Mar 18 2010

Antibacterial Keyboard

Want to keep germ transmission down? Consider a keyboard with good feel that can be run through the dishwasher and even treated with disinfectant.

Seal Shield Silver Seal Antibacterial and Washable Keyboard

Ever wish you could throw your keyboard into a dishwasher and then submerge it in a disinfectant solution to make it germ-free?

Folks would tell you you're dreaming, but the Seal Shield Silver Seal Antibacterial & Washable Keyboard allows you to do just that. In fact, it's even received the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.


The Silver Seal keyboard has a natural feel to it. Given its waterproof properties, one might expect it to have a strange rubberized covering, or perhaps not respond like a typical keyboard, but that is not the case. It looks and feels like most any other full-size keyboard I've ever used.

Its antibacterial properties derive from natural silver ions embedded into the plastic, which alleviate the need for an additional coating that could wash off or thin out over time. If you're in a shared-device environment, this feature (plus the ability to put it through a dishwasher or use disinfectant) can help curb the spread of germs. This would especially be helpful in a temporary work environment, perhaps set up in an H1N1 hot zone or other emergency situation.

Why It Works for IT

I'm a natural skeptic, so the first thing I did with the Silver Seal keyboard (after making sure it worked out of the box) was to give it to my 4-year-old son. Like most kids his age, he has a knack for getting cracker crumbs, orange juice and assorted bodily fluids into and onto anything he touches.

He banged away on the keyboard for a week, and then I promptly put it in the top rack of the dishwasher for the ultimate test. It passed with flying colors: It was clean, and it worked as if it were newly unpacked. That sure beat turning the keyboard upside down and shaking it, or using Q-tips to swab out crumbs and wet wipes to remove gooey juice stains.

The USB cable comes in two pieces: a short 6-inch pigtail with a rubber cover, and a 6-foot-long extension cable. This makes it easy to disconnect the keyboard on the desktop for cleaning -- no need to reach under the desk and feel around for the USB ports on the desktop. The keyboard also includes a USB-to-PS/2 converter for those government and highly secure organizations that consider USB-connected devices a security risk.

10 million The number of bacteria found where hands rest on a desk (often the keyboard). The "germiest" desk items include the phone, followed by the keyboard and the mouse.

SOURCE: Charles Gerba, University of Arizona

Seal Shield has backed up its product with a two-year limited warranty. The keyboard layout meets ISO/IEC 9995 specifications, and is manufactured to meet rigorous NEMA 4X/IP68 specifications. It was even featured at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show, where it received praise as one of the top five new gadgets.


Even though the keyboard is dishwasher-safe, make sure you keep the water temperature under 130 degrees and turn off the heated-drying option. Also, keep the keyboard on the top rack -- failure to do so could void the warranty. This wasn't much of an issue at my house because we keep the hot-water temperature down and don't use heated drying for environmental reasons, but in a work kitchen or group environment, these are things you must consider.

One unusual feature that could require some getting used to is the inclusion of Wake Up/Power/Sleep keys where the Print Screen/Scroll Lock/ Pause keys are typically found. Those keys are moved down, which in turn moves the Insert/Home/Page Up keys down, making it somewhat of an adjustment for users. That being said, even though I'm not a particularly accomplished typist, these changes didn't affect me very much.

Finally, the keyboard is not wireless, and there are no USB ports in the unit itself (a feature I have come to love in other keyboards). But I can understand why: The USB ports would need to be sealed somehow (and the batteries removed) during submersion. That just isn't practical. But given all that this keyboard has to offer, it's a trade-off I can live with.

At Your Fingertips: Fighting Off Germs

The ability to douse your keyboard with an antibacterial cleaner meshes with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations on how medical settings can deal with hard-to-battle bacteria, such as those that cause staph infections.

Enhanced environmental cleaning has been shown to keep multidrug-resistant organisms (known as MRDOs) at bay, according to the CDC's Management of Multidrug-Resistant Organisms in Healthcare Settings.

Keyboards are commonly shared in hospitals and other medical environments (and at many other federal locations where the government provides services to the public). Immersing the keyboards once a day in a disinfectant solution should help prevent the spread of dangerous organisms and germs.