On a good day, a single piece of gym equipment may have over 100 users and not all of them clean up after using the machines. Sweat isn't the only problem, viruses can live on a surface anywhere from a few seconds to 48 hours.
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Health Factors to Consider
According to a December 2018 study published by Association for Behavior Analysis International, exercising at public gyms can expose a person to bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus.
All it takes to catch a cold is to touch an infected surface and rub your eyes or nose. Gyms do clean their machines but it is still easy to become exposed to another person's sweat if you use the machine shortly after they do.
To protect yourself, there are several options for wiping down the machines both before and after your workout. Home machines may not present the same health hazards but sweat corrodes metal and breaks down the vinyl and foam padding on most exercise machines — making home gym disinfectant a must-have.
Gym Equipment Cleaner
Many gyms offer either wet wipes or spray bottles for patrons to use and, chances are, these are your best bet when it comes to equipment cleaning. These spray bottles may contain an ammonia solution or a similar cleaning agent.
Store-Bought Wet Wipes
If your gym does not offer bottles of gym disinfectant spray or wipes, you can use your own wet wipes. Drug stores and supermarkets carry name-brand wipes as well as generics.
Try Vinegar and Water
Mix a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar in a trigger spray bottle and keep it on hand to wipe down the machines. Carry a small pump spray bottle in your gym bag for use at the gym. Spray the solution directly on the machine or on a rag or paper towel. Wipe the machine thoroughly to prevent corrosion.
Consider Borax Solution
Mix two tablespoons of borax and one-quarter cup of lemon juice in a trigger spray bottle, with two cups of hot water. Keep it on hand to wipe down your machine and shake well before each use. This solution may not work well in a pump spray bottle because the borax may clog the smaller spray opening. But an adjustable trigger spray should hold up well inside a gym bag.
Carry a Towel
While towels will not kill viruses or bacteria, they do wipe up sweat well. Bring an extra towel to your workout for wiping down the machines and be sure to keep that towel separate from your workout towel. Avoid wiping your face with the towel to help prevent the spread of germs.
Practice Good Hygiene
In addition good cleaning gym equipment etiquette, you can help reduce germs and decrease risk of illness by practicing good hygiene at the gym and after your workout. For example, always wear some type of footwear in the locker rooms and showers to avoid exposure to bacteria and fungi. Wash your hands for at least 20 full seconds before and after your workout, with warm water and soap.
Whenever possible, take a shower immediately after your workout to wash away dirt and germs, and change into clean clothing. Place your workout clothes in a separate bag and launder them as soon as possible.
- Association for Behavior Analysis International: "Increasing the Post-Use Cleaning of Gym Equipment Using Prompts and Increased Access to Cleaning Materials"
- Semantic Scholar: "The efficacy of ATP removal on gym contact surfaces using disinfectant wipes"
- Mayo Clinic: "Hand-Washing: Do's and don'ts"
- Cleaning and Sanitizing Home Gym Equipment