Gordon Smith

King of cups: The merits of not cleaning your mug

cup
Image: Office Space (20th Century Fox)

Approx Reading Time-10Gross, or not gross? What science says about the benefits of not cleaning your coffee cup.

 

 


We all know one. Someone who never washes their cup after sinking a coffee. They’re in our homes, in our offices, our break rooms – they’re everywhere.

“It’s boiling water, it kills the germs,” they say. But is it true? Is it really not that disgusting to leave your coffee cup in a state that’s as much a nostalgic reminder of mornings gone by as it is a means to drink a steaming hot beverage?

According to Wall Street Journal columnist Heidi Mitchell, not only is it okay to never wash your cup – so long as it isn’t shared – but it may actually be more hygienic.

Before you start dotting your house with mugs in wild abandon, there’s an asterisk to this.

In fact, cups are so much less skilled in the art of accumulating germs than us, that even if you drank from a cup you used when you were sick, the story goes that it would be more than a little difficult to make yourself sick again.

Paediatrics Professor at Baylor College of Medicine Jeffrey Starke, an infectious disease expert, says that not only may your cup grace your lips, and your lips alone, but you could in fact cause mould to grow if you leave sugar or cream in your cup of choice for an extended period of time.

Don’t worry, if that happens you can just wash it out.

Starke says that, excluding the above, culturing the average unwashed coffee cup would still show germs.

But the germs are not a result of the drink that was, or the time the cup has spent languishing. Instead, the majority of the germs come from us, and our disgusting, germ-filled bodies.

In fact, cups are so much less skilled in the art of accumulating germs than us, that even if you drank from a cup you used when you were sick, the story goes that it would be more than a little difficult to make yourself sick again.

This is because most viruses can’t live for long outside of our disease-incubating bodies.

Grosser still, it may actually be safer to leave your cup to crystallise than it is to scrub it with a sponge – especially if you’re scrubbing in an office kitchen.

Your friendly average break room sponge “probably has the highest bacteria count of anything in the office,” according to Starke.

But fear not! It’s not all about making you think twice about your dishwashing habits.

Starke also tells us the best method of killing the bacteria on said office sponge: putting it in the microwave before use.

Or, alternatively, just not thinking about it.

What a beautiful world we live in.

Gordon Smith

Journalist by day, cunning linguist by night. A passion for politics, hypnotically involved in human rights. An Australian born with a Japanese tongue, hoping to hold the big wigs in government to account.

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