How to remove rust from gym equipment INSTANTLY

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We have ALL picked up a few weight plates from eBay or similar and found they were a bit… well used. If you’ve managed to bag some old school iron you likely have encountered at least SOME rust as well! Here’s the easiest (and least-messy) way to remove rust from your gym equipment.

How to remove rust from gym equipment INSTANTLY

At a glance…

  • Rust can be removed instantly by either brushing or sanding
  • Use 3-in-1 oil when doing so to clean and protect the metal surface
  • Use a nylon brush as it is gentler on equipment finishes than metal bristled brushes – this is especially important on knurled barbells
  • If you need more power try a brass or steel bristled brush – but this may damage your paint!
  • I don’t recommend chemicals to remove rust as the process is more convoluted and creates more mess

How to remove rust from gym equipment:

Remove rust from your gym equipment instantly by brushing it with a stiff nylon or brass-bristled brush. Use 3-in-1 oil as a cleaning and protecting solution during the process.

Nylon bristles are best for coated barbells while brass bristles are more aggressive and more useful for iron weight plates or uncoated equipment.

How to remove surface rust off of gym equipment

Removing rust from your gym equipment is a simple, if at times laborious process. It can be boiled down in to two steps:

Step 1: Brush aggressively

Brush the heck out of your gym equipment to remove the rust quickly! 

I recommend starting with a NYLON bristled brush as this is the most gentle on the equipment. Aim to use the most gentle brush that will achieve our aims – so start with nylon and move up to brass and metal if required.

The reason for this is that brass or metal brushes CAN damage your gym equipment if you are not careful. The metal bristles can scrape paint off or break through barbell protective coatings leading to MORE rust later on.

Another consideration is where you clean your equipment – metal bristles may break apart and leave splinters. This is fine if you an sweep it all away, but with my current lack of space and lazy attitude to cleaning means I do my cleaning in my gym space and I don’t want metal shards in there 🙂

The best brushing technique is to work across the rust a couple of times in different directions. I like 45 degree angles and can clean a barbell up in a few passes.

Step 2: Top up the corrosion resistant coating

Metal gym equipment will benefit from a coating of 3-in-1 oil. One of the three functions is to clean and another is protect – so this is IDEAL for removing rust from gym equipment and then subsequently protecting it from further rusting!

Add a few drops to the equipment and spread evenly with a rag. Leave overnight (or for a few hours at least) to allow the 3-in-1 to bond with the metal before wiping any excess off with a clean rag to ensure the equipment is dry and good to use again.

Does this technique work on weights, dumbbells and barbells?

Yes – you can use the above process to remove rust from ANY metal gym equipment. With that said there are a few things to consider:

Removing rust from barbells

Knurling is a hot spot for rust with the grooves trapping moisture and chalk. Regularly brush out knurling and treat with the above process. 

This is EXTRA important as having clean, sharp knurling really makes the bar feel amazing when working out. Rusty, dull knurling will be less fun to use – and you might drop that deadlift PR attempt!

Note that the protective coatings on barbells (such as black zinc) are relatively easy to damage or scratch so take extra care to use a nylon brush if possible when removing corrosion.

Removing rust from dumbbells

Similar to barbells above, take care when cleaning rust off of the knurling area. If there are metal heads on the dumbbells these can be cleaned in a more aggressive fashion as there is no knurling to damage or blunt!

An alternative to brushing the heads is to use wet and dry sandpaper. Try around 200grit and work up if it is too gentle or down if it is too aggressive.

If you have solid metal dumbbells you can even fully strip and re-paint them for a full refurbishment!

Removing rust from weight plates

Rust on weight plates can be removed with more aggressive brushes or wet and dry sandpaper if required. Weights generally are not handled regularly so minor scratches will have little impact on the day to day use of a weight plate – so use a brass or metal brush if you like!

You can re-paint or reapply coatings after you have removed rust from your weight plates if you like. A fresh lick of Hammerite can have your old weights looking brand new in no time. 

For extra points you can pick out details such as the branding with a contrasting colour 🙂

Can you use chemicals to remove rust?

Some have had success soaking their gym equipment in vinegar solutions or using Kurust (or similar rust converter) on gym equipment to remove rust.

Personally I do NOT do this as brushing and sandpaper has always worked for me. 

There is the risk of flash rusting if not sealed up properly – this is when the vinegar evaporates forming a thin layer of rust super quickly on the gym equipment. This feels like two steps backwards given we are meant to be REMOVING rust!

Overall the work involved of soaking and sealing the vinegar solution on the bar, cleaning it off an neutralising it and then subsequently cleaning the bar is simply too complex for most of us with basic needs, and creates quite a bit of mess. If you have a smaller gym space with little room to clean a bar then using chemicals will be quite awkward to do.


Removing rust from your gym equipment can be quite easy – simply BRUSH and apply 3-in-1 oil. It works on all gym equipment – dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, weight plates, spring collars – you name it, we can BRUSH it! Try it out yourself and let us know how you get on.

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