While there are probably more infectious agents on the doorknob customers touch as they enter your massage space than are on your massage chair, the public nature of chair massage makes a solid hygiene protocol essential. It is a matter both of perception and professionalism.
I have seen potential customers stand in front of a line of massage chairs at an event carefully scrutinizing the hygiene habits of the various practitioners to find the one that best lives up to their standards. As the media continues to spotlight drug-resistant infections and virulent pathogens spreading around the globe, the general public is becoming increasingly germ-phobic.
Since we are trying to reduce stress, rather than increase it, we need to set customer’s minds at ease by being proactive about hygiene. There should never be a concern about customers spreading bugs to one another, or to me, or from me to them.
In terms of liability, having a simple, consistent hygiene protocol makes it easier to explain clearly to customers, health department personnel and lawyers the impossibility of someone, for example, having acquired herpes from sitting in your chair.
Wipe down. Cover up.
The two-step protocol TouchPro recommends starts with a canister of hospital-grade sanitary wipes. We use two sheets, one in each hand, to sanitize the chair at the start of the day as well as between each customer.
At the beginning of the shift, every vinyl surface is wiped, along with the adjustment hardware and any other metal or plastic parts around the face cradle. Between each customer the minimum rule is to wipe down the face cradle, arm rest and any other part of the chair that might have had skin to vinyl contact, typically the leg rests if the previous customer was in a skirt or shorts. The final step is to put the two sanitizer sheets together and wipe your own hands thoroughly.
Here’s a note about the wipe down process. The basic rule is, the juicier the better. The effectiveness of the sanitizers at killing the bugs is directly related to how long the moisture stays on the vinyl or your hands. That’s why we recommend wiping down the chair immediately after a massage, so you don’t have to keep the customer waiting before a massage for the alcohol to evaporate.
After the wipe down, the face cradle should be covered up to prevent the customer’s face from touching vinyl. The preference of the practitioner determines whether paper towels, cut-out or form-fitted disposable covers, or washable cloth covers are used.
Back in 1986, we started with paper towels but quickly moved to the round, disposable nurses caps with a breathing hole or slit cut into the center. When the form-fitted disposable face cradle covers came on the market around 2005, we switched to those and never looked back.
Addition hygiene issues
Obviously, everything you learned in massage school about keeping your fingernails, hands, breath and “pits” clean applies to chair massage, but there are a couple of other issues that should also be considered in your hygiene protocol.
In 2009, during the H1N1 avian flu pandemic scare, the media was in a frenzy over the potential deadly effects of the virus. To allay any fears of our customers, I wanted to advertise that all of the chair massage practitioners in our studio had been vaccinated to prevent them from contracting and/or spreading the virus. Unfortunately, because it was a new strain, the vaccine was rationed to the very young, old, immune-suppressed and front-line healthcare workers. Because of the shortage we were never able make that guarantee but every year since, I get myself vaccinated as early as possible. Annual flu vaccination as part of a chair massage hygiene policy just makes sense.
And, finally, what about those doorknobs? In a chair massage studio, I do disinfect them at the beginning of every day, unless they are brass. Brass doorknobs disinfect themselves in about eight hours, while stainless steel and aluminum knobs never do. It’s called the “oligodynamic effect.”
In summary, have a hygiene policy, write it down, and make sure everyone in your business follows it.