9 garage consumables you should always have in stock

A computer has it's place in the shop, but using it properly is key to success. Kyle Smith

Sometimes working on our beloved project cars and motorcycles is a more regular occurrence than we wish. These impromptu fixes and repairs that just pop up can be dealt with quickly—provided you have the right supplies on hand.

The list of needed hard parts or spare pieces varies, depending on what you own and the level of DIY-ing you are comfortable engaging in. On the other hand, there are plenty of generic, consumable items that any garage needs. These items can make routine tasks easier, so ensuring they are readily available gives confidence when diving into any project or repair. Here are the nine must-have consumables we think you need in your garage.

Rags/box o’ towels

Terry cloth towels
Kyle Smith

Spills happen, and there is always some grimy part that needs a good cleaning. While you can use reusable rags, you’re likely to anger your significant other when you grease up the washing machine with them. So instead have a collection of disposable towels, but be sure to contain any oily rags in a metal can with a lid. Not doing so means you could set your garage on fire when you move on to the next project and accidentally throw a spark into the garbage can!

Microfiber cloths

Microfiber towels for garage
Kyle Smith

While there are rags for cleaning, let’s not forget the materials designed for delicate surfaces. Think of the times you need to clean glass or wipe down painted surfaces with quick detailer: microfibers are great for this. They even work great for cleaning tools as they are put away at the end of a job. These will also get dirty enough eventually that they need a trip to the washing machine, but be careful about the detergent you use, along with what gets washed with them. These fluffy towels pick up rocks or chips from other garments, so re-using them risks the addition of scratches to whatever finish they next encounter.

Oil and Grease

So many DIY projects involve assembly and disassembly, to the point you might lose some oil while taking something apart. The same happens with grease. Both will need replenishment after assembly, so keep a few bottles of your oil of choice and a tub/tube of grease handy in your garage. For extra points, zip-tie a scrap chunk of hose to the side of the canister: that way you can hold an acid brush to make applying that grease a no-mess affair.


Razorblades with knife
Kyle Smith

It’s counterintuitive at times, but being sharp is actually safe. If you need to cut something like a rubber hose, zip tie, or stiff plastic packaging, the safest way is with a blade that isn’t dull. A dull blade moves unpredictably and requires more force to do the job. That’s a recipe for injury, so instead keep a pack of razorblades so you always have a replacement for that dull blade in your knife. Razorblades also make great gasket scrapers (when used carefully) to prevent gouging soft surfaces.

Brake and/or carb cleaner

Brake and carb clean in aerosol cans
In a pinch either can do the job of both, but it’s best to use the proper chemical for the job. Kyle Smith

Once comfortable with a project or task—like a brake job—we tend to jump into the job instead of preparing the shop for the work ahead. So instead keep the needed chemicals on hand, ensuring you don’t put yourself in the frustrating situation of driving (or walking!) to the parts store to finish a project.

Roll-up earplugs

foam earplugs
Kyle Smith

Hearing damage is no joke. Even if you have a favorite pair of over-the-ear muffs to keep your eardrums safe, having disposable foam earplugs is easy. If you have a guest in the shop who needs to hammer that ball joint out for you, they will absolutely appreciate your wish to prevent tinnitus in their earholes. Cheap and safe rarely go together, but in this case, they do. It’s a no-brainer to pick up a case of these for a couple bucks.

Gasket maker

gasket maker on workbench
Kyle Smith

Silicone gasket makers have limits, but when used properly, the tubes of various colored schmoo can be life savers. Having some around never hurts if you are routinely getting into projects that involve sealing two surfaces that may not have aged gracefully. Damage from corrosion or just distortion from age might leave more separation than the gasket can handle. In these cases, having gasket maker on hand to give a quick wipe rather than having to leave the shop to get some is a real timesaver.

Zip ties

cable ties zip ties on workbench
Kyle Smith

I’m not going to wax poetic about how anything can be fixed with zip ties, but they do come in handy for a multitude of tasks. Black zip ties are often more durable to UV light exposure, so that’s the one to stock in your garage. There’s nothing like knowing you can pull a zip tie tight with no fear of it shattering into a sun-brittled mess.


Garage fridge Kyle Smith 2
Kyle Smith

This is the one you were here for, right? The literal consumables needed for your body?

Much of the country has reached “the porch is the fridge” levels of chill, so grab a six-pack of whatever you enjoy and set it by the door. Alcoholic drinks and wrenching is a bad combination, but having a cold one while admiring a job well done (or cleaning up the tools) is deserved. Well deserved, actually. So restock early and often in this case.

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    I always have Tub-o-Towels disposable wipes on hand and my favorite, safe, all-round degreaser, CRC Electronic Contact cleaner. Never hurts paint and takes oily residue off anything. Even takes tar off auto finishes. I would also add SCOTT disposable blue shop towels. Got to have these 3 consumables in my garage.

    A handful of AA and AAA batteries, a bag of used plastic bags to hold nuts and bolts, cat litter, silicon grease (dielectric), sheet of medium emery cloth, paper towels, a clipboard with notepaper and a pencil, and the one thing that I run out of a lot – patience.

    Wow! I thought I’d read a few of the comments and found myself reading on and on. As others have commented, all are good suggestions on things to have on hand. An obvious problem exists – ORGANIZATION. My shop/barn is 40×80 and it still gets crowded. Over years of collecting and storing tools, hardware, and consumables, it’s disheartening to know you have it but can’t find it. I lined a wall with file cabinets (purchased at garage sales, GoodWill, etc.). Labeled the drawers and placed related items inside. It sure helps having time to actually work on a project instead of searching for something needed to work with.

    PB B’laster seems to work well and I have much better luck cutting zip ties with diagonal cutters less chance of cutting what the tie is around or me!!!

    And for those of us who can’t buy an oil filter at the friendly local auto parts store… a couple oil filters.

    Oh, and I see your corvair there. Belts!!! Never leave home without four extra belts!

    Love these columns.

    The grease brush is brilliant- a gem indeed.

    Keep your opened tubes of RTV in a baggie- takes longer to dry out.

    When I finish with a rattle can, if there’s any paint left I invert the can and spray till it comes out clear. The nozzles seem to last longer that way.

    Transfer Pipets, once you leave a few cans of them around the shop you will use them for everything. Cheap and disposable. Heat the end and stretch and you make a micro needle that will deliver fluid whatever to wherever. Oils, solvents or exactly fill a chip with touch up paint. Cut the bulb off and make caulk or RTV stoppers, it just goes on and on.

    Especially seating a bead.

    The first time I showed that to my son, he thought it was the greatest thing ever.

    But lately the cans are 1 and done. The nozzles leak and won’t fully shut.

    Make a trip to your local shooting range and pick up the different size brass casings to use for punching holes in gaskets. I have a drawer full.

    Wow, I’ve got a big garage with storage cabinets but not big enough to hold all these suggestions. Besides,
    my “borrowing buddy” down the street would soon deplete my stock.

    I know you’ve covered it in previous posts, but basic safety gear as well.

    -disposable nitrile gloves. I keep about 6 boxes in my size and a 1 box each of different size for guests.
    -safety glasses. When Wurth has a sale I pick up a dozen for $1.50-2.50ea. I use prescription ones, but guests never bring their own.

    -I was happy to see ear plugs in the post. I’m trying to salvage what’s left of my hearing and keep others from my fate.

    I suggest for personal use, find a few different kinds that are convenient so you’re more likely to use them. For instance, I have the following in my shop for myself.
    -ISOtunes Free, they’re Bluetooth earbuds so I can listen to music or podcasts while I work. I use them mostly for snow blowing or grass cutting.
    -3M band-style plugs, they conveniently hang around your neck so you can pop them up in to your ears at a moment’s notice.
    -3M over-the-ear cans. These I use for extended loud sessions like a lot of impact or grinding. You can fit most styles of Bluetooth earbud under them as well if you don’t want to pony up for ISOtunes like I did.

    I do a lot of restoration work, so some of my “go to” consumables are: thin bamboo sticks/skewers that are great for digging grease out of tote spots or spreading RTV; cotton swabs or gun cleaning patches for cleaning squeeze-out along parting lines, gun cleaning brushes in small calibers for threaded holes, old hotel door cards as plastic scrapers, bondo/RTV spreaders, non-structural shims,

    Surprisingly, I do have all 9 items in my garage. In addition, I have a magnet on a stick, 1st Aid Kit, oil dry, several flashlights, an Endoscope, and a radio.

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