How to Remove Rust From Dumbbells

3 Steps to Restore Cast Iron Dumbbells to Like-New Condition

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: October 17, 2023

Cast iron dumbbells are a staple in many home and commercial gyms that can last a lifetime. However, the biggest problem with these old-school weights is that they can develop rust over time.

Not only do rusty dumbbells look bad, but they can also transfer orange dust to clothing, floors, and other gym equipment. Fortunately, removing rust from dumbbells is a straightforward process that can be done with a few everyday household items.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the steps of how to remove rust from your cast iron dumbbells and get them looking as good as new.

How to Remove Rust From Dumbbells

Cast Iron Dumbbells

Cast iron dumbbells are weights made of solid cast iron, usually with a hexagonal or hex shape and a textured handle for improved grip. Due to their durability and long-lasting nature, they are a popular choice for hardcore gyms.

Moreover, cast iron dumbbells are a relatively inexpensive option compared to other types of weights, making them an excellent choice for those on a budget. And you can save even more by purchasing used weights.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was fortunate to find 500 lbs of cast iron dumbbells on Facebook Marketplace. However, the dumbbells were already showing signs of rust, and after storing them for 3 years in my garage, the rust became really bad.

Later, when I decided to build an indoor home gym, I set out to save money by restoring my dumbbells to their like-new condition. After conducting online research, I developed a plan to remove the rust and give them a new paint job.

However, I soon discovered that rust removal wasn’t as simple as videos and articles made it seem. Therefore, I’ll share my experience and provide you with a fool-proof process to remove rust from dumbbells and restore their former glory.

How to Get Rust Off Dumbbells

This is how my dumbbells looked after 3 years of garage storage.

How to Get Rust Off Dumbbells

Many how-to videos on YouTube suggest removing rust from cast iron dumbbells by using either a vinegar solution or mechanical tools like a wire brush or electric grinder.

At first, I opted for the vinegar solution method since it seemed to require less elbow grease. However, after soaking the dumbbells for three days, I was disappointed to find that they were still covered in a rusty substance.

I then resorted to mechanical rust removal using a wire brush and a Dremel tool, but it was still not enough to get rid of all the rust. Despite feeling discouraged, I did not give up on my dumbbells.

I finally decided to try a power sander, which disintegrated the rust into a fine powder that could be easily removed and cleaned up. Then, I cleaned the dumbbells off and applied a rust-prevention coating.

This combination of steps ultimately helped me remove the rust and preserve my dumbbells for years. Therefore, I recommend following these steps to remove rust from your cast iron dumbbells effectively.

  • Step 1 – Soak dumbbells in 50/50 water vinegar solution for 2-3 days.
  • Step 2 – Grind away excess rust with a wire brush and sandpaper.
  • Step 3 – Clean and prep for paint (optional).

Click here to see my list of supplies on Amazon.

How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron Dumbbells

The most noticeable transformation took place when I sanded the dumbbells.

Step 1: Break Down Dumbbell Rust with a Solvent

If you want to remove rust from your cast iron dumbbells, the first step is to soak them in a mixture of vinegar and water. This is especially important if the rust is extensive, although you may be able to skip it if you have minimal rust.

To prepare the solution, purchase 2-5 gallons of distilled white vinegar. Any kind will do, but I got a good deal at Sam’s Club for about $2.50 per gallon. 

Next, put your dumbbells in a large container and cover them with equal parts of vinegar and water. Alternatively, you can cover the weights in vinegar-soaked towels.

Let the dumbbells soak in the solution for at least 24 hours to allow the acidic vinegar to break down the oxidized component of the rust. For severe rust, allow 48 hours or more.

When you take the dumbbells out of the solution, they may look worse than before. But don’t worry; the remaining rust will be easier to clean off.

Dumbbell Rust Removal

This large plastic tote worked fine for covering my dumbbells with vinegar solution, although it started to bend and bow outward from the weight of the water.

Step 2: Physically Remove Dumbbell Rust with Abrasive

Completely removing rust from dumbbells requires some form of abrasion. You can use a handheld brass or steel brush or an electric wire brush wheel. But I found that an orbital sander with coarse paper, like 120 grit, easily removes rust. 

The wire brush works well to knock off loose chunks or paint chips and to get at hard-to-reach areas like the dumbbell handle. After a pass with the brush, I hit all the flat surfaces with the sander.

Also, make sure you wear a N-95 dust mask and eye protection for this step, as it produces a lot of airborne debris and dust.

Remove Rust From Dumbbells Before

This picture shows how the vinegar loosened the rust but did not remove it.

Remove Rust From Dumbbells After

After 5-minutes of brushing/sanding, it looked much better.

Step 3: Clean Remaining Rust Residue Off Dumbbells

After removing rust from dumbbells using a wire brush or sandpaper, the next step is to clean off the dust and buildup left behind. You can use a damp rag or paper towel for this purpose.

For stubborn rust spots, applying WD-40 or a similar lubricant can help loosen the bonds between the rust and the metal surface. This will make it easier to remove the rust effectively.

Finally, cleaning with an isopropyl alcohol removes any remaining oil or residue, which is necessary if you plan to paint your dumbbells. Also, consider using a microfiber towel to avoid leaving behind any lint.

How to Clean Rust Off Dumbbells

Ready to clean with rubbing alcohol and a microfiber towel.

How to Remove Rust From Dumbbells for Painting

Dumbbells are rust-free, clean, and ready for paint.

How to Prevent Dumbbell Rust

Once you get rid of rust from your dumbbells, you might be worried about preventing this from happening again. There are a few precautions you can take to prevent dumbbell rust.

Firstly, avoid storing your dumbbells outdoors or in a garage for long periods. Instead, keep them indoors in a low-humidity environment. If you have a gym in your basement, consider using a dehumidifier to prevent cast iron dumbbells from rusting.

As previously mentioned, WD-40 was specifically designed to displace water that causes iron to oxidize, preventing rust. To create a protective coating, spray a generous amount all over your dumbbells and allow it to soak in for 15-20 minutes.

Another option is to apply a fresh coat of paint to your dumbbells. This will create a barrier between the iron and the air, locking out moisture and preventing rust.

How to Restore Dumbbells

Final results after removing rust and painting dumbbells. The reward was worth the effort!

Lessons Learned Restoring Dumbbells

I learned a lot while removing rust and restoring my cast iron dumbbells. Here’s what I wish I knew before starting:

  1. Be prepared to invest some time and energy
  2. Soaking in vinegar doesn’t magically remove the rust
  3. A power sander works better than a wire brush
  4. Use WD-40 to loosen the stubborn rust
  5. It will be a labor-intensive job, but worth the effort in the end

Also, I created an Amazon list of all the items I used. Click the link below to pick up any of the things you’ll need to get started!

See My Tools List On Amazon

More Home Gym Guides

I hope this information has helped you to create a practical plan for removing rust from your dumbbells. If you enjoyed this article, please check out my other guides to building your ultimate home gym.

REP Fitness Power Rack Buyer’s Guide

Review of REP Fitness Drop-In Dip Attachment for Power Rack

Best Dumbbell Bar Sets For Building Your Ultimate Home Gym

REP Fitness Landmine Attachment Install & Review

Detailed Review of the REP Fitness Dumbbell Rack for Your Gym

If you’re interested in learning something new, I have many articles covering all aspects of fitness, including nutrition, supplements, workouts, and bodybuilding news.

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By |October 17, 2023|Workouts|Comments Off on How To Remove Rust From Dumbbells & Restore Your Home Gym
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