How to Clean Dumbbells (& Keep Them Rust Free)

You may have seen videos of old-school gyms where the bodybuilders are lifting huge rusty dumbbells, grunting and sweating and screaming. The reality is, though, that rusty dumbells can be a serious problem. If your dumbells are starting to rust over, then this is the article for you!

We will explain the best method to remove rust from dumbbells and how to clean them properly, as well as some tips and tricks for maintaining them.

If you don't want to read the whole article, here is the quick guide with simple steps you can take to clean your dumbbell:

  1. 1
    Using a damp cloth, wipe down your dumbbell after every single use.
  2. 2
    Every month or so, do a bit of a deeper clean. This time, heat up some water and add a mild soap. Next, you should scrub the metal with a stiff brush before wiping it over with soapy water. Make sure you towel dry them afterward.
  3. 3
    Ensure that you give the knurling a good scrub, as this is where bacteria is likely to hide.
  4. 4
    Never abuse your dumbbells; you should always put them securely on a rack and should never drop them on the floor from height during sets unless you absolutely have to.
clean dumbells on rack

Make Sure You Buy High Quality or Buy Twice

If you are reading this before making purchasing some dumbbells, then make sure you read this section.

It is massively important that you buy the highest quality dumbbells possible. This doesn't mean you have to buy them brand new. If you can find higher-quality second-hand dumbbells for the same price, then you should buy them and clean them up.

Dumbbells, like barbells are such an important addition to any gym that you should give this extra attention.

The market is flooded with cheap, low-quality products. Many new purchases get suckered in by the low price for a full set of dumbbells only to realize they are of poor quality and will need to be replaced relatively quickly anyway. There is no regulation on what manufacturers can claim, so be wary.

Try to stick with reputable brands, such as Bowflex, Weider & Nordictrack when buying dumbbells.

You don't need to get a bank loan or sell your dog to buy a high-quality set of dumbbells; you just need to be careful and do your due diligence.

With low-quality dumbbells:

  • The finish will degrade extremely quickly.
  • The dumbbell will rust and corrode quickly.
  • The dumbbell could become wobbly.
  • The grip will wear down quickly, providing very little traction, increasing instability during lifts.

How Long Should a High-Quality Dumbbell Last

The answer to this will depend entirely upon the quality of the dumbbells you have bought. High-quality dumbbells, when treated properly with cleaning and regular maintenance, should last you forever.

Low-quality dumbbells will run into problems that will make them unpleasant to use and will require you to replace them relatively quickly.

In-Depth Dumbbell Cleaning Method

1. Wipe + Brush

The very first thing you should do is to take a brass and steel brush to your dumbbells. Scrubbing lightly with the steel brush then firmly with the brass brush. This is a quick initial scrub, so don't be too thorough.

2. Soak Overnight

Next, you need to fill a large container with water and vinegar. This creates a solution that you can place your dumbbells into overnight. If possible, the dumbbells should be completely submerged.

Leave them for 24 hours.

3. Brush off Rust and Cover Dumbbell in Baking Soda Straight Away.

After your dumbbells have had a nice soak, it's time for you to do the heavy-duty cleaning.

To start with, you are going to need to make another mixture—this time with baking soda and water and put it into a spray bottle. As soon as you take the dumbbells out of the vinegar solution, you need to spray them immediately with the baking soda mixture to prevent something known as flash rust.

These solutions can create hard to deal with stains, so you might not want to do this inside.

Once sprayed down with baking soda, it's time to use the steel brush again. This time around, you should be able to remove a lot more of the caked-on dirt. Do one dumbbell at a time, spraying with water and wiping the dirt off as you go.

At this point, you should notice a massive difference. Are these even the same dumbbells that you had before?

4. Oil and Brush

Once you are happy with the cleaning, it's time to dry down the dumbbells with a towel. When they are bone dry, it's time to take some oil and apply it to the metal aspects of your dumbbells. Dry it down with paper towels and repeat for all dumbbells.

5. Final 3 in 1 Oil

For the final step, you will apply a tiny bit of 3 in 1 oil to a paper towel and polish the metal with it. This will create a layer of protection from rust and make your dumbbells look shiny and awesome.


Now that you have cleaned your dumbbells and restored them to their former glory, you need to put in place a good maintenance routine to stop them from getting that way ever again.

Once a week, you should rub down your weights with mild soap and scrub any muck off them. Every time you use them, you should also wipe them down if possible.

This maintenance will also help you spot any stubborn spots or early rust so you can deal with it before it becomes a problem.

Check out our review of the CAP adjustable dumbbell series in this article.

Dumbbell Storage

The easiest way to stop your dumbbells from picking up rust and dirt is to store them correctly in between usage.

Always put your dumbbells back onto a proper rack. When left on the ground, they pick up moisture quicker as well as dust and grime.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

How do you disinfect a dumbbell?

Just as necessary as it is to clean your dumbbells, you should also make sure that you disinfect them at regular intervals. This is especially important if you own a gym.

Luckily, it is straightforward and easy to disinfect a dumbbell. Just use a disinfectant spray bottle or anti-bacterial wipes afterward. If you own a gym, supplying disinfectant spray and wipes will not only keep your users safe, it will also keep your dumbbells clean.
Are rusty dumbbells safe?

If you have had a tetanus shot, a rusty dumbbell should not pose any problem to you other than sore hands. They are magnets for bacteria, though, so you could pick something up through cuts or scrapes, which are more likely to occur with rusty material.

How to clean Bowflex dumbbells?

Bowflex advises that you should clean them with warm water and mild soap. You should then wipe them dry with a different cloth. You should not have to replace lubricant.

How to clean rubber dumbbells?

You should mix a few drops of mild soap with warm water and wipe down your dumbells to clean rubber dumbbells, and do not use a steel or brass brush. Towel dry with a different cloth.


It really doesn't take that long to get those dumbbells looking fresh. If you neglect the maintenance and regular cleaning of your equipment, you will pay the price with more difficult cleaning sessions that could take all day

Last Updated on February 22, 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.