As many schools and other public facilities across the country are preparing to open back up and resume sports and recreational activities, it's critical that facility operators ensure that all their sports equipment is cleaned and disinfected prior to reopening (and on a regular basis, moving forward) to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the primary mode of transmission is through close contact from person-to-person; however, based on studies it may be possible to get the virus by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
What Surfaces Should Be Cleaned?
All surfaces that come in contact with players, fans, or facility personnel should be cleaned and disinfected regularly, but especially during a community-wide virus outbreak. In gymnasiums, this would include: all sport balls, paddles, rackets, and other gear; any seating, such as bleachers, benches, and chairs; flooring; wall, stage, and column padding; wrestling or gymnastics/dance mats; volleyball nets and upright padding; basketball rims; keypads and touch screens for electronic equipment operation; storage equipment such as carts, ball racks, and shelving; gymnastics equipment such as beams, bars, rings, and trampolines; and physical education equipment such as chin-up bars, ladders, and climbing ropes. In fitness areas, this would include: treadmills and elliptical machines, weights and weight machines, and any other exercise equipment. In locker rooms and restrooms, this would include: locker handles, benches, shower handles, bathroom stall handles, toilets, sinks, and soap and towel dispensers.
Cleaning Products to Use
The CDC recommends that dirty surfaces should be first cleaned using a detergent or soap and water. Next, the surface will need to be disinfected. Diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. The CDC also notes never to mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
Facility personnel should always follow manufacturer’s instructions on types of cleaners to be used on different materials. For example, bleach-based products are not recommended for sports products with vinyl exteriors, such as wrestling/gymnastics mats, volleyball upright padding, and divider curtains, as they will rapidly accelerate the degradation of the vinyl. Powder coated products, such as basketball rims, should be cleaned using a non-abrasive brush and a diluted solution of a mild detergent in warm water. Powder coated surfaces should never be cleaned with solvents, as they will damage the finish, causing many manufacturers to void their warranties if solvents are used. Anodized aluminum products, such as bleachers and benches, can be pressure washed if needed, and then scrubbed with an abrasive sponge and gentle cleaning solution. In addition, while glass cleaner is suitable for cleaning glass basketball backboards, it should not be used for acrylic backboards, as it will cause the board to develop a cloudy, yellowish tint. Acrylic backboards should always be cleaned with soap and water for best results.
For more CDC recommendations on techniques for cleaning and disinfecting community facilities, click here.