How and when to find a local upholsterer

Ripped, torn, or cut vinyl on your Pilates equipment may not be a safety issue, but it sure ages the equipment.  For some brands and models of equipment, replacing the upholstery and foam doesn’t require and upholstery skills at all!  But for other brands, models, and even parts of a typical setup, custom upholstery is the only option besides buying a whole new piece of equipment.

As a maintenance tech, I’ve done one full custom reupholstery job of Gratz equipment.  It was a lot of work, even though I had the right tools and am quite handy! By the end of the weekend the pads of my fingers were tender to the touch because they were pulled away from my fingernails so much, stretching the vinyl tight over the contours of the equipment.

SInce then I only refer my clients to local upholsterers for those kinds of jobs.

Upholstery is tough.  

Not only is it hard on your body, but if you don’t get it quite right it shows pretty darn quickly!  

Not being able to pull the vinyl tight enough can stretched out areas where clients kneel or sit.  

Not using a high enough grade of vinyl can cause it to discolor, wear down, or rip prematurely.

So what do I recommend instead?

Your local automotive upholsterer!

There are often several mobile automotive upholsterers in your area, who are capable of coming to you and working on your equipment on-site.  

These professionals are often able to source vinyl for you if you don’t want to order by the yard, or pre-stitched, from the manufacturer.   (Just remember, high-quality vinyl is a MUST, so it doesn’t stretch from kneeling, or degrade from skin oils or daily cleaners.)

They can sew when needed.

And, they can do it quickly!

Still nervous about trusting someone from outside the Pilates industry?  Go look at your car seat. Look at all those curves! Automotive upholsterers work with complicated geometry all day long.  The relative squareness of Pilates equipment is so much less tricky than that.

If you can’t find a mobile upholsterer, you can also take pieces of your equipment to the upholsterer.  Usually, this means that particular piece of equipment might be out of commission for a day or more, but if you do one piece at a time you can minimize the impact on your studio.

Remember, when looking for an upholsterer be sure to check their reviews on a website like Yelp and talk to them in-person or over the phone.  They’ll often need some photos of the equipment to get an idea of what they’d be working on before giving you a quote.

Common components of your Pilates studio that need to be custom re-upholstered include:

  • All sitting boxes
  • All Gratz and Pilates Designs (by Basil) equipment
  • Mat conversions
  • Raised mats
  • Moonboxes

As always, if you have any questions feel free to send them to me at  I’m happy to help.

Happy Reforming!

When to replace your Reformer ropes and straps

After a while, your ropes or leather straps will start to look a little worn.  Maybe your ropes start to get fuzzy. They are thick, stiff, and wavy right near where they pass through the pulley.  Or, your leather straps start to crack or come apart at the seams.

But is this cause for concern?  

The answer is different depending on which setup you have.


Your ropes eventually get thick and fuzzy where they travel over the pulley.  This is not a safety concern, but it can affect how work with the loops can feel.

Look at the photo below.  You can see the rope on the top is smooth and thinner than the bottom rope.  If you zoom in, you can see that the braiding of the rope is much clearer in the top (new) rope than the bottom.  The bottom rope has a thicker diameter (it’s subtle, but it’s there), and most importantly, feels much stiffer when handled.  

Don’t hesitate to feel the ropes, move them in your hands.  If the section between the pulley and the carriage feels stiffer than the end of the rope that never touches the pulley, that’s compromising your smooth feeling.

I notice this especially when doing arms- or feet-in-straps because it usually makes the movement feel a little bumpy.  These movements should feel smooth. Teachers and clients often use the words juicy, delicious, and yummy to describe them.  But thick and stiff ropes make these movements feel worse.

Many people incorrectly assume this feeling is because of the wheels, when it is actually be worn ropes!  (To read more about how to figure out what is causing your bumpy carriage ride, read this blog post.)

My favorite before and after moment with my maintenance clients is to have them do leg circles with their current ropes, and then change the ropes to new, smooth ones and repeat.  It makes a big difference! But often, you’d never know because the deterioration happens slowly over time, so your body adjusts.

To get the smooth glide you love during work with the straps, I recommend replacing your ropes when they get thick and fuzzy.  

Sometimes, you may notice that the ropes get fuzzy fairly quickly, but they aren’t really thicker near the pulley.  That’s okay. The little fuzzies (like the photo below) are normal and don’t really affect your ropes.  Keep using them until you notice that the ropes are thicker and stiffer near the pulleys than near the loops or carriage.

I want to reiterate that this is not a safety issue.  This is a feel issue.  If you need to work the cost of new ropes into your budget later in the year, you’ll be fine waiting until you can afford the expense.  No rush.

Leather Straps

Last year I talked about how to properly care for your leather straps.  This is incredibly important to extend the life of your straps and to help make them feel really good. 

When you clean your straps, inspect them very carefully for cracks at the seams or near holes.  Unlike ropes, when straps deteriorate and crack like the photos below, they can break! In fact, I’ve seen this happen.

So, it’s important to keep your inspections regular in order to keep you, your instructors, and your clients safe.

Happy Reforming!


Do this to repair your shoulder rest upholstery

One of my absolute favorite feelings is running my hands over brand new vinyl.  The clean, smooth, and uniquely soft feeling of Reformer upholstery is so satisfying, like new car smell.

Conversely, cracked, ripped and dented upholstery can make the whole machine feel old.  No matter how much scrubbing, dusting, and tuning you might do to the rest of the apparatus, the worn vinyl is like a broken headlight on a brand new car.  It just doesn’t fit with the high-quality movement practice you’re teaching.

While Balanced Body makes it easy to replace your upholstery without any sewing skills.   I always use their replacement kits for studios I visit because it’s a great way to ensure you get new vinyl and foam that lasts through years more teaching.  However, sometimes you don’t need to replace the entire upholstery kit.  When the foam is still in good condition and the damage to the vinyl is small, a quick repair might be the answer.

Today I’m going to walk you through my method for gluing a corner seam back together on a Reformer shoulder rest.  I see this kind of bulging a lot, and with five or ten minutes of effort you can make it look like new again.

Example of Upholstery Busted Seam

Photo of Glue and Tape

In order for glue to work (I use this one) you must make sure that you can use your fingers to push the edges of the vinyl together again.  This method will not work for rips, cuts or tears that are missing material or cannot be easily held closed.  If your material is not a candidate for glue, try using this black repair tape.  I love it because it’s meant for outdoor gear and has a great texture.

Once you’ve determined your repair can be done with glue, gather some masking tape.  Use small pieces of tape to mask around the edges of the rip/tear so that the excess glue will not smear over perfectly clean vinyl.

Photo of Upholstery with tape

Next, apply a medium amount of glue into the gap between the edges of the vinyl.  You don’t need the gap to be overflowing and making a big mess on your tape, but you do want to be sure the glue can penetrate between the edges of the vinyl.

Finally, to hold the rip closed, wrap more masking tape around the shoulder block.  The glue takes a couple of hours to dry, so you need some way to hold the gapped vinyl closed.

Upholstery covered in tape     Photo of finished glued upholstery

After a few hours, remove all the masking tape and check your handy-work!  You now have a great-looking shoulder block.  Caution: Avoid heavy usage of the repaired component for 12-24 hours to let the glue fully set.  You may need to use some tweezers to scrape away small bits of your tape, but in general using your fingers should work.

Happy Reforming!

This article was also posted on the Balanced Body Blog.

Do this to keep your Allegro 2 bumpers from falling off

Picture this: Your clients are right in the middle of footwork, dutifully pressing in and out, coordinating their breath, paying attention to their spinal position, and following all your other cues.  All of a sudden, the next time they bring the carriage in, instead of a soft thump when the carriage hits home, there is a loud, metallic clang.  Maybe, even, there is now a humming reverberating along the reformer rails as they move.

How embarrassing.

But luckily, it’s a simple fix.

First, some background.  Earlier versions of the Allegro 2 used U-shaped rubber bumpers which attached to the carriage itself.  Over time, these can come loose and either fall off, or get caught half-way off and make noise as the carriage moves up and down the rails.  It’s time to get rid of these bumpers.

Regardless if you experience these symptoms, if you have these U-shaped bumpers you should replace them as a preventative measure.

The new style bumpers are square and flat.  Here is a great photo showing the difference between the two.

Now, to apply the new bumpers, you need to provide a clean surface to adhere them to.  The place to look is a little hard to see, but if you take a light and look down the rail toward the footbar, you’ll see a flat, silver, rectangular surface.  That’s where you’re going to put it.

Before you stick one of those squares on there, you need to make sure the surface is clean.  Especially if there was a square bumper there before.  This is one time that I advocate using GooGone to get rid of any lingering sticky mess.  (It’s totally fine to use because you are using it on a metal surface, but don’t make a habit of using this everywhere!)

This is very important!  You don’t want the new bumper to fall off right away.

Finally, stick your new bumper on the clean, dry surface.  Check out these two photos.  You need to stick the bumper on the side closer to the inside of the reformer, rather than the outside.

If you place the bumper too far to the outside, the edge of the carriage that comes into contact with it will only hit the edge, and that can cause it to wear and fall off really early.  Can you see the squishy-ness on the side of the bumper that is pushed too far left?

You can even test the position by putting your finger on the edge of the carriage rail (a silver metal piece underneath the carriage) and gently moving the carriage toward the bumper, feeling where the edge of the carriage contacts the bumper.  The carriage edge should be about centered on the bumper.

Once you verify that placement, repeat the process on the other side of the Reformer (right/left).  You’re now ready for a session!

Happy Reforming!


How to clean your Wooden dowels and Push-Through Bars

There is nothing less glamorous than picking up your wooden roll-down bar, push-through bar, or gondola pole and feeling your palms stick to the surface.  Yuck!

Pilates Bar WorkLearn from my mistake: I once spent thirty minutes with some steel wool on a roll-down bar only to end with an ugly, bare piece of wood and a pile of flakes of grime and wood finish!

In this quick guide I want to share with you how to maintain your wooden dowels and, if necessary, deep clean them.

How did they get this way?

The problem with these wooden dowels is that they usually get overlooked when it comes time to clean the equipment after a session.  Most clients are great at wiping down the upholstery, but other things like footbar, rollers, balls, handles, and dowels often get neglected.  This can cause all their sweat, hand lotion, and skin oil to build up very time.  This clear, sticky buildup can then catch dirt and dust, too, turning it an ugly red-brown color.

An ounce of prevention

The first thing you want to do to prevent this buildup is verbally instruct your clients to clean their dowels after a session.  I recommend spraying your cleaning solution on a towel, and then wiping down the wood surface.  If you aren’t sure what to use to clean after every session, check out this blog post.  It is important not to use something that is really heavy-duty and will leave a film of its own.

Deep cleaning

If you already notice some buildup on your dowels, don’t worry!  It might not be too late (and hopefully won’t require toomuch time.)  I recommend starting with a slightly-more-than-damp microfiber rag (use just water) and some patience.  Rub the water-soaked towel on the dowel giving some pressure with your hands and allowing the water to “soak” in.  Don’t be afraid to spend some time rubbing with light pressure.  Seriously.  Have some patience because it probably won’t wipe off quickly.  That’s okay!

The reason for this method is two-fold.  First, you don’t want to use any chemicals that will easily strip the grime because they will also likely remove the finish underneath.  Using a dowel without a coat of finish on it will make it even harder to clean in the future, and it just doesn’t look good.

Second, using an abrasive scrubber like steel wool, a screwdriver, or the stiff back of a sponge can also scrape off the grime AND the finish, so avoid those unless you want to undertake the re-finishing process yourself.  The exception to this is using your fingernail, where you may have better tactile feedback and can very lightly scrape the grime off and leave the surface finish alone.  But, that is quite tedious.

The best solution to combine soaking/wetting power and scrubbing power might be to use a silicone sponge like this one, or the soft side of a sponge.

What if it’s too far gone?

If this process doesn’t work for you, obviously, you can just live with the grime.  You could also replace the dowel from your manufacturer, or, you could refinish the dowel yourself.  There are lots of YouTube tutorials on how to refinish a piece of wood, and I recommend following one of them that tells you how to use polyurethane to seal it.

Grime on HandleUnfinished dowels

If your dowel is unfinished like one of those dowels that goes in the chair pedals or a home-made gondola pole, scrub away.  You could even sand it, though, in my experience the grime doesn’t respond well to sanding. If grime is a problem on these dowels I recommend sealing the dowel yourself, though, to help make cleaning in the future easier.

As always, if you have a specific question about your piece of equipment, you can email me and I’ll be happy to help.

This post originally appeared on Balanced Body blog, here.

Which cleaners to use on your equipment, and when

Cleaning your Pilates equipment is hugely important for the look of your studio, the feel of each exercise, and the safety of your clients.  There are four different cleaning solutions I recommend for your equipment.  I prefer using all of these in spray form with a microfiber cloth.


Plain water from your tap is hugely beneficial for 90% of the cleaning you need to do.  This is my go-to solution for cleaning the following places:

  • Reformer rails
  • Reformer frames (wood and metal)
  • Wood roll-down bars
  • Metal and wood push-through bars
  • Reformer wheels
  • Chair pedals and other dusty/dirty areas

The problem with cleaning with some solutions (not all) is that they can mix with skin oil, sweat, or body lotions to make a sticky buildup.  Patience is key, here.  Take a few extra seconds to scrub rather than jumping to a heavier duty solution right away.

Water + Dish Soap

For a little extra cleaning power, I recommend 1 teaspoon of dish soap with 16 ounces of water.  (Yes, regular Dawn® dish soap!)  This is great for these applications:

  • Cleaning vinyl after each client
  • Extra scrubbing power (remember, just a microfiber cloth!) for tough grime of both metal and wood surfaces

Note: for tough stains on reformer rails, use water and some aluminum foil from your kitchen folded into a small scrub pad for extra oomph.  Check out this link for more info on this technique.

Silicone Spray

While the results you might get with Silicone spray seem magical, please be careful not to use this too liberally or on parts that aren’t listed below.

Note: It is a myth that silicone spray is good for your Reformer rails.  Please avoid using this on your wheels and rails.

BB Clean Product

BB Clean

This awesome, natural disinfectant can be used in any of the situations that water or soapy water can be used for a little extra all-natural cleaning and disinfecting power.  Finally, my pro tip is to be patient.  I prefer taking 10-15 wipes with water and a rag than using one wipe with a solution that has some heavy chemicals in it.  Your equipment has the ability to last upwards of twenty years, but if you want the wood finish and the metal coatings to last that long as well, using fancy cleaning solutions for the sake of saving a few seconds of effort isn’t recommended.

This post originally appeared on the Balanced Body blog, here.

How to replace your footbar padding

After years of footwork in parallel, your footbar padding will get worn down.  This may look like you’ve got two indentations and if your feet are on the bar it’s very, very hard in just those two spots because you can feel the metal beneath your heels.

(Note: When I talk about footbar padding I’m not talking about the vinyl sticky mat that velcros around over the top of the bar, but the neoprene padding between the cover and the aluminum bar.) 

Footbar Replacement

Conveniently, this padding is really easy to change.  This procedure applies to the Inifinity footbar on a Studio or Clinical Reformer, the black Allegro Reformer, and a Classic or Revo footbar on the Studio Reformer.

First, you’ll need to order the correct footbar padding from your BB Sales Rep or distributor.  The dimensions are slightly different so make sure you get the correct one.  They will be able to help you determine what is correct for your Reformer.

Second, remove the Velcro footbar cover.  On older Reformers you will need to just undo the Velcro.  However, if you have a cover that pulls tight on both ends with draw strings, keep the strings wrapped around the footbar, but just slide the cover to one side of the footbar and let it hang.

(Note: If you want to upgrade your footbar cover to one with drawstrings at both ends so it doesn’t slide sideways over time, you can!  Just talk to your sales rep or distributor.)

Now, you’re ready to start peeling off the old footbar padding.  This can be the most frustrating part of the process because the padding may come off in a thousand tiny pieces.  Don’t worry, just have patience.  I’ve found that over time the best technique is to use your fingers to peel the adhesive part under the padding off, rather than just the padding.  You can also try applying some heat to soften the adhesive before removing it.

Other times (lucky times!) the pieces come off in big chunks and it goes quickly.

Removing Footbar

Once the old padding is off, you are ready to apply the new padding.  There is no need to make the footbar perfectly clean and smooth, because you are just going to cover it up again.  Just make sure there are no thick chunks remaining.

The new padding should be applied so the seam faces away from the carriage.  I start by holding one short end of the padding in each hand, and visually aligning it so it’s centered on the footbar.  Then, I smooth it all the way across in a line.

New Footbar Placement

Next, wrap the middle of the padding around the middle of the footbar, and work your way outward, smoothing as you go.

Once the padding is secure, you are ready to re-attach the footbar cover.  Make sure you face the Velcro seam away from the carriage.

Footbar Orientation and Cleanup

Re-tie the strings on each end (if present) and tuck them back under out of the way.

Now, you’re ready to enjoy your new, cushy, footbar.

This post originally appeared on the Balanced Body blog, here.

Troubleshooting your Trapeze Table canopy

There’s nothing more frustrating than when you are working with a client on your Cadillac and the slider bars won’t adjust where you need them to be.  You scurry around, trying to loosen things and find the best angle to apply force to move the bars into position, all while your client is watching you and waiting.

Fixing this issue might sound intimidating, at first, but can be fairly simple if you have the right tools and process.  Here’s where you can start.

First, make sure the tubes the sliders are mounted to are clean.  There’s a quick #MaintenanceMonday video on Instagram about how to clean your tubes with Silicone Spray, here.  Basically, you spray some silicone on a dry rag and wipe down the rails.  If the canopy is aligned well, the sliders should move much more easily.

However, if the silicone spray cleaning doesn’t help your sliders move more smoothly, you may need a slightly more in-depth tune-up.  To do this, you’ll need a 3/16” Allen wrench and two cotter pins.  (Hint: you can substitute some thin nails or small Allen wrenches for the cotter pins, if you didn’t keep yours).

To watch this process as it relates to a sticky vertical slider bar, you can check out the free video in the BB Garage, here.

  • Insert the cotter pins (or cotter pin substitutes) into the holes on the vertical tubes.  This will prevent the tubes from sliding down once you loosen the set screws.
Insert Cotter Pins
  • Loosen the two set screws on each tube receiver which are mounted to the wood frame.
Loosen Screws Mounted to Frame
  • Loosen the two set screws at the top of the canopy that hold the top horizontal tube in place (see photo).
Loosen Screws on Top of Canopy
  • Slide the vertical slider bar all the way up to the top.
  • Tighten the two set screws at the top.
  • Slide the vertical slider bar all the way to the bottom.
  • Tighten the eight set screws on the bottom.
  • Test slide the bar up and down to make sure the process worked.
  • Remove the cotter pins.
  • Enjoy your smoothly functioning slider!

Please note, this procedure can be extrapolated to the horizontal slider on the top of the canopy, and to issues with the push-through bar binding up.  If the vertical slider doesn’t function smoothly after this tune-up, you’ll need to loosen all of the set screws of the canopy, sequentially, and re-tighten them.  I can help walk you through that slightly more complicated process if you reach out to me at

Happy Reforming!

The difference between wheel bushings and bearings

How your carriage rides on the rails is one of the most noticeable things about your Reformer and one of the most critical to getting the intended feeling of an exercise.

Not only is the condition of the outer rubber wheel important, but the metal part that surrounds the axle bolt, as well.  That metal part (it looks like a donut), can be either a bushing or a bearing.


Classical leaning machines, such as the Contrology Reformer and the Centerline Reformer, use bushings on their wheels.  Bushings are simply a round metal donut that fits between the rubber or plastic wheel and the metal axle bolt.  It can be made of different materials, such as steel, bronze, or high-grade plastic like Nylon.  The material chosen depends on what kind of friction properties you want  (Translation: how you want it to feel/the drag) and what kind of wear properties you want (Translation: whether you want to oil or maintain the surfaces that rub on one another.)


Contemporary leaning machines, such as the Studio Reformer, Allegro and Allegro 2 Reformers, and the Rialto Reformer, use wheels with bearings.  Bearings are also donut shaped, however, they have a few layers because inside of the donut are a bunch of tiny steel balls and lubricant.  This allows for a much silkier ride than bushings, with hardly any drag.  You can find these types of bearings on roller skates or inline skates.

Which is better?

Despite very different designs and “feels” neither one is technically superior.  They just provide different experiences on the Reformer.  If you want to try one out to feel the difference, check local studios and see if you can take a session with an instructor there (what a great way to cross-train, build your local network, and make more Pilates friends!) Or, you can come to one of the many Pilates on Tour conferences and try out many different pieces of Balanced Body equipment.  I’ll be there answering all your equipment-related questions!

Maintenance and Care

Balanced Body does not require regular maintenance for the bushings or bearings specifically, however, I recommend keeping the surfaces of your wheels and rails clean.  This prevents hair, dust, dirt, and little rubber flecks from any padding you use from migrating into the bushings or bearings where they will start to cause problems (see the gross photos below!)  If you can keep your machine clean, the wheels can last decades.  To read more about cleaning your rails, click here.

Psst! This post also appeared over on Balanced Body’s blog.


How to never tighten that one loose bolt again

We’ve all experienced a loose knob, bracket, or post on our Pilates equipment, and some of us even have the exact right wrench in the front desk drawer to tighten that bolt because it happens week after week, after week.  It’s so annoying!

Today I want to show you how to use Loctite® to prevent these bolts from rattling loose over and over again.

First, Loctite® is a brand name for a liquid thread locker.  It comes in a small tube and there are several “colors” you can purchase, each of varying strengths.  The color you want is BLUE.  The blue Loctite® is semi-permanent and will balance preventing your bolt from rattling loose from daily activity while still being able to manually remove the bolt with regular tools at some point in the future, if needed.

Loctite® is quite runny, so be wary when cutting the nozzle open the first time and handling the tube with the cap off at any point.  Once applied, the liquid will harden into a gummy substance that will grip both the female threads and the male threads so that they can’t easily wiggle loose.

Please, avoid the RED label because that one is permanent!  You’ll never get those bolts out again.

Here’s a quick Maintenance Monday clip on how to apply the Loctite® to your Allegro 2 silver loop hooks on the carriage.  Those hooks can get quite loose over time, so this little trick will keep them securely in place.

To do this procedure on these particular bolts, you’ll need a 5/32” allen wrench, a shop rag, and blue loctite.  This same process can also be done on any bolt that is chronically loose, isn’t screwed directly into wood, and isn’t required for adjustments during a client session (i.e. cam cleats, or knobs).  I recommend doing this when you have at least a two hour period afterward where the equipment will not be used.

  1. Remove the bolt from the nut.
  2. Place the bolt on the dry rag and wipe it clean.
  3. Open the tube of loctite (you may need to cut the end if it’s a brand new tube) CAUTION: Squeezing the tube even a little bit will cause the liquid to squirt out, so be gentle and do this over your shop rag.
  4. Apply a short, thin line along the length of the threads.
  5. Re-insert the bolt and tighten it.
  6. In two hours the liquid will harden into a gummy substance.
  7. Repeat on the other bolts.

If you aren’t sure whether Loctite® is right for a particular bolt of yours, feel free to shoot me an email at and I’ll help you out.

Happy Reforming!