How To Paint Dumbbells (Restore Your Old Free Weights)

Dumbbells are one of the best pieces of gym equipment to own, but they can start to look scuffed and worn quite quickly. You might find yourself hiding them out of sight or worrying that you'll need to spend money on a new set.

Well, that isn't the case, and in this guide, we'll show you how to go about painting dumbbells so you can get them looking as good as new.  

  • Safety Gear:
    Paint, especially spray paint, can be dangerous if you inhale it, and it can also irritate your skin. When you're painting, wear a mask, eye coverings, gloves, and painting overalls to limit any risk of injury. 
  • Paint:
    Choosing the right paint will be crucial for this job. If you have iron or steel dumbbells, you should look for a tough enamel paint that will adhere to metal. If you have rubber or neoprene dumbbells, you should look for some acrylic or specialist rubber paint that will adhere better. Make sure you find the right paint for the job before you start.
  • Primer:
    Primer will help you prepare the dumbbell for the paint. Try to find a primer of the same brand as the paint so that they work well together. 
  • Cleaning Mixture:
    Mix white vinegar and warm water to create a slightly acidic cleaning solution. You can use this to clean the outside of the dumbbell before painting. 
  • Wire Brush/Sanding Machine:
    You’ll need this to sand down the rust so your paint can land evenly over the dumbbell.
  • Leafing Pen:
    If you have numbering on your dumbbells, you’ll need to use a leafing pen to trace over it and make it visible after repainting. 
how to paint dumbbells

Preparing The Dumbbells

Move The Dumbbells Outside  

Painting inside can be hazardous and could also spread paint onto other items.

You should move your dumbbells outside to a well-ventilated area and use rags to cover the floor and surrounding objects. 

Make sure you wear a mask to stop yourself from inhaling any paint while you work.

Clean The Dumbbell  

Dirt and grime will naturally accrue on your dumbbell, but if you don't remove it, then it can impact how the paint sticks to the surface.

Take your white vinegar solution and use it to clean the dumbbell down before you apply the primer.  

Sand It Down  

Rust will build up on your dumbbells over time, and your paint will struggle to stick to it. Use a wire brush or a sanding machine and go over the dumbbell to help remove the outer layer of rust.

This will help the paint to land evenly on the dumbbell and give you a full coat of paint. Remember to wipe off the residue once you're done sanding.  

Apply Primer 

Primer is used as an undercoat and helps your paint stick evenly to the surface of the dumbbell. You should apply a coat of primer to your dumbbell to help you get a full coat of paint without any patchy areas.

Try to find a primer that is the same brand as your paint, or you could go for a 2-in-1 option if you want to save some time.

how to paint cast iron dumbbells

How To Paint Dumbbells For Home Gyms (7 Easy Steps)

Dumbbells are versatile and tend to see a lot of use. Commonly, they'll develop some scratches, marks, and rust over time, so it's a good idea to restore them every few years.

They tend to be made from cast iron or steel, and before you repaint them, you should examine them for any damage.

Cracks that are left untreated can cause ongoing issues, but you can fill them with epoxy resin or something similar. Once you're happy they're still in working order, you can move on to painting them.  

You can use traditional brush paint or spray paint for your dumbbells, but we find spray paint is much more effective. It gives an effortless, even coverage and takes a fraction of the time of paint brushing.

It is thinner, though, and brush on paint can offer greater protection to the metal. Whichever paint you choose, you need to make sure it will adhere to the metal and that it's tough enough to withstand some heavy use.

Rust-Oleum is one of the best spray paint brands on the market, and their Forged Hammer range of aerosol paints is very effective on dumbbells.  

Once you've settled on your type of paint, then you need to work out the best color.

It's a good idea to match any existing color of the dumbbells so it all looks even, or go for a dark color like black or silver. These should give a more even coat and look less patchy than lighter colors.  

Once you’ve got your paint sorted, you’ll need to follow these steps:  

1. Lay Down Tarp  

Repainting your dumbbells is much easier with spray paint, but you should only ever use spray paint in a well-ventilated area because it can be hazardous if inhaled.

Move your dumbbells outside, and lay them on some tarp to protect your floor. Make sure you’re wearing eye covers, protective gloves, a mask, and some painting overalls before you get started.

2. Clean The Dumbbells 

If your dumbbells are dirty, it can stop the paint from landing evenly over the surface. This can leave your dumbbells looking patchy, so it's important that you clean them down.

Use your white vinegar cleaning solution and a cloth to scrub it clean. Leave it for 15 minutes to dry.  

Related Article - How To Clean Dumbbells

can you spray paint dumbbells

3. Sand Them Down 

Old dumbbells often have flaky paint and rust on the outside. Your paint won't stick to this very well, and it can prevent you from getting an even coat.

Use a sanding tool or a wire brush and go over the whole dumbbell until it’s smoothed out. Use a cleaning wipe or a cloth to wipe away all the dust afterwards.  

4. Apply Primer  

Your dumbbell should be ready for your primer now. This will act as a base layer to help the paint stick evenly over the dumbbell.

You should try to use a similar primer to your main paint, or you could look for a 2-in-1 spray paint that has a primer within it to save time. Apply an even layer across the dumbbell and leave for 30 minutes to dry.  

5. Paint The Dumbbells 

Take your spray paint and hold the can about 9 inches away from the dumbbell. Slowly apply an even coat to the side facing you, and then repeat so it gets two coats.

Leave this to dry for about an hour, flip the dumbbell over, and repeat so that both sides are painted. Leave the dumbbells to dry for 2-3 hours.  

6. Elevate The Numbering  

If your dumbbells have engraved numbers on the side to tell you the weight, then the new coat of paint may have made them less visible.

You can use a silver leafing pen to go over the numbers and make them more noticeable. The leafing pen should be a different shade from the paint so that they stand out. Go over each set of numbers 2-3 times.   

7. Leave For 24 Hours 

Your dumbbells should now be painted, but it's essential you leave them for 24 hours before you use them, or you could risk damaging the paint.  

Other Dumbbell Painting Tips: 

  • Painting Rubber Dumbbells  
    If you have rubber dumbbells, you’ll need to use a different type of paint. Metal paint won’t adhere to the rubber as well and can leave it looking patchy, so you’ll need to use a universal paint or specialist rubber spray paint. Most major brands, like Rustoleum and Krylon, offer these. Rubber won't rust, but you should still clean it before you repaint it. You should follow the process above; just skip the sanding step.  
how to paint rubber dumbbells

Benefits of Painting Your Dumbbells Explained 

Improves The Look

You could spend a lot of time in your home gym and don't want your equipment to look worn and shabby.

A new coat of paint will help to transform old dumbbells and make them look great, which will make your whole gym seem more modern and stylish.

Protects The Material

Metal rusts, but if you apply a good coat of protective paint, you can stop moisture from getting into contact with the metal and stop the oxidization process from happening in the first place.

This helps protect your investment and gives you better long-term value for money.

Easier To Sell

Dumbbells are useful, but they can be expensive. You may decide that you want to recover some of the money you spent by selling them, and you're a lot more likely to get a buyer if they don't look worn.

A fresh coat of paint will make them look brand new and help you sell them more easily.

See Also - Why Are Dumbbells So Expensive?

More Efficient Workouts

If you've got a crowded gym, it can be difficult to find the equipment you're looking for. By repainting your dumbbells, you can color-code them so you can immediately locate the weight you're looking for.

This can save you a lot of time during your workout and make your training session much more efficient.

How To Prevent Paint From Chipping Off Dumbbells? 

Dumbbells see a lot of use, and the last thing you want is the paint chipping as soon as you've repainted it.

The best way to stop the paint from flaking or chipping is to use a good quality, durable paint in the first instance. An acrylic or enamel paint will be durable and should last longer than regular spray paint.  

You can also apply a finish to protect the paint. A clear finish will seal and protect the new coat of paint and make it last longer. All major brands stock it, but we like the Rust-oleum protective enamel spray because it also helps to prevent rust.  

No matter what you do, if you're regularly using your dumbbells, the paint will probably only last a few years. However, if you use good quality paint and a finish, you can stop it from chipping, and you shouldn't have to repaint for 2-3 years.  

Frequently Asked Painting Dumbbells Questions 

Does rust make weights heavier? 

Yes. The rusting process happens when metal oxidizes, and the oxygen from the air combines with the metal to create rust. This can make weights slightly heavier because of the added weight of the oxygen.  

Related Article - Best Ways To Make Dumbbells Heavier

Can I spray paint neoprene? 

Neoprene is difficult to paint because it’s so porous the paint will flake and crack. You need to use a specialist rubber paint or an acrylic latex paint because it will stretch a little and adhere to the surface.  

How many cans of paint can you use on one pair of dumbbells? 

A single can of paint should work for multiple dumbbells, though you may need a couple of cans to paint a whole set.  

What is the best paint type for dumbbells? 

A tough enamel or acrylic oil-based paint is best for dumbbells because it will give a thick, even coat. We recommend using a spray paint, and Rust-Oleum is one of the best brands for good quality paint.  


Dumbbells are a key piece of equipment in any home gym, and they see a lot of use. Repainting them can make them seem brand new, but you need to make sure you choose the right paint and take all the steps to prepare the dumbbell first.

Hopefully this guide has explained what you need to do, and you now feel more comfortable doing it yourself.  

Last Updated on August 28, 2022

Photo of author

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.