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Keep the Steam Clean

Best practices for commercial steam facilities

It goes without saying: Steam rooms in commercial facilities require frequent cleaning to ensure a safe and healthy environment. Without proper maintenance, mold, mildew and bacteria can thrive, leading to infections affecting the skin, lungs and more.

Daily thorough cleaning with alternate cleaners and disinfectants are a must for busy facilities, says Katie Crysdale of Lakeview Aquatic Consultants

For the best clean, prop the steam room door open each night to ensure the area airs out and dries completely and use appropriate cleaning tools, like a stiff bristle brush, she says. Also consider cleaning the room in the morning. This ensures fewer slipping hazards and allows the cleaning products to sit for a time without running down wet walls, Crysdale says.

“It has been my experience that people try to clean the steam room at the end of the day, and it results in a less effective disinfection regimen over time,” Crysdale says. “Cleaners are also likely to rush through the task if the work environment is hot, humid and uncomfortable.” 

Steam room temperatures also need to be monitored daily. There should be a thermometer inside the room where the temperature can be verified at least once a day to ensure the steam is not exceeding the maximum allowable temperature per local health regulations.

“Steam rooms are not just set-it-and-forget-it systems — they should become part of regular cleaning and maintenance of any aquatic facility,” Crysdale says.

Roy Vore of Vore & Associates LLC, who holds a Ph.D. in bacterial physiology, emphasizes that floors of steam rooms should be sanitized daily. 

“While most of the germs found on the floor are harmless, a few can cause skin infections,” he says. “Trichophyton is a fungus that causes athlete’s foot that thrives on moist, warm floors. Uncontrolled microbial growth often increases the slipperiness of floors.”

Periodic deep cleanings are necessary, too, especially to address mold and mildew that accumulate in crevasses and under caulk. Left unattended, unsightly growths and musty smells can occur. 

“In commercial settings, these are probably the fastest ways to discourage patrons from ever wanting to return,” Vore says. “Bad reviews on social media are business killers.” 

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Vore says he works with a lot of wellness centers that have float tanks, and he tells staff to find the employee with the most sensitive sense of smell.  

“When that person detects the first trace of a musty smell, it is time to take the room out of service for a thorough cleaning and sanitizing,” Vore says. 

Whether dealing with float tanks or steam rooms, Vore says visual and odor cues are reliable for setting cleaning schedules, reminding managers and owners to prioritize the customer experience.

The quality of the [patron] experience is key and must be the driving force in the housekeeping and maintenance of the room.”

Roy Vore, Vore & Associates LLC

“Owners need to consider what they are selling with steam rooms,” he says. “What does the patron want to experience — a smelly, slimy room or a clean and odor-free environment? The quality of the experience is key and must be the driving force in the housekeeping and maintenance of the room.” 

Vore says cleaning always involves a two-step process: removal of dirt and treatment of germs. 

“These are separate processes,” he says. “The accumulated dirt and organic matter let the germs survive and multiply. Cleaning alone is not likely to reduce the number of germs significantly.” 

To reduce the germs, an anti-microbial treatment is needed. These formulas are tested under rigorous conditions and then registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Each product has directions for use on the label and a list of surfaces it’s effective on. 

“The biggest mistake I see is users not reading and following the directions,” Vore says. “If someone does not follow the directions, they are wasting their time and money.”

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