How to Clean a Recreation Center

By Amy Milshtein

How to Clean a Recreation Center

Cleaning a recreation center is not a one-size-fits-all job. The National Recreation and Park Association reports that recreation facilities often include gyms with indoor courts, community centers, senior centers, and fitness centers filled with workout equipment. Some even contain ice rinks, performance amphitheaters and indoor tracks.   Add in wet spaces like pools, saunas and locker rooms and the cleaning jobs get more specialized and complicated. 

The nuances are not lost on industry leaders. Recreation Management Magazine reports that equipment and facility maintenance is a top concern, and will be for the next three years. Knowing best way to clean and maintain a recreation center will extend the usable life of that equipment and building while keeping patrons safe. 

Recreation Centers: They're Everywhere and for Everyone

Even defining a recreation center can get complicated. Some are privately owned, like a health club. Others are publicly accessible, like a community center. There are parks & recreation departments of town and city governments and stand-alone special districts filled with amenities like rec centers. K-12 schools often contain facilities while colleges and universities often bundle recreation and wellness together in one building. 

Even the YMCA/YWCA qualifies as a recreation center. 

Programming is just as various. Recreation centers often host exercise classes, special events, youth sports teams, camps, swim programs, yoga classes and more. Participants are all ages, from infants to seniors, and all abilities from typical to those experiencing disability. 

It Comes Down to Surfaces

Despite the complexity, cleaning recreation center jobs can be divided up by surface types. There are: 

  • Hard surface floors: These include large areas like lobbies, hallways and kitchen floors along with more specialized areas like weight room floors, basketball and racquetball courts and yoga/spinning studios.
  • Wet area floors: Indoor pools, saunas and hot tubs all fall under this category, along with shower areas and locker rooms. Controlling mold growth is an important part of cleaning these areas.  
  • Soft surfaces: Day care and after school program spaces might have some carpet, as well as administrative spaces. Gym mats should also not be overlooked
  • Places people touch: Door knobs, light switches, fitness equipment, keyboards, drinking fountains, sink taps……the list of touchpoints goes on and on. 
  • Restrooms: These spaces have it all, hard surfaces, grout, wet areas and plenty of touchpoints. Cleaning restrooms is important for public health and safety. 

Not matter the surface type, cleaning should focus on removing dirt, soils and pathogens from the area.

Hard Surface Floors: Your "Biggest" Challenge

Hard surface floors make up the largest areas of a recreation center. The surfaces come in many materials including sealed concrete, luxury vinyl tile, rubber, and wood. While cleaning chemicals will vary, maintenance procedures will look the same: remove dirt, dust and grit that can scratch surfaces, tackle stuck on debris or scuff marks then clean.

Old technology required brooms, buckets and mops to accomplish these tasks. Not a great choice, considering the large amounts of square footage that needs to be tackled. "'I am not a friend of mops," explains William Mattos, Custodial Supervisor for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 

For cleaning the school's 184,000 square foot Student Recreation and Wellness Center, he provides his staff of 15 with Kaivac 1750 spray-and-vac machines.  This technology enables multipurpose No Touch cleaning, professional dignity, more productivity, and enhanced cleaning and healthier outcomes. "We empower the staff with effective equipment, and teach them that the right machine is their best friend; it gets the work done better and faster, with less effort," he says. 

Other systems can even be used on wood floors found on basketball and racquetball courts. Unlike autoscrubbers that can damage a wood floor, an AutoVac can clean and dry a wood floor in one pass without the risk of damage. 

Wet, Wild and Clean

Swimming pools, saunas, shower areas and locker rooms add value to a recreation center, and added challenges for your cleaning crew. Water plus warm conditions in these areas can lead to mold growth. Unsightly, smelly and potentially toxic, mold fungus may cause rashes, headaches, dizziness, nausea, allergic reactions (like hay fever), and asthma attacks. In people with weakened immune systems, mold can cause serious lung infections according to Prevention Magazine. 

Unclean locker rooms pose other challenges. They can host a variety of dangerous pathogens from tinea pedis (athlete's foot), conjunctivitis (pink eye,) ringworm, Herpes Gladiatorum (mat herpes) and even the potentially deadly Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA.) 

Proper ventilation that keeps spaces below 70% relative humidity will help keep mold from growing in walls and ceiling cavities. Daily cleaning will keep it from sprouting up elsewhere. Thorough daily cleaning will also reduce locker rooms risks.

But don't tackle the job with mops and buckets. They don't fully remove organic matter that mold needs to grow or dangerous dirt and pathogens. They also leave surfaces wet, encouraging more growth and creating slip and fall hazards.

Choose an AutoVac instead. This technology fully removes 99% of soils and pathogens while leaving the floor dry and ready to use.

Killing Them Softly

Soft surfaces like gym mats present a unique cleaning issue in a recreation center. They can host germs and bacteria that cause skin conditions like staph, strep, herpes, ringworm, impetigo MRSA and even contract necrotizing facsitis, also known as flesh eating bacteria.

Instruct staff to wash mats every day with an EPA-approved disinfectant and follow manufacturers instruction. To prevent mold growth, mats should be dried immediately. 

Yoga mats should also be cleaned daily. Yoga instructor Mandy Ingber recommends spraying mats with a solution of one-part white vinegar and two parts water after each class. Yoga Journal suggests spraying mats with a spray with quats (quaternary ammonium compounds) and 70% alcohol, and letting the solution sit for 30 seconds before wiping. Bolsters, blocks, straps, and blankets should be wiped or laundered at least weekly.

Touchy, Touchy

Weight room etiquette demands that users wipe down equipment after use. Even if 100% of users complied (Pro Tip: They don't) gym goers still wouldn't wipe down locker knobs, drinking fountain taps and other touchpoints. These touchpoints are probably the dirtiest places in your recreation center. CleanLink reports that 80% of infections come from items people touch every day. 

And using towels and rags to wipe surfaces can actually exacerbate the problem. These tools accumulate soils and transfer them back to surfaces. The more the towel or rag is used, the more dirt is re-deposited. 

KaiWipes are a better option. These disposable wipes are packed dry and can be used with any cleaning solution, from Green options to EPA-registered disinfectants (when used as directed) or as-is—dry right out of the container. Durable, flexible and economical, KaiWipes work great on weight machines and other fitness equipment.

Don't Forget the Restroom

Restrooms present a cleaning challenge no matter the facility and that includes busy recreation centers. But ignore them at your peril. Poorly maintained restrooms look bad, smell worse and reflect poorly on the rest of the operation. 

Tackle restroom cleaning daily with a Kaivac No-Touch Cleaning System. The technology fully removes dangerous pathogens and soils from the entire space: tile floors and walls along with toilets, urinals, sinks, countertops faucets and mirrors. It also eliminates dirt from porous grout lines. 

No-Touch technology works much faster than hand mopping, requires minimal training and is easy and safe to operate. 

Recreation centers are complex, cleaning them doesn't have to be. Contact Kaivac for more cleaning solutions. 

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. 

Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.

She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.

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