Other Massage Information

The dirty secret about hot stone massage

A hot stone massage can be a very relaxing and therapeutic treatment. The soothing heat from the stones penetrates your muscles, bringing blood flow to the area and providing you with a deep sense of relaxation. What you may not know, however, is that many clinics and spas do not wash the stones between treatments. That means after the stones are used to massage one client, they are simply put back in the same water and are used for the next client – one after another, all day long.

When stones are not cleaned after each treatment, skin, hair, sweat, and other bodily tissues and fluids accumulate in the roaster used to heat the stones and are transferred from client to client. By the end of the day the water becomes slimly with the accumulation of massage oils and body matter from each client who visited during the day.

A massage therapist who wants to remain anonymous and who worked at a major upscale resort spa in Scottsdale, AZ put it this way:

We just used the same stones and water all day long. On many days I treated eight different people with the same stones. By the end of the day I didn’t even want to touch the stones but management didn’t feel they needed to be cleaned more than once a day.

Another massage therapist who worked at a chain clinic in Scottsdale, AZ known for hot stone massages concurred:

We never cleaned the stones during the day. It was really disgusting.

Some massage facilities put chemicals in the hot stone water to kill bacteria. This is similar to the way hot tubs and pools are treated except there is no filtering device. Chemical agents may also be bad for the client’s health.

The correct procedure, though it takes about 10 – 15 minutes, is to clean each stone and the stone heater with soap and water between each and every client. Of course, this is not as economical for the business and the high volume chains may feel that cleaning the stones (which is often not required under health codes) is just an extra indulgence that could affect their quick in and out system. Resorts, who charge top dollar for these services have no excuse.

Some day spas and others do take the time to clean the stones between every client. This can easily be done while still maintaining a profitable system and reasonable prices. So the next time you book that hot stone massage be sure to specifically ask if the stones are taken out and washed, and the heating water changed, between each and every massage. If not, you may want to consider calling somewhere else – unless you like the communal sharing of bodily tissues, or you are at least the first client of the day!

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  1. I have been working for my current employer for over 7 yrs. Recently I left my full time position to part time, in that time of me leaving and only working part time, I have noticed really unapplaudable behaviors within massage ethics we all should hold true by. This company is a major franchise in the massage industry and they allow their ethics to go to the waist side, which in turns create a very unprofessional and not so clean environment for me, other therapists or any current clients. I know when you fill creme containers to clean the spoon every time, I know to sanitize and clean the hot towel cabbies and all surfaces after every massage, I know to properly clean hot stone after every client & empty out the water, I know not to make hot towels in the sink that is used to also clean dishes of employees, I know to clean the bottles/container after every massage, I know that washing lines with out bleach is not healthy, but do high end corporate franchises understand that the price of making money continually will soon fail if your not servicing your clients in an clean establishment?
    My deepest worry is for myself, the other therapists and the clients of our community. They have their protocol for hot stones to spray a natural antimicrobial on the stones while in the water after every client. This is a facility that pushes out 100+ clients a day…would you go there?? and further more the clients and the community DO NOT KNOW that these dangers are present.

  2. This is a real shame. To me it seems like a blow to the business by not following good infection control practices. I think all it would take is one health issue from a client who visited a spa with compromised practice and it would bring trouble down on everyone. I have worked in the nursing profession for quite a few years, infection control is a really big issue. Who is to say it won’t become a big issue for the massage/spa profession.

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