How to Clean Dumbbells and Remove Rust (Iron and Rubber)

As any home gym owner knows, there is no such thing as ‘cheap’ gym equipment. That’s why learning how to clean dumbbells and keep them looking great and working great is critical to making your investment last.

The good news is, keeping your high quality dumbbells clean – no matter if they’re rubber dumbbells or iron dumbbells – is pretty easy and doesn’t take much time at all.

The key to cleaning dumbbells is to just consistently do it! Unfortunately, so many gym owners (both home and commercial) neglect their dumbbells until it’s too late.

In this article, I’m going to teach you how to properly clean your dumbbells from what materials and cleaning solutions to use to the process to how often you should be cleaning them to maintain them over the long haul.

Cleaning Dumbbells

Rubber and Iron Dumbbells
Rubber Dumbbells and Iron Dumbbells are both cleaned basically the same way.

Let me start off by letting you in on a little secret. You can clean rubber dumbbells and iron dumbbells basically the exact same way. Neither needs any specific products or processes compared to the other.

The only real difference is I don’t recommend using a wire brush to clean the rubber coating on a pair of rubber dumbbells. Simply use a wet cloth and wipe down the rubber.

In fact, as you’re about to see, cleaning any type of dumbbell is really easy.

First and foremost, when using cleaning products, make sure you are in a well-ventilated area. If you have a garage gym, open the garage door – problem solved.

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Materials Needed

  • Disposable Gloves
  • Mask
  • Eye Protection
  • EPA Approved Cleaning Solution* or Wipe*
  • Nylon Bristle Brush
  • Mild Soap Solution
  • Lint Free Cloth

You want a cleaning solution (or wipe) that is free of harsh chemicals like alcohol, phenols, bleach and ammonia. These types of cleaners will dull the surface of your dumbbells (especially rubber dumbbells), making them look faded. (and some are not great for the environment)

Instead, look for an EPA approved disinfectant.

Ultra-Lyte Disinfectant Solution or Zogics Disinfecting Wipes both work great.

Step 1 – Remove Chalk From the Handle

Mix a few drops of soap with warm water to create a mild soap solution (I use Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap, but most over-the-counter dish soap should work okay here)

Using your wire brush and soap, scrub off any excess chalk off the handle (or any other part of the dumbbell that may have accumulated chalk)

Now, use a damp cloth to wipe off the soap and finally a dry cloth to dry the dumbbell.

Step 2 – Disinfect

Put on appropriate safety gloves, mask and eyewear.

Now, take your disinfectant solution with a clean cloth (or wipes) and wipe down the entire dumbbell.

Let the disinfectant sit on the dumbbell for a few minutes (check your specific disinfectant instructions for the exact time) and then wipe off any excess with a fresh lint-free cloth.

Make sure to completely dry your dumbbells after you’re finished cleaning them. Do not let them air dry, as air-drying wet dumbbells are prone to rust. This goes double for iron dumbbells.

Dumbbell Cleaning FAQ

Here are a few of the most common questions when it comes to cleaning dumbbells.

How To Remove Rust From Dumbbells

Removing rust from dumbbells is a whole different situation than simply cleaning them.

If you have a pair of rusty dumbbells, whether they’ve been sitting in your own garage or you just bought them that way, the first thing you need to do is brush off any easy to remove rust and/or chalk with a steel brush.

Then, soak them overnight in a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar.

Once they’ve soaked overnight, pull them out and immediately spray them down with a mixture of water and baking soda.

Now, pull the steel brush back out and start scrubbing. Between the water and vinegar solution and water and baking soda solution, you should be able to remove most, if not all, of the remaining rust on your dumbbells.

Of course, the best way to deal with rust is to prevent rusting in the first place.

This means proper cleaning and regular maintenance on your dumbbells as well as being aware of how much humidity is in your gym (especially for a garage or shed). Invest in a dehumidifier for the summer months if necessary.

Is It Bad to Leave Chalk On Dumbbells?

Clapping Dust Cloud of Chalk
You want to know why some gyms ban chalk? Because people can’t help themselves from doing this all day.

The problem with leaving chalk on dumbbells, especially for long periods of time, is that chalk can hold moisture and bacteria. Both of which are bad for the dumbbell and bad for you.

Now, I’d be lying if I told you I immediately wipe off all chalk from my equipment immediately after using even though that’s probably the ideal way to go.

This leads right into our next frequently asked question.

How Often Should You Clean Your Dumbbells

Giving your gym equipment a quick wipe down after every lift is a great habit to get into. If you’re only wiping down the equipment you used that day, it usually only takes a minute or two.

If you’re not wiping your home gym equipment down daily, then you should at least be giving everything a good cleaning once a week. I take five to ten minutes every Friday to give everything in my gym, including dumbbells, a good wipe down. I also sweep and then once a month I’ll mop as well.

Not only is it the hygienic thing to do, but by taking proper care of your equipment it will last you a really long time. Even more than these reasons though, it’s just a matter of pride for me personally. I like to have everything in my gym looking clean and organized.

Final Thoughts on Cleaning Dumbbells

Easy, right?

I told you at the beginning, cleaning your workout equipment isn’t hard, it’s just a matter of actually doing it consistently.

Bottom line, dumbbells are expensive. But, if you take the time and effort to clean your dumbbells, along with your other gym equipment, they’ll take care of you for years and years to come.

Stay Strong!


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