Workouts & Exercises

How to Remove Rust From Weights

 If you have a home gym, you’ve probably encountered rust weights. They may have become rusty from the way you’re storing them, or you may have purchased them second hand at a good discount.

The good news is, no matter how they became rusty, there are solutions available to correct this problem. You can get your rusty weights back into pristine condition without too much effort.

I know this because I am a fan of buying rusty weights for cheap and restoring them. I think that if the sellers of these cheap weights knew how easy they were to refurbish, they’d be asking for higher prices.

So let’s keep this a secret.

Are Rusty Weights Bad?

 What Is Rust

Not really. Rust is not harmful to human skin and is okay to touch. It is the byproduct of iron decomposing.

You can get tetanus from rusty items, but this is due to the bacteria that often lives on rusty metal. If you cleaned your rusty weights with soap and left the rust on them, you would be able to safely use them without fear of getting tetanus.

The main reason that people clean up rust on their weights, is that it looks and feels bad. While rust will not hurt you just from touching it, it is unpleasant to deal with and will get on your hands, clothing, or even on workout gear that comes into contact with your weights, like when using a neck harness, for example. 

So, they’re not typically dangerous, and cleaning them is more of an aesthetic improvement than a fix for a health concern.

And to be honest, I like filming myself and taking pictures to post them online when I do workouts like alternating dumbbell presses, military presses, Zottman curls or seated tricep presses and definitely don't want my equipment to look old or rusty.

Why Are Your Weights And Home Gym Equipment Rusting In The First Place?

 Are Rust Is More Weight

The reason any metal object rusts is moisture. Rust forms when iron and oxygen react in the presence of moisture.

Humidity Causes Rust

 How Humidity Causes Rust

If your home gym equipment is rusting over time, it is because there is too much moisture in your gym. Moisture levels are often uncontrolled in home gym settings like a garage or a backyard shed gym.

If this is happening to your home gym equipment indoors, it is likely because you are not controlling the humidity in the space. Oftentimes, garages and shed gyms do not have central air systems or any sort of air conditioning.

Because they are not part of the main house, they lack basic amenities that we take for granted. If you did not control the humidity levels in your house with some form of AC, you would find rust on your metal belongings.

You’d also find mold, which is something you want to avoid. Why, you ask? Well, mold isn't going to be on the floor, walls and ceiling alone. It's also bound to grow on some parts of other equipment, like incline treadmills, bikes and ellipticals. And the worst part is, these typically have lots of nooks and crannies that can be a pain to clean.

Rain Causes Rust

Is Rain Causes Rust

Rust is also a problem with outdoor gym setups where rain can directly impact the weights and machines. While having an outdoor gym setup is awesome, it’s much harder to control the weather and the amount of moisture that will impact the weights.

And not just the weights, the outdoors can be similarly brutal on other gym equipment too, especially metallic ones, including outdoor heavy bag stands, smith machines, and different types of squat racks like the hack squat rack or even those squat racks with j-hooks.

Proximity To The Ocean Causes Rust

Is Ocean Cause Rust

The main thing that will accelerate the rusting process, is salt. If you live close to the ocean, you may notice that things around your house tend to be sticky from the salt even though you are not directly on the water.

Research has found that sea spray can cause increased metal rusting up to 30-50 miles inland! That’s pretty ridiculous, but something all of us who live on the coast has to deal with.

How To Prevent Home Gym Equipment From Rusting

What Is Gym Equipment

There are several ways you can try to prevent your home gym equipment from rusting.


Painting your equipment can help prevent rust

A coat of paint will go a long way to preventing rust. The paint acts as a protective layer that does not allow moisture to get into direct contact with the metal.

This is why the undercarriages of cars tend to rust fairly quickly, but you don’t often see rust on painted areas of the car. If you do, it is because the paint has chipped away and moisture has gotten to the metal.

Get A Dehumidifier

What Is Humdifier

If you don’t have airconditioning for your home gym, you can prevent rusting by treating your air with a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier will make this hotter while it is running, and has a limited capacity of water it can hold.

This solution will only be sustainable long-term for someone who does not have a huge humidity issue in their home gym.

Clean Up Your Sweat!

How To Clean Up Sweat

Sweat is moisture and salt all in one. If you’re sweating all over your dumbbells and even on your favorite budget barbell, you’re going to accelerate the rusting process.

Keeping your weights wiped down will limit the amount of rust that can accumulate.

Improve Ventilation

What Is Ventilation

If your indoor gym space is humid, and there is no way for the humidity to space, it will remain humid.

Consider ways to increase airflow both during and after your workouts to reduce the speed at which things rust. And while still at it, keep in mind that this doesn't apply only when using weights...generally, exercise does increase metabolism, so you can bet you'll be producing heat and sweat in minutes.

This means, even with essential fitness workouts like planks and push-ups or more extreme ones like hitting 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups and 100 squats, you are going to break a sweat, hence spiking the humidity in there, especially in a small gym.

Store Your Weights Somewhere Else

Store The Rust

This is only practical if you have a few prized weights or barbells that you want to keep from rusting. If you have space in your house, take your barbells into the house after your workouts.

Actually, this gets even easier with dumbbells, which aren't too heavy to move around. Besides, with a nicely built beautiful homemade dumbbell rack at the corner somewhere, you can keep your babies safe and looking pristine. Besides, unless you have one of those space-saving BWSS adjustable dumbbells, an rack will also help save on a few square feet of space.

They are particularly prone to rust, and keeping them in a space with humidity control will go a long way to preserving your weights. 

Refurbishing Rusted Weights And Gym Equipment From Old To New For Cheap

What Is Rusted Equipment

You can make pretty much any set of weights, or gym machine, shine like new again with a few components and some elbow grease. If you have the time to spare, it can be a fun project.

It’s very rewarding and provides a large sense of accomplishment. You can even paint your weights once you’re done cleaning them to customize them to your liking.

There’s a chance they’ll end up looking better than when they were new!

How To Renew Weights And Remove Rust - Dumbbells, Barbells, Plates (Cheapest And Fastest Way)

Renew Rusted Weight

Kyle Malone’s video on removing rust from weights is definitely the cheapest and fastest way available. You can see his video here.

Kyle takes the fastest approach and uses vinegar to help remove the rust from his weights. He then tapes off the handles of his dumbbells and paints them right up.

So is this all you need to do?

Well, there are a few things that could be improved upon in Kyle’s video.

First off, it’s important to disassemble dumbbells that have separate plates as weights - which is typical of the budget adjustable models. This step in the process will only take you another 5 minutes, and allows you to more thoroughly clean the dumbbells and plates you will be painting.

He also didn’t quite scrub his plates enough to get all the rust off of them. You can see that while he removed a fair amount of rust, there is still rust on his plates when he begins to paint them.

So, overall, Kyle definitely accomplished his goal. He has no more visible rust on his weights, and it took him less than an afternoon to complete.

What’s The Best Way To Remove Rust From Gym Equipment?

What’s The Best Way To Remove Rust From Gym Equipment

Kyle had the right idea, but didn’t quite take the process all the way.

To properly remove rust from your gym equipment, you’ll need the following:

  • Wire brush

  • Vinegar

  • Container for soaking weights in vinegar

  • Towel/rags

That’s pretty much everything! I’ll get into how to restore them after this, but this is all you need to actually remove the rust.

How To Remove The Rust Once You’ve Gathered Your Materials

How To Remove Rusted Weight

The process is straightforward:

  1. Disassemble your weights: If at all possible, you want to disassemble your dumbbells, barbells, or whatever you’re cleaning in order to penetrate each and every corner that moisture has gotten into.

  2. Make a vinegar bath for your weights, soak for several hours: The vinegar is doing most of the heavy lifting here. The rust will start to come off on its own as soon as it is placed in the vinegar solution.

  3. Scrub your weights clean with your wire brush: Once you take your weights out of the vinegar bath, you will have no trouble scrubbing off the rust. It will come off readily, and all it takes is a little elbow grease.

That’s all you need to do to get the rust off of your weights.

How To Restore Your Weights And Prevent Future Rust

How To Prevent Rust

If you want to go one step further and prevent more rust from accumulating on your weights and equipment, you can follow these steps.

You’ll need:

  • Painter’s tape

  • 3in1 oil

  • Spraypaint

  • A place to spraypaint your weights

So, your weights are clean and ready to be restored.

  1. Prep your weights for painting: Use your painter’s tape to tape off any areas of the weight you don’t want to coat in the paint. This can be the handle of a dumbbell or a section of a barbell, like the sleeves, for instance.

  2. Coat your equipment in paint: Paint stops all moisture from reaching the metal of your weights and gym equipment. It will prevent future rust wherever it is applied and will also make your weights look like new.

  3. Remove your painter’s tape and let your weights dry: It’s important to let your weights dry before you proceed to the next step.

  4. Coat any unpainted surfaces in 3in1 oil: 3in1 oil is the most recommended way to prevent rust from accumulating on any untreated metal surfaces. This will be helpful for barbells, and dumbbell handles that you won’t be painting.

That’s all you’ve got to do! Your weights and home gym equipment will look brand new, and the process typically only takes a day or two to complete.

Home Gym Rust Removal And Prevention FAQs

Here are a few questions that pop to mind when dealing with rust removal for home gym equipment.

Q: What Do I Do to Prevent Rust on A Barbell that I Can’t Paint?

A: You can coat your barbell and any other exposed metal surfaces in 3in1 oil. This coating prevents rust and is usually not too oily after being left alone for 24 hours.

Q: What Is the Best and Most Surefire Way to Prevent Rusting in The First Place?

A: Ideally, you’d be able to have your home gym in a place with central air. If your home gym is air-conditioned, you will not have enough humidity to cause the rusting process to start. This is an expensive solution, but it is the reason you do not see rust in a commercial gym setting. 

Q: Is It Possible to Restore Any Weights No Matter how Bad the Condition?

A: I’m sure there are some weights out there that are literally rusted in half, but for the most part, rust is surface level. It takes a very long time for something metal to completely deteriorate, so you should be able to restore 99% of rusty gym equipment at home.

Q: Is Rust Harmful to Your Health?

A: Not really, no. It doesn’t look good, feel good, and can stain your clothes, which are the main reasons we want to remove it from our gym equipment.

Q: Are There Other Ways to Remove Rust from Gym Equipment, without Using Vinegar?

A: You could skip the vinegar, but it’s not recommended. While you will be able to remove a large amount of rust from metals with just a wire brush, you won’t get into the cracks and crevices to remove all of it. Vinegar also makes the removal process easier for you.

Q: Should I Avoid Buying Rusty Gym Equipment?

A: Not if you’re willing to put in the few hours of work to clean it up. In general, you get a better deal on rusted weights than you will on fresh new weights. Home-gymmers love a bargain, so don’t scroll past something due to a little surface rust!

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