How to Remove Rust from Weights

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I remember one time when I was moving house, I had a small set of 10kg dumbbells that lived in a small plastic briefcase looking case. Anyway, in the business of the move, the container ended up out in the elements for quite a while – they stayed there for long enough I actually thought I’d lose them in the move after a while.

Anyway, when I found the dumbbells again, I noticed they had quite a bit of rust on them. I know I’m not alone on this either. If you leave your gym equipment outdoors or exposed to the elements, you run the risk of rust.

Or, if you’re building a budget garage gym you may be buying second-hand gear that comes with some free rust (what a bargain, right!).

Well, in this article, we’ll look at how to remove rust from weights, along with answering some related questions.

How to Remove Rust from Weights

Now, this process may change a little depending on the type of weight you’re cleaning. However, you’ll need the following equipment. Note, there’s a link to the products on Amazon if you click on the images.  


Wire brush (or sandpaper if the weights aren’t in too bad of shape) Forney 70504 Wire Scratch Brush, Carbon Steel with Curved Wood Handle, 13-3/4-Inch-by-.014-Inch

A gallon of white vinegar – depending on how many weights you’re cleaning, you may need more than one bottle

Lucy's Family Owned - Natural Distilled White Vinegar, 1 Gallon (128 oz)

A tub that’s big enough to soak your weights

WIDE BOY 8614 Paint Bucket, 14 in L X 24 in W X 10 in H, Green


Rust-Oleum Automotive 248658 10.25-Ounce Rust Reformer Spray, Black

All in all, your process will look something like the video below, but we’ll go through every step in detail.


Step 1: Brush the rusty weights

Take your wire brush and remove any rust you can find. Don’t stress too much about getting the stubborn parts off yet, this first step is just getting the easy part done.

If your weights are really rusty you could use a wire brush end on a small power-tool, but for most, a brush will be fine.

Step 2: Soak the weights

Place your weights in the bucket. Ideally, you’ll want a tub big enough to fit all of your weights in it at once.

Then take your vinegar and mix it 50/50 with water. After this, pour your vinegar/water into the bucket with the weights, and let it soak.

Ideally you’ll want the soak to last 24-36 hours. Really, the longer it soaks the better it’ll be.

Obviously, you’ll want a bucket that’s big enough to hold all of your weights in it, otherwise, you’ll have to re-do this process a few times.

Step 3: Scrub the rest of the rust off

Scrub off any remaining rust off you can find with your wire brush. After that you’ll want to rise, towel dry your weights, and scrub again.

Make sure you don’t air-dry the weights. Towel dry and get right back into it.

Step 4: Paint

Ideally, you’ll want to do this step as quickly as possible (so no rust comes back).

Rustoleum is the type of paint you’ll want. It’s a paint and primer that properly adheres to metal and will limit future rusting.

Give the weights multiple coats of paint. I’d give it a double coat on day one, then another coat the following day.

Basically, you want to lay all the weights down and give them a spray of paint. Then, wait for them to dry, flip them over, and do it again.

How to get rust off a barbell?

Now, it’s a little different if you want to take rust off a barbell. You won’t paint the barbell, but instead, go for a 3-in-1 oil to coat the barbell after you’ve scrubbed the barbell.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes rust?

Rust occurs when the iron in metals come in contact with oxygen and water. This causes the metal to corrode and deteriorate.

The iron and oxygen have opposite charges (like a magnet) so they’re attracted to each other. When the two combine, it’s called oxidation, and the chemical reaction causes rust.

Will gym equipment rust in a garage?

A lot depends on your garage. However, for most climates, unless you use a special coating, there’s a fair chance the humidity in your garage will cause slight rusting over time.

This is obviously more likely if you keep your weights somewhere that water can get to them.

How do I keep my gym equipment from rusting?

The most basic thing you can do is make sure that you’re setting a gym up somewhere that won’t have water pooling on the ground. So, that means it’s far better to have your gym gear undercover as opposed to out in the elements.

You can even give your equipment a spray with Rustoleum when you first buy your weights, rather than waiting for them to rust before cleaning them and giving them a coat of paint.

You can also cover equipment when you’re not using it. This will limit and moisture coming in when you’re not using your garage gym.

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