How Important is Massage Therapist Hygiene?

Hygiene counts in the massage industry. From personal hygiene to equipment sanitation, healthy habits are critical. Let’s examine why effective cleanliness practices are so important for a massage therapist and the measures you can take to keep yourself and your clients safe. 


Why is Hygiene Important?


Good hygiene is as vital to massage therapists as individuals, but in a business environment, the security and satisfaction of clients are the top priority. Hygiene is essential for massage therapists because:


Good Hygiene Keeps People Safe


A massage therapist interacts with clients in much the same way medical professionals do. You’ll have contact with a client’s skin and hair. But since there’s no way to tell if a client has a virus or bacterial infection, the rule in healthcare is to safeguard yourself and others through sanitation and personal protective equipment. Massage therapists need to take a similar approach. 


Good Hygiene Makes a Good Impression


No client wants a massage in a dirty facility. A clean, pleasant environment suggests staff takes their well-being seriously by following infection control protocols. Since much of a massage therapist’s business is built on word of mouth, making a positive impression builds referrals.


Good Hygiene Satisfies Regulatory Requirements


Federal, state, and local governments have hygiene rules in massage therapy practices. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has the authority to inspect any workplace for violations without notice.


In most areas, routine health department or professional regulator inspections are required for a business license. Complying with safety practices is the best way for massage therapists to protect their livelihood and their employer. 


What Are Hygiene Practices for a Massage Therapist? 


A massage therapist should take specific steps to protect themselves and clients from disease transmission, beginning with:


Personal Hygiene


People are reservoirs for infection, so staying clean is the first and ultimately the best way to prevent the spread of illness. Measures include:


Handwashing – start the day with clean hands and wash them frequently with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good alternative when there’s no visible debris on your fingers. Keeping fingernails short prevents debris from accumulating beneath them and helps prevent the transfer of bacteria from the things you touch to other surfaces and people. Whether it’s contact with clients or shared supplies, hand washing is a stop sign for germs. 


Clean Clothes – wearing fresh clothes daily impresses guests and limits the spread of germs and bacteria from one environment to another. Upon arriving home, place dirty clothing or uniforms in your hamper and pick a new outfit for the following day. Cool fabrics that keep you dry reduce body odor. Semi-synthetic materials repel spills better and dry faster. 


Short or Tied-Back Hair – a massage therapist leans over clients so long hair can contact the skin. It’s best to sport a shortcut or tie it back neatly. A headband prevents strands from hanging in your face. 


Environmental Sanitation


Environmental sanitation encompasses cleaning procedures for everything from equipment and supplies to linens and common surfaces. 


Linens – are a low risk for infection, but they can occur if clients share dirty drapes or towels. It’s essential to keep clean and soiled linens separate, cleaning up after each guest so there’s no confusion about which is which. You may also be exposed to germs when handling dirty laundry, so protect your hands and clothing with gloves and an apron. Drying towels on high heat kills germs that washing alone can miss.


Massage Tables – may have direct contact with skin. Sanitizing them between guests is imperative. Replace or repair tables with broken leather or vinyl tops; germs can hide in crevices.


Equipment and Supplies – it’s common for massage therapists to share lotions out of the same bulk bottle. Wash your hands after dispensing products to prevent the spread of germs. Similarly, equipment such as hot stone warmers should be cleaned on a schedule. 


Shared Surfaces – in addition to massage tables, clients share exposure to surfaces such as chairs, doorknobs, sink handles, toilet seats, and hospitality equipment. Cleaning these surfaces regularly removes potentially harmful microorganisms. 


Personal Protective Equipment


Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is a barrier between you and contagious disease. If exposure to germs can’t be eliminated, the next best thing is to put a roadblock in their way. Standard PPE for massage therapists include:


Gloves are an effective way to prevent the spread of illness through skin contact. Wear them before each massage or before handling used linens. Wash your hands and put on a fresh set for each new client. Gloves are a good protector, but they can also transfer germs from person to person. Any germ you can get on your hands, you can get on your gloves. Using the same gloves for multiple guests protects you but puts others at risk. Choose only latex-free gloves for clients with allergies. 


Aprons – lotions and skin lubricants can spill or transfer from clients’ skin to your clothing. A plastic apron deflects spills. Cloth aprons are aesthetically more appealing but should be changed and washed at least daily. 


Face Masks – masks are a somewhat controversial topic, and the science proving their efficacy isn’t precise, but they’re still required in many areas to slow the spread of diseases. Cloth and standard medical masks may safeguard others by catching virus-laden respiratory droplets if you cough or sneeze.


How Does OSHA Protect Massage Therapists?


Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was founded in 1971 in response to rising workplace accidents and injuries. Its role is to enforce health and safety standards to protect employees and others. 

Massage therapy is considered a medium-risk occupation, so there’s concern about staff safety, clients, and the community. OSHA protects massage therapists through the following: 




Congress makes rules for employers, and OSHA enforces them. There are relatively few rules for massage therapists compared to businesses like restaurants and healthcare facilities, but those that exist are critical for the protection of employees, including: 


Hazard Communication – massage therapy practices may use or store potentially harmful substances, especially cleaning solutions, which can be dangerous if improperly mixed. Employers must keep SDS sheets for the chemicals on their premises, so if a spill, fire, or other accident happens, staff know how to deal with it safely. 


Safety Equipment – in addition to essential equipment, such as fire extinguishers, massage therapy practices must have plans for dealing with blood-borne pathogens. While the likelihood of exposure to blood is low, processes address how any bodily fluid spill is contained. If a client gets ill and vomits in the restroom, a spill kit minimizes the spread of germs and protects those picking up the mess. 


Notifications and Training – regulations are neither effective nor protective if they’re secrets. Massage therapists learn about many rules in a vocational school training program. Others, such as where the spill kit is located and how to use it, should be covered by employers before your first day on the job. 


Statements outlining your rights in the workplace must be posted in a common area. Hence, you know who to call to report dangerous conditions or to file a complaint against an employer who won’t address reasonable concerns. 


Workplace Inspections – OSHA may inspect businesses at will, so they stay on their toes and don’t let safety measures lapse. This helps protect you as an employee, but it’s also a responsibility. Workplace safety is a team effort. 


Follow-Up – a failed OSHA inspection doesn’t guarantee business owners will comply with recommendations. Unless an imminent danger is found, chances are the practice will be allowed to operate while it fixes violations. Follow-up checks ensure that concerns are addressed.


Final Thoughts


As a massage therapist, you want your clients to be well. It shows in your training and the quality of your services, but it should also be reflected in your hygiene. Keeping your workplace sanitized and following infection control practices is hard work, but the payoff is worth it. You’ll have a thriving practice with happy, healthy customers and a reputation for safety in the community. 


Are you interested in learning more about starting a career in massage therapy? Upon graduation, Massage Therapy Program students will receive diplomas and be qualified to seek entry-level positions as clinical, medical, or deep tissue massage therapists in wellness clinics and centers, spa environments including resorts and franchises, and self-employment.


The massage therapy training diploma program consists of a well-planned sequence of courses, each preparing the college student for the more intensive information to follow. The school curriculum includes training to provide college students with scientific knowledge, manual skills, and business mastery to become a professional massage therapist.


Contact us to learn more about how you can become a massage therapist today.