Proudly be your home gym’s janitor

A quality shop-vac will be your best friend when it comes to keeping your garage gym on par with the commercial guys.

A home gym might be cheaper long-term than a gym membership, but it’s still a sizable investment. Keep it clean.

If there have been any major surprises for me so far in building and maintaining my garage gym, they’ve been mostly related to maintenance. Things you take for granted with a commercial gym — how clean the floors are (or aren’t, depending on your gym), changing light bulbs, pest control, equipment rust and repair — become your responsibility with a home gym. Early on, I had to blow off a couple workouts because I went out to the garage to lift, only to get so irritated with the dust on the stall mats that I had to change gears and do a deep clean first.


Unless you’ve got a huge budget, chances are you haven’t insulated or sealed your garage. And, of course, there’s that giant door the size of the whole wall to deal with, too. Mostly, keeping it closed will keep dust, dirt and debris out. But, if you’re like me and you still have a garage that’s splitting duty between gym and actual garage, you’ll invite more dirt than you’d like to. You can expect to have to be diligent about:

  • No. 1, of course: Dust. This is inevitable. Once a week, I like to take the shop-vac and give the floors and racks a once-over. Maybe once every few months I’ll open up the garage door and use the blower to get a little more aggressive.
  • Grass clippings, if you store your lawnmower in your garage. It’s not a huge problem, honestly, especially if you use a clipping bag instead of the mulcher. But my garage does smell ever-so faintly like fresh-cut grass. Can’t say it’s a distraction for me.
  • Dirt/debris. Depending on what the landscape around your garage is like, you could have varying levels of grime in your gym. My garage is on a cement slab attached to my cement driveway, adjacent to the sidewalk and my backyard lawn, so there’s very little loose dirt flying around. That doesn’t stop my shoes from leaving imprints on the stall mats – I’ve gotten in the habit of leaving a pair of gym shoes in the garage by the door, wearing sandals out to the garage and then putting my shoes on once I’m ready to lift. That’s made a big difference in how often I have to sweep/vacuum.
  • Bugs. Yeah, it happens. Mostly it’s harmless spiders spinning webs in the far reaches of the corners, away from the equipment and in the windows (my garage has two). I actually tend to ignore those, since I’m usually seeing flies and other pests caught up in those webs. The one or two times in two years I’ve seen a black widow, though, you can bet I sprayed all around the perimeter. Again, it depends on where you live and how well you’ve insulated your garage. It happens, but you’d likely be doing this to your garage anyway. It just so happens that you’re spending more time in there when your gym’s inside.


Look, it’s your space, so far be it from me to tell you how to arrange and manage it. But to me, again, my gym is an investment, as is the stuff in it. That means that I’m always racking my weights, wiping down my bench and putting my equipment where it goes when I’m finished with my workouts. If you’re like me, you were doing this at the commercial gym, to begin with (and if you’re not, shame on you!). It just feels that much better to be responsible for the equipment when it’s you who’s spent the money on it.

On top of general equipment pick-up, you’ll occasionally be checking in on these things:

  • Power/squat rack and other rack tightening. The dumbbell rack and squat rack I own came with about 100 nuts and bolts, combined, I’m guessing. Over time, I find it worthwhile to check in on all those and give a quick tighten with the socket wrench, to keep the equipment rock-solid.
  • Adamant Barbell has a comprehensive list of tips for maintaining your expensive Olympic bar, whether it’s stainless steel (in your garage, yes, it’s still vulnerable) or chrome. Keeping your equipment moisture- and rust-free is key for its longevity. (Note – that link will want you to disable your ad-blocker, if that’s an issue for you.)
  • Light bulbs and lamps – I put long-lasting LED bulbs out there so I can just not worry about them. Buy them in bulk and never worry about running out and having to put off a workout because it’s dark.
  • The rest of your garage! If you’re still using part of it for storage, tools, etc., you’ll want to keep everything in place and organized, if you’re not already. I personally love having open space and minimizing clutter, and that’s doubly true both with my gym equipment and my tools.

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