Cleaning Terms All Health Club Operators Need to Know [LIST]

Arm yourself with the right vocabulary as you plan your health club's reopening and effectively communicate your cleaning efforts to members.

Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting have been top of mind for club owners as the world plans for reopening after coronavirus-related closures. As you prepare your gym to open its doors again, it is important to communicate to your members exactly what steps you’ve taken and how you plan to keep them and your staff safe.

You may say that you are sanitizing, disinfecting, or deep cleaning your facility. But what does that really mean? Did you know there is a difference between each of those terms? There are also methods of cleaning that—although they have been around for some time—have up until now been heard less frequently and vary in their approach and impact. Fogging, misting, and electrostatic spraying are just a few of the ways you can get the job done. But, which is best for your club?

Check out the glossary of cleaning terms we’ve gathered from health authorities, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to make sure you are using the correct vocabulary when communicating your strategy, and to discover ways you can sufficiently mitigate the risk of harmful diseases.


Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.


Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Deep cleaning

Deep cleaning is a general term for an exceptionally intense cleaning process often including areas that are not highly trafficked, such as behind appliances.

EPA-registered Disinfectants

EPA-registered disinfectants are products that meet United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criteria. It has identified a number of disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.


Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.


Sterilizing is the process of making something free from bacteria or other living microorganisms by bringing it to a high temperature with steam, dry heat, or boiling liquid.

Aqueous, or Liquid Ozone

Aqueous, or liquid ozone, is a powerful oxidizer proven to clean effectively, destroying a host of germs, bacteria, and other contaminants on surfaces, which helps to deodorize and sanitize them. While aqueous ozone is not an EPA-registered disinfectant and should not be used in place of a disinfectant, it does have "kill" rates comparable to the key ingredients found in most hospital-grade disinfectants, according to Facilities Net.

Contact Time

Contact time (or dwell time) is the amount of time a surface should be visibly wet with the disinfectant in order to be effective. Some products require dwell times upwards of 10 minutes, while some should be left to air dry. Always read the instructions on the label of your disinfectant and follow them carefully.

Electrostatic Spraying

Electrostatic spraying delivers an electric charge to the disinfectant solution to help the minuscule droplets adhere to surfaces.

Misters and Fogging Systems

Misters and fogging systems deliver very small droplets of a solution that passively deposit on surfaces based on the direction of spray and the effect of gravity, which may result in uneven coverage.

Non-porous Surface

Non-porous surface is a surface that is not permeable to fluids, such as glass, metal, or plastic.

Porous Surface

Porous surface is a surface that is permeable to fluids, such as carpet, rugs, or material in seating areas.

UV-C Light

UV-C light is an ultraviolet light with a wavelength between 200 and 280 nanometers that can be used to kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses. It works by using its high frequency wavelengths to damage the DNA of the pathogens as well as to prevent reproduction.

Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide Sterilization

Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide Sterilization is a low temperature sterilization process that utilizes hydrogen peroxide vapor to sterilize exposed surfaces.

Facilities cleaning supplies freepik stock column

There are also several alternative disinfecting methods that can be used such as ultrasonic waves, high intensity UV radiation, and LED blue light. However, it is important to note that the effectiveness of these methods against COVID-19 is currently unknown.

Now more than ever, it is necessary to make sure you are doing everything you can to contain the spread of germs in your club. Part of that is ensuring you know the difference between each method of cleaning and that you are clearly and accurately communicating your approach by using the correct terminology.

For more information on staying on top of your cleaning schedules and adding new preventative measures, read IHRSA’s article, “Cleaning, Disinfecting, & Sanitizing Your Gym During COVID-19.” For a list of IHRSA supplier members that provide cleaning products and services, visit Club Business Exchange.

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Katie Willis

Katie Willis previously served as IHRSA's Senior Marketing Operations Manager—a position that created and executed marketing campaigns to grow IHRSA and promote its events.