How to clean your treadmill to keep it working and looking like new

Your treadmill is one of the most expensive items in your home gym. It only makes sense to spend just a little time every now and then taking care of it.

I’m not sure about you, but after I’m done with my treadmill for the day, I’m not in the mood for a cleaning project. The good news is that keeping your treadmill clean is an easy thing to do. The hard part is making an effort to do it regularly.

The best way to keep your treadmill clean is to wipe down any sweat after each session with a dry, clean cloth. Weekly, use a damp cloth to clean the belt off and vacuum under and around the treadmill. When cleaning the screen and control panel, never use glass cleaner, instead use a cleaner meant for electronics.

Man running in a gym on a treadmill concept for exercising, fitness and healthy lifestyle

The hardest part of this cleaning regimen is making it a habit. I’m terrible at this and have learned the hard way that cleaning regularly is much more effective than leaving it for long periods of time.

In fact, with sweat, grime, and dirt, time is the enemy. Many things that would clean right up if addressed right away become permanent marks or stains if left uncleaned too long.

Voiding your treadmill warranty

It’s important to be familiar with your treadmill’s warranty, especially when it comes to cleaning your treadmill. A warranty is no good if it is voided by something the owner inadvertently does.

Many of the better-built treadmills have very long warranties. One of my favorite treadmill brands, True, gives a 1-year warranty on parts and labor, a 5-year warranty on the frame, and a 30-year warranty on the motor!

When you invest in a great treadmill, a great warranty is often part of the investment. But the warranty is only useful if it is not voided.

Not cleaning your treadmill can void your warranty. If the motor dies and it’s determined that it’s caked with dirt, dust, pet hair, carpet fibers, etc., odds are your repairs won’t be covered.

If you look in the manual that came with your treadmill, you’ll almost always see care and maintenance guidelines. Not following these almost always voids your warranty. So it’s best to stick to a regular treadmill cleaning and maintenance schedule!

It’s also important not to use inappropriate cleaning supplies when cleaning your machine. Some cleaners can be harmful to the belt. Water can fry a motor. And glass cleaner can permanently streak your console.

Any damage caused by improperly cleaning your treadmill is typically not covered by the warranty. So it’s important to follow a few basic guidelines.

Clean these three things

When caring for your treadmill, there are three key parts of the unit to keep clean and maintained.

First are the mechanicals. Here’s what that entails:

  • Drive motor
  • Rollers
  • Incline motor
  • Incline mechanism
  • Deck suspension system

Next up is the belt. It’s only one part, but it certainly is an important one!

Third is the console. This encompasses the control panel as well as any display screen or built-in multimedia display.

If you keep an eye on these three things and follow the plan outlined below, you’ll be in good shape. Each has a slightly different schedule and need, but it’s all straightforward and easy to remember and do.

Sweat is your enemy!!!

Regardless of the cleaning schedule I recommend, sweat always needs to be removed as soon as you are done using your treadmill. It should be cleaned from any and every part it gets on. Use the tools and techniques suggested below, but do it right away!

I don’t know about you, but I sweat a lot! Being bald certainly doesn’t help (my bald brethren can all relate to not having any hair to catch and hold our sweat while training), but in any case, I’m usually a sweaty mess about 20 seconds into using my treadmill.

That sweat gets on the belt, the console, the floor, the arms, and the frame. I’ve learned the hard way what happens when you don’t clean it up right away—permanent stains and marks.

So step one in any treadmill cleaning plan is to wipe up all sweat as soon as you can. Don’t even leave it for an hour or two; just do it right away. Every time!

It’s probably not a good idea to use your already sweaty workout towel. Doing that is just smearing sweat around the treadmill, not cleaning it up. I recommend a fresh, clean microfiber towel for the job.

A damp cloth may work better in some cases, but it’s the “clean” part that is most important.

Cleaning the mechanicals

As I listed before, this is the drive and incline motor, the rollers, and the suspension system. All of this is hidden away, out of sight under your treadmill.

To keep these in good working order and clean simply requires a vacuum once a week. I like to use the hose with a brush attachment to vacuum around the sides and underneath my treadmill. You aren’t looking for a surgical level cleaning here. You are merely trying to suck up a week’s worth of dirt, carpet fibers, pet hair, and dust.

I clearly have not done this recently.

If you can (many folding treadmills are on wheels for ease of movement), move the treadmill and vacuum the mat underneath (yes, you need a treadmill mat!).

Once every 3-6 months, you’ll want to do something a little more than vacuum. First, remove the motor cover and take your vacuum (hose with a brush end) to the inside of the unit. Even with weekly vacuuming, you’ll be surprised at what collects up under this cover.

Allowing too much dust and dirt to collect on or around the motor can cause it to overheat and burn out. This, as I mentioned above, is usually not covered by warranty.

While you’re in there, lubricate as directed by your owner’s manual. Every treadmill is different in this regard, so I don’t have a specific direction for you other than to refer to your manual. 

One thing to be very careful of is the type of lubricant called for. Again, your manual is your guide here, but this job will usually call for a silicon-based lubricant.

Cleaning the belt

Wipe this down after every use. Once a week, take a damp cloth and wipe it down a little more thoroughly. You don’t need a lot of water, but you may be surprised at just how much dirt comes off of that belt!

If you don’t clean the sweat off of your belt after each use, you may peramanently stain it.

One trick to doing this more effectively is to do it with the treadmill off. Some people like to turn it on and let the belt run under the cloth. While this works, it does not allow you to scrub a little into the belt’s texture.

Take a little more time, use a circular motion, and rotate the belt manually as you clean the length of the belt.

Adjusting your belt

This is another “refer to your manual for specifics” topic, but there are a couple of general rules of thumb.

Treadmill key and adjustment hole.

Your belt will stretch over time. This will cause it to go off-center or become too loose to smoothly roll under you as you run/walk.

If your belt is clearly not in the middle of the deck, you’ll need to adjust it. Most treadmills come with a special key to do this (often just a long Allen wrench). Do this slowly; it doesn’t take a lot to get your belt back to center.

Next, stand on your belt with the treadmill stopped. Now start the treadmill. Do you hear the rollers sliding through the belt as it tries to get the belt going? If so, the belt is too loose. You’ll need to tighten it a little bit at a time until it moves with no slipping on a cold start.

Cleaning the console

 NEVER, EVER USE GLASS CLEANER!!! This is true of any electronic screens from your smartphone to your flat-screen TV. Glass cleaners like Windex will permanently streak electronic devices. The console on your treadmill is no exception.

This is what happens when glass cleaner is used. The scratches are from using paper towel instead of a soft cloth.

This applies to the entire console, not just the screen. These consoles are usually covered in a thin layer of protective plastic. That plastic is easily marred and streaked by glass cleaners.

Instead, use a cleaner designed for electronic devices. I like the ones you can buy in a kit with a cloth and a little bottle of cleaner that come together in one package. These are not expensive, and everyone should have at least one on hand to clean all of their devices, including the treadmill console.

If you don’t have anything like this, order one now! This one on Amazon is a great option and one kit will last you a very long time.

Don’t want to use any type of spray to clean things? Another great option are these glass cleaning towels we bought on Amazon recently. We use them on our windows (and WOW do they work great!!!), but they would work well on a treadmill console as well!

Additional questions

Sweat has discolored my treadmill belt, is there any way to get that out?

If you have tried to clean the spots with gentle soap, water, and a cloth, there really isn’t anything else you can do. If the white spots are dried salt/sweat, they should come off. If the salt has leached into the belt and discolored it, there is no going back. The only solution would be a costly belt replacement.

Someone used Windex to clean my console, is there a way to get the streaks and spots off?

Unfortunately, no there is not. Luckily, most consoles will still work if cleaned with glass cleaner, but the damage done by this type of cleaner cannot be reversed.

My vacuum doesn’t have a hose. What should I do instead?

Your first option is to use a broom to reach under the treadmill and clear out the dust. It’s not as good as a vacuum, but it is better than nothing.

My best recommendation is to get a Dyson handheld vacuum like this one. I bought one for my whole house and use it in my gym very regularly. They are a little pricey, but it’s one of those things that once you have one, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it!

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