Huff-n-Puff Dusty Motor Compartment

Saving Money By Keeping Fitness Equipment Clean

Although every element of our preventive maintenance service is important, I would rank interior cleaning at number three, right behind lubrication and hardware tensioning. No matter the type of equipment in your home or gym, basic cleaning will go a long way toward maintaining its appearance as well as ensuring the longest possible life of the unit.

All fitness equipment is susceptible to sweat falling on it. These machines are literally built to allow the user to work up a sweat. Left unattended, this sweat will attract dust that will adhere to the machine surfaces after it dries. As sweat is acidic, this will degrade the plastic, metal, or powder coat over time.
When sweat falls onto areas of the machine that move, or areas that meet moving parts, this sweat will collect dust – gunking up components over time – causing premature wear. Sweat also contains salt that significantly increases the speed at which metals corrode. Check out the pictures below for examples.
Whenever cleaning your machine, only use a neutral cleaner such as Simple Green. This will avoid any damage to the machine from harsh chemicals. Simple Green is our preferred cleaner and is all we use when cleaning customer’s machines.

Drive motor cooling fans draw dust into the motor compartment along with cooling air

Within treadmills, the motor fan is a vital component that draws air into the motor compartment to cool the motor and electronic components. Unfortunately, along with the air, come dust, carpet fibers, and pet hair. Once inside the motor compartment, this debris will almost always cling to the motor, or the motor pan due to static. Once inside it must be manually removed.
If allowed to collect inside the machine, this dust will begin to coat all interior surfaces and build up over time. This will lead to many issues including overheating (the dust layer can act as an insulator), shorting (the dust can short electronic components) and a burning smell (overheated dust can begin to burn). All these issues will eventually result in damage to the electrical components within your machine that will then require replacement.
Purchasing a treadmill mat will greatly reduce the amount of carpet fiber drawn into machines placed in a carpeted room. Regardless, machines will still draw in dust from the air requiring them to be vacuumed out once per year at a minimum. If pets are allowed near the machine, they should be vacuumed out at least twice per year.
During each preventive maintenance (PM) service on treadmills we perform the following interior cleaning process:

  1. Vacuum out all loose debris from the motor compartment
  2. Wipe down the motor compartment with a cloth and Simple Green to remove what the vacuum did not already pick up
  3. Vacuum once more to remove any debris that may have fallen off the cloth during the previous step
  4. Full machine wipe down


Red rust on these elliptical rails from corrosion, black gunk buildup from user sweat

Fully enclosed bikes and ellipticals are probably the easiest machines to care for. A wipe down after each workout will help prevent sweat from building up and causing mechanical and physical damage. Once yearly they should be opened to inspect and vacuum out. A smaller amount of dust will collect within the machine, as well as drive belt fragments that naturally shed off the drive belt as it wears.
Semi-enclosed units will require a bit more work as they have openings that allow dust and debris inside. This dust and debris will collect inside, and these units should be vacuumed out at least once per year in addition to the usual wipe down after every workout. Be especially careful around the wheels and wheel tracks. These objects are notorious for pooling sweat that then attracts dust particles creating a dark, gummy substance. This is best scraped off with a plastic or non-abrasive brush. NOT anything metal, that will scour the powder coat resulting in a required replacement down the road.
During each preventive maintenance (PM) service on ellipticals we perform the following interior cleaning process:

  1. Vacuum out all loose debris from the interior,
  2. Wiping down the interior with a cloth and Simple Green to remove what the vacuum did not already pick up
  3. Vacuuming once more to remove any debris that may have fallen off the cloth during the previous step
  4. Full machine wipe down
  5. Scrape down the wheel tracks with something non-abrasive to remove any collected sweat and dust gum and follow that up with a wipe down of the tracks with Simple Green

Spinners are primarily known for one thing, building up a drastic amount of sweat in a short time due to the intensity of the workout. Ever been to a spin class? I’d encourage you to try one; it is a phenomenal cardio workout. Don’t be fooled by the seat on the bike, you’ll rarely be using it! As these bikes are primarily metal, it does not take long for the corrosive sweat to collect and start eating through it. As always, a simple wipe down after each workout will keep this at bay.
During each preventive maintenance (PM) service on spin bikes we perform the following cleaning process:

  1. Wipe down all the bike’s surfaces with a cloth and Simple Green
  2. Vacuum around the machine to remove dust collected in the machine’s general area

Like spin bikes, weight machines are generally fully exposed. Sweat and dust will collect on the metal causing oxidation and rusting by wiping down all exposed surfaces with a cloth after every workout, you will be minimizing the chance of components rusting prematurely.
During each preventive maintenance (PM) service on weight machines we perform the following cleaning process:

  1. Wipe down all the machine’s surfaces with a cloth and Simple Green, other than the guide rods and cables
  2. Guide rods and cables are treated with an extremely thin layer of lubricant per manufacturer’s specifications
  3. Vacuum around the machine to remove dust collected in the machine’s general area

-HEAVY SWEATERS (no, not wool!):
In most cases, if your workout isn’t making you sweat, you’re doing something wrong. Although it can be a touchy subject, heavy sweaters face more issues with their equipment than lighter sweaters will. We have seen machines that have been sweat on so heavily that over time this sweat has seeped through the console joints and collected within the console. As this goes on, the level of sweat within the console continues to rise until it reaches the electronic board. Electronics and liquids do not mix and the entire console requires replacement in these cases. Generally, we recommend users place a towel over the console to catch any drops of sweat that may fall on it. This will go a long way toward preventing this issue from occurring. However, before doing so, ensure the user is still able to access the safety stop switch, that is the most important switch/button on your machine and must always be easily accessible.

Heavy amounts of sweat left on these pedal arms resulted in excessive corrosion

Always wear clean shoes when on your fitness equipment! If possible, purchase a pair dedicated to inside use only. We frequently encounter dirt and debris from the outdoors that damage machines throughout the warmer months. In the winter, we often see severe damage caused by salty shoes being used on fitness equipment. These repairs have cost some customers upwards of $1200 in extreme cases, far more than I would ever be caught spending on a single pair of shoes!
Normally, an ounce of prevention is well worth a pound of cure and that certainly applies to fitness equipment cleanliness as well. By investing a moderate amount of time into your machine’s upkeep, you are protecting your investment for years of continued use. Remember, the steps listed above are only regarding cleaning and there are many other tasks performed during our routine PM service. These can be found in many of our other blog articles explaining machine maintenance.

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