When considering massage, an important question you may be asking yourself is: How clean is a massage room? What steps are taken to clean and disinfect? This is especially true during the COVID-19 outbreak. I want to explain the steps I take to clean and disinfect my massage space.

The Rules

Personal service providers (which, sadly, massage therapists have recently been classified as) have a new official set of rules on how to operate a business during the COVID-19 outbreak.  The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has issued this guidance on business operations. The guidelines cover topics such as cleaning and disinfecting protocols, laundry, interactions with clients and co-workers, and screening clients, among others. Being the Type A germaphobe that I am, I take these instructions seriously. In addition to the OHA guidelines, I have also incorporated much of the guidelines from the Federation of State and Massage Therapy Boards. Their guidance is more specific to massage therapy and provides specific and detailed steps for cleaning and disinfecting protocols and operations.

Cleanliness is next to ….Healthiness

The first steps I take after a client is to set the HEPA filter air purifier to the turbo setting, open the door to my space, and turn on the small floor fan. All of this helps to circulate the air in the room. I then put on gloves and remove the linens from the massage table. The linens are carefully folded as they come off the table and I place them in a garbage bag.  I wash my gloved hands and walk the bag out of the room to a plastic container in my car.   This extra step prevents any airborne particles from escaping.

Now for the cleaning part. I use two methods to apply disinfectant- a wipe and a spray. Both kill the SARS/Coronovirus, but some surfaces are hard to spray so I’ll use the wipe. A new wipe is used for each surface. No using one wipe throughout the entire room. The reason for this is because the disinfectant needs to remain on the surface for a certain length of time. One wipe isn’t damp enough to cover every surface in the room.

I start at the door and work my way around the room wiping every surface. Next, I take a spray bottle of disinfectant and basically hose down the stool, massage table, bolster, and face cradle. For the face cradle, I spray not only the cushion that your face rests on, but also the hard surfaces of the cradle. This is the most important thing in the room to get right when disinfecting. The disinfectant has to sit for five minutes, so I use that time to vacuum the rug and mop the floor. After five minutes, I use a paper towel to wipe the disinfectant from each surface. Like with the wipes, each surface is wiped with a new paper towel. Lastly, I change the garbage bag. I then remove the gloves and wash my hands before putting fresh linens on the massage table.

So Fresh & So Clean

Some of the new OHA cleaning requirements are practices that I have always had in place. For example, OHA requires us to use an EPA-registered disinfectant that is labeled as bactericidal, viricidal, and fungicidal. I have always recognized the possibility to transmit germs and viruses, so since my practice began, I have used this type of disinfectant. Another requirement is to clean and disinfect all surfaces. Seems like a no-brainer, but if you or I can or have possibly touched it, it’s always been my rule to wipe it down with the disinfectant.

Per OHA, all porous/soft surfaces must be used only once because they cannot be disinfected. When I first read this, I immediately thought of the table warmer that massage therapists use. It is the practice of some massage therapists to place a fitted sheet directly on top of the table warmer. However, I have always used a moisture barrier that separates the table warmer from the linens. I do so because cooties can go from one soft surface to another. They remain on soft surfaces because it is impossible to clean them between clients. With a moisture barrier separating the sheet from the soft surface of my table, I can disinfectant between clients and prevent the spread of germs.

Not part of the OHA specific guidance, but still worth mentioning while I’m on the cooties soap box, is that I provide clean linens for each client. This includes a clean, laundered, unused blanket. There is a practice among some massage therapists to use one blanket for more than one client. This is not something that falls in line with my anti-cootie regiment.

Changes and Improvements

To cut down on the number of surfaces touched, I now use individual pre-filled lotion containers rather than using my lotion bottle, which is a normal practice. A hard surface chair replaces the pretty blue chair so that it can be disinfected. I change my clothes and N95 mask between clients. A touch-less soap dispenser is now at the sink and I am working on installing a touch-less sink faucet.  The amount of time between appointments has been extended from 30 minutes to an hour to have enough time to clean without being rushed and to give the room a longer time to air out. To help with airing out, I now use a HEPA filter air purifier.

While there will always be a risk associated with massage, I take every step possible to minimize that risk. The best way to do that in a massage space is to be diligent about disinfecting. I want to be transparent about my cleaning protocol because you should feel safe and comfortable with coming in for a massage.

Have you wondered how massage is different during COVID? You can read about that here.

Chair removed to conform to new cleaning and disinfecting guidelines

I’ll miss you, pretty blue chair