- It’s important to keep your home gym and equipment free of germs, bacteria, grime, and odors.
- Equipment should be wiped down after every use and deep cleaned at least once a month.
- Cleaning products should disinfect, be safe to breathe in, and not degrade the material of your spin bike, yoga mat, and more.
By now, nearly every health-focused person in America is doing some kind of workout at home. Whether you’ve created a complete garage gym, use a spin bike or dumbbells in your living room, or just roll out a yoga mat for a quick HIIT workout or Vinyasa, every kind of home gym equipment comes into contact with sweat. Unlike a gym where employees come behind you and disinfect everything you and other members have touched, if you aren’t cleaning your equipment, then who is?
“You probably need to clean your home workout space a lot more frequently than you think,” says George Nelson, MD, an epidemiologist and infectious diseases physician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
There are many reasons for cleaning your home gym, like controlling odors and simply having a tidy, presentable area. But 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.
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.
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.