Black oxide barbell rust: WHY? And how to FIX it..

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Whether you’ve bought a barbell yet or not – you’re clearly interested in finding out whether black oxide finished barbells rust. 

Yes, yes they do rust. BUT it is manageable for most people to control, and the trade off is awesome bar feel as it’s one of the least invasive barbell finishes you can buy preserving the ‘bare steel’ feel when you go to grip & rip a deadlift! 

Back oxide barbell rust: WHY? And how to FIX it...

At a glance…

  • Black oxide barbells are likely to rust as the finish is the last corrosion resistant of the common options available
  • You can get rust off of your black oxide bar by following our simple 3 step process
  • Regular maintenance is key: cleaning a black oxide barbell is NOT difficult or time consuming!
  • Black zinc and Cereakote finishes are more rust-resistant and are ideal for those who want low maintenance barbells (or live in a humid climate!)

Do black oxide barbells rust?

Yes your barbell is still prone to rust if it’s finished in black oxide. This is one of the best coatings for bar feel – BUT one of the least corrosion resistant available.

Warning: Barbell coatings wear off!

Black oxide, like many coatings, wears off over time. It can be chipped, scratched or just erode away over time exposing the metal underneath. This is when corrosion and rust can set in.

Being one of the least corrosion resistant finishes black oxide is particularly at risk of rubbing off. If you maintain your bar as per this article you should be able to rust from forming on your black oxide bar and instead you will end up with a bar that is as good as new, but with a wonderful patina finish!

Expect a little patina to form over time

As a result, over the years, your bar will form a cool patina on it. This is some natural discolouration that forms over a long time period. It does not typically impact the bar integrity or grip and, in my opinion, adds some character to the bar. So don’t worry about it!

What exactly IS a black oxide coating, and how does it get on my bar?!

OK – hold on to your hats – black oxide is a FORM of corrosion! Yes – you are buying equipment pre-corroded!

Sort of…

The metal barbell is bathed in chemicals that encourage oxidation to occur over its surface area. This means it is a bar ‘finish’ in that the barbell surface is covered, but it is not a COATING as no layers of material are added as rust protection.

The benefit is that the feel in the hand is EXCELLENT and very close to bare or stainless steel as there is no thick coating (such as zinc) filling in the knurling cuts for example. 

The downside is that what you are holding is the raw metal itself – so a black oxide barbell WILL rust over time if not maintained!

How do you get rust off of your black oxide coated bar?

I have written full articles on this previously but cleaning your barbell can be quite straight forward:

  1. Brush the bar down with a stiff nylon brush. A metal brush is too harsh for a black oxide coating so I always stick to nylon. 
  2. Use 3-in-1 as a lubricant for your scrubbing if the bar is heavily soiled. It will allow you to clean and protect the metal.
  3. Once scrubbed clean wipe the bar down with 3-in-1 oil again and leave for the oil to do its work. Wipe the bar down with a clean rag before you work out with the bar. 

Following this simple process should yield a bar that is as good as new and ready for another month or so of workouts!

3-in-1 oil is useful to clean and protect
3-in-1 oil is useful to clean and protect

Cleaning a black oxide bar doesn’t have to be a chore!

The more often you follow the above process the quicker you will be at doing it – both in terms of having more practice AND in there being less gunk to actually clean off of the oxide finish.

Try cleaning your bar once a month REGARDLESS of the amount of visible surface rust, it will mean you can be done in half the time and will keep your bar in top condition!

How to keep black oxide from rusting

The regularity with which you have to maintain your bar will vary depending on the bar, the coating, the humidity in your gym, how much chalk you use and how much you sweat. Personally I find a monthly clean is more than ample to keep my gear in top condition!

Want low maintenance bars? Try black zinc or Cerakote!

Both zinc and Cerakote finishes offer far more rust protection than black oxide. The downside is that they are thicker, coating style finishes and therefore the feel of the bar is a bit different to a bare (or oxide) finished barbell.

If you stay in a humid environment or really want to minimise the time spent maintaining your barbell then zinc or Cerakote finished bars are likely better for your situation. Cerakote in particular comes in some cool colours and styles – so there is also that to look forward to 🙂

Conclusion

So there we have it… Black oxide barbells RUST, but that doesn’t make them bad. Far from it – I think they are the best all round finish for MOST people as the raw metal feel is almost unparalleled at the price point offered (bare and stainless steel are usually far more expensive). Just follow the few simple steps above to keep your black oxide barbell rust free and in tip-top condition!

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