[Question #5829] Cleaning exercise equipment

18 months ago
On July 2, 2019, I had two technicians over at my house to repair my elliptical. One of the repairmen, who was wearing shorts, had a scratch on his calf. The scratch was pink and raised, but it looked like whatever had scratched him may have broken the skin on the initial point of contact -- there looked to be a small black or red dot at the beginning of the scratch. It wasn't leaking blood or anything, so it may have been a scab or even a freckle for all I know.
My elliptical is placed in my dinning room area, which is kind of cramped next to other pieces of furniture.  So with the small spacing, I was worried about the repairman rubbing his calf against my elliptical and furniture. I'm not entirely sure if he did rub it against anything, but naturally the worry is there. 
At the time of writing this, it has now been 37 days(about 5 weeks) since that event took place. I haven't used the elliptical since, due busy schedule, but I intend on using it soon. I'm worried about the repairman leaving behind traces of bloodborne pathogens on the elliptical, so I intend on cleaning it first. I know HIV would have a died a long time ago,  but I am uncertain about Hepatitis (A,B,C, etc.). Different websites give different answers as to how long it takes for Hepatitis to die out in the open and on surfaces. Some say sixteen hours, two weeks, or even six weeks. So what is the correct answer? Would I be in the clear to clean my elliptical at this point, or should I wait until after the six week mark? Also, would it matter what I use to clean the elliptical with? I always use Clorox and Lysol disinfecting wipes. These are just the normal wipes you can get at the grocery store, but I notice the Lysol box doesn't have hepatitis or HIV listed under the viruses it can kill. Would it be okay to use these wipes, or should I buy the bloodborne pathogen wipes used in hospitals?
Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
18 months ago
Welcome to our Forum.  I'll be glad to comment.  Short answer- you can get on your elliptical without a "sweat".  There is no risk of acquisition of HIV or any other blood born pathogen from potential contamination of your exercise equipment or furniture.  There is a long list of reasons for this, some of which I will list below.  Before I do however, let me assure you that no one has ever acquired HIV from casual contact with contaminated, inanimate objects which were not used as part of sexual activity,  No one!  You will be the first.  Here are some of the reasons I can reassure you with confidence:

1.  Most people do not have HIV, less than 1% of the population.  Even when exposed through sexual contact less than 1% of exposures lead to infection.  Your hypothesized exposure risk is far lower than that.
2.  Your intact skin is a wonderful barrier providing protection.  As a result we KNOW that even with direct contact of intact skin with infected genital secretions there is no risk for infection at all.
3.  Upon exposure to the environment HIV, hepatitis viruses, etc. become non-infectious.  In complex laboratory studies sometimes the viruses can be grown after environmental exposure but these viruses become non-infectious long before they become non-viable
4.  Finally, routine cleaning with dilute Clorox (that is what we use in the laboratory) or commercial disinfectant wipes will further kill viruses and render them non-infectious.

The internet is not your friend here- all too much of what is seen there is taken out of context, is out of date or is just plain wrong.  I hope my comments are helpful.  Please don't worry.  EWH