Is Your Gym’s Cleaning Process Putting Your Members at Risk?

Your club’s maintenance crew may be doing more harm than good. Here’s why.

Call it the “boutique effect.” The environment and aesthetics of your health club have never been more under scrutiny. Boutiques now constitute as much as 42% of the U.S. health club market, according to a CBS news report, with more than 54 million members committed to these clubs.

Part of what appeals to this growing audience are the design elements of studios. In IHRSA’s Guide to the Boutique Studio Phenomenon, Bryan Dunkelberger, a principal at S3 Design, in Braintree, MA, says that the studio effect capitalizes on spatial creativity. “When we’re trying to create ‘size,’ we keep everything simple and clean,” he says.

This simplicity of an open space that’s clean and inviting creates a number of brand-positive impressions for members. A clean space says your club is well-maintained and hygienic. That’s especially true if that aesthetic is shared by your locker room and shower facilities.

How important is a clean club? According to an IHRSA report, it’s essential to member satisfaction and retention. The report found that 90% of members were more likely to renew their membership if their club maintained high standards of cleanliness.

That may seem like common sense, but the quality of janitorial services can sometimes be overlooked by club operators who have big decisions to make on equipment, marketing, employees, and fitness programming. But what good is having first-class fitness services if members avoid your club’s locker rooms or other areas of the gym because they’re not properly maintained? In fact, the IHRSA report found that lack of cleanliness can drive down nondues revenue across the board because members are repelled by dirty areas and can’t wait to leave the club.

Article image

It’s important for health, too. Some cold and flu viruses can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours. And some cleaning products are inefficient in eliminating them.

You need to maintain high standards for your maintenance services as you do for other features of your club. It’s essential for retention and brand reputation.

More Important for Younger Demographics

Compounding the challenge of maintaining a clean reputation is that members assess a club’s cleanliness in the areas that are the most difficult to maintain: the locker room and shower. IHRSA has found that 75% of members judge a club’s cleanliness standards by their restrooms. With member perceptions acute in these areas, your maintenance staff has to be engaged to regularly monitor locker rooms and showers.

These perceptions are more important if you have a younger clientele. Millennials are “obsessed with cleaning,” says a writer for one lifestyle site, referring to a survey that found that three of four Millennials “thoroughly clean their homes at least once a week.” Environmental and hygienic conditions matter to these members.

IHRSA asked a few club managers for suggestions on how they maintain their club’s high standards of cleanliness. Two recommendations kept coming up:

  • have a cleaning staff available at all times;
  • make sure club cleanliness is a team effort.

“IHRSA has found that 75% of members judge a club’s cleanliness standards by their restrooms.”

Whether you use contractors or hire your own staff for janitorial services, all employees should be part of the effort. IHRSA recommends club owners implement five steps of maintenance awareness:

  1. Know and communicate the reasons for club cleanliness.
  2. Communicate and revisit cleaning protocols.
  3. Conduct frequent inspections.
  4. Encourage personal accountability among staff.
  5. Encourage members to be advocates for a clean club.

But it’s more than awareness that makes a difference. Process does, as well. When it comes to your maintenance staff, you need to know the answers to these questions:

  • How are they cleaning?
  • What type of products are they using?
  • Do they use a laundry service, or do you have laundry facilities in-house?
  • If you have towel service, how are they being collected and laundered?

These are key questions, because if you’re cleaning the wrong way, you’re doing more harm than good.

Avoiding The ‘Mixed’ Laundry Problem

Your laundry services are important to your club’s hygiene. Especially if you have towel service. Why?

Some commercial laundries will minimize costs by throwing a lot of items together that may cross-contaminate. Think about this scenario: A mop is used to clean a locker room floor. That mop head is then thrown in with the rest of the club’s laundry. Unless that laundry service has meticulously modulated the temperature and laundry cleaning solutions, microbes and germs are going to remain on the mops and spread to other materials in the same load. Not only does the mop head never get cleaned, its bacteria has been transferred to the towels.

Yuck. It doesn’t matter how good your maintenance crew is, if their cleaning products are spreading disease-causing germs, you're putting your members at risk.

Article image

Athletix has been creating cleaning products for more than 15 years.

The solution is to rely on cleaning professionals with experience in the health club sector. Athletix Products, a division of Contec, Inc., has been creating cleaning products for health clubs and other athletic facilities for more than 15 years. What they’ve found is that clubs should never use relaunderable mops. They should choose disposable microfiber mops over cotton, rayon, and other laundered mops to avoid cross-contamination.

Kedar Patel, senior product manager for Athletix Products, says that club owners should be aware of how laundry services affect hygiene. “It is really critical to pay attention to the laundry process and to make sure proper load sizes are adhered to so the washer can hit the required temperatures and proper agitation can be achieved and really clean the launderable products. Mixing items like mops, towels, and linens in the same load can really hinder a facility’s cleanliness and potentially impact members.”

Microfiber mops are also important, especially with the types of corrugated and uneven surfaces typical of exercise mats and equipment flooring. Patel says this is important for dry mopping as well. “Single-use (or disposable) microfiber products can help trap dust, and physically remove potential soil loads from surfaces that can build up over time.”

Lastly and for maximum effectiveness, Patel states, “Understanding the impact of mopping applicators when choosing cleaning and disinfecting products is extremely important when developing a facility’s maintenance program.” (To learn more, contact Kedar Patel at kpatel@contecinc.com.)

Athletix Products has a wide range of dry and wet mops, including:

  • PREMIRA Disposable Microfiber Mop Pads. Eliminate cross-contamination risks and provide uniform chemical application for a superior clean.
  • Contec Mirror, Floor, and Mat Mop. Efficient telescoping mops for mirrors and floors.
  • PREMIRA Large Floor Mop. Commercial-grade 48-inch mop for quick gym and studio room cleaning.
  • PREMIRA Tight Quarters Mop. Conveniently sized mop for tight spaces.

With these mops on hand, it’s easier for contractors and employees to maintain high standards of cleanliness.

For more information on these and other cleaning products exclusively developed for health clubs, visit contecclean.com or call 864-503-8333.

Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org