It Takes All Types
At the gym, where I work out a couple times a week (pumping iron, getting stoked and ripped, etc.), I have observed two distinct types of exercisers.
The first type is almost always male. He storms in loudly, clad in cotton shorts and a muscle shirt. Having just spent half an hour on the elliptical trainer, he is sweating profusely. Despite the prevalence of (free) “sweat towels,” he opts instead to air-dry, but not until after he uses the equipment. He grunts and groans his way through a few exercises, depositing as much of his perspiration onto the seats and paddings and handles of the machines as he can muster. It’s amazing a person can sweat that much! Then, he leaves, the equipment still glistening with his salty bodily fluids.
The second type can be either male or female. S/he doesn’t sweat at all, wears “lifting gloves” and full body leotards. Before using a machine, this type of athlete will over-soak some paper towels in disinfectant (conveniently kept atop the paper towel dispenser), and will proceed to wipe down every inch of the equipment s/he is about to use, even the weights themselves. S/he has also visited a physical therapist or orthopedist before working out, who advised her to start by lifting feathers and move up from there. And so s/he spends half an hour doing what amounts to tai chi on the chest-press machine, moving a single 5 pound weight up and down with excruciating leisure, such that lines form behind him/her. After the “work out,” s/he returns to the paper towel dispenser to disinfect the machinery anew, leaving it glistening as much as that the sweaty male did who used it half an hour earlier, such that the next user (you) has to get more paper towels to dry off the damned thing.
As with just about everything in life, sensible gym etiquette falls somewhere in between these two extremes.