COVID-19 Cleaning Your Gym spotlight

11 Steps for Disinfecting your Fitness Facility

Dr. Scott Cheatham 0

How clean is your facility? This question is one every personal trainer should ask themselves. With the onset of the COVID-19 virus and the presence of other harmful germs (bacteria, viruses, fungus), trainers need to review their disinfecting procedures to protect their clients' health.

This blog post examines 11 critical steps for maintaining a clean facility:

  • A 5 step process for disinfecting your gym.
  • Client education in 3 steps
  • Facility cleaning and documentation in 3 steps

And provides additional information on:

  • PPE discussions and protection from contaminants.
  • The difference between sterilization and sanitization.
  • Commercial disinfectants
  • And more!

Good cleaning practices for your gym start here. Let's start with an overview of how the gym can be a breeding ground for bacteria. 

The gym: a common environment for harmful germs

Personal trainers work in a wide variety of different workout spaces: commercial gyms, small studios, and client’s homes - to name a few. In all these settings, there are surfaces and equipment that are touched by many different individuals.

Several research studies found that gyms contained high amounts of viruses and bacteria on various surfaces (e.g., floors, counters), and exercise equipment (Markley et al., 2012; Mukherjee et al., 2014).

One research study found that exercise equipment was contaminated with viruses more than bacteria. Specifically, weight equipment was more contaminated than aerobic equipment (Goldhammer et al., 2006). The busy fitness facility often involves multiple individuals touching the same surfaces and equipment, which can increase the spread of harmful germs.

how to disinfect your gym in 5 Steps

5 steps for completely washing your hands

When disinfecting your gym, your fitness professionals are advised to follow these five essential steps in the cleaning process.

  1. Wash hands before cleaning. Wash hands with soap and water or rub hands together using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (e.g., 60-70% alcohol) for a minimum of 20 seconds (Fuls et al., 2008; Honda & Iwata, 2016).
  2. Wear PPEs during cleaning (Honda & Iwata, 2016).
  3. If using wipes, the surface should be wiped in the same direction to prevent contamination versus back and forth.Multiple wipes may need to be used. If using a spray, the surface can simply be sprayed down.
  4. The disinfectant liquid must remain on the surface for a specific amount of time-based upon the product recommendations.
  5. When finished, dispose of any PPE, cleaning materials, and re-wash hands.

When using shared portable equipment such as a foam roller or stability ball, it is not uncommon for different individuals to touch the equipment’s surface. These objects may need to be disinfected several times a day.

After disinfecting, the professional may want to flush the piece of equipment with soap and clean water to wash away any dried chemical disinfectant, which could irritate a client’s skin.

Client Education: 3 Steps towards a cleaner gym

As a fitness professional, you may want to teach your client how to prevent the spread of harmful germs. You can explain the process in three easy steps: cover, wipe, then wash.

1. Use a towel to cover the equipment when used during the workout to create a barrier between the client and the equipment surface.

2. Use a clean towel or a disinfectant wipe to clean the equipment surface after use. This especially applies to individuals who may sweat on the equipment.

3. Wash hands after the workout. This is a crucial measure to prevent the spread of harmful germs among individuals (Larson et al., 2007).

Facility Cleaning and Documentation in 3 Steps

Preventing the spread of harmful germs should be a priority for any fitness organization and professional. Fitness facilities can ensure a clean and safe environment by following three steps: training, cleaning schedule, and documentation.

1. fitness organizations should properly train all employees in personal hygiene (e.g., washing hands) and disinfecting procedures. Employees should learn how to safely use the disinfectants, including “wet time” and the use of PPE.

All employees should know the location of each product’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS). The SDS is a document that provides employees with procedures for safe handling of the disinfectant and what steps need to be taken in case of an emergency (e.g., disinfectant got in the eyes) (Allen, 2017). Usually, the SDS’s are in a binder in a central location.

2. Every organization should have a daily cleaning schedule for employees to follow to ensure the facility is cleaned regularly.  

3. There should be a continuous documentation log of cleaning practices to ensure that all facility disinfecting is being accomplished daily. Having a consistent, daily cleaning schedule can be difficult in a busy facility. Organizations should strive to have a reliable cleaning plan to protect professionals and clients.

the difference between Disinfecting, sanitizing, and sterilizing

There are many terms used to describe cleaning a facility. Surprisingly, these terms have an essential role in defining how your facility is cleaned. Let’s break it down into three essential words: disinfect, sanitize, and sterilize.

Disinfect

Perhaps the most important word is disinfect, which describes a cleaning process of eliminating or reducing nearly 100% of harmful germs on surfaces and equipment (Wiemken et al., 2016).

Sanitize

This is another word that is often used interchangeably with disinfect. Sanitize describes a cleaning process that lowers the level of germs on a surface but not as much as disinfecting (Song et al., 2019).

sterilize

which describes the killing of all harmful germs through a complex thermal (e.g., dry or wet heat) or non-thermal  (e.g., chemical, radiation) process (Seavey, 2013). Sterilization is often done in hospitals where a high level of cleaning is necessary to prevent the spread of harmful germs. 

is it better to disinfect or sanitize gym equipment?

Most fitness facility surfaces and equipment are non-porous (not allowing liquid or air to pass through) and can be sanitized or disinfected (West et al., 2018). Non-porous surfaces include glass, metals, plastics, glazed tiles, and marble.

Disinfection is preferred for fitness facilities. This can be done by using some type of cleaning agent recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Larson et al., 2007).

Commercial Disinfectants

Disinfecting surfaces or equipment often includes the use of an EPA approved commercial cleaner in the form of a spray or a ready-to-use wipe. The CDC and EPA recommend using, at a minimum, an approved low-level chemical disinfectant or, more preferably, an intermediate-level disinfectant (Table 1) (Nielsen et al., 2012; Veiga-Malta, 2016).

Common intermediate-level disinfectants include 70% isopropyl alcohol, Lysol® brand disinfectant products, and Clorox® brand disinfectant products. Bleach can also be used to clean (e.g., 5 tablespoons or 1/3 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water) but can be corrosive to some surfaces.  

Fit Pros should follow the directions when using a commercial disinfectant. Most products require the liquid to remain on the surface for a specific amount of time to be effective, which is based upon the product’s “wet time” (Rutala & Weber, 2016).

For example, to sanitize a surface, the Lysol® brand wipes recommend a “wet time” of 10 seconds and to disinfect a “wet time” of 4 minutes. Each product will have its own recommended time that is specified on the label.

         Table 1. Center for Disease Control Levels of Disinfection

Intermediate-level disinfection

These disinfectants kill mycobacterium, most viruses, and bacteria with a chemical germicide registered as a “tuberculocide” by EPA.

Low-level disinfection

These disinfectants kill some viruses and bacteria such as HIV with a chemical germicide registered as a hospital disinfectant by the EPA.

EPA: Environmental Protective Agency; HBV: Hepatitis B Virus, HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Protect Yourself While cleaning your workout facility

Experts often advise trainers to wear some type of personal protective equipment (PPE) when cleaning. PPEs commonly include a gown, helmet, glasses/goggles, face shield, face mask, and gloves (Honda & Iwata, 2016).

At a minimum, you should use gloves and a mask before cleaning. A mask is not only a good idea for protecting yourself from contaminants, but for also preventing the likelihood that others get sick as well.

A mask can be worn if the product creates an unhealthy odor, or there is no proper ventilation. The instructions on the product will have recommendations.

Conclusion

NASM recommends that all fitness facilities and personal trainers follow proper disinfecting guidelines to help prevent the spread of harmful germs. A summary of the current recommendations are as follows:

  • Fitness facilities and Fit Pros should have a daily plan for disinfecting surfaces and equipment.
  • Disinfection is preferred versus sanitization for fitness facility surfaces and equipment.
  • An EPA approved intermediate-level disinfectant is preferred for cleaning facility surfaces and equipment.
  • Professionals should follow the recommended 5 step cleaning procedure, which includes: washing hands, wear PPE, cleaning the surface, leaving the surface wet, and disposing materials, and re-washing hands.
  • Clients can also be educated on their role in helping to prevent the transmission of microorganisms by following three steps: cover, wipe, wash.
  • Fitness facilities should follow the three recommendations for cleaning and documentation: proper training, cleaning schedule, and documentation.

References

Allen, L. V., Jr. (2017, Mar-Apr). Quality Control: (Material) Safety Data Sheets. Int J Pharm Compd, 21(2), 118-124.

Fuls, J. L., Rodgers, N. D., Fischler, G. E., Howard, J. M., Patel, M., Weidner, P. L., & Duran, M. H. (2008, Jun). Alternative hand contamination technique to compare the activities of antimicrobial and nonantimicrobial soaps under different test conditions. Appl Environ Microbiol, 74(12), 3739-3744. https://doi.org/10.1128/aem.02405-07

Goldhammer, K. A., Dooley, D. P., Ayala, E., Zera, W., & Hill, B. L. (2006, Jan). Prospective study of bacterial and viral contamination of exercise equipment. Clin J Sport Med, 16(1), 34-38. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.jsm.0000181436.41268.1f

Honda, H., & Iwata, K. (2016, Aug). Personal protective equipment and improving compliance among healthcare workers in high-risk settings. Curr Opin Infect Dis, 29(4), 400-406. https://doi.org/10.1097/qco.0000000000000280

Larson, E. L., Quiros, D., & Lin, S. X. (2007). Dissemination of the CDC’s Hand Hygiene Guideline and impact on infection rates. American journal of infection control, 35(10), 666-675. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajic.2006.10.006

Markley, J. D., Edmond, M. B., Major, Y., Bearman, G., & Stevens, M. P. (2012, 2012/12/01/). Are gym surfaces reservoirs for Staphylococcus aureus? A point prevalence survey. American journal of infection control, 40(10), 1008-1009. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajic.2012.01.015

Mukherjee, N., Dowd, S. E., Wise, A., Kedia, S., Vohra, V., & Banerjee, P. (2014). Diversity of Bacterial Communities of Fitness Center Surfaces in a U.S. Metropolitan Area. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(12), 12544-12561. https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/12/12544

Nielsen, A., Kligler, B., & Koll, B. S. (2012, Oct). Safety protocols for gua sha (press-stroking) and baguan (cupping). Complement Ther Med, 20(5), 340-344. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2012.05.004

Rutala, W. A., & Weber, D. J. (2016, May 2). Monitoring and improving the effectiveness of surface cleaning and disinfection. Am J Infect Control, 44(5 Suppl), e69-76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajic.2015.10.039

Seavey, R. (2013, May). High-level disinfection, sterilization, and antisepsis: current issues in reprocessing medical and surgical instruments. American journal of infection control, 41(5 Suppl), S111-117. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajic.2012.09.030

Song, X., Vossebein, L., & Zille, A. (2019). Efficacy of disinfectant-impregnated wipes used for surface disinfection in hospitals: a review. Antimicrobial resistance and infection control, 8, 139-139. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13756-019-0595-2

Veiga-Malta, I. (2016, Apr 2). Preventing Healthcare-Associated Infections by Monitoring the Cleanliness of Medical Devices and Other Critical Points in a Sterilization Service. Biomed Instrum Technol, 50 Suppl 3, 45-52. https://doi.org/10.2345/0899-8205-50.s3.45

West, A. M., Nkemngong, C. A., Voorn, M. G., Wu, T., Li, X., Teska, P. J., & Oliver, H. F. (2018). Surface area wiped, product type, and target strain impact bactericidal efficacy of ready-to-use disinfectant Towelettes. Antimicrob Resist Infect Control, 7, 122. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13756-018-0416-z

Wiemken, T. L., Powell, W., Carrico, R. M., Mattingly, W. A., Kelley, R. R., Furmanek, S. P., Johnson, D., & Ramirez, J. A. (2016, Dec 1). Disinfectant sprays versus wipes: Applications in behavioral health. American journal of infection control, 44(12), 1698-1699. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajic.2016.05.028

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The Author

Dr. Scott Cheatham

Dr. Scott Cheatham has a PhD in Physical Therapy and is an Associate Professor in the Division of Kinesiology at California State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, California. He is owner of Sports Medicine Alliance (SMA). He also holds several fitness certifications and is a certified ergonomic specialist. He has also authored 100+ publications on a wide range of subjects including: health, fitness, orthopedics, and sports medicine. Additionally, Dr. Scott Cheatham is a NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist.