Several years ago, I met Eve Lom - she of the skincare range - who gave me the most fabulous facial. At the time I was plagued by spots on the side of my face. Why is this relevant to a column about housework? Let me explain. Ms Lom asked me how often I cleaned my telephone. The answer, of course, was not very often. And, that, it seems was the cause of my spots.
This is a case where anecdote is backed by research. In 2004 a report called "Lifting the lid on computer filth" showed just how dirty offices can be. This study by Dr Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, found that "work stations" - or desks, as normal people call them - can contain nearly 400 times as many microbes as a toilet seat. Most of them lurk on telephones (25,127 microbes per sq in), keyboards (3,295) and computer mice (1,676). By comparison, the average toilet seat contains 49 microbes per sq in.
Although the report applied to office workers, there are lessons for the home office too. Nowadays, it is the rare home that does not have at least one computer and several phones. Before cleaning a phone, unplug it. Use a damp cloth and a little disinfectant (or an anti-bacterial wipe) to clean the handset, paying particular attention to areas that come in contact with your skin. Then clean the cradle and the rest of the phone: there is no point ridding the handset of microbes, only to put it back on to a dirty surface. To clean between the keys, use a cotton bud dipped in a little disinfectant, then squeezed almost dry. To clean a mobile phone, switch it off, then clean with anti-bacterial wipes. Clean between the keys as above (although this is a bit fiddly).
To clean a computer screen, use a lint-free, anti-static cloth or anti-static, non-smear wipes designed for computer screens. A good home-made alternative is a used tumble-dryer conditioner sheet. Spray very lightly with water to dampen and clean the screen. Unplug the mouse and wipe with a damp cloth and a little household disinfectant. Use a small, stiff, flat brush to clean between the keys on the keyboard - an old, clean eyeshadow brush will do - followed by the trusty cotton bud dipped in disinfectant and then squeezed until almost dry.
The Housewife's Handbook (Bloomsbury) by Rachel Simhon is available on Amazon.