8 cleaning products an infectious disease doctor recommends for your home gym

by fitness journalist
Summary List Placement

  • As many people continue to exercise at home rather than the gym, keeping our workout spaces and equipment free of germs, bacteria, grime, and smells has become increasingly important.
  • Chances are, you’re not cleaning your home gym as often as you should — everyone should wipe down their equipment after every use, and do a deep clean at least once per month.
  • We spoke to Dr. George Nelson, an infectious disease doctor, about the best practices for keeping your gym equipment clean and why you should clean it regularly.
  • The following eight products are safe, eco-friendly, and effective in keeping your equipment, space, and clothing clean — and your family healthy as well.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise and the cold winter weather drives us indoors, chances are your home gym equipment is getting a lot of use — along with a lot of sweat and grime.

Whether you’ve created a complete garage gym, purchased a few pieces of essential equipment like dumbbells and resistance bands, or just use a yoga mat and your own body weight, you’ve probably wondered at some point: How often do I really have to clean my own workout equipment? After all, you’re not sharing it with a bunch of other sweaty gym-goers, so it’s probably a lot safer… right? 

Not so fast: “You probably need to clean your home workout space a lot more frequently than you think,” says Dr. George Nelson, MD, an epidemiologist and infectious diseases physician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

While there are many reasons for cleaning your home gym like controlling odors and simply having a tidy, presentable area, it’s also essential from a health perspective to control the spread of germs, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. These bugs are the culprits for a range of health issues such as staph infections, the common cold, athlete’s foot, and more.

While the length of time bacteria, viruses, and fungi can survive on surfaces varies, their hardiness might surprise you. Bacteria can survive on hard surfaces for days and even months under the right (or in this case, wrong) conditions, Dr. Nelson says. Common cold viruses can last several hours to days, and the virus that causes COVID-19 has been shown to live on metal surfaces for up to three days.

How often do you need to clean your home gym? 

A general rule of thumb would be to wipe down “high-touch surfaces,” such as dumbbells, mats, or a bench, after every use, Dr. Nelson recommends. “You can serve as an unwitting courier for bacteria from anything you’ve come in contact with during the day — think: subway rail, grocery cart, your coworker’s desk,” he explains. 

If you share equipment with someone else, even if they live in your household, you’ll also want to disinfect surfaces in addition to wiping them down after each use, Dr. Nelson adds. 

Ideally, you should deep clean at least once a month — more often if you use your home gym a lot or if the space has poor circulation or is damp, Dr. Nelson says. 

How to clean your home gym equipment

For your regular cleaning, first wipe the equipment down with plain old soap and water, a damp cloth, or a dry dust cloth depending on what your equipment can handle, Dr. Nelson recommends. You’ll want to remove visible dirt and particles because those will “serve as a barricade to protect any resident bugs,” he explains.

Note: Be sure to unplug all electronics first and avoid drenching anything with electrical input or output, like the display on a spin bike. 

Then, choose a disinfectant that kills bacteria and viruses. In addition to the recommendations below, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) official guidelines for disinfecting your home.

A note of caution: “Many clear plastic displays and housings are made from polycarbonate, which has low chemical resistance to base alcohol solutions found in cleaners such as Lysol, Windex, and bleach,” explains Alex Davis, a fitness expert and former plastics engineer. You’ve likely seen the effects of hard cleaners on credit card checkout kiosks and the like, with cracked panels and erased number keys. For polycarbonate equipment, wash displays with only mild dish soap and water with a soft material, as sponges can also scratch, Davis advises.

During your monthly deep clean, soak any mats, clean items you use less frequently, and take extra care to clean areas that might get overlooked, such as the floor, handlebars, chairs, foam rollers, resistance bands, and yoga blocks. Don’t forget about your phone and headphones, too. 

Most importantly, let the disinfectant sit on all surfaces for a bit. These products have a “dwell time,” meaning the time the solution has to be in contact with the bacteria to do its job, Dr. Nelson says. In other words, if you wipe off disinfectant right away, you may compromise its effectiveness, so be sure to take a look at the directions before using a disinfectant, he recommends.

Finally, think about wearables: “If you wear the same watch for exercise and daily use, consider taking it off after vigorous exercise to let your skin breath and give it a quick wipe down so sweat and bacteria aren’t trapped up against your skin,” Dr. Nelson recommends.

These recommendations and precautions are only half the battle — you’ll also want to make sure you have the right products on hand. To help, I’ve rounded up a selection of the products I’ve used (and enjoyed) the most in keeping my gym equipment, workout space, and clothing clean. 

Here are the best products for cleaning home gym equipment

Seedling by Grove Compostable Kitchen Wipes

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For a convenient and eco-friendly way to quickly wipe down your equipment after each use, I’ve been turning to Grove Collaborative’s bamboo wipes. These unscented wipes are not a disinfectant, but they hold up surprisingly well when cleaning grime and sweat off of gym equipment. Compost them with your local collection service once a month so the wipe-down process is not only simplified but totally guilt-free.

Force of Nature Starter Kit

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This disinfectant is a bit complicated to set up — it’s somewhat of a DIY process involving an appliance that turns tap water, plus a capsule of salt, water, and vinegar into a multi-purpose natural cleaner. But it’s worth it to then have an eco-friendly multi-purpose cleaner that’s as effective as bleach as a disinfectant, yet completely safe for kids and pets, and won’t trigger allergies or asthma.  In fact, Force of Nature is on the EPA’s list of disinfectants that kill the COVID-19 virus.

The spray can be used in place of any household cleaner, so it’s not only great for your gym equipment, but also the kitchen, bathroom, and floors.

For more disinfecting cleaners, check out this list. 

Casabella Infuse Spray Mop Kit

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This reusable microfiber mop pad is an ideal tool for deep cleaning your gym floor. It’s reusable, effective, and versatile for all different types of material, including ceramic tile, linoleum, and sealed hardwood. All you need to do is fill the spray bottle with water and load in the lemon-scented cleaning concentrate, and you’re good to go. 

Manduka Mat Wash Spray

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“I spray my mat with this essential oil-based mat spray and wipe it down after each practice,” says Samson Frederick, CorePower Yoga Master Trainer. Formulated for use on all yoga mats, this spray offers a quick way to wipe down post-practice, but also in a deep clean: Soak your mat with the spay, allow it to sit for five minutes, then scrub it with a damp cloth. 

Tide One Wash Miracle

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“I can’t highlight this discovery enough: After 10 years of practicing hot yoga, I finally found the product that works to remove odor from athletic apparel,” says Frederick. “This lifeline has rescued even the most pungent of my workout wear.” 

It’s not technically detergent as it’s meant to be used in place of your detergent every so often or as needed, but add it to a cycle of your stinkiest sweat-wear and it eliminates any funky odors in just one wash cycle. 

Hex Laundry Detergent

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If you exercise often, you know that some of your workout clothes tend to start smelling a little… stale, to put it nicely. This powerful yet eco-friendly detergent has odor-fighting molecules designed specifically for the tight-knit fibers of activewear, so they penetrate the fabric to get to the source of stink. It’s now available in four different scents, as well as fragrance-free. 

Puracy Natural Carpet and Upholstery Shampoo

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Lots of home fitness spaces include porous surfaces, such as benches, chairs, carpets, or even a living room rug (hey, sometimes you just can’t find a mat!). That’s where this 99.96 percent-natural upholstery shampoo comes in handy. It gets rid of dirt, grime, odors and funks, and it’s pet- and kid-safe.

Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

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These super-soft microfiber cloths are a must for any home gym. Simply wet with warm water to remove sweat from equipment after each use, says Ruggero Loda, founder of Running Shoes Guru. 

They also work great before a deep clean to effectively remove dust and grime from any surface without scratching it. 

This content was originally published here.

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