I took my first trip back into the office after nearly one year of working from home. It looked the same, smelt the same, it all felt eerily the same; except for the fact that all my colleagues were working from home and the silence felt a little post-apocalyptic.
I went through my normal routine of opening my laptop bag, turning on my computer, and spent a few minutes disinfecting my desk surface with some Lysol® wipes I recently purchased. Finally, it’s time to get to work, but first …hydration!
I made my normal 50 step trip to the water cooler to fill up my jug, but as I neared the end of my trek, I realized I had a decision to make. Am I actually going to drink the water? Now that I think about it, has the cooler been cleaned or the water changed? I really don’t feel like going to the store. No one’s around, and it’s not like I can ask the cooler.
So it got me thinking, as workplaces are reopening, it is imperative to address your break rooms to ensure you are providing a safe and clean space for employees to hydrate and snack. Inspecting your water coolers and water supply is an important step in order to mitigate the risk of bad-tasting water. The longer a water cooler has gone without being cleaned, the more likely someone is to experience an off-tasting sip of water even out of a brand-new bottle. If something doesn’t taste right, it’s more likely that you have a cooler cleanliness concern than an issue with your water. Here are a few tips to handle cooler cleanliness.
Store bottles of water in a cool, shady, and clean area.
Algae spores are a naturally occurring phenomenon in the air, and can access water through cracks or tears in the plastic caps, and through ventilation in coolers. Keeping water cool by storing it in a shady area reduces the impact of sunlight and/or fluorescent lighting that would accelerate potential algae growth.
It is recommended that you always rotate your stock so you are using your oldest bottles first. This shortens the time that bottles are held and not used. The industry recommends a two-year shelf-life for bottled water. You can check the bottle’s production and expiration dates on the top of the jug or closer to the bottle neck.
Clean your cooler!
Cleaning and disinfecting your cooler should be done on a periodic basis no less than annually. There are two important considerations to determine how frequently you clean your cooler: usage and environment. First, assess how frequently the cooler is being used. Is your water cooler in a high traffic area? Are bottles constantly being changed over and over as if it were part of some CrossFit competition?
Second, consider the type of environment where the cooler is located. Coolers in industrial settings may need to be addressed more frequently than a cooler in an office environment. A cooler in a warehouse would subject to more dust and debris in the air than a cooler tucked away in a controlled environment. Increased surface cleaning and disinfecting is recommended for coolers experiencing a higher exposure to outside elements. Be sure to prioritize the cleaning of your most used coolers, and while you’re at it check out these water guards that increase the coolers sealing mechanism and reduce exposure to dust and particles.
Go ahead, open up your cooler! If you see any algae or discoloration in either the reservoir or surrounding the prong in the cooler that punctures the cap, we recommend that the cooler be cleaned right away. Do not reuse the bottle that is removed from the top of the cooler to avoid any potential cross-contamination.
Remember water cooler reservoirs are constantly wet, and these areas are most subject to bio-slime formations and algae growth due to the wet surface. These growths will not contain pathogenic or disease-causing bacteria, but can produce offensive and undesirable tastes. For this reason, regularly scheduled cooler cleaning is an important sanitary regimen for customers.
There are several cleaning approaches that are universally recommended, involving either boiling water, vinegar, or small amounts of bleach. For clear cleaning instructions, YouTube has multiple presentations on how to clean a cooler. Or purchase a DIY cooler cleaning kit and give it a whirl. If you prefer expert assistance, W.B. Mason is here to help, contact us and schedule a cooler cleaning today!