Get Your Chair Rolling Smoothly
When your favorite wheeled desk chair stops rolling smoothly, don't panic. Here's a simple, low-tech DIY fix you can try -- guaranteed easy peasy.
Cleaning the casters is key
Clean the casters (the little wheels at the base of the chair). They often get clogged with fibers from dust, hair, pet fur, and/or carpet on the floor.
Turn the chair on its side so you can easily access the problematic wheel or wheels. If there's a bolt that lets you disassemble the caster from its casing, remove it and detach the wheel.
Improv tools to get out all that gunk
Pick out the debris and wash the wheel. Is there more dirt stuck in the casing? Use a cotton swab, toothpick, toothbrush or small scrub brush to clear it out.
If your wheel can't be disassembled, try using tweezers to pull the fibers out. If they're really stuck, use fine-point scissors and cut at the hair wound around the caster, pulling the fibers out with your tweezers as you go.
A vacuum cleaner fitted with the smallest attachment can also be a very handy tool for gunk removal.
The ultimate secret weapon
If you still can't remove it all, get a tube of hair-removal depilatory cream, like Nair. Remove the caster from the chair (either with a strong yank or by unscrewing it, depending on the type of caster). Over a sink, apply the cream to the stuck hair using a cotton swab. Follow the instructions on the cream in terms of wait time and rinsing. The cream should dissolve the stuck fibers. Rinse, dry and reassemble.
Maintain your casters
For best performance, lubricate your casters every 6 months. Protect wheels -- and flooring -- with a low-fiber woven chair mat. (Plastic mats are not advisable on top of hardwood flooring, because they tend to trap grit against the floor, which can cause damage.) Try these techniques for any furniture with casters -- wheeled tables, serving carts, etc. -- not just chairs.
Would you like help repairing or maintaining your furniture? Hire a professional handyman!
Updated June 19, 2018.