Does Wiping Down Gym Equipment Work?

Fact Checked

Tonya McIntosh

Tonya McIntosh—The main person behind TGFFitness as its Founder and Chief Editor. Get to know more about Tonya


Have you ever walked into the gym and had the staff ask you to wipe down the equipment as you work out? If so, you’ve probably wondered, does wiping down gym equipment work?

Wiping gym equipment works and can help prevent the spread of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, such as gram-negative rods, HPV, and various strains of Staph bacteria. That’s why it’s crucial to wipe down equipment with a disinfectant before and after use.

I’ve gone through countless studies on the kind of environment that gyms harbor, so you don’t have to. So read on to find out why you should wipe down gym equipment, how to do it properly, and what you can use to clean it with.

Should You Wipe Down Gym Equipment?

Even if gyms clean their machines, you should still wipe down gym equipment before and after you use it. A pre-workout wipe can protect you from contracting potentially harmful germs.

Not to mention that when you finish your workout, cleaning the machine isn’t only proper gym etiquette, but it also helps protect the person who uses it after you.

Do Gym Equipment Carry Serious Germs?

Gym equipment can serve as a breeding ground for a wide range of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. These germs can cause mild to severe skin infections. They can also cause respiratory infections and, in extreme cases, kidney diseases.

What Bacteria Might Be Found on Exercise Equipment in a Gym?


Some of the germs that can be found on exercise equipment in a gym include:

  • Staphylococcus; can cause skin and soft tissue infections
  • Colds and flu
  • Impetigo; a contagious skin infection that causes sores and blisters on the face
  • Herpes; commonly causes cold sores in the lining of the mouth
  • Plantar warts; a viral infection that causes warts to develop on the outer layer of skin on feet soles
  • Fungi; can cause skin infections and respiratory problems
  • Ringworm; can cause a ring-shaped rash that can spread from one area to another
  • Hot-tub rash; can be found in pools or hot tubs with not enough chlorine and can cause swimmer’s ear and severe rash

Can Germs Actually Be Transmitted via Gym Equipment That’s Not Wiped Down?

It’s common knowledge that there’s a host of infections that spread at the gym. The reason is that germs are left to breed and accumulate if gym equipment isn’t wiped down.

Indeed, one study that lab-tested 27 pieces of gym equipment from three different gyms found that:

  • The average exercise bike can have 39 times more bacteria than a reusable plastic lunch tray.
  • A treadmill can have, on average, 74 times more bacteria than a water faucet.
  • Free weights can have 362 times more bacteria than toilet seats.

You can argue that not all bacteria are harmful. Well, the study found that 52% of the bacteria on treadmills are strains that can cause skin infections, pneumonia, and septicemia. The real kicker is this: 70% of the bacteria that the study found are potentially harmful to humans.

How Do You Wipe Down Gym Equipment?

Most gyms will provide paper towel dispensers and disinfectant spray bottles for their members to use when cleaning the gym equipment.

You can take one of each, spray the equipment you plan to use with the disinfectant, and wipe it down. Don’t forget to throw away the paper towel after use and put the spray bottle back when you’re done working out.

What to Use to Wipe Off Gym Equipment

If your gym doesn’t provide disinfecting products, you can bring the following items with you to clean gym equipment:

Gym Equipment Cleaner

There are several gym equipment cleaners on the market that you can directly pour into a spray bottle and use to disinfect gym equipment.

Wet Wipes

One of the most efficient ways to clean gym equipment is to wipe it down with wet wipes. Those wipes contain ingredients that can kill most types of germs, but you have to use them properly.

Begin by wiping down the surface of the machine you intend to use. Then, allow the surface to completely dry so that the chemicals can do their work.

Try Vinegar and Water

If you don’t want to use commercial disinfectants, fill a spray bottle with half a cup of distilled white vinegar and half a cup of water.

You can spray the vinegar solution directly on the equipment or on a paper towel. What’s important is to thoroughly wipe the machine to prevent corrosion.

Spray Bottle With an Ammonia Solution

You can also make a disinfectant solution by combining half a cup of ammonia with half a gallon of water in a spray bottle.

Simply spray the ammonia solution on the surface of the equipment. Let it sit on the surface for a few moments, then wipe it off.

Carry a Towel

Instead of lying directly on a bench or mat after wiping it, you should cover it with your gym towel. This can further reduce your exposure to germs.

Just make sure to wash your towel in hot water after every workout session.

Can You Wipe Down the Gym Equipment With a Sterilizing Wipe?

Most sterilizing wipes contain isopropyl alcohol and/or an ammonium compound. Both ingredients can disinfect and clean any equipment from most germs.

Most importantly, you should allow the alcohol to sit long enough to kill as many germs as possible. So don’t dry freshly-wiped equipment with a towel or paper towel. Instead, let it air dry.

What Do Gyms Clean Equipment With?

Most gyms use sanitizing wipes and disinfectant liquid solutions that are specifically made for gym equipment.

Regardless of the product, most gyms opt for value-based bulk products to keep costs low while providing the best service.

What Gym Equipment Are Frequently Cleaned?

Gym equipment that’s frequently cleaned includes:

  • Cardio machine consoles
  • Weight benches
  • The front of all weight training machines
  • Mirrors
  • Stretching mats
  • Group fitness classroom floor

Everything else in the gym is never cleaned or done infrequently. So, you may notice grime, sweat, and dirt in these areas:

  • The front panel of treadmills
  • Under the treadmills
  • The center between the pedals on elliptical machines
  • Creases and corners of weight machines
  • Sweat patches on the side of cardio machines
  • Yoga mats
  • Inside the showers
  • Steam rooms
  • Weight racks
  • Under the free-weight racks

What Equipment Do You Have to Wipe Down at the Gym?

If you use any benches, you should wipe them down, especially if you sweat a lot.

You should also wipe off the chalk on the barbell after you finish lifting. If the chalk is left to accumulate on the barbell, it can cake up, which can make it easier for germs to grow.

That said, it’s advisable to wipe down any equipment or machine that you use at the gym.


Do you clean up your equipment every time you work out at the gym?

Yes, you must clean your gym equipment before and after using it to remove the sweat and germs of the person before you and your own sweat and germs for the next person.

How do you make disinfectant spray for gym equipment?

There are many DIY disinfectant recipes available that combine vinegar or alcohol with water.

However, it’s always advisable to buy products that are made specifically for gyms.

How do you disinfect gym equipment?

Using disinfectant wipes, wipe down the entire surface of the equipment you’re going to use. Then, let the surface dry completely. Do the same after you finish your workout.

Make sure to use disinfectant wipes that are specifically made for gym equipment. These wipes will contain disinfecting agents that can clean the machines without damaging them.

Is vinegar a disinfectant?

Vinegar is a disinfectant, but it’s not as effective as commercial disinfectants.

What type of cleaner does Planet Fitness use?

Most Plant Fitnesses use a neutral disinfectant spray.

Can you use hydrogen peroxide to clean gym equipment?

You shouldn’t use hydrogen peroxide to clean gym equipment. It can cause gym equipment metals to rust and corrode, which weakens and wears out the integrity of the machines.

Hydrogen peroxide can also degrade the protective layers on the gym equipment, making them peel and crack.

Can you use Lysol wipes on gym equipment?

The active ingredient in Lysol wipes is an ammonium compound, so they’re great for disinfecting gym equipment.

Just make sure to use fragrance-free Lysol wipes, as fragrance can irritate the skin and nasal passages.

Can you use Clorox wipes on gym equipment?

Clorox wipes are an excellent option for disinfecting gym equipment because they contain an ammonium compound.

Why do many people refuse to wipe down gym machines after use?

Those who refuse to wipe down gym machines after use are likely unaware of the serious consequences of leaving their sweat and germs behind.

That said, it’s standard gym etiquette to wipe down equipment after use. So if you happen to see someone not wipe their machine, you can either politely ask them to do so or notify a staff member.

Final Thoughts

Even if you’ve never been sick from the gym before, it’s time to start wiping down gym equipment to protect yourself and others from harmful germs and bacteria.

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Chief Editor
Tonya McIntosh

Hello there! My name is Tonya McIntosh, and I’m the Founder and Chief Editor of TGFFitness. I’m also a NASM-certified Nutrition Coach and Personal Trainer. With eight years of experience under my belt, I’ve found that one of the most common issues my clients struggle with is remaining consistent.

Finding your main motivator to keep going is easier said than done for Keep Reading.

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