It started with fingerprints

It started with sticky fingerprints on my laptop screen. (I’m not sure how they got there or who was responsible; all I’m saying is that they looked small and there is only one person in this house who eats Fruit Gushers.) The laptop makes its home on a side table in my living room, and while I’m the primary user, it is a community computer, meant to be used by all of us, whether that be to write emails or check sports stats. The fingerprints in question made me wonder if the person responsible was under the impression it was a touch screen. It is not.

I could no longer ignore the filthy screen, with the layer of smudges and assorted spots – it was becoming distracting and needed a good wiping down. My first instinct was to grab one of the pre-moistened wipes I have in the kitchen, but that was met by a, “DON’T USE THAT! You’re gonna ruin the screen!!” from the voice sitting beside me. I’m not sure how or why that would damage the screen, but the reaction was convincing enough to stop me in my tracks.

So instead of using the easiest and most accessible cleaner I had available, I did what so many of us do these days when faced with a task: I Googled “how to clean a laptop.” Sounds like a good idea, right? I figured I might as well go right back to factory settings-level clean, since I was in the zone. And it might’ve been a good plan had I stuck to the topic at hand and ignored every other article that rolled down from my search.

I didn’t. I never do. For me, researching online is like falling into a virtual rabbit hole. When I climb out many, many minutes later, I’m dumbfounded by the time I’ve wasted but also by all I’ve learned. More often than I care to admit, I’ve even forgotten the information I wanted in the first place.

That’s exactly what happened when I decided to clean my laptop. I found a very helpful New York Times piece about the subject, but so much more, too; article after article about all the filth that accumulates in a computer keyboard, which segued beautifully into another million articles about all the disgusting, germ-filled places in a home. It was too much to resist. My mind was consumed with how my surroundings are teeming with tiny microbes that need to be sprayed, wiped, and otherwise disinfected right out of my life.

Look, I’m no domestic goddess. I keep a relatively clean house, but only half-heartedly, as I don’t enjoy cleaning like some people do. Because I despise clutter my common areas are almost always tidy, giving the illusion of a clean house at first glance. With one less MacDonald living here that cuts down quite a bit on any mess, and since there are no more toddlers or young kids leaving behind a trail of toys, it’s not as difficult to keep up with cleaning the house as it once was. You should not, however, come here and declare that you could eat off the floor, because you can’t.

But while I sat here concerned about the cleanliness of my grimy laptop, it turns out that should be the least of my worries compared to the petri dishes of germs scattered elsewhere in my house.

Take the dishcloth. We all know it can get pretty gamey at times, but that’s putting it mildly. About 10 million bacteria can set up shop in a square inch of a kitchen dishrag or sponge, with E. coli topping the pecking order and Salmonella not far behind. And I scrub my pots with that?! I wipe my countertops?? Sacrilege.

Cutting boards are top of the pack as far as germiness, too, as are coffee makers, plastic water bottles, and the broom handle. Our cellphones? They’re among the worst offenders, with as much and more fecal bacteria than you would find on a toilet seat.

Toothbrush holders? An abomination. Purses? A complete disaster. The bottom of a woman’s purse can carry clostridium difficile, or C. diff, known to cause everything from diarrhea to fatal infections. Even the beach décor in my bathroom is harbouring various forms of bacteria and fungi.

The internet rabbit hole of cleaning information has given way to irrational fears of an epidemic of flesh-eating, brain-dissolving, limb-paralyzing organisms. Unlikely, but all too possible for my taste.

And all because I wanted to clean my laptop screen.