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Barbells can last for decades if properly cared for but corrosion can dramatically reduce the lifespan of your bar. Rusty barbells don’t only feel gross, it can actually destroy your barbell if nothing is done. In this article, we’ll go into why barbells rust and what the best ways to prevent this are.
Some barbells are more prone to corroding than others. With proper cleaning and maintenance, all barbells can last a long time. Wiping off sweat after use is a big one but so are proper cleaning, drying, and storage. Using stainless steel or coated barbells reduces maintenance needs.
In the rest of this article, you can find exactly why barbells rust, which factors make it worse and how you can prevent this from happening.
Understanding Barbell Corrosion
Barbell corrosion is a natural process driven by chemical reactions between the metal of the barbell and the elements in its environment.
These reactions, primarily involving oxygen and moisture, lead to the barbell’s surface being damaged. Corrosion can take a few forms, such as rust, pitting, and discoloration. Whatever way it shows up, it’s bad news since corrosion negatively impacts the feel, structural integrity, and looks of a barbell.
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Barbells More Prone to Corrosion
It all starts with the barbell. Some barbells are more susceptible to corrosion than others
Also, it’s usually the shaft of the barbell that’s more prone to rusting since that’s the part you touch all the time. The sleeves are rarely touched and most sleeves are chromed which helps to protect against rust quite a lot.
Common Factors During a Workout that Promote Barbell Corrosion
Then there are things you do during a workout that increase the risk for rust. Most of which you can’t do anything about.
Common Factors in a Gym that Promote Barbell Corrosion
There are a few factors that don’t have much to do with your bar or workout that can still make your bar rust. They depend on the gym and location.
Choosing the Right Barbell
While all the preventative measures you can find below help, the best way to deal with rust choosing the right barbell. And especially the right barbell for your needs. They might all look similar but there are big differences between barbells. And some of those differences pertain to their rust protection.
There are great barbells out there with great rust protection that are pretty much impervious to corrosion. However, there can be reasons you want a bare iron barbell. Choosing the right one for your needs is key.
Stainless steel bars are great but expensive. There is a plethora of coatings out there that do a great job of reducing rust to zero or very minimal amounts. It’s a bit too much to get into all the differences between coatings here but you can find a comprehensive comparison between all the different barbell finishes in this article.
For most commercial, home, and garage gyms, a barbel with good corrosion protection is worth the extra money because you save time in maintenance, and your bars last way longer.
Bare (non-stainless) steel bars are for people who want the most natural feeling barbell and don’t mind doing some extra maintenance.
- Research different barbell materials and coatings before purchasing.
- Opt for barbells made from stainless steel or those with high-quality protective coatings.
- Paying a bit more for the right barbell now can save you money later on.
Preventing Your Barbell From Rusting
Luckily there are quite a few things you can do to prevent your barbell from becoming rusty scrap metal.
Using a sprayable cleaning solution with tissues helps get rid of any bacteria and more grime as well.
If you use chalk, use it sparingly to reduce the buildup. Chalk is a big factor in corrosion since it holds on to moisture and really gets stuck in the knurling to do it’s thing.
2. Regular Cleaning
Cleaning your barbell regularly is essential to prevent corrosion and maintain its appearance. Follow these steps:
- Use a mild cleaning agent and a soft brush to gently remove dirt, sweat, and chalk.
- Pay special attention to the knurling and other textured areas where grime can accumulate.
- Wipe the barbell dry after cleaning to prevent moisture buildup.
Don’t use hard brushes, harsh chemicals, or abrasive cloths to clean your barbell. This will wear down any protective coatings faster.
This is a very short summary of how to clean a barbell. You can read an in-depth article on it here.
3. Proper Storage
Proper storage plays a crucial role in preventing corrosion:
I’ve written a whole article on how to store your barbells properly, click the link to find it.
4. Applying Protective Coatings
On some barbells, you can add a protective coating to protect against rust. This is only necessary on barbells that don’t have a coating from the factory or when the manufacturer recommends it.
This protective coating means applying a thin layer of oil or wax to coat the barbell’s surface.
Of course, the bar should be perfectly clean and dry before applying this layer, otherwise it’s not much good.
5. Managing Humidity and Moisture
If your gym or equipment storage is very humid, this doesn’t help things. It’s not the most important factor but in very humid environments, it does make a noticeable impact.
You can manage humidity in a few ways;
- Use dehumidifiers or a/c in your gym to control moisture levels.
- During high-humidity seasons, be extra vigilant about barbell maintenance.
- Opening doors and windows can already make a big impact on indoor humidity levels.
- After workouts, wipe down the barbell to remove any accumulated moisture.
- Make sure all the equipment is dry before storage.
This doesn’t only apply to barbells but all types of metal gym equipment. Especially equipment that has exposed metal surfaces.