What should one do if their workmate cleans their nose and ears with their hands and everyone in the team (10 people), from time to time, keep touching each other's mouse if someone needs assistance on their workstation?

I am not a super hygienic person myself, but this really seems like a health and safety issue to me.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – enderland
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 13:29
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    Do you also intend to keep them from touching the door handle when they enter your office?
    – rumtscho
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 15:05
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    @rumtscho, most door handles can easily be opened with elbow, thus isolating yourself with your shirt's sleeve. WC doors can be opened using a paper towel from the dispenser.
    – Vorac
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 7:14
  • @Vorac true and I use just one of my finger to open it, sometimes my leg
    – Change
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 7:19
  • Seems like it is time for HR to say something about personal hygiene. (Let them look like the bad guys.) You might want to read what Gerald M. Weinberg said about hygiene problems in "Becoming a Technical Leader", which is geared toward programming work environments.
    – user37746
    Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 0:35

10 Answers 10


I have been through that recently. Here is one solution, an alternative to the accepted answer, which is also excellent.

Sit in your chair, in front of your monitor, mouse and keyboard. When the person, that you are collaborating with, reaches to touch your mouse, do not move your hand away from it. They will then ask you

--Could I have your mouse to show you something?
--Just tell me how to do it myself - you should reply.
--But it will be so much quicker if I do it!
--I need to learn and develop, please teach me - your response, or any other silly excuse.

I found this causing a little bit less confrontation than wiping the mouse in front of the offender and less anxiety than secretly doing so.

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    How utterly annoying! Learning how to do something yourself strongly includes doing it yourself, but suggesting to describe, for the first time, where exactly to click, especially in sequences, seems very exhausting. Did you never try to describe to position of the windows start menu to a relative over the phone? ;) It might also lead to people pointing at your screen, which many also consider bad for various reasons[citation needed]. Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 19:49
  • @KjeldSchmidt, indeed it is annoying for the person helping you and could possibly lead to problems in the workplace. All I am saying is that IMHO this is a little less annoying than demonstratively wiping the device in front of them. Another partial solution is to learn to do everything keyboard-only. People will see this is your way and will tend to not impose their mouse-way on you.
    – Vorac
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 4:39
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    It's not that hard, (or even annoying, once you get used to it), to explain where to click. And it's usually not hard to follow directions. Especially if both people are familiar with the basic buttons. If the person directing doesn't really know where they are supposed to click, that's when things get annoying. Communication skills help. Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 15:52
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    It might work, I guess. Though, I also assumed that you would wipe the mouse after the people using the mouse leave. An explanation among the lines of "I have a weak immune system and don't want to miss work for chronic sniffles" should probably also work when confronted about this behaviour. Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 16:28
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    @KjeldSchmidt an explanation in the lines of "this is my mouse" could also work.
    – Vorac
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 14:28

Pretty simple solution:

enter image description here

I am not trying to be flippant, but you really can't force people to not touch their faces nor forbid them from touching your mouse.

Strictly speaking, you are correct, it is not proper etiquette.

The problem is that calling that out will backfire on you in most workplaces. Just wipe your hands and your stuff clean as needed.

  • 26
    +1 as this method is even recommended by Apple. If this particular brand is not available, make sure whatever you buy doesn't contain bleach. Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 12:09
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    Conspicuously cleaning the thing after they've touched it also acts as a mild reproach if they've touched it without asking.
    – pjc50
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 15:08
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    Using chemicals like this can cause severe problems for people who are allergic or sensitive to them. While that may not be the OP, someone close by might be that way.
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 15:51
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    @GreenMatt, there are milder alcohol-based wipes as well (I literally just picked the first image I found for wipes). Personally I feel the OP is overreacting to a minor hygiene issue, but if it bothers him, the best thing to do is to discreetly wipe down surfaces that cause him concern.
    – teego1967
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 15:56
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    @GreenMatt - +1 for suggesting that we could poison the offending person with chemicals. Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 18:27

At work I am using a keyboard that does not have letters on it - it's just black. A lot of my co-workers routinely get angry at me when they want to enter a password, so I provide them with a regular office keyboard that they can use to enter passwords or write text.

The same works for a mouse too. Just provide a guest-mouse. This is especially easy if your desk is large and visitors are usually sitting/kneeling on the same side. Just have a second office-issue mouse and leave it on that side.

If asked why, tell them it's easier because no-one needs to move chairs around, no cable pulling on the desk, and anyway your mouse cable is fixed to the table (because of office safety regulations).

As pointed out in the comments, it makes sense to store that mouse in a way that doesn't interrupt your work when someone bumps into your table. Put it upside down, use a cordless mouse that's switched off/in the charger or similar if that is an issue.

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    Try to get a heavy mouse as the second mouse though. This might seem like silly advice, but every time the second mouse gets focus it will interrupt whatever you're doing for an instant. Meaning if you get a cheap, light, small mouse that easily moves you might often loose focus.
    – Reaces
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 13:18
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    Or a wireless one with a switch. Less messy, and you can turn it off when not in use. Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 13:46
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    @JourneymanGeek But then the OP will have to clean his mouse everytime someone used it, as to not touch the dirty mouse just to turn it off!
    – Reaces
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 13:50
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    If OP never touches the guest mouse then there is not a problem I think.
    – simbabque
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 13:55
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    I also have a Das Keyboard with no markings, and a trackball. It has freaked out "support" people. Just the other day someone refused to 'take the helm' to correct some Chinese text, and had to give detailed directions to me instead. A guest mouse can be kept turned over, not plugged in (easy these days with USB) or "on blocks" to keep it from moving.
    – JDługosz
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 17:16

An even simpler solution.

enter image description here


On a more serious note, if you're willing to start using your left hand for your mouse and left-handed trackball mouse, I can pretty much guarantee that your right-handed co-workers will learn to stop touching it.

Imagine the image below, but for a left-hand, not a right-hand. enter image description here

  • 16
    If I need to use the mouse and it's a left handed one, I will probably touch it even more because every task I do with it will take longer. Also note that in some cultures the right hand is the "clean" hand (used for eating) and the left hand is considered dirty (used in the bathroom). So using a left-handed mouse might backfire.
    – kapex
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 12:50
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    In fact, I do use a LH trackball. Almost nobody can handle a trackball, so I keep a standard mouse connected as well for "visitors" to use. If they infect each other, well... :-) Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 15:05
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    @CarlWitthoft me too. I have this exact mouse and I have a back "normal" mouse for when other people need to use it. For some reason nobody but me seems to like this mouse. Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 15:24
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    @Kilisi I have to say, you get used to a trackball pretty quickly - it's just different coordination.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 16:41
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    +1 Count me in as a trackball fanboy. It's bloody perfect. I can even play fps games with it. And no one wants to use it :)
    – rath
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 19:31

The truth is that, no matter what you do, you will always be touching surfaces that can be potentially contaminated. Avoiding to share the mouse will not make the situation much better.

In my opinion, you should see the problem in the opposite way.

Assume that your hands will be dirty most of the time. The good news is that, in general, your skin will do its job preventing the germs from entering your body. What you should keep in mind that you should avoid touching in your mouth, eyes or any other mucosa with your hands unless you just washed your them first.


I use a wireless trackball, and have a mouse plugged in. I use the trackball, and everyone else prefers the mouse.

Alternately, use a wireless mouse yourself, and have a wired mouse connected nearby. When someone wants to use your computer or you step away, hold onto your mouse, and they'll use the guest mouse.


Get another mouse and put into a free USB port. Both Windows and Linux support multiple mouses no problem (any can move the mouse pointer).

This is often used in pair programming, and you will also save some time normally required to pass the mouse to the partner.

Hold the hand on your mouse and the partner will take and use another one, because it is free. If you need to come to another workstation, you can bring your own mouse too (may take 10 - 30 seconds till Windows understands the situation but later works fine).


Use a wireless mouse+keyboard set with a usb dongle and always carry them with you to other workstations. When you don't want others to touch yours, simply put it inside a locking drawer and take the key with you.

When you need to control another person's computer, consider using a remote control software so you don't have to leave your workstation and touch other people's input devices.

A guest mouse and keyboard can be left on the table for when you're not available, and your wireless set is locked away.

  • 5
    Do you walk everywhere with your keyboard and mouse? Have you ever needed to take it to places where you normally don't? Like if you pass a colleague and you want to join him for a coffee, do you stay in the break room with a keyboard in hand? This seems like very odd behaviour. Much more so than whiping off your mouse.
    – Reaces
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 17:12
  • If it is very important to not use anyone else's input devices, I suppose you could explain it to whomever you're having lunch with, and go grab your own from your desk after lunch. Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 22:16
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    @Reaces, This wearable mouse should do the trick. images.gizmag.com/hero/airmouse.jpg Hot coffee? No problem. The mouse insulates you. Running low on toilet paper. The mouse knows and directly orders a roll from Amazon (patent pending). Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 11:32

Well, depending on the vibe at your workstation, if you want to make a humorous approach at solving this dispute, why not print out a paper in all caps saying something cheesy, like "Get Your Hands Off My Mouse" and then have a picture of a mouse (The rodent) behind it. It will hopefully make them laugh, and get the idea.

Or, you could just take out the mouse when you leave. And if it's stuck into your computer, just buy your own mouse and bring that wherever you go.

Hope this helped! :)

  • 14
    I don't find this amusing at all and would be rather offended at all-caps commands given via some print out paper. It seems rather impolite to me.
    – dirkk
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 15:28
  • This definitely doesn't meat the criteria of "polite" and I can't imagine a scenario where this is any kind of net positive.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 16:10
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    Seems like fodder for passiveaggressivenotes.com
    – BSMP
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 20:59
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    I like it. It's light-hearted, humourous and meaningful. What's "impolite" is using somebody else's machine. I hate that. Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 23:54
  • The idea that people might genuinely find this suggestion offensive is very silly.
    – Rhys
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 14:13

There are several people in my office who can't help themselves to reach forward to take control of the mouse, type on the keyboard, or touch the computer screen. I have found that moving my chair between the person and the mouse/keyboard/screen to block their access can work very well.

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