How clean is your office communal pantry?

  • 23 May 2019

The pantry can be considered one of the most important places in an office. It's where we go to take a break from long hours of working, to catch up with co-workers and mostly importantly, eat and drink!

But just how clean is it? With a large group of people coming and going, it is a breeding ground for bacteria.

The mugs

Most of us are not too keen on using the communal mugs. However, it turns out that the mugs are fairly safe to use. In 2016, Jeffrey Starke, a pediatrics professor at Baylor College of Medicine, told The Wall Street Journal that there's little to worry about the germs in the mugs. He says, "If I went and cultured the average unwashed coffee cup, of course I'm going to find germs. But remember the vast majority came from the person who used the cup."

Creamer and sugar can cause mold to grow in a mug

Starke did warn that the creamer and sugar used can increase the chances of bacteria growing in the mug. Anywhere between 45 minutes and longer can cause mold to grow in a standing liquid. So it's not the coffee you'd need to be worried about, it's the sugar and creamer because bacteria thrive on sugar.

The office sponge carries the most bacteria

The communal kitchen sponge has more bacteria than an unwashed mug. In 2016, Charles Gerba, a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona, told LifeHacker that "around 90% of most office coffee mugs harbor dangerous germs, and 20% of those carry fecal bacteria."

Starke also gave the same warning to The Wall Street Journal, "The sponge in the break room probably has the highest bacteria count of anything in the office."

Wash the crockery and utensils with your hands and dish soap

Gerba recommends doing the washing up with your hands and some dish soap. He recommends not sharing your mugs with anyone else especially during the flu season. He said that the chances of passing on an illness or even catching one is slim if you don't share it. But he reiterates that it has the least risk of passing on any illness. He says, "Of all the things people have to worry about, getting sick from an old coffee mug is at the bottom."

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