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How to Eliminate Bad Locker Room Smell Before You Lose Customers


locker room smell

People are heading back to the gym! With so many new and returning customers looking to catch up on their fitness goals, make sure your gym is the place everyone wants to keep coming back to. One of quickest ways to drive them away is having a bad locker room smell.

Luckily, it’s not too hard to fix. In this article, we’ll provide some basic tips for locker room odor control, as well as additional strategies you may not have considered for keeping the air fresh and clean.

But first, let’s talk about why an unpleasant locker room smell is more than just a nuisance; it can be a health problem. That’s the last thing you want in an environment where people are trying to improve their health!

A bad locker room smell signals poor indoor air quality

When your gym locker room smells bad, it’s a sign of poor indoor air quality. If odors are hanging around in the air, it’s likely that bacteria and pollutants are hanging around, too. Odors are carried by humidity, and moisture in the air makes perfect conditions for mold and bacteria to grow.

Gyms are already easy places for germs to spread, with so many people coming into contact with equipment, and sharing your locker rooms. Even with improved cleaning regimens due to the pandemic, your customers are concerned. Improving air quality with locker room odor control can help make your location a healthier place to be.

Have a locker room smell that isn’t caused by the people using it? Other causes of odors can be hazardous as well. One study found gyms to have high levels of indoor air pollutants, such as dust, formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, and VOCs. If you detect a chemical smell, it could be VOCs coming from the paint, carpets, and other building materials, especially if you’re in an older building with an outdated HVAC system. Breathing in these substances over time can lead to health conditions such as infections, breathing difficulties, rashes and eye, nose, and throat irritations.

One of the main things people look for in a gym is a pleasant environment in which to exercise. You don’t want to turn customers away just because of a bad locker room smell, or poor indoor air quality. That’s why it makes good business sense for gyms to focus on ventilation and air quality. People go to fitness centers to improve and maintain their health, and they want to be breathing healthy air while they do it.

You probably already know that locker room odor eliminator products won’t do the trick. They cover up odors, or sometime absorb them, but don’t help you remove the source of the problem. Here’s how to get rid of your locker room smell problem once and for all.

Locker room odor control: the basics

Remove used towels frequently

Used towels are one of the biggest contributors to a nasty locker room smell. Use laundry baskets with lids to contain humidity and odors. And make sure they are monitored and emptied regularly. Keep and eye out for any towels left out on benches, hooks, and stalls, too.

Step up daily cleaning

Chances are, you’re cleaning more due to the risk of COVID transmission. But your cleaning regimen needs to include more than sanitizing the equipment. Give extra attention to high odor-risk areas, such as bathrooms, shower heads and drains, and saunas.

Empty lockers daily

Don’t rely on your customers to clean out lockers properly. If you don’t know what’s being left in there, it could easily be contributing to odor and unsanitary conditions in your locker room. Make sure to empty them daily. Let your customers know that anything left behind will be put in lost in found or thrown out.

Deep clean at least weekly

If regular cleaning routines aren’t enough to get rid of the locker room smell, deep cleaning can help make sure you get to the root of the problem. Scrubbing and sanitizing benches and lockers at least weekly can cover any spots you’d miss in daily cleanings.

Remove carpeting

There’s a reason no one puts carpeting in the kitchen or bathroom. And just by picturing it you can probably imagine why – it would get damp, stained, and gross very easily. The same can often be true for carpeting in fitness centers.

Carpet can absorb humidity and create a musty locker room smell. The average gym has a lot going on and enough people passing through daily to make maintaining a clean carpet a challenge. Try replacing carpeting with a less absorbent option such as tile. Not only will you eliminate odors but it will also make cleaning routines easier.

4 ways to improve air quality and lose the locker room smell

1. Improve ventilation

The key to locker room odor control is keeping humidity low. Moisture in the air can cause smells and make odors linger, so keep an eye on the humidity levels in your gym, and especially your locker room. Locker rooms are often the most humid rooms in a fitness center, due to sweaty athletes and showers. Steam rooms and pools are also high-humidity areas.

The International Building Code requires moist air to be vented out of the building instead of recirculated. That means you need a properly designed ventilation system to keep your locker rooms up to code, healthy, and odor-free.

Fitness centers are also at higher risk for other air quality issues, such as increased CO2 levels. Exercising causes many changes to the body, including elevated heart rate and faster breathing. People who breathe faster produce more CO2. Not only is it unhealthy to breathe too much CO2, it can make people feel tired and foggy… not ideal when you’re trying to exercise! This is particularly a problem in weight rooms, dance studios, and any enclosed room where classes take place. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your gym ventilation is up to par.

If you have an older system (or you have renovated your space without updating your HVAC), get it checked out and make sure it’s up to the job.

2. Add air purification

Consider HVAC technology and improvements to help your HVAC system remove contaminants that can cause odors and risk people’s health.

  • Ask your HVAC service provider about higher efficiency filters, which can trap bacteria, mold, and other small particles. It’s important to get a system inspection before changing filters. You want to avoid choosing one that your system can’t accommodate because you could end up with declining performance.
  • Consider air purifiers that use oxidation and ionization technology. These devices can be installed in your HVAC ducts and can effectively reduce airborne contaminants throughout your space. These devices have become very popular for small businesses because they are proven effective at destroying the COVID virus.

You can learn more about these options from our free guide, HVAC Strategies for COVID: Technology Solutions for Healthier Spaces and Better Indoor Air Quality.

3. Duct cleaning

Your HVAC ducts move air around your gym and through your HVAC system. Over time, they can get clogged with dust and also accumulate moisture. When air travels through dirty ducts, it can pick up musty smells (not to mention mold spores) and carry them throughout your building.

If your gym is plagued by nasty odors, it’s smart to have your ducts inspected and have them professionally cleaned if needed.

When regularly cleaned, your HVAC system should help control humidity and keep air fresh.

4. Regular HVAC maintenance

Even when your ducts are clean and your ventilation is working well, it’s important to regularly maintain your air conditioning and heating equipment. Why? Because things like clogged air filters, blocked condensation drains and water leaks can contribute to your gym’s locker room smell problems.

Getting a maintenance contract for twice yearly service keeps everything working properly and prevents odors from migrating around your space. Plus, you’re far less likely to have breakdowns that disrupt your business due to lack of heat or AC. The cost of regular maintenance is much less than repair bills!

Scheduling regular HVAC cleaning and maintenance with a service contract makes this one less thing you have to worry about.

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Clean air is essential for having a clean gym. If you’re in the NYC metro area, Arista can help you make sure your gym is a breath of fresh air to your customers.