MIT Creates First of Its Kind Wrestling Mat Cleaner

The San-X is already getting interest from national cleaning brands.

The San-X in action. Photo provided.

The San-X in action. Photo provided.

Skin infections have been plaguing the sport of wrestling for years. USA wrestling even released a guide to prevent infections (bacterial, fungal, and viral) so that its athletes can be better educated on how to prevent and treat the conditions. While most of these infections are transmitted from skin-to-skin contact, the mats used in wrestling (and gym floors, and even yoga mats) can also play host to a variety of bacteria, parasites, and fungus.

That’s why a group of 18 MIT and Harvard students created the San-X, the first integrated wrestling mat cleaner and sanitizer, which is designed to both remove debris from the mat and kill infection-causing pathogens. It uses UV light and a special cleaning cloth to permeate the mat.

The San-X neutralizes the bacteria responsible for infections and was created in MIT’s mechanical engineering class known as 2.009 Project Engineering Processes. Betsy Soukup, a 21-year-old MIT senior who worked on the project, says that the idea came about because several people on the team used to be on wrestling teams, and one team member had to stop the sport for several weeks after contracting a skin infection. “Our team was interested in developing something that would serve a legitimate purpose, and when we did some research and saw that the right methods were out there but not being employed effectively, we saw our chance to make a great product,” she says.

Soukup says that the team independently tested a few different concepts that would be critical to getting a working final design, by testing the effectiveness of UV light and determining how often the cleaning cloth would need to be replaced. “After the final presentation in Kresge auditorium, we were approached by a steam cleaning company who was interested in our idea,” she says. “The team is meeting in January to discuss patenting the idea along with any other future actions we may want to take.”

In the future, this technology could be used not only for wrestling mats, but also for yoga mats, gym flooring, and more.