The Best Way To Clean Your Exercise Equipment

Cleaning equipment

If you’re like a lot of gym-goers, getting back into a routine is something you need for both your physical and mental health. That said, you may also be concerned about the cleanliness and safety of using shared exercise equipment—especially since the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread across the country.

To help you stay safe while working out at the gym, here’s what you need to know about cleaning exercise equipment, the right products to use, and other ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

What Equipment Needs Cleaning at the Gym?

The short answer? All equipment needs a good cleaning after each use. In addition to cardio equipment and weights, you should also clean surfaces like counters, check-in areas, paper towel dispensers, and bathrooms, which are touched repeatedly by a number of different people. 

Another high-traffic surface, says Sandra Kesh, MD, an infectious disease specialist and Deputy Medical Director at Westmed Medical Group, are the handles on equipment and display surfaces on gym equipment that may be covered with respiratory droplets when people breathe heavily during exercise.

This includes dumbbells, kettlebells, and handles used to adjust machines, which many people neglect to clean.

How Often Should You Clean?

It’s not uncommon to see people only clean equipment after they use it. The problem with this method is you’re assuming the person before you also wiped down the surface and handles after using the machine.

So, to be on the safe side, make sure you scrub down handles, padding, weights, and any other areas that are commonly touched before you hop on it. 

A good rule of thumb is to clean exercise equipment with a disinfectant such as a spray or wipes before and after each use.

Kesh says it’s also a good idea for gyms to do a deep clean at the end of the day where all other contact surfaces are attended to, including common areas like locker rooms, bathrooms, snack areas, and so forth.

Fitness facilities should have cleaning and sanitizing protocols posted. Make sure to read them over before you start working out, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. 

If you’re wondering how your gym compares to some of the larger facilities, consider Life Time, which has created expanded protocols for every area of each club and program to set a new standard for cleaning and building member trust. According to Bryan Janowiec, Vice President of Facility Operations at Life Time, this includes a substantial 400-page playbook for team members.

“In developing its COVID-related protocols, Life Time enlisted a former state epidemiologist with a wide range of experiences in clinical occupational and environmental medicine to ensure that its protocols fairly satisfy the latest public health considerations,” explains Janowiec.

To help provide members and the broader community with information about its social distancing, cleaning and sanitation, hygiene and screening, and other health-related protocols, the company even launched a club safety pages to its website

What Cleaning Products Are Most Effective?

When it comes to protecting yourself at the gym, you can’t use just any type of cleaning product. To prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, you must use a disinfectant that is shown to work. Fortunately, says Kesh, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website includes a large list of disinfectants that are EPA-approved and active against SARS-CoV-2. 

Most cleaning wipes are also active against COVID-19, but Kersh says if you are uncertain, go to the CDC website. They have several information sheets, including one on cleaning and disinfecting your facility.

Additionally, Kersh says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website has a list of disinfectants to use against SARS-CoV-2. For maximum effectiveness, make sure to follow the instructions on the product label, which often includes keeping the surface wet for a period of time. 

If you do not have access to an EPA or CDC-approved disinfectant, Kesh says alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol and dilutions of household bleach work well.

“It’s important to ensure you follow instructions carefully when diluting the bleach,” says Kersh.

Additionally, the CDC states that when using a diluted household bleach solution, make sure to use bleach containing 5.25 to 8.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. Also, follow the manufacturer’s application instructions and allow for a contact time of at least one minute. And never use a product that is expired. 

The CDC recommends the following bleach solution:

  • Mix 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of 5.25% to 8.25% bleach per gallon of room temperature water OR
  • 4 teaspoons of 5.25% to 8.25% bleach per quart of room temperature water. 

These solutions are effective for disinfection up to 24 hours, according to the CDC. 

Risks of Using Equipment That Is Not Sanitized

One question that comes up frequently when discussing cleaning protocols is how likely is it to contract COVID or pick up other germs from the gym. Kesh says it remains unclear how often surface contamination actually leads to the transmission of COVID since there are a number of steps that must happen in order for the cycle of transmission to be complete. 

“An infected individual needs to deposit infected material on a surface, and another individual needs to touch this material and then touch their own eyes or nose in order to complete the cycle of transmission,” Kesh explains. And this all has to happen before the virus has an opportunity to “dry up.” 

“You can see that an event of this nature is not highly likely, but nevertheless, every effort should be made to clean and reduce the likelihood of transmission,” she says. Therefore, cleaning equipment before and after each person uses it, is the safest way to go.

How to Clean Home Gym Equipment

If you’re working out at home, you might want to think twice before skipping your cleaning protocol at the end of a session.

Even though you’re not sharing a yoga mat or a set of dumbbells with 10 complete strangers, you should still clean all dumbbells, kettlebells, benches, mats, and other equipment after each use. The good news? It only takes a few minutes of your time.

Whenever possible, choose a disinfecting spray or cleaning wipe product from the CDC or EPA approved list discussed above. Wipes are more convenient but they’re also more expensive. If you want to save money, opt for a disinfectant spray and use a dry, microfiber cloth to wipe down machines, weights, and mats.

In addition to cleaning before and after you work out, consider doing a deep-clean once a week. Typically, this involves an extra step of cleaning equipment with soap and water, followed by a disinfectant that kills bacteria and viruses.

This is also an excellent time to give some TLC to areas that might get overlooked such as headphones, indoor cycling shoes, foam rollers, resistance bands, yoga blocks, chairs, mirrors, and the floor. 

Make sure to check the cleaning guidelines set by the manufacturer before applying any type of solution or disinfectant to exercise equipment, mats, or electrically monitors and displays. 

Other Tips to Keep You Safe

Wiping down equipment before and after use is one way to protect yourself from COVID-19 while at the gym. There are several other things you can to do to stay healthy while you exercise.

  • Wear a mask. Some gyms only require the use of a mask when not engaged in strenuous exercise. But it’s not uncommon to see people wearing a mask while lifting weights or doing light cardio workouts.
  • Keep a distance. Try to maintain at least 6 feet between yourself and other gym-goers. But remember, more is better.
  • Wash your hands. Use soap and water before and after working out. Also, consider keeping a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket and reapplying frequently while you exercise. Wash your hands with soap and water before leaving the gym for 20 seconds. If you touch a surface, apply hand sanitizer before getting in your car and wash your hands again when you get home. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Avoid sneezing or coughing. If you need to sneeze or cough, try to hold it and get outside or to the bathroom. If you can’t make it, catch it in a tissue, crease of your elbow, or shirt. 
  • Cover equipment with a clean towel. This can help protect you while you use it. You should still clean all surfaces before and after use. 
  • Do not drink from the water fountain. Bring your own water bottle instead. 
  • Limit time in locker room. Try to avoid changing clothes, showering, or using the restroom while at the gym.
  • Avoid the crowds. When possible, move your workout to off-peak hours. 
  • Keep your hands off your phone while working out. Your best bet? Keep it in the car or your gym bag.

“It’s important to remember that the more people who use shared gym equipment, the larger the potential of exposure,” says Kesh.

Generally, people who come to the gym feel well enough to exercise. However, says Kesh, since we know that up to 40% of infected individuals may be asymptomatic, this does not necessarily provide reassurance. That’s why she cautions her patients to assume that anyone they have contact with could be infected and could be a silent spreader.

“When you have that philosophy in mind, it becomes so much more important to be sure you are cleaning equipment before and after you use it and taking other safeguards like avoiding touching your face and rubbing your eyes, nose, and so forth,” says Kesh. 

A Word From Verywell

Whether you’ve resumed your gym routine or you’re considering heading back, many gym-goers have concerns about the safety of using exercise equipment.

The good news? It is possible to use gyms safely, but as Kesh says, multiple steps need to be taken by gym owners and gym visitors to ensure the risk is minimized.

The bottom line is this: Wear a mask, practice social distancing, and clean all exercise equipment with an EPA-approved disinfectant before and after each use. 

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Article Sources
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