As a teacher (English teacher especially) part of my job description is to drink coffee. Black coffee. From a mug that only gets washed when refilled with more black coffee. I take ownership of this responsibility. I claim this stereotype.
But with the school season about to start, I couldn’t help but wonder about preparation, specifically regarding the cleaning of my coffee receptacles to start the year fresh. I have the travel mug and a variety of mug mugs, all of which would likely mistake Dawn or Joy for sisters rather than cleaners.
There is a certain bravado I suppose in having a mug that is stained, or that only gets a rinse once in a while, allowing ingesting of a certain amount of germs to strengthen the immune system. Not licking door knobs, more drinking out of the hose. The travel mug gets daily use, a rinse most mornings and a wash every week or so. If I’m sick, it’s scrubbed daily, but I rarely get sick which I attribute to lifestyle choices, and only occasional coffee mug cleaning.
The thing about dried coffee in the bottom of mug is that is simply looks like a layer waiting to be reconstituted with water. It doesn’t look malicious or alive. It’s not like you’ve taken something that requires refrigeration, drank 95% if it, and you’re letting the remaining 5% have at the warm environment until you add water, swirl and chugging it down. Can you imagine if you did that with orange juice? Or milk? Or at home with beer? Caffeine is naturally antibacterial, unlike drinks or additives that require refrigeration or dry storage, so a light coat of yesterday’s coffee doesn’t need to be cleaned, right?
The case for cleaning – “fecal bacteria”
But according to this article in Men’s Health “Twenty percent of office mugs carry fecal bacteria, and 90 percent are covered in other germs.”
Well, I don’t work at an office, I work at…a…school…with hundreds of teenagers…
The saving grace could be that I never use the sink in the teacher’s lounge which is the catalyst for bacterial spreading at the office. “That's because in an office, most people tend to clean their cups with bacteria-laden sponges or scrub brushes instead of in a dishwasher,” the article states.
Makes total sense. Sponges, wash cloths and towels absorb germs and let them fester unlike the scrub brushes I use at home to wash everything else. So, if you are concerned about germs, wash daily at home. If you aren’t concerned, look at your coworkers and ask yourself how many you’d share a sponge with.
The case for letting it ride – the “communal sponge”
Thankfully the Internet always comes through with information that confirms what you wanted to hear. However, this isn’t about not cleaning it’s again about “cleaning” your mug with a science experiment of a sponge. According to the article, “Drinking coffee from a dirty cup may actually be a more hygienic alternative than washing it in the office sink with a questionable communal sponge.”
Communal sponge. Sounds like some Dean and Danny tangent on the Gas Station Cappuccino Podcast. I really hope the mug Lumberg used was daily washed with the communal sponge.
Anyway, the case for letting it ride isn’t so much that there’s nothing wrong with not cleaning it, it’s more that it should be cleaned rather than smeared with more bacteria.
The coffee machine probably gets cleaned less than a mug. I will admit, that I did not remove the grounds before an extended fishing trip and returned to see that the damp grounds were fuzzy with mold. I contemplated throwing the whole thing away. Not that it would have been a big loss, because my home brewer resembles the models used by the types of hotels that advertise in-room coffee brewing as a feature rather than standard. I cleaned it thoroughly and saved myself a $12 replacement on Amazon.
So where does that leave us?
1. If you’re just drinking black coffee, clean your coffee mug when you feel it needs it, but not at work with the communal sponge.
2. Clean your coffee mug often if you are using additives such as sugars or creamers that can spawn bacterial growth.
- Clean your coffee maker.