You wouldn’t leave a workout class without wiping down the mat, but a huge 59% of us are guilty of neglecting to clean our equipment at home. Here are some experts tips on how to wash your own mats and weights.
Working out from home has its perks: there’s no one to judge you for wearing pyjamas during HIIT, there are no queues for equipment, and there’s no danger of lying on, touching or smelling a strangers sweat.
As much as we miss the gym, we don’t miss lying down a bench only to feel the stickiness the person using it before has left. While a new study by the University of Oslo did show that using a gym did not put you at a higher risk of catching coronavirus, research does show that equipment in the free weights area contains more than 360 times the amount of bacteria than a toilet seat.
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“A lot of the organisms you find on workout kit are skin organisms such as staphylococcus and streptococcus,” explains Dr Clare Lanyon, lead microbiologist at Northumbria University. “But one of the surprising organisms that we can isolate from gym equipment is enteric organisms – they’re the organisms that you find in your bowel. To put it plain and simply, when you sweat from around your bottom area, it will transfer the organisms.”
Most at risk of being smothered in germs is any equipment that has a textured surface as this is easy for the germs to bond to. That means anything that has crevices or is made from rubber, plastic or leather-type materials (looking at you benches, barbell pads and yoga mats). However, any surface can be risky as germs thrive in hot, damp locations – the exact environment your workout room becomes when doing a sweaty session.
It isn’t just the germs themselves you should be worried about: excess exposure to bacteria and fungi can lower your immune system, which means we’re more vulnerable to more sinister illnesses.
How often should you clean weights?
“You should be cleaning equipment after every use, regardless of whether it’s been hard and sweaty or just a light workout,” says Dr Lanyon. “If you are living alone, that’s best practice. If you are sharing equipment with anyone else, it’s essential.”
Dr Lanyon recommends using a mild bleach solution made of that would be one part bleach to nine parts water. Mix in a spray bottle and use it to wipe down dumbbells, barbells, plates and resistance bands after every single use.
If you prefer not to use bleach, Dr Lanyon recommends making a bowl of soapy water and wiping equipment with a cloth. “The water must be hot to the hand, and you can use any type of soap, be that a bar of hand soap or washing up liquid. Anything that creates a bubble has something called SDS in it and SDS is the detergent we need to kill germs,” she explains.
How often should you clean yoga mats?
Dr Lanyon says yoga mats should also be cleaned after every single use. Do this with the same soapy mixture so as to not ruin any of the materials that cover your mat. “The most important thing with a yoga mat is to let it dry. Don’t roll it back up while it’s wet,” says Dr Lanyon.
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How often should you clean trainers?
If you have one pair of trainers that you use for runs and for indoor workouts, make sure to give the soles a clean, says Dr Lanyon. “That’s just good practice to make sure that you don’t bring any animal faecal products potentially into the home.”
As for smelly shoes? “The key thing here is to make sure they’re not staying damp to breed bacteria. You don’t necessarily need to wash them more but undo the laces and lay them out to let them dry. Putting a little capsule of bicarbonate of soda in the shoe will also remove any odours,” says Dr Lanyon.
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