Get Physical with Your Facility

In the beautiful and relaxing surroundings of spas, equipment can, and often does, create chaos. But it doesn’t have to. Don’t let the equipment manage you—you manage your equipment. If you ignore your equipment, something is bound to break, and it will not only increase the cost of doing business but also impact the treatments and experience you are able to offer.

From steam rooms and hydrotherapy equipment to massage tables, the equipment start-up costs for any spa or wellness business can be significant. To stretch your dollars, you’ll want to start analyzing maintenance during the design process with particular attention being paid to water. “Water quality is critical, as you don’t want it to be too hard or too soft,” says Mike Stimson, director of Bradford Products’s Resort Spa Division. “You’ll want to have filtration systems in place, which factors into maintenance, plumbing, and more.”

There are many other equipment-related decisions to be made during the design process, says SpaEquip founder Philippe Therene. Review architectural blueprints for proper equipment selection and placement, and develop detailed equipment documentation with mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) specifications for every item. Furthermore, Therene makes these overall recommendations about equipment:

Purchase from a reputable manufacturer so you receive well-built items with good warranties.

Be sure that the company with which you work offers technical support and customer service.

Check that voltages and plugs are correct for electricity in your country.

Ask if there’s a loaner program while equipment is being repaired, and, if possible, have an extra piece of key equipment in storage for breakdowns.

Put together a maintenance program/guide for your equipment. Use the guide as a tool when planning your annual budget.

Banish Equipment Breakdown
With spas offering dozens of types of treatments, there’s a lot of equipment that needs to be bought, explained, and maintained.

Facial Equipment
These should last 10 years. Check every few days for mineral buildup. Add three tablespoons of white vinegar to the water a few times per month to avoid this. Before adding water to the jar, make sure the steamer is cool. Drain and dry daily.

These should last 10 years. They should be made of non-corrosive material so they don’t rust. Therene recommends ones with UV lamps to kill bacteria. Wipe off with a cloth at the end of the day and leave open (if there are no instruments inside).

Rotary brushes
Clean these with soap and water and sterilize with UV, not heat. Otherwise, the brushes will dry up.

The fragile glass electrodes have to be inspected for cracks before every treatment and stored safely.

Wax heaters
These can last 10 years if you don’t let wax accumulate. Don’t dump the wax into the wax heater, and remove wax nightly.

Mag lamp
The screws on the arm and lamp itself should be tightened at least weekly.

Steam Room
The steam room is a big part of the overall spa experience and should be cleaned every night because of the humidity and mildew that accumulates. Use a detergent that doesn’t leave the smell of chemicals. Inspect the steam generator at least once a week. A stainless steel base with tile finish should have a five-year warranty. It can be tough to get engineers into a steam room, as many of them are male, and to access mechanical rooms, they often have to go through female locker rooms. Many engineers don’t also work after hours. Therefore, empower your team. Read manuals, and learn to take care of your equipment yourself.

Clean floors and benches nightly, and pick up towels throughout the day. After cleaning, open the door to air it out for the night. The wood may need to be refinished after a few years of use.

Treatment Tables
The quality of the vinyl is important, as the worst enemy for the table is oil. Heat lamps are another enemy, so make sure tables are always covered in linen. Most tables will last 10 years if you consistently wipe them down with soap and water. If the tables are electric, teach staff to be cognizant of where the foot pedals are positioned during treatments. Avoid tucking pedals under the table base to reduce the risk of lowering it onto the foot mechanism. If it’s a portable table, make sure it is well built and therapists know the correct set-up.

Electric Heating Blankets
Good blankets cost between $1,800 and $2,500. The blankets should lie on tables beneath linens when not in use. Never stuff them into a cupboard because it loosens up the internal heating coils.

Hot Towel Cabbies
The towel cabbies should last between five and six years. At the end of the day, remove the condensation tray, empty excess water, and dry. Wipe the inside with cleaner, and leave the door open to air out.

Hydrotherapy Tubs
With pipeless tubs, make sure that they can be cleaned at the end of each treatment by injecting cleansing product into the jets and pipes and using clean water for the rinse cycle. Tubs with air jets need to be wiped clean at the end of each treatment with a disinfectant.

Pedicure Stations/Chairs
They are similar to the tubs in terms of cleaning. Pipeless models offer less opportunity for contamination. Vinyls and woods have to be protected.

A stainless steel base with a tile finish can last as long as 25 years. Sanitation should be frequent, sometimes every hour. Always clean in the morning before you start, back-wash weekly, vacuum, and add chemicals as needed or directed.

Vichy Showers
These must be cleaned nightly with detergent.

Clean the lines, walls, and ceilings daily.

Make Maintenance a Priority
When the Creative Spa Concepts team works with spa directors, we help them prepare an annual maintenance plan, daily schedules, and protocols. Here are some tools to help team members remember and be accountable:

Assign staff members to specific maintenance and cleaning tasks (i.e. sterilizers, hot towel cabbies, steam room). Write these tasks down so the therapists know when and how to do so as part of their daily and weekly closing duties.

Put a checklist of weekly maintenance tasks in the treatment rooms or supply closet. Require that team members initial those tasks that they have completed.

Include maintenance tasks in all opening and closing duties.

Make the technician the owner of their room. They will take ownership, and you will know who to hold liable when routine maintenance is not performed.

During employee reviews, include maintenance and caring for their work environment as part of the ratings.

Be honest with staff about the costs of each piece of equipment. When they know the value, they are more likely to see why taking care of the equipment is critical.

Review and keep equipment manuals on hand. Place them into two binders—one to be kept in the spa and the other should be given to the engineering team (in resorts and hotels).

Maintenance affects the guest experience. It affects the bottom line. It affects the overall ambience. All of these things come together and have a significant impact on how a guest perceives a facility. Give the best guest experience by getting the most out of your equipment. Don’t let your equipment manage you—get physical with your facility.