Gym equipment is notorious as a breeding ground for MRSA (methicillin resistant Staph aureus) and use is considered a risk factor for contracting a MRSA infection. These infections are difficult to treat and can be life-threatening.
The Staph aureus organism found on gym mats and equipment handles is fairly easy to kill if the correct aseptic material is used. Wiping down the equipment for 15 seconds with bleach or 30 seconds with chlorhexidine will reduce the bacterial burden and decrease the chances of being colonized with the bacteria.
One “cleaner” that most emphatically will not reliably eradicate MRSA is tea tree oil. The editors know of at least one fitness instructor in Kentucky who stated emphatically when queried about the cleaning done to reduce MRSA responded that she thoroughly cleans at the end of the day with tea tree oil.
This is woefully inadequate. While there are some reports in the scientific literature investigating tea tree oil as an antimicrobial that suggest that there may partial efficacy against MRSA, there are no data that support its use as a single bactericidal agent for cleaning contaminated surfaces.
In fact, there are studies that suggest that using tea tree oil in a sublethal concentration makes MRSA more antibiotic resistant and difficult to kill. Almost universally, hospitals do not consider the use of this substance to meet the requirement as an adequate MRSA disinfectant.