Bust any bacteria with these expert-backed tips.
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It's no secret that exercising is good for both your physical and mental health, so when fitness centers shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic, gym-goers everywhere turned inwards, converting areas of their home or garage into personal workout centers. Much like working from home, it seems like at-home workouts are here to stay. According to a recent survey from Beachbody, a Santa Monica–based health and fitness company, nine in ten Americans who exercise regularly say they will continue to exercise at home even after they feel comfortable returning to a fitness center.

at-home gym equiptment
Credit: Getty / Peter Stark

But here's the thing: Just because you're getting your sweat on at home doesn't mean you can abandon all cleaning protocols—COVID-19 concerns or not. While you'll surely encounter more germs in a public facility, gyms tend to breed bacteria because the items inside are high touch surfaces that regularly get covered in sweat droplets and aerosols. In a recent study in which nearly 300 swabs were taken from surfaces at fitness facilities, researchers found the more bacteria (including Staphylococcus aureus and MRSA) on items like weight balls, weight plates, and treadmill handles than they did on bathroom levers and door handles. Even if you don't regularly share your at-home equipment, this should give you pause enough to think about wiping down those surfaces. At your local gym, it's proper etiquette to wipe down the machine, weights, or mats after each use, but at home the occasional clean should do. Aim for at least once a week, more if someone who uses the machine is sick.

The best way to clean home gym equipment is to use a microfiber cloth ($13.94 for 24, amazon.com) and a good quality natural all-purpose cleaner ($18.99 for three, amazon.com) proven to kill bacteria and viruses (look for the words "disinfect," "disinfectant," "antibacterial" or "sanitize" on the label). Microfiber cloths are gentle on equipment, plus they are less likely to leave streaks on screens. And harsh chemicals like bleach, amonia, and alcohol can negatively affect both your health and the your exercise equipment—especially machines with delicate features like screens, says Alicia Sokolowski, president and founder of AspenClean. For a quick cheat, you could also use gentle cleaning wipes ($41.22 for six, amazon.com).

Of course, exactly how you clean your equipment depends on what exactly you're wiping down. Here, experts explain how to tackle some of the most common items.

Yoga or Workout Mats

To refresh your mats, spray cleaner directly onto the mat, let it sit for the recommended time on the packaging, then wipe dry with a microfiber cloth. If you opt for cleaning wipes, be sure to let the surface dry before rolling your mat up or using it again. For a deeper clean, you can place your yoga mat in a basin like the bathtub, submerge it in warm, soapy water, and give it a good scrub down, says Sokolowski.

Free and Standing Weights

Similarly, all you need to do to clean free and standing weights is spritz them with cleaning spray, wait the recommended time on the packaging, then wipe them dry. Again, make sure the items are completely dry before using them.

Cardio Machines

When cleaning machines such as treadmills, bikes, or ellipticals, first make sure they are unplugged. Then, focus on high-touch spots, particularly handles, screen, and seats, says Dr. Jeanne Breen, an infectious disease physician and researcher. Of course, it's a good idea to tackle other areas of the machine, including pedals or the tread of your treadmill since these are spots your dirty shoes touch.

If your machine has a high-tech screen (like the tablet on the Peloton, for example), use a glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth to minimize streaks, says Sokolowski. To be safe, always spray the cleaner onto the cloth, not directly onto the screen, and then wipe, advises Sokolowski.

Resistance Bands

The easiest way to clean these wiggly, malleable items is to submerge them in a bucket (or tub) of warm, soapy water, then scrub it like you would your yoga mat, says Sokolowski. Then, lay the bands out to air dry. (Just note: It's best to avoid direct sunlight, which can prematurely age your equipment.)

Foam Rollers

You might be tempted to toss your rollers in with items like resistance bands or yoga mats, but it's a bad idea since these items can absorb excess water. Instead, wipe them down the way you would a yoga mat, says Sokolowski. Spritz them with cleaning spray, let sit for the recommended amount of time, then wipe dry.


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