Why do dumbbells smell? (+how to GET RID of it!)

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After a string of dumbbell purchases in recent months I’ve become accustom to receiving NEW rubber weights! Some of them have a faint smell when unboxed that clears very quickly – but just why do my shiny new dumbbells smell?!

Why do dumbbells smell? (and how to GET RID of it!)

At a glance…

  • Rubber dumbbells can smell due to the volatile organic compounds released as they ‘degass’ shortly after manufacture
  • Recycled rubber is more likely to smell than virgin rubber due to the source rubber coming from the likes of car tyres, and the glue involved in congealing the crumbs together
  • The smell from rubber weights will usually fade if left to rest. Alternatively wash them down with a light detergent
  • Detergent can be also be used to remove the oil coating from rubber weights – a light 5% dilution formula with a wipe from a microfibre cloth should remove any residue

This is why rubber dumbbells smell..

Rubber dumbbells can have a strong smell due to the degassing process that occurs after manufacture which releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the rubber and solvents used in their construction. The VOCs are from the hydrocarbon solvents used during the vulcanisation process when forming the dumbbell.

This expelled gas then remains trapped in the box with your dumbbells. When you first open them you may get a blast of this strong scent. It should fade quickly over time in most cases.

Recycled vs virgin rubber

Virgin rubber has never been used before, while recycled rubber is sourced from other rubber products such as used car tyres. 

Virgin rubber will have a far fainter (or non-existent) smell whereas recycled rubber tends to have a stronger odour. This is in part due to the recycling process where the rubber is typically crumbed and then glued together – the glue adds an odour. 

How to get the strong smell OFF of rubber dumbbells…

The best way to get rid of a strong rubber smell is to leave your rubber dumbbells to rest. Unpack the boxes and simply leave in a well ventilated area for a week to allow any oils or solvents to evaporate. This is the cheapest, least messy and easiest way to get rid of the scent.

While the smell MAY linger for a bit longer it will drastically reduce the stink!

How to WASH dumbbells properly

To accelerate the process you can wash or wipe your weights down using some light detergent. Dry them quickly afterwards to prevent any risk of corrosion or damage to the surface of the rubber.

How to remove oils from rubber weights

Rubber weights – bumper plates or dumbbells – will often be shipped with a very thin layer of oil coating the surface. This is to prevent the finished rubber from cracking as it cures after being cast.

By the time you’ve received your weights it is usually safe to remove this coating. I use a very gentle detergent (typically a 5% diluted all purpose auto cleaner such as Belt Hamber APC) and a microfibre to quickly wipe down the surface.

Conclusion

Overall the smell from the rubber weights is not something that has bothered me – I find virgin rubber in particular as a very light smell initially which fades rapidly. I do however know others who have had a real problem with it. Knowing that this is caused by the manufacture process and type of rubber used should hopefully help if you are in the buying phase, but if you’ve received some smelly eights hopefully these tips help you get rid of it pronto!

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