Sponge Blob

Alternately referred to as a "smart compound" and "cleaning goop," this viscous stuff is offered as the latest tool in keyboard germ warfare.

It has been seven and a half years since the University of Arizona indelibly changed much of corporate America's lunch habits by releasing its landmark revelation that the average office desk harbors 400 times more disease-causing microorganisms than the average toilet seat. Even prior to that skin-crawling announcement, though, Meinrad Flury, CEO of the Switzerland-based Joker AG, was busy in his laboratory trying to perfect a substance that could clean and disinfect such tricky-todegrime equipment as computer keyboards, mice, and other components, which, as it turns out, are bacterial hotbeds all.

What Flury came up with aft er 10 years of development is an ectoplasm-like product now being marketed in 51 countries — including, just since June, the United States — as Cyber Clean®. Alternately referred to as a "smart compound" and "cleaning goop," the viscous stuff Flury concocted is similar in consistency to the soft , malleable molding substance called Gak that was created and sold by Nickelodeon and Mattel in the 1990s and, for that matter, to Joker's own Swiss hit toy called Slimy® and any number of other knock-off novelty items aimed at the type of kids who delight in its ability to make faux "flatulence" sounds simply by squishing the substance in its miniature tub.

Cyber Clean, though, is no toy, stresses Alan Sutton, CEO of Cyber Clean Americas, the Cherry Hill, N.J.-based company that sells, markets, and distributes the product in the Americas and Australia. While the compound has the same look and feel of Slimy and like-minded products, Cyber Clean is designed as a cleanser and, as such, is to be kept away from children. That said, Sutton adds that the compound is nevertheless still "fun" and easy to use, off ering a better, safer way than the typical use of compressed air to clean entrenched surfaces such as keyboards.

"Before this product, there really was no efficacious way to clean your keyboard, computer, copy machine, hard drive, or printer," Sutton says. "Cyber Clean is not a gel, it's not a liquid, it's not a cloth, and it's not a spray that just blows dirt and germs all over the place and actually, at the end of the day, spreads germs." Instead, it's a compound made for pressing on to any surface, to which the substance automatically molds itself and lift s out the dirt and dust, which then becomes microencapsulated in the compound, preventing the debris from migrating to the next surface.

"It actually traps the dirt and dust in the compound and disinfects the surface on contact," Sutton says. "Physically, it is very similar to the toy substances, but chemically it's totally diff erent. The other stuff doesn't clean, whereas Cyber Clean takes care of up to 99.99 percent of germs just by pressing it on and pulling it off . There's no rubbing or scrubbing — you just press it on and the dirt is gone. Plus, it has a pH of 7, so it's neutral on the skin and is actually really soft and nice on the hands."

Color-Coded Cleaning

Cyber Clean comes in foil packs, cups, or pop-up tubs, and all these packaging varieties are resealable, which is crucial for continued use. Because the product's proprietary formula includes healthy doses of both water and ethanol, it dries out readily when left exposed. No matter what size product is purchased, though, Sutton says the blob inside can be re-used 75 to 100 times as long as it is resealed.

When it's new, the compound is bright yellow, a color signifying the substance's maximum absorption power. Over time, as it absorbs more and more dirt and dust particles, the blob turns dark green. Sutton says that once it turns that color, it's time to throw out the product and start afresh, because while the stuff is eco-friendly, being "green" with Cyber Clean is not a good thing. "When it changes color, you can throw it on the ground or in the garbage — it's biodegradable," he says.

According to Sutton, Cyber Clean is the first in a series of "a whole range of smart compounds" from the company-- proprietary compounds that he hints could be used to conduct electricity and sound, among other applications. Right now, though, the only other Cyber Clean product available aside from the Home & Office formulation is a slightly altered formula for use in vehicles, suitable for being left in the extreme temperatures encountered when left in car consoles in summer and winter months, for example.

If you give Cyber Clean a try, no matter which formulation you choose, be sure to occasionally apply it to your telephone, because according to that U of Arizona study, apart from your desktop itself, one of the most germ-ridden spots is that receiver you pick up and hold to your face umpteen times each day. To see the microencapsulation process in action and get more details, go to www.cyberclean.tv.

This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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