All gym machines need cleaning and tuning up from time to time, particularly their moving parts. And if you have an indoor rower at home, proper rowing machine maintenance can significantly extend its quality and life.

But when and how often should you clean and inspect it? What kind of cleaners should you use? Are the maintenance steps for all types of rowers the same?

Here’s a quick guide to help you out.

Basic Maintenance Checklist

Not all indoor rowers are the same, and each type requires a few specialised maintenance procedures.

But before we get to that, let’s identify the steps that apply to all types of rowing machines first.

To make it easier, I’ve divided the checklist into three parts: after each workout, once a week and once a month.

Rowing machine maintenance after each workout

Make it a habit to wipe down your rowing machine after every use.

Regularly doing this prevents sweat build-up that can attract dirt and germs, corrode parts and leave off-odours.

Use a clean and damp cloth for this task. But avoid using any abrasive cleaners or solutions.

You can also check your product manual for recommended cleaning agents.

When wiping, pay particular attention to the following high-contact areas:

  • Monorail. This part is where the seat slides on. Try sliding your hand over it on the track to ensure it’s clean and running smoothly.
  • Performance monitor. This one displays your workout data and is prone to finger markings and sweat. To clean, spray the cleaning solution onto a dry cloth to avoid excessive moisture on the device.
  • Handlebar. For this part, apply the same wiping technique you did for the performance monitor.
  • Adjustable foot pedals. Ideally, row with clean shoes, so the pedals only need a quick wipe down.
Indoor Rower Monorail

Rowing machine maintenance once a week

For this routine, your focus should be on parts inspection.

A quick visual check ensures that the small details of your rower stay in good working condition.

It also prevents premature damage to your exercise machine.

This rower maintenance habit provides timely alerts for repairs or replacement, too.

Here are the essential parts you need to check weekly:

  • Pedals and straps. Inspect both for frays or damage. Repair or replace if needed to ensure safe and comfortable rowing workouts.
  • Belt drive and handlebar. Belt drive stitching can unravel over time. On the other hand, the handlebar is prone to damage as you grab and hold it throughout your session. Repair or replace when necessary.
  • Resistance. Check if it’s working fine or generating weird noises. Refer to your manual for troubleshooting.

Aside from these, vacuum your rowing area once a week to avoid dust build-up.

Rowing machine maintenance once a month

Your monthly routine is all about deep cleaning and screw retightening.

Inspection is more thorough this time, and cleaning up will likely take longer.

You’ll probably have to remove certain parts to clean or check the insides of your machine.

Make sure you use the right tools to get this done, though.

And refer to your manual on how to put them back correctly.

Some vital parts to check are the following:

  • Plastic shrouds. Remove and clean them as dust can accumulate inside.
  • Seat. Try to shake it from side to side. Tighten the screws if it’s unstable.
  • Handlebar. Check if it is securely attached to the cord or chain.
  • Console connection. Tighten loose screws to keep the monitor steady.

Other rowing machine maintenance needs

Aside from regular cleaning and inspection, your rower may also need these extra steps every few months:

  • Lubricate the chain. If your handlebar connects to a chain, you need to lubricate it every five months or more, depending on your manual. When you do this, apply the lubricant on a soft cloth or paper towel, then rub it along the entire chain. Directly spraying lubricant on it will only create more mess.
  • Lubricate the pivot points. If your rowing machine has a foldable rail, lubricate it every few months to keep it movable.
  • Change the batteries of the monitor. Skip this if your console needs electricity as its power source. But if it is battery operated, have the necessary tool for changing batteries. Also, if you plan to store the rowing machine for a long time, remember to take out the battery to avoid leaks.
Rowing Machine Performance Monitor

Specialised Rower Maintenance List

Are you using an air or water rowing machine?

Its resistance mechanism and moving parts may have other maintenance requirements.

Here are some points to keep in mind.

  • If you have an air rower, clean the filters. Regular cleaning of the air filters keeps your rower working smoothly. You can do this weekly with a damp cloth and vacuum cleaner. Make sure to follow your instruction manual to prevent voiding the warranty.
  • If you have a water rower, refresh the water tank regularly. The water changing time depends on your rower model. Also, some manufacturers recommend treatment tablets to avoid refilling the tank with fresh water often.
  • If you have a hydraulic rower, use grease to lubricate its pivot points. Hydraulic rowing machines tend to squeak as it has more pivot points. You might need to unscrew some parts to rub the grease properly. You can also use spray-type lubricants for hard-to-reach spots.

Most magnetic rowers do not require special rowing machine maintenance needs.

As they have fewer exposed parts, dust build-up takes a while, too.

So, for magnetic rowing machines, apply regular maintenance, then lubricate the chain if needed.

Extra Care Tips

Aside from proper cleaning and maintenance, your rowing machine will last longer with these preventative measures.

  • Stabilise your rowing machine. Place it on a flat surface to avoid putting too much load on one side of the rower. This tip should make your rowing sessions more efficient and less noisy, too.
  • Use an exercise mat under your indoor rower. This accessory protects your flooring and fitness equipment from damage. It also keeps your rower in place and reduces dust particles.
  • Get professional assistance when needed. Indoor rowers are quite complex exercise machines. So, if something needs repair or replacement, it’s best to call an expert for help. It will save you time and prevent adding more damage to your machine.
Rowing Machine Maintenance Tips


Rowing machine maintenance may seem time-consuming and complicated at first.

Once you know the steps, wiping down your rower or lubricating that chain will quickly become second nature.

Buying a high-quality rowing machine is an investment, after all.

So, make sure to exert equal effort on your cardio workout routine and equipment for fitness journey success.

1. Can I use WD-40 on my indoor rowing machine?

Most manufacturers like Concept 2 do not recommend WD-40 as a lubricant for your rower. WD stands for “water displacement”, and this product is only for cleaning purposes. It will dry up immediately and not leave any lubrication, ruining your fitness machine within days. Instead, follow what your instruction manual suggests for cleaning or lubricating your indoor rower.

2. Can rowing machines go on a carpet?

A carpeted surface is not an excellent flooring for your rowing machine or any other cardio equipment, like ellipticals or treadmills. The fibres release dust particles that can accumulate inside your indoor rower. Sweat can also turn the carpet dirty, making it harder to wash. Plus, the weight of the rowing machine can put irreversible dents on it. Place an exercise mat on your carpet instead for added protection.

3. How long do rowing machines last?

The lifespan of indoor rowers highly depends on their construction and cost. More expensive rowers typically have lifetime guarantees (10 years) because of the superior materials used for their production. Generally, hydraulic rowers have the shortest lifespan due to lower durability and price. But with proper use and maintenance, any rowing machine type can last many years.