Barbells see a lot of heavy use, and their condition can degrade quickly. You probably paid a lot of money for your barbells, and you don’t want them to look old and worn.

A fresh coat of paint can rejuvenate gym equipment, but how do you paint Olympic barbells? I'll answer that question in this guide and show you how to paint your barbells properly.

  • Wire Brush Or Sandpaper 
    This will be used to remove old paint and file down any visible rust so that you can paint the barbell properly.  
  • Specialist Spray Paint  
    You really need to use spray paint for this job because traditional brush-on paint will be too thick. Make sure you buy a tough acrylic or enamel paint that can be used on metal.
  • Spray Paint Primer  
    From my experience, using a primer before applying your topcoat of paint is crucial. You'll need this if you want to get an even coat of paint on your barbell, and I would recommend using the same type of primer from the same brand as your spray paint.  
  • Safety Equipment 
    There are some hazards involved in spray painting, so you should make sure you have a mask, eye coverings, gloves, and protective overalls [1]. 
  • White Vinegar Cleaning Solution 
    Mix 1-part white vinegar with 3 parts water to create a cleaning solution. The acidity will help to dissolve dirt and grime and leave your barbell clean.  
  • WD-40  
    You’ll need to apply a light layer of oil to your barbell to stop the weights from sticking and peeling the paint off. WD-40 works well, or you can buy specialist barbell maintenance oil from fitness suppliers.  
How To Paint Olympic Barbells For Home Gym – GarageGymPro

First Things First: Prepare Your Olympic Barbells For Painting

  • Move It Outside:
    For your safety, you should only ever use spray paint in a well-ventilated area, so you should move your barbell outside. If that's not an option, you should open doors and windows to increase the airflow. 
  • File Down The Rust:
    Rust will give you an uneven surface that your spray paint will struggle to adhere to. This could leave the paint looking patchy and worse than when you started. You'll need to file down the rust with your wire brush before starting so your paint can stick evenly to the barbell. 
  • Clean The Barbell:
    Dirt and grime will also pose a problem for spray paint because it won’t be able to stick evenly to the surface. Clean your barbell with the white vinegar cleaning solution before you paint it.  
  • Apply Primer:
    I recommend applying a spray paint primer to the barbell before adding any color; from my own experience, it significantly improves the project. Believe me, I've tried both methods, and using a primer definitely makes a big difference and simplifies the process.
cleaning barbell ready for paint

Things You Need to Know Before Painting Olympic Barbells

Repainting your Olympic barbell is possible, but you need to do it properly and with the right equipment.

You should use spray paint because it will give a light and even coat of paint, but you also need to choose the right spray paint.

If the paint gets into the knurling, it could fill the gaps and impact the grip on the bar. This could make it harder to hold and use the barbell, particularly if you have a heavy load.

A reputable brand like Rust-oleum or Krylon is best, and I would recommend using an oil-based acrylic or enamel paint [2][3].  

Step-By-Step Guide For Painting Olympic Barbells:

Here are the steps you should follow:

1. Follow The Preparation Steps Above 

This will include moving outside, removing any rust that is present, cleaning the barbell, and applying primer.  

2. Cover The Knurling  

Once the primer is dry, take some rags and cover the knurling on your barbell because you’ll need to paint this separately.

Take your acrylic spray paint and hold it about 8 inches from the barbell. Apply a single layer across the whole barbell. Leave it for a few minutes, and then apply a second coat.  

3. Paint The Knurling  

Remove the rags covering the knurling. Painting the knurling can impact the grip you’ll get on the bar, so you may decide to leave them unpainted.

If you do decide to paint them, apply a single coat of spray paint, making sure that you go slow so that the aerosol paint has the opportunity to land all over.  

barbell knurling ready to paint

4. Leave To Dry  

Once you’ve finished painting, you’ll need to leave the barbell to dry. This should take 2-3 hours.  

5. Oil The Barbell 

A fresh layer of paint on the outside can make it more challenging to slide weights onto the collars. Take some WD-40 or special barbell lubricant, and apply a light layer all over the bar.

This will help the weights glide on and off and limit the friction to prevent the paint from cracking when you use the barbell.  

6. Leave For 24 Hours 

Leave your repainted Olympic barbell for 24 hours and make sure it's fully dry before using it again.  

Other Barbell Painting Tips: 

  • Painting Steel or Aluminium Barbells 
    Most barbells are made from iron, aluminum, or steel. You can paint any of these, but you must select a primer and spray paint that is designed for that metal. Well-known brands like Rust-Oleum and Krylon have a wide range of paints and primers for different metals so just make sure you choose a suitable paint.  
  • Painting Standard Barbells 
    There's more variety with standard barbells, and they may be longer, shorter, heavier, or lighter. Standard barbells can often be easier to paint because there's less knurling, and some barbells don't have any knurling at all. You'll need to follow the same process to paint standard barbells, but you may be able to skip the knurling step.  
man holding black barbell

What Are The Benefits Of Painting Barbells? 

Color Coding

Olympic barbells and weight plates are often color-coded, so you can tell exactly what you're lifting really easily.

If you have a lot of equipment in your gym, then repainting your barbells can help you identify the one you’re looking for and make your workouts more efficient.

Covers Rust

Rust occurs naturally, but you don’t necessarily want to see it all the time. It can also be pretty rough on your hands, and you could injure yourself while you’re lifting.

You can’t reverse the rusting process, but a fresh coat of paint is a great way to cover it up and protect your hands.

Related Article - How To Paint Weight Plates In 6 Easy Steps

Protective Coating

Barbells aren't cheap, so it's a good idea to take steps to protect your investment. A tough coat of paint gives your barbell an extra layer of protection that can stop visible damage or rust.

Retains Value

Many weightlifters are proud of their battered bars and gym equipment because it shows how hard they've worked. This is definitely true, but unfortunately, it doesn't help your barbells retain their value.

If you're looking to resell old equipment, people are less likely to choose an old, rusted metal, so repainting it is a simple way to protect your investment.


FAQs

How do you get rust off a barbell? 

Unfortunately, you can’t reverse the rusting process, but you can remove the layer of visible rust by using a wire brush or some sandpaper to file it down.  

Why is the paint on my barbell flaking off 

Barbells see a lot of heavy use, and sliding weights on and off the bar can cause it to flake off. The easiest way to prevent it is to regularly oil your bar to reduce the friction, and this will have the added benefit of making it easier to load and unload the bar.

You should also use a tough acrylic paint, but even with a very durable spray paint, it will only last for 1-2 years.  

Can you paint over an already painted barbell? 

Yes, you can repaint a painted barbell, but you should remove any loose or flaky paint on the outside. Use sandpaper or your wire brush to remove any flaking paint, and use a paint stripper on the metal if you need to.   

How long does it take for paint to dry on a barbell? 

Spray paint can dry quite quickly, depending on the brand, and it should only take a few hours to dry. However, you should always wait 24 hours before using the barbell again to avoid damaging the fresh paint.  


Conclusion

It’s not always recommended to repaint your barbell because the paint can make it harder to grip and can crack easily. In fact, many people even like the authentic, rusty look and prefer their barbells to look worn.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t paint them if you want to; you just need to follow the correct process. Hopefully, this guide has helped explain how to paint your Olympic barbell, and you now feel comfortable doing it yourself at home.  

References:

1.https://www.sentryair.com/blog/industry-applications/aerosol-spray-paint/the-hazards-of-spray-paint-fumes/

2.https://www.rustoleum.com/

3.https://www.krylon.com/

Last Updated on April 18, 2024

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Andrew White

Andrew White is the co-founder of Garage Gym Pro. As an expert fitness professional (gym building nerd) with over 10 years of industry experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern fitness & the newest market innovations for garage gyms. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually out surfing or playing basketball.