How To Remove Rust From Weights

One of the best things about training in a commercial gym is that you don’t need to do any equipment maintenance. You just turn up and work out, safe in the knowledge that the equipment you want to use is (or should be) clean and in good working order. After all, that’s part of what you are paying for.

In fact, if you are one of “those people,” you don’t even have to put your weights when you are done with them. However, if you want to stay friends with the gym owner and your fellow exercisers, you really should put your workout equipment back where you found it.

But, if you train at home, it’s up to you to look after your workout equipment. This could mean anything from repainting your weights and oiling the bearings in your barbell every 12 months to dusting your pull-up bar when you think of it.

With this in mind, you may be wondering how to remove rust from weights. Rust can be caused by heavy perspiration, a damp environment, chipped paint, or not oiling your weights.

This rust can be unsightly, mark your gym flooring or your clothing, or flake off and fall into your eyes.

Rust is defined as a colored flaking coating of iron oxide that is formed on iron or steel. (1)

Keep your weights looking like new by following these simple steps.

How To Remove Rust From Weights

How Do You Get Rust Off Gym Equipment?

rust on weight plateGetting rust off weights is an easy if time-consuming process. It’s usually better to stop it from happening in the first place by using a rust inhibitor or a light coating of oil. To de-rust your weights, you are going to need:

  1. A wire brush
  2. A nylon brush
  3. Sandpaper, wet and dry paper, or a Dremel or similar device with a sanding head
  4. White vinegar
  5. A Tub or bucket
  6. A rest inhibitor (paint or oil)

Step 1 – Brush The Rusty Weights

Using your wire brush, sandpaper, wet and dry paper, or your Dremel, remove as much visible rust as possible. Use your nylon brush to sweep away any accumulated rust dust. Keep scrubbing your weights until they’re mostly rust-free. Don’t worry if some rust remains; the rest will come off during the next stage.

Step 2 – Soak The Weights

Pour the white vinegar into a bucket and add the same amount of water to make a 50/50 solution. Place the weights in the bucket and leave them to soak for at least 24 hours, and preferably 48-72. The longer you leave your weights, the more rust will come off.

No vinegar? You can use a (more expensive) commercial rust remover or even regular Coco-Cola.

Step 3 – Dry and Scrub Again

Rinse your weights with plain water, dry them using paper towels, and then scrub again to remove any lingering rust.  Any rust that remains should come off very easily. Pay attention to any nooks and crannies to ensure you get the last of the rust off.

Step 4 – Paint Your Weights

The best way to stop rust from coming back is to protect the metal from air and moisture. The easiest way to do this is to paint your weights. Use a brush to apply your paint or use spray paint as preferred. Make sure you apply the paint to both sides and paint your weights with a couple of coats.

If you don’t want to paint your weights, you can lightly oil them. But, on the downside, that oil will need to be reapplied regularly and could also make your hands greasy, making your grip less reliable. Painting is the most effective way to prevent rust from returning.

Is it Safe to Use Rusty Weights?

It’s mostly safe to use rusty weights. After all, the rust on the bar or plates won’t change how to do your workouts. However, for any exercises done over your head or face, flakes of rust could come off and land in your eyes, and that would make your workout VERY uncomfortable.

Rusty weights could also stain your training clothes, your gym mat, or your floor. While not really a risk to your health, any extra mess means more clean-up time and could upset your significant other, so it’s best to avoid this issue.

What’s The Best Rust Remover?

soda and lemon to remove rustWhite vinegar is a cheap and effective rust remover. You can buy it by the gallon from most supermarkets, so it’s ideal for jobs like soaking your weights. Coco-Cola is similarly widely available and cheap to buy.

Other options you can use include:

  • WD-40
  • Baking soda
  • Lemon or lime juice
  • Oxalic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Commercial rust removers, such as Evapo-Rust, Rust-Oleum, or Goof-Off

Take care when using harsh chemicals. They may produce harmful odors or could burn your skin. Wear safety goggles and gloves to prevent accidents. Keep chemicals in their original containers and away from children.

Bottom Line

Rusty weights won’t detract from your workouts. Your body is all kinds of amazing, but it certainly cannot differentiate between shiny weights or those covered in rust. So long as you train hard enough and often enough, it really doesn’t matter what your weights look like. Rusty weights look pretty badass too!

That said, if you hate staining your hands, training clothes, and floor with rust marks or rust flakes keep hitting you in the eyes when you’re bench pressing, it may be time to de-rust your weight plates.

The process is easy, if a little time-consuming, but you’ll be able to restore your weights to their former shiny glory with just a few dollars and a little elbow grease.

Don’t throw rusty weights away; clean them up, and you’ll soon have them looking like new.

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  1. Rust, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/rust

Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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