Cause & Effect of Contamination in Computer Rooms and Data Centres

With computer rooms, the equipment contained inside is highly sensitive, and the functions they perform are critical for business operations. Therefore, the need for high levels of contamination control within the environments they are stored in is essential.

The continued operation and long term reliability of the electronic equipment is dependant upon the condition of the environment within the computer room. Computer rooms and the areas surrounding, such as offices, industrial and public areas will raise varying environmental conditions that can have an affect on your computer room.

Therefore, an understanding of the causes and effects of possible contaminants within the environment, on the sensitive equipment in your computer room, is vital for 'ensuring the continuity of the working practices within the operating environment'.

Computer room contaminants can be categorised into one of the following three groups: Gasous, Organic, Particle.


Comes in gas form, has no fixed shaped or volume and fills whatever space it occupies. Types of gaseous contaminants would be chlorine, hydrogen sulphide and sulphur dioxide to name a few. These gases are reducing agents and bring about the reduction of substances and when combined with water form weak acids. These gases corrode electronic components and equipment.


Another airborne contaminant that are more commonly known as hydrocarbons. Types of hydrocarbon contaminants would be petroleum, paraffin, benzine and lubricating oils, and are the result of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and the oxidation of plastics and rubbers. These substances are highly flammable and can bring about the deterioration of electronic components.

Both gaseous and organic contaminants can be controlled through an efficient air filtering system.


More commonly known as dust. There are many forms of 'dust' that can be present in computer rooms, with varying differences in size, composition and possible harmful effects. These contaminants can be abrasive, corrosive, flammable or absorb moisture - all harmful within a computer room environment. Below are some of the most common types of particle contamination that can inhabit your computer room:


Gaining entry into rooms from open doorways, on clothing, etc. The sources of carbon particles include car exhaust fumes, tobacco smoke and printer toners. These particles can be conductive thus causing shorts, but they are also combustible, able to cause fires and are also a reducing agent.

Construction Debris

Found within the construction materials used within the computer room. 'Dust' particles from poorly sealed concrete sub floors, walls, plaster board and brick are created during construction, remodeling work and general erosion. This material is failed to be cleaned up once the work has been completed. These particles are highly abrasive and cause damage to equipment through close contact.

Human Organic Fibres

People entering the computer room can also be accused of contaminating the environment, as humans shed approximately 1 million skin cells every 40 minutes and lose hair regularly. These contaminants can clog electrical equipment and pose as fire risks.

Non-Human Organic Fibres

These natural fibres, such as cotton and wool, can enter a room through clothing, cloths and packaging materials. These fibres are combustible when dry and can cause fires, but are also able to absorb moisture which would result in shorts on electrical equipment.


Metallic dust can contaminate rooms from various sources. From worn components on electrical equipment, such as vacuum cleaners, printers and air conditioning units, to, debris left behind from electrical rewiring or refits, copper wiring, metal shavings, wire snips, are often found in computer rooms. Rust from air coolant pipes, raised floor panels and electronic equipment can also be found. These metallic contaminants can conduct electricity and therefore cause shorts, there is also the possibility of the metallic particles being drawn towards computer equipment due to the magnetic fields that are created within.

Paper Dust

Found through the use of paper, envelopes and packaging material within the computer room. The opening, tearing, ripping and moving or these objects creates paper dust. Paper dust is flammable and is attracted to the magnetic fields generated by the computer equipment.

Synthetic Fibres

Can enter rooms through clothing, cloth and even carpet tiles/carpet fibres. Synthetics melt very easily and become glutinous, which would allow other particles to attach themselves. If it were to become glutinous on an electronic component, it could cause a short and even result in fire.

Schedule a specialist IT clean as part of your maintenance plan