ICS Magazine

Vapor Technology for Health Club Maintenance

April 15, 2004

More people are working out in health clubs and gyms today than at any other time in history. In the United States, health club membership is increasing at about 5 percent per year, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). In addition, the actual use of gyms by their members has soared. In 1990, the average attendance in a gym was just 58 days per year; today that number has almost doubled.

Because of their increasing popularity and use, more effective ways to clean and sanitize gyms have become necessary. One of the big problems health clubs have is in cleaning the machines used by their patrons. During the course of a workout, people perspire - sometimes even bleed - while using the equipment. If left unchecked, these bodily fluids have the capacity to spread athlete's foot, scabies, lice, hepatitis and more.

One of the most efficient ways to keep a gym clean and healthy is to develop an ongoing maintenance program. This includes wiping down the vinyl cushions, as well as the metal, chrome, and rubber areas found on most gym equipment, continually. The frequency of the routine depends on how busy the gym is. A well-frequented facility may need its machines wiped down several times per day, whereas a gym that gets less use may need to have the equipment wiped clean only once per day.

But ongoing maintenance is just one portion of gym cleaning. Health clubs need to be thoroughly cleaned regularly, if not daily. This is the only way to truly prevent disease and stop the spread of cross-contamination. One way to do this is by using strong germicidal cleaners in the hours after the gym has closed. However, many gym owners and managers are now turning to an entirely different way to deep clean and sterilize gym equipment: vapor technology.

Using vapor technology to clean facilities such as health clubs and their equipment is not new. It has been used in the United States for more than a decade, and was first introduced in Europe more than 20 years ago. The medical profession was one of the first industries to apply the power of vapor, using it in autoclaves to clean and sterilize medical equipment.

No chemicals are used in vapor cleaning. Instead, water is heated to as much as 260 degrees Fahrenheit, which creates the vapor used for cleaning. At this high temperature, the vapor is finer than steam, allowing it to deep-clean seams, cracks, and crannies that traditional cleaning with a wiping cloth and sprayer cannot reach. In fact, vapor is now becoming accepted as an alternative to the traditional methods of cleaning using lots of water, chemicals, and labor in a wide range of applications.

Vapor has significant cleaning properties. The heat weakens the bond between dirt and surfaces. Though vapor cleaning does not require cleaning chemicals, when they are used the process makes them react faster, so cleaning and sanitizing agents on surfaces do not need to dwell as long. The vapor itself dries almost instantly. This prevents metal components from developing rust. In fact, vapor is often used to clean mechanical parts in factories and assembly lines because it is so quick-drying, thorough, and safe.

Additionally, water heated to a temperature this high kills most forms of bacteria. As the vapor is applied to the surface, it loosens or dissolves contaminants, which can then be easily removed by wiping the surface area with a clean cloth. For the gym owner or manager, cleanliness can make or break a club. And the gym must not only look clean, it must be clean to help prevent the spread of disease.

Cleaning professionals must be fully aware of the importance of their work and the responsibility of their job. Cleaning contractors must always look for new methods and new cleaning technologies - such as vapor - that can help them make a difficult job like cleaning health club facilities easier, healthier and safer.