How To Clean A Barbell (Guide For Avoiding Rust & Germs)

When it comes to workout equipment, the barbell reigns supreme. Used in most compound lifts like the bench press and the deadlift, the barbell will see more use than the average gym equipment piece.

Buying a good barbell is a major purchase, and a good one will last you a lifetime if you take care of it properly. In this article, we are going to discuss the proper ways to maintain your barbell.

A barbell is a piece of weight lifting equipment used in a range of different exercises. A standard barbell will comprise a long metal bar with special ends designed to hold weight plates.

Barbells come in a range of different sizes and weights.

An Olympic barbell will always weigh precisely 40lbs.

The shape of the barbell and the ability to load weights on either side allows users to hold the bar in the middle of the center of gravity. This makes movements a lot more stable due to the symmetry.

Due to the sheer amount of contact with human skin, barbells can pick up a lot of bacteria and grime

How often should you clean your barbell?

This is why you should aim to have a weekly cleaning habit for your barbell and once a month maintenance where you spend a little more time and care cleaning and oiling your bar.


Quick Guide To Cleaning Your Bare Steel Bar/Stainless Steel Bar

If you are in a rush, here are the 5 basic steps you can take to clean your barbell:

  1. 1
    With a damp cloth, make sure you wipe your barbell down after every use.
  2. 2
    Do a deeper clean once a month. Warm-up some hot water and mild soap, and give your bar a good scrubbing over. Some bars might require you to wash them in a certain way (More on that later).
  3. 3
    Make sure that the collars and the bar, in general, are inspected regularly.
  4. 4
    Never abuse your bar, don't put weight on that exceeds the bar's limit, and don't use it in ways that it is not meant to be used.
  5. 5
    When not in use, keep your barbell in a suitable location.

Make Sure You Buy High Quality or Buy Twice

If you have not already purchased your barbell or are looking to replace an older model, this section is for you.

You MUST make sure that you purchase the highest quality barbell that your budget allows. It's such an integral part of any weightlifting routine that it deserves extra attention.

There are a lot of cheap, poorly made barbells out there. Unfortunately, there are no rules on what a company can "claim" about their bars. This means they can sell you a low-quality barbell that they promise is "excellent" but, in reality, falls short of the mark.

This doesn't mean that you need to sell your horse, remortgage your house, and cut back on steak. It merely means that it is vital that you do your research and pick a bar that is worth the money.

With low-quality bars:

  • The finish will degrade extremely quickly.
  • The bar will rust and corrode quickly.
  • The bar could bend, causing serious injury, even death.
  • The grip will provide minimal traction, increasing instability during lifts.

How Long Should a Good Barbell Last?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question will depend upon the quality of the barbell that you bought. A good barbell should last forever when treated properly.

Poor barbells may still function, but when they start flaking, or the grip is next to nothing, it is time to replace your bar.

Materials You Will Need to Maintain and Clean a Barbell Properly

  1. 1
    A good brand of 3 in 1 oil.
  2. 2
    A nylon bristle brush with stiff bristles.
  3. 3
    Some lint-free clothes.
  4. 4
    Mineral water or water that has been filtered. (Boiled water will do in a pinch.)
  5. 5
    Stainless steel brush.
  6. 6
    Baking Soda.

In-Depth Barbell Cleaning Method

1. Wipe + Brush

The first step is to give your bar a good brass or steel brush. First, lightly with the steel brush to remove any bits of dirt and rust. You don't need to be overly thorough here, and this should only be a 5-minute job.

2. Soak Overnight

The next step is to soak your bar in a mixture of water and vinegar overnight.

There are two ways to do this.

If you have a container with the right shape, size, and depth that will allow you to submerge your bar completely, then you should use that.

The second step is to fill a bucket with the same mixture. Dip paper towels in the mixture, then proceed to wrap them around the bar. Once the entire bar is wrapped in paper towels, wrap the whole bar in clingfilm to seal it in.

Leave it like this for 24 hours.

3. Brush off Rust and Cover Bar in Baking Soda Immediately

Now that your bar has had a soak for a reasonable period of time, it's now time to do a thorough cleaning.

First, though, when you remove the bar from the mixture or unwrap it from the kitchen paper, you need to spray the bar with a mix of water and baking soda. This needs to be done as quickly as possible to avoid flash rusting of the metal.

Make sure that you do not do this on your power rack, and the mixture can leave some nasty stains that will be near impossible to remove later on.

Now that it is done, start brushing your bar down with a brass or steel brush. This will get a lot of the impurities and dirt off the bar with ease. Make sure you work in sections, using a spray bottle with water and wiping down each section you do.

4. Oil and Brush

Once you have done the cleaning, dry the bar down with a paper towel. Now take your oil and apply a few drops to a small section of the bar. Now brush that section thoroughly with your brass brush. Wipe the area with a paper towel, then rinse and repeat, making your way down in sections.

5. Final 3 in 1 Oil

The final step is to apply a small amount of oil to a paper towel. Use this to apply a light layer of oil to the entire piece. This will stop your bar from rusting as quickly and has the added benefit of making everything really shiny.


To make this process a lot easier, aim to do weekly maintenance on your equipment. Cleaning your barbell with a solution of mild soap and water and wiping them down each week will stop you from having to do an in-depth clean so often.

It also means you can spot rust appearing before it becomes a problem, allowing you to easily deal with it with a brass brush.


Smart Tips For Barbell Storage

  1. 1
    Where possible, store your bars in a horizontal position.
  2. 2
    Try not to use vertical storage solutions if at all possible.
  3. 3
    If you do have to use vertical storage, ensure you watch out for oil leaking.
  4. 4
    Expensive competition Olympic bearing bars should always be stored horizontally.
  5. 5
    Store your bars as close to the ground as possible as there is less humidity near the floor.
  6. 6
    In no circumstance should you store a bar with weight on it.
  7. 7
    Never prop your bars up in a corner or against a wall where they could fall and cause damage or, worse, injury.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How do you disinfect a barbell?

Luckily, it is easy to disinfect a barbell. Simply use a disinfectant spray or disinfectant wipes afterward. If you own a gym, supplying spray bottles with disinfectant on every station and making it a rule that people wipe their machines down after use is the best bet.

Is it safe to use a rusty barbell?

In terms of disease, as long as you have had your tetanus shots, a rusty piece of equipment shouldn't be able to cause you any serious problems other than sore hands and potentially some discoloration.

However, rust can cause weakness in the metal, and a seriously rusted bar might snap or, worse, underweight and could cause injury.

How do you get rust off weight lifting bars?

The easiest way to get the rust off your bars is to use a brass brush or a steel brush, depending on what the rust looks like. For the best results, go through the cleaning process we talked about above.

What kind of brush do you use to clean a barbell?

The best kind of brush to clean a barbell is either a fiber, brass, or steel brush, depending on the task.

How do I clean barbell knurling?

To clean the knurling on your barbell, you should use a plastic bristle brush as well as mild soapy water. This will remove most of the grime. You should then use 3:1 oil to brush into the nooks and crannies.

How do I clean my Rogue barbells?

If you have one of the high-quality barbells from the incredible Rogue brand, you will want to take special care with cleaning. Luckily they offer a specific cleaning kit for you to use. This kit comes with everything you need to maintain and care for your Rogue barbell.


There we have it. While it may seem like a lot of hassle and hard work to begin with, it really isn't. If you let your bars go without maintenance, you will pay the price with longer cleaning and rust removal sessions.

Maintenance is always king when it comes to saving time with your barbells.

Last Updated on January 23, 2023

Paul J

Paul J

Paul J is is an ex-professional footballer who has seen a gym or two and is an expert at knowing what is required for home gym setups. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually going for a run in the park or out for coffee.