Laura Flynn Endres
How to Clean Your Home Exercise Equipment (Even Dumbbells)
You clean your equipment, right?
It's obvious that you need to wash your stinky, sweaty exercise clothes, but what about all that equipment you're sweating onto? You probably wipe down your exercise mat on occasion, and it's easy to sanitize your workout bench if you have one, but when's the last time you cleaned your dumbbells? Your stability ball? The handles of your resistance bands?
Yep, those all get sweaty and funky, and with the worry about germs and viruses these days, it makes sense to take 15 minutes and give everything a good clean. All you need to do is gather a few basic cleaning supplies.
Here's the best way to clean your home exercise equipment.
Jump to how to clean:
Dumbbells & Kettlebells
Grab a microfiber cloth, a clean sponge or rag, and a non-toxic spray cleaner like this one. Or, you can mix a few drops of dish soap into a bucket of warm water.
Give them a good scrub. If your dumbbell or kettlebell handles are textured for better grip, take care to let the solution get into the tiny grooves and use a bristled brush to scrub away build-up. Wipe the equipment dry with a microfiber cloth. Or, set the newly cleaned equipment in the sun for 30 minutes to benefit from nature's disinfectant.
This goes for your barbells and weight plates and squat racks and workout benches, too.
How often: Monthly
Handled Resistance Bands
Those soft spongy handles? They absorb sweat. EW, gross.
Mix a few drops of dish detergent and warm water in a large bowl or bucket. Soak the handles in the solution for an hour, then rinse. Squeeze excess water from the handles and hang them to dry.
To clean the tubing, spray a non-toxic cleaning solution onto a clean rag or paper towel and run it along the tubing. Do not soak the tubing in cleaning solution as it can deteriorate the material.
And on that note, you should regularly run your bare hands along the tubing to check for rough spots or tears. Bands don't last forever, and when they snap it can be a little scary or even dangerous. If the band is wearing thin, it's time for a new one.
How often: Every 3 months
Spray a non-toxic cleaning solution - or make your own by filling a spray bottle with 1/3 vinegar, 2/3 water, and 5 drops of essential oil - onto half of the stability ball and wipe it with a clean rag or paper towel. Clean the ball in sections, taking care to get the entire surface. Let the ball dry completely before using again as it can be slippery when wet.
To prolong the life of your stability ball, use it only on smooth surfaces free of debris. If you use it outside, take care to find an area without pebbles or sticks or anything else that may puncture or scuff the surface.
This is when quality matters. There are cheap stability balls that will be made of thinner material and won't last as long, and there are higher-quality stability balls that are built to be anti-burst.
Believe me, when one of these pops? It sounds like a bomb going off. And if you're on it, it can be quite unsafe.
Like with your resistance bands, run your hands along the surface occasionally to check for weak or thinning spots. A weak spot might appear as a small bulge, and a misshapen ball can be a sign that it's wearing out, too.
How often: Monthly
Mini-Band Loops and Elastic Bands
These get super sweaty but they're also super easy to clean! Simply soak these in warm soapy water for an hour or so, then wipe them down with a clean rag. Hang them up to dry - but not in the sun, which can deteriorate the material.
Again, these can snap. When you see a tear forming, cut it in half and use it as a longer ribbon until it tears again. They're inexpensive, so you can keep a spare set on hand.
How often: Monthly
I choose my mats carefully to be durable, easy to clean, provide plenty of cushioning for when my clients need to kneel, and even be the right color - gray - to show less dirt and staining. This is my favorite one ever that checks all those boxes.
It's easy to clean, too. Simply spray it down with a non-toxic or homemade cleaning solution, then wipe with a clean rag and let it dry. The textured side is a bit harder to clean, so be sure you really scrub into the grooves.
Sticky yoga mats, designed to prevent slipping, require a different cleaning method.
A not-so-fun fact: when a researcher swabbed a yoga mat that a woman "doesn't clean very often," it came back positive for 12 million counts of bacteria, including the kind that are responsible for athlete’s foot, plantar warts, staph infections, and ringworm.
To clean your sticky yoga mat, mix a solution of warm water, a few drops of dish soap, and 1/3 cup vinegar. Spray onto the mat, then wipe with a clean towel. Next, rinse the solution off with a fresh, wet towel and drape it over a chair to dry.
Don't scrub too vigorously because you want to preserve the sticky quality of the mat. Also, be sure to wash both sides because when you roll up your mat, the dirty underside touches the top side you used.
Also, storing your mat unrolled can help to prevent funky stuff from growing in your mat. Never roll it up with it's still wet with sweat - because, um EW.
How often: Weekly
Workout Clothes & Shoes
Eventually, workout clothes might retain their funk even after regular washing. When that happens, it's time to break out the best home remedy - vinegar.
Mix 1 part vinegar with 3 parts cold water. Submerge your stanky clothes and let them soak for at least 30 minutes. Get in touch with your washed-clothes-by-hand ancestry and gently wring them a few times to let the vinegar really get in there and work.
Then, toss them in the washing machine and do your regular thing.
Resist the urge to use more detergent than usual. That will only cause build-up. Instead, there are several specialty detergents on the market that we stinky gym rats swear by.