Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Bacterial Contamination of Keyboards: Efficacy and Functional Impact of Disinfectants

  • William A. Rutala (a1) (a2), Matthew S. White (a2), Maria F. Gergen (a1) and David J. Weber (a1)

Computers are ubiquitous in the healthcare setting and have been shown to be contaminated with potentially pathogenic microorganisms. This study was performed to determine the degree of microbial contamination, the efficacy of different disinfectants, and the cosmetic and functional effects of the disinfectants on the computer keyboards.


We assessed the effectiveness of 6 different disinfectants (1 each containing chlorine, alcohol, or phenol and 3 containing quaternary ammonium) against 3 test organisms (oxacillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [ORSA], Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus species) inoculated onto study computer keyboards. We also assessed the computer keyboards for functional and cosmetic damage after disinfectant use.


Potential pathogens cultured from more than 50% of the computers included coagulase-negative staphylococci (100% of keyboards), diphtheroids (80%), Micrococcus species (72%), and Bacillus species (64%). Other pathogens cultured included ORSA (4% of keyboards), OSSA (4%), vancomycin-susceptible Enterococcus species (12%), and nonfermentative gram-negative rods (36%). All disinfectants, as well as the sterile water control, were effective at removing or inactivating more than 95% of the test bacteria. No functional or cosmetic damage to the computer keyboards was observed after 300 disinfection cycles.


Our data suggest that microbial contamination of keyboards is prevalent and that keyboards may be successfully decontaminated with disinfectants. Keyboards should be disinfected daily or when visibly soiled or if they become contaminated with blood.

Corresponding author
CB #7030; 130 Mason Farm Road, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7030 (
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

1. JP Burke . Infection control—a problem for patient safety. N Engl J Med 2003; 348:651656.

2. S Bures , JT Fishbain , CF Uyehara , JM Parker , BW Berg . Computer keyboards and faucet handles as reservoirs of nosocomial pathogens in the intensive care unit. Am J Infect Control 2000; 28:465471.

3. AN Neely , MP Maley , GD Warden . Computer keyboards as reservoirs for Acinetobacter baumannii in a burn hospital. Clin Infect Dis 1999; 29:13581360.

4. J Devine , RPD Cooke , EP Wright . Is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) contamination of ward-based computer terminals a surrogate marker for nosocomial MRSA transmission and handwashing compliance? J Hosp Infect 2001; 48:7275.

5. GS Man , M Olapoju , MV Chadwick , et al. Bacterial contamination of ward-based computer terminals. J Hosp Infect 2002; 52:314318.

7. B Hartmann , M Benson , A Junger , et al. Computer keyboard and mouse as a reservoir of pathogens in an intensive care unit. J Clin Monit Comput 2004; 18:712.

10. AN Neely , MP Maley . Dealing with contaminated computer keyboards and microbial survival. Am J Infect Control 2001; 29:131132.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology
  • ISSN: 0899-823X
  • EISSN: 1559-6834
  • URL: /core/journals/infection-control-and-hospital-epidemiology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 6 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 207 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 27th March 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.