Locker Room Odors

By Brooks / Dan

March 30, 2014

Locker Room Odors

Locker Room Odors

Where is the first and last place your members visit when they come to your fitness facility?  That's right, the locker room.  It is the one place that leaves a lasting impression on members and can completely turn them off to your entire operation if there is excess humidity, standing water, (or God forbid), an offensive odor!  

Moisture is the enemy, and it is vitally important to manage water in an athletic facility.  Proper ventilation will typically remove excess humidity, (generated by pools, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, showers, etc.).  Fortunately, these wet areas are generally consolidated within the facility, making it easier to manage air handling in the building.  Proper drainage, (placement of the drains and sloping of the floor to them), is an important factor in managing standing water.  But what do you do about problem odors?

First, some background.  The source of most odors in locker rooms is microorganisms, and of course, they thrive in wet environments.  Moisture from the facility, when combined with an athlete’s sweat and body odors, will saturate locker rooms with bacteria.  This bacteria are not only found in hidden cracks and crevices, but also on hard to reach surfaces such as walls, ceilings, equipment and even inside lockers.  Moisture is also a requirement for mold growth which is always present anytime there's a musty smell. 

Unfortunately, as recent press reports indicate, some of these microorganisms are actually quite dangerous for the athlete or fitness member.  One of the most notable is MRSA, which has been in the news because three Tampa Bay Buccaneer football players acquired infections during the 2013 season.  The Buccaneer's locker room isn't the only facility with reported outbreaks of MRSA, just do a Google search and you'll be amazed at the number of news stories that result, some reporting on incidences in high school football, basketball, and hockey locker rooms!  In addition to MRSA, there are daily reports of other dangerous infections acquired from locker room microorganisms, including Athlete's Foot, Flesh Eating Bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus (Staph Infections), etc.  An incident with anyone of these infections would be devastating to your business, resulting in a loss of membership confidence in the overall cleanliness of the facility.

Deep cleaning is the answer, of course, and a combination of sanitizing cleaners and disinfectants can go a long way to eliminating the bacteria that are the source of odors.  Some facilities use an outside service to perform their daily sanitation activities, (typically at night when the facility is closed).  The advantages of this approach are obvious: presumably you've hired the "experts" with not only the knowledge of the chemicals needed, but the cleaning procedures that will be effective in your facility.  Additionally, these "pros" show-up to work for the specific task of cleaning, (and no  expectations for other duties).  The other approach, of course, is to use your own staff, (which is generally more economical), but you better partner with a cleaning supply company that can provide the needed technical advice to guide your staff to the proper chemicals and cleaning procedures.  Written SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), are a must, and these folks should only be tasked with cleaning the facility.  Management has to understand their role, and the importance sanitation plays in maintaining a healthy and odor free facility.

In addition to moisture management and a proper cleaning regimen to control locker room odors and the dangerous bacteria behind them, we have assembled some additional tips to help you contain microorganism growth within your facility and enhance your member's experience.


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