How to Clean your Desk

So you want to take the plunge and clean your desk? Well done! Most people think about cleaning their desk for weeks, sometimes months, and often never get round to doing it.

If your desk looks like a bomb site due to papers, books, food, drink and random bits of technology lying around, then keep reading. In this blog post, we’ll find out how to clear your desk clutter for good and leave it looking better than new!

If you haven’t even got a desk to clean, check out the following post:

Firstly, why bother to clean your desk?

Prevent illness – The dirtier our desks are, the more likely we are to catch an infection from harmful microbes lurking on it. We’ve all had colds and cases of flu, and I think I speak for everyone when I say they are better avoided.

Did you know that the average office desk is 400 times dirtier than an average toilet seat? A jaw-dropping statistic which is completely true. We don’t associate desks with being dirty so don’t clean them as often as we clean toilets.

As a result, grime and dirt build up and tonnes of germs live one your work station. Not only is this gross but it also increases the risk of us catching nasty colds and flus which can have a negative effect on our productivity, mood, energy levels and so on. All of this because of a dirty desk which could have been avoided.

A clean desk is professional – Have you ever seen somebody with a messy, unorganised desk? Yes, you probably have. Chances are, you thought it looked unorganised and unprofessional. Having a cluttered desk means it’s near impossible to find important documents and your productivity is hindered as a result. Don’t be one of those people!

Having a clean and tidy work desk is key to coming across like you mean business and you take your work seriously. It indicates a sense of pride in what you do, shows you’re mature and above all that you’re professional. A fantastic impression to make on your boss, colleagues, friends, family and anybody else you happen to interact with by your desk.

You can be more productive – A clean and tidy desk means a more productive worker. They go hand in hand. Keeping a tidy work space means folders, stationery and technological items are neatly stored for quick and easy access so you can do your job to the best of your ability.

What do you need to clean the desk?

Yes, we need battle supplies to make this desk spotless. Make sure you have the following well stocked and on hand for the process:

Disinfecting wipes or spray – The main weapon in your cleaning arsenal will be disinfecting wipes or spray, which typically kill 99.9% of illness-causing germs. Make sure you have plenty of these on hand. The following products will work wonders:

Bin – If your desk is messy and cluttered, there will be lots of items you no longer need which can go into the rubbish bin (if you’re American, the trash can). Place the bin in an easy to reach location, preferably next to the desk. The last thing you want is the desk on the other side of the room, or in a different room, so it becomes difficult to quickly put rubbish in.

Here’s a couple of great bin recommendations:

Plastic boxes – If you have items you want to keep but are not necessarily needed on or in your desk, have plastic boxes on hand to store them in. Once you complete the clean, find a place in your home or office to store the box so items within it can be accessed when needed. Examples of items you might put in the boxes include photos (family, celebrities etc), stationery, technology items (keyboard, chargers), paper and so on.

I’d also recommend making one a ‘giveaway’ box. This box will be designated for things you no longer need but are in good enough condition for others to make use of them.

You could give them to a charity, like the Salvation Army, or stick a ‘FREE’ label on and place it in your workplace for colleagues. I like doing a free box when I clear my desk because it makes me feel I’m giving something back. It’s up to you but it’s a nice thought.

Check out this set of 3 35 litre plastic storage boxes which would be excellent for this desk cleaning exercise.

Folders – Don’t underestimate the importance of a good folder. You don’t want to mix up different types of documents as this results in headaches and a wild goose chase when you’re trying to find an invoice or a bill to pay.

Use them to organise the stacks of papers on and in your desk. Some categories I organise my papers into includes insurance, receipts, important emails, tickets, invoices, bills, contracts and more.

I would highly recommend this folder, which I use for all my documents:

Other storage accessories – Depending on your storage needs, you might require other accessories to keep your desk organised. Sets of letter tray risers are brilliant for separating documents coming in and going out.

Stationery organisers are great for keeping pens, pencils, rubbers, rulers, staplers and all your other stationery items in one place. Work out what you need and have it ready for the clean.

Check out the following storage accessories which might suit you:

Top tips before starting the clean

Listen to music – Tidying your desk doesn’t have to be a silent affair. Stick some music on, make some fun of it! What do you like listening to? Rock, classical, metal, rap, hip hop or jazz?

Put on whatever music will get you into a positive mood and in the zone for some desk cleaning. Personally, I like having rock bands like The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Beatles on whilst I clean my desk.

Have a cup of tea or coffee – Let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy a good tea or coffee? Put the kettle on and pour yourself a big mug of your favourite hot drink and enjoy it whilst you get to work on the desk. Tea & (mainly) coffee contain caffeine, the most consumed psychoactive substance in the world, so you’ll be more hyped up for the cleaning!

Reward yourself afterwards – Have a reward in mind to motivate you through the clean. If you slaved over the desk cleaning with nothing to reward yourself with, that wouldn’t be very fun. Would it?

Choose a reward you will enjoy and commit to cleaning the desk to a high standard first, then allow yourself the benefit of the reward. It could be literally anything. A piece of cake, reading a favourite book, spending time with a loved one, going for a run and so on. Reward yourself after the clean, you deserve it!

Okay, now you have your supplies it’s time to do this thing! Here we go…

Step 1: Declutter the desk surface

Hopefully you’re desk isn’t THIS messy…

Time for the fun part (only joking). To properly clean your desk, it’s vital that you de-clutter it first. For this step, process all the items on the desk and put them into the following ‘buckets’:

Unimportant items – Bin 

That’s right, the trash. Items which can no longer benefit you – or others – is to be placed in the rubbish or recycling bin. ‘Rubbish’ is defined as items which are worthless and have no value, so it’s only a fitting end for these items. Chuck unimportant papers, broken stationery items, crumbled up post-it notes, empty food packets and so on. Take no prisoners! Place the unimportant desk items in the rubbish or recycling bin.

Important items – Folders

For all those important invoices, bills, insurance forms, emails, orders and accounting documents, file them into separate categories within a folder. Now would be a good time to label each category too for ease of finding later. The last thing you want is to mix up different types of papers, which can cause a massive headache when you urgently need to locate a document.

Items that are occasionally needed – Plastic box for storage

Naturally, there’ll be certain things you need to use, but not frequently enough to gain a place on or in the desk. Items in this ‘bucket’ might include charging cables, binders, mailing supplies, flipchart paper and so on. It’s a matter of personal preference, you know what gets used on your desk more than anyone so sort items into this bucket as appropriate.

Once everything is in the boxes, find a place to store them nearby and access them when needed. Though it’s ideal to store the boxes in the same room as your desk, the boxes can be placed in a different room if more appropriate.

Items to give away – Plastic ‘giveaway’ box

There will be some items which are in perfectly good condition but you just don’t have a use for them anymore. Put these items in a box and give them away to friends, family or a charity.

Maybe you have too many staplers pencils or pens in your stationery collection. Perhaps you have a charger for an old laptop but no longer need it due to getting an upgrade. You could even have some novelty items lying around like a stress ball which you don’t need.

Step 2: Declutter the drawers & shelves

Repeat the above process and place all items in the desk’s interior into one of the four sorting buckets. Repetitive, I know, but necessary!

Step 3: Clear the desk for cleaning

Congratulations, you’ve decluttered your desk! The hard part is out of the way. Now it’s time to get down and dirty and prepare the desk for some good old-fashioned cleaning.

Remove all the remaining items and containers from the desk and place them somewhere nearby, the floor or a table for instance. Clearing the desk means nothing can get in the way during the clean coming up. You wouldn’t want to get important papers soaked in disinfectant, after all.

Now we have a cleared desk, it’s time to get out the disinfectant wipes to make your desk sparkle.

Step 4: Clean the desk & drawers with wipes

Now it’s time for some elbow grease. Using either the wipes or anti-bacterial spray and cloth, wipe all surface areas on the desk, in the drawers and shelves. Clean each section for at least 45 seconds – 1 minute, clearing all visible signs of dirt and dust. Leave the desk a few moments to dry or dry it manually with some kitchen roll.

A good way to test the desk is clean is to glide a finger over its surface. If you find dust and dirt on your finger, the desk isn’t clean and it needs a bit more product. If the desk feels smooth and leaves no mark on your finger, you’ve got yourself a clean desk! Wahoo!

Step 5: Apply polish

Polish is used to make your desk shine brightly so it’s practically sparkling. Though not absolutely crucial, if you’re someone who takes pride in the work they do then you will want to polish your desk after wiping it down to show off your high standards.

Furniture polish is typically applied via a spray bottle and then wiped into the desk with a microfiber cloth. Both of these items are easily available both in stores & online retailers, like Amazon.

Step 6: Reload the clean desk & drawers

Now your desk is gleaming from the wipes and polish, now is a good time to reload all the items you took off it earlier.

When reloading, take care to place items in convenient and smart locations which will make your working life easier.

For instance, placing the in & out tray riser to the far right of the desk could be a wise move as you will probably need to access letters in these trays regularly. Your folders could go into one of the shelves or into a draw because the papers within are being stored away for future use so they can be easily grabbed.

At the end of the day, reloading your desk is a matter of personal preference. If you are happy with where everything is and can access it easily when working, happy days! Job done.

Step 7: Enjoy the clean desk

Now it’s time to reap the fruits of your labour, a nice clean desk!

Life with a clean desk is much easier. Things don’t get lost, you are organised, you enjoy cleanliness and you also give off a professional vibe to anybody who comes near.

Well done for taking the time and effort to sort out your messy desk. Now let’s look at how to keep it clean…

How to keep your desk clean

Wipe your desk and equipment down at least twice a week – Most cleaning products kill 99.9% of bacteria, essentially making wherever you use them a germ-free zone. The average desk contains 400 more times the number of germs than a toilet seat, but yours won’t!

Your desk will be a low germ zone thanks to maintaining the hygienic habit of wiping it down at least twice a week. You’re more than welcome to do it once a day (recommended) but twice a week is a much better improvement than not at all!

Wash your hands after going to the toilet – This is a big one. You’ve been told this since you could walk. Wash your hands after going to the toilet. It’s easy to do, we all know how to do it, it requires little to no skill, but so many of us choose not to wash our hands. I always struggle to understand why.

Washing our hands literally takes 1 minute of our time and gives us the peace of mind that our hands are free of harmful germs which could cause an infection.

Washing your hands is easy. Wet them with running water, apply soap, lather, rub your hands together vigorously for 20-30 seconds, rinse, dry, and then you’re done. It’s really that simple! Wash your hands after the toilet and you will maintain a clean desk.

Note: The key ingredient to washing your hands is soap. Soap is king in the hand washing process. Make sure you use soap to wash your hands. That is what kills the germs. Soap is what will keep your hands and desk clean. It sounds obvious but the amount of people who don’t realise this is astounding.

I half laugh and half cringe when I see people in public toilets ‘washing’ their hands with a splash of running water, not bothering to apply any soap. They dry their hands and stroll out of the toilet, into the world with their bacteria-laden hands. Pretty gross, if you ask me. Don’t be one of these people, use soap when washing your hands!

Don’t eat at your desk – Did you know 1 in 5 workers never clean their desk before eating and crumbs are a common source of desk bacteria? The stats show that eating at your work station is not hygienic, so it’s best to avoid it.

Even if you’re in the middle of an important project, remove yourself from the desk (and the room if possible) and enjoy your lunch elsewhere. Eating somewhere else means crumbs and pieces of food won’t drop onto your desk and attractive harmful germs which could cause you illness.

What’s more, eating at your desk is not a fun or practical way to enjoy any sandwich. Eating whilst working means splitting your attention between hammering away at your keyboard and tucking into some tasty mouthfuls. You probably know how inconvenient this is from experience, so stop doing it! For hygiene and anti-multitasking purposes, don’t eat at your desk. Please!

Have hand sanitizers in your drawer – Using hand sanitizers regularly screams great personal hygiene, which means your desk will stay cleaner for longer.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers kill microbes in your hands and stop the spread of germs. Using hand sanitizer regularly means you’re less likely to meet cold or flu-causing microbes. Make sure your desk stays clean and use hand sanitizer, it will work wonders!

There we have it, the how-to guide of cleaning your desk. Happy cleaning and enjoy that sparkling desk! 

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