, remember this: There are germs everywhere. Everywhere. You will never completely avoid them. So just keep things as clean as you can, wash your hands, and enjoy life.