What is living in your office water cooler?


What is living in your office water cooler?

In recent years, the water cooler was a place to spread your influence, to share ground breaking ideas and to exchange ideas .... as well as a good place to catch up on gossip. For a long time over the last two years the water cooler has lived a desolate and lonely life, being the single occupant in the office for months at a time. 

Can we now say that as people are being encouraged back in to the office that the water cooler will be placed back in the esteemed position of a place to share moments of serendipity and pure unadulterated inspiration? 

Well I think the water coolers' revered status is sadly on hold for the foreseeable future.  We are in the midst of trying to tentatively encourage people back in to the work place after the damage that was done following numerous lock downs and work from home initiatives. 

In fact, in a report by the Financial Times that was published just last month, todays' offices are only operating at a quarter capacity, which is the highest level of occupancy in two years. The graph below is astounding! 

Anna discusses this weeks blog.....

So what,  I hear you ask does this have to do with Water Coolers? Even when the office footfall was what it was back in early 2020, water coolers when unmaintained would begin to grow mould and bacteria. After every water bottle it is recommended that each unit should be sanitised.... and you should make sure your supplier is actually doing this. 

The sanitisation process should be using a BS EN 1276 chemical which is food safe and is not going to contaminate the area with anything which shouldn't be ingested. 

Ofcourse, now that office occupancy is lower than ever before, the rate at which the water goes down will be slower, so the water cooler will be less popular than it once was. This means that the water will be sitting for longer periods of time, growing more bacteria and mould spores. 

A study published in the National Library of Medicine "Assessment of Water from Bottled Water Coolers" found that the heterotrophic plate count was over the acceptable hygienic levels for drinking water in 60% of tested water coolers - this was pre-pandemic, and pre work from home endemic. So it is a fair assumption that unless the way in which these water coolers are being maintained the heterotrophic plate count will be at an unacceptable level for a higher percentage of the population tested - so more bottles contaminated with bacteria and mould. 

Please do watch your water cooler to see what maintenance (if any is being conducted on it), and make sure that your office cleaner does maintain it, with an appropriate chemical and ensure your water cooler is kept away from heaters and out of direct sunlight - which will of course catalyse the growth of bacteria and mould. 

How to clean a water cooler

  1. Unplug the water dispenser from the wall and remove the bottle. Unplug any other electronics nearby for safety
  2. Use a food-safe disinfectant spray and cloth, and wipe the rim of the dispenser with the solution
  3. Flush the system with a cleaning solution made from 1 tablespoon of bleach into a gallon of water, opening the taps to allow the solution to pour out
  4. Rinse it out – fill the water cooler and pour it out four times into a bucket, ensuring that no taste of bleach is left behind
  5. Then remove the drip tray and scrub it clean with hot soapy water
  6. Clean the taps with a food-safe disinfectant spray


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