5 Steps to Cleaning Your Fitness Business in the Wake of COVID-19
By Sara Lesher
Whether you’ve already reopened your doors, or you’re still working your way through our Fitness Reboot Kit, you’ve probably thought a lot about hygiene and cleaning at your fitness business post-COVID-19 and into the “new normal.” Now, more than ever, your clients will expect the most thorough cleaning strategies to help them feel at ease when they finally start to return to your studio or gym. In fact, in a survey conducted by Mindbody, 92% of consumers surveyed said that following rigorous sanitization guidelines would be important in their decision to visit a fitness business when it reopens. (Survey conducted in early May, 2020).
It’s important to come up with a strategy to ensure your clients feel safe, comfortable, and informed about what you’re doing to increase cleaning and hygiene efforts. Thankfully, there are many great organizations offering their help.
Here are five steps to take and various resources to use when creating a cleaning and sanitization plan for your fitness studio.
1. Do your research
While navigating procedures during COVID-19, it’s best to look to the experts. The CDC’s Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting provides detailed guidance for cleaning and disinfecting businesses. Plus, the CDC offers an easy-to-follow Cleaning & Disinfecting Decision Tool to help you understand which areas and surfaces need to be cleaned before you open your doors with confidence.
Your first step is to research and understand the local government jurisdiction guidelines and resources available for facilities like yours. For example, the state of Wisconsin created a comprehensive guide to prepare WI-based fitness facilities (Guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19) for reopening.
Be sure you (and your team) have a good understanding of what disinfecting products meet the EPA criteria and can be used against COVID-19. You’ll also need to learn the differences between cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting, and sterilizing:
- Cleaning (with soap and water) can remove impurities, germs and dirt. The CDC recommends cleaning surfaces before disinfecting.
- Sanitization (with appropriate products) reduces bacteria specifically identified on product packaging.
- Disinfecting (with appropriate products) is the process of destroying pathogenic microorganisms and removing most organisms present on a surface.
- Sterilization (which is typically not necessary for your fitness facility or equipment) is the process that eliminates all forms of life (such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi).
Research and consider how to clean the various surfaces within your facility. For hard and non-porous materials like glass, metal, or plastic, clean the surfaces prior to disinfecting. For soft and porous materials in your studio (like carpeting, rugs, upholstered chairs, etc.), you may want to remove them entirely.
Government agencies may also prohibit certain activities or offerings. Do your research to determine which, if any, areas of your facility or amenities will be impacted. For example, you may choose, or may be required to close areas such as climbing walls, dining/food areas, childcare, saunas, pools/Jacuzzis, locker rooms/showers, etc.
When conducting research, also consider your ventilation systems. The Association of Fitness Studios recommends increasing the outdoor air change rate and upgrading HVAC filtration to MERV-13 or the highest achievable level (and if you can’t sufficiently increase fresh air, consider adding a self-standing HEPA filtration Unit, based on recommendations from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.)
2. Create your cleaning plan
Cleaning and disinfecting will be an important part of your reopening plan and your operational approach moving forward. As you create your plan, keep in mind that these will likely be your new cleaning protocols going forward into our “new normal,” not just a short-term solution for reopening.
Some elements of your plan may include:
- Itemize all areas, surfaces, and equipment that will need to be cleaned in your facility. Note how often each surface is touched so you can determine how often they will need to be cleaned. Don’t forget about office areas, shared workstations/computers, etc.
- Prioritize disinfecting frequently touched surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, bathroom facilities, etc.).
- Clean all gym equipment after each use. Your plan will need to build in time to clean the equipment. Outline the supplies necessary to accomplish those cleanings, too.
- Consider how you use equipment during classes. Do you want to take the time to clean equipment between clients, or do you adapt your class structure so equipment is never shared during a class period?
- Create a cleaning schedule for both the facility and equipment. Make sure your employees follow and document the cleaning schedule.
- Remove items or update unnecessary processes. For example, remove rugs, eliminate waiting rooms, eliminate physical front desk check-in, etc.).
Part of your plan may also include asking your staff and clients to formally agree to follow your cleaning/sanitizing protocols (e.g., you may want them to sign a form agreeing to washing hands before class, wiping down all gym equipment, etc.).
3. Stock up on supplies
Make sure you have an adequate supply of cleaning products on hand before you open. The EPA has a list of EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19.
How much will you need? Conduct a test-run. Clean your studio and equipment as if your space was occupied to determine how much cleaning product you'll need per class/per day. Make sure you have an adequate inventory to maintain your cleaning protocols going forward.
Many fitness studios have turned to a company called Soliro, which offers hospital-grade cleaning using patented Monofoil technology. During this time of transition, Soliro is offering consultation services. This includes use of multiple surface tests with an ATP meter to indicate whether your surfaces are within the EPA and CDC’s acceptable guidelines. If your surfaces aren't safe, they can prescribe a cleaning regimen to bring you within standard. (If you’d like to set up a consultation for your studio, you can reach out to Jason Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 949-400-2348).
Still having difficulty finding supplies? Here’s another source many businesses are using.
Another option: Use alternative disinfectants such as 1/3 cup bleach added to 1 gallon water until you can get an adequate supply.
You'll also want to consider the supplies your clients and staff will need. For example:
- Hand soap
- Hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol)
- Sanitizing wipes
- Gloves (for you and your staff to use while cleaning and disinfecting)
- Personal protective equipment (for cleaning)
You may also want to invest in non-touch garbage cans, hand sanitizer/soap dispensers, etc.
Formula for determining cleaning supplies:
- Determine disinfectant/cleaning supplies/PPE needed to clean/disinfect facility for each class
- Multiply by number of classes per day
- Plus disinfectant/cleaning supplies needed for overall facility cleaning daily
- Plus disinfectant/supplies used by clients daily
- Multiply this by the number of days of inventory you want on hand
- Equals cleaning supplies needed.
4. Train your staff
You, your staff, and/or your custodial staff will need to be trained on your new cleaning/disinfecting protocols. It's extremely important that your entire team understands the importance of following these procedures and the consequences if they don’t. (It's a good idea to update your employee handbook with this information as well).
Before reopening, walk your staff through all the cleaning protocols. Be sure to explain how you're considering their safety as well (e.g., by providing adequate personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks, etc.).
Do a dry run for your cleaning procedures to determine the time you'll need to properly clean between classes. Adjust your schedule accordingly.
The National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM) offers these 5 steps in the cleaning process, which may be helpful to communicate as you train your staff:
- Wash your hands before cleaning.
- Wear Personal Protective Equipment (gloves, mask) while cleaning.
- If using wipes, make sure to wipe in the same direction to prevent contamination from a back and forth motion (you may need to use multiple wipes).
- Make sure the disinfectant remains on the surface for the time specified by the product manufacturer.
- When you're finished, dispose of any PPE and cleaning materials, and wash your hands.
5. Communicate procedures to your clients
Some members of your community will be understandably nervous about re-entering businesses. Before opening, communicate the steps you’re taking to clean and disinfect your facility.
Do so with:
- Virtual meetings or phone calls
- Signage in your facility
- Social media
We’re all doing our best to maintain health and safety during this time. As you reopen your studio, it's your responsibility to maintain the highest standards of cleanliness to do just that.
When in doubt, look to your government agencies and industry associations for updates and guidelines applicable to your business. We’re all in this together!
- IHRSA, Cleaning, Disinfecting, & Sanitizing Your Gym During COVID-19
- National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), 11 Steps for disinfecting your fitness facility
- International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), Cleaning, Disinfecting, & Sanitizing Your Gym During COVID-19
- Pavigym, New protocol for the cleaning and disinfection of gyms
- Wisconsin, Guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19.
- USA Mixed Martial Arts Federation (UMMAF), Keeping Your Gym Properly Sanitized
- Soliro - Hospital-grade cleaning product
- CDC – General information and best practices about ongoing sanitization in your day-to-day life
- Yoga Alliance Guidebook to Re-opening and Recovering
- Association of Fitness Studios (AFS), Reopening Guidelines
- Coalition for the Registration of Exercise Professionals (CREP), Re-opening Guide