Do you own barbells? Do you have a habit of lifting and then just putting the weight down, closing the door and never worrying about maintaining your barbell? While strong and durable, barbell care is crucial to keeping your bar ready for each lifting session.
If you don’t know how to take care of a barbell, we're going to walk you through a step-by-step barbell cleaning and maintenance routine that you can follow.
Why barbell care is important
Barbells are made from some of the strongest materials in the world, and while they’re definitely durable pieces of equipment that rarely break, you need to clean your bar because metal will eventually rust.
Moisture plays a major role in rust development, along with sweat.
If your bar rusts, it will impact its integrity over time. Plus, the bar’s shine will remain intact if you maintain the bar properly.
Olympic barbell maintenance: what do you need?
Before cleaning your bar, it’s crucial to gather all of the tools for the job. A few of the tools you’ll need are:
- 3-in-1 oil
- Nylon bristle brush
If you plan on cleaning bars in a professional setting, you’ll want to use a disinfectant to kill any additional germs on the bar. Cleaning agents, especially with their widespread usage after COVID, are both beneficial and bad for your equipment.
Cleaning solutions will remove some of the bar’s:
- Zinc layers
- Black oxide
Both of these layers are meant to protect the bar from rust. Cleaners also remove grease from equipment, so they’re not ideal. A 3-in1 oil will help you prevent the bar from rusting and also extend the bar’s lifespan.
If you’re tempted to use an abrasive cleaner, it’s better to purchase an oil to clean the bar in a way that doesn’t damage the protective coating.
Barbell cleaning and maintenance: step by step guide
- Clean off the chalk. Many lifters use chalk for a better grip on the bar and to prevent slippage, especially when lifting heavy weights. You’ll want to grab your bristle brush to clean off all of the chalk, especially any found in the knurling of the bar. Leaving the chalk on the bar actually attracts more moisture and can cause premature rust development if you fail to remove the chalk.
- Wipe the bar down. Once all of the chalk is removed, it’s time to take the rag and wipe down your bar. You're trying to remove any dirt and debris on the bar from it. Next, put some oil on the rag, and then wipe down the entire bar at the end of the night and leave it. In the morning, you can take a clean rag to wipe off any excess oil that can weaken your grip on the bar.
- Sleeve cleaning. The majority of bars on the market have bearings and bushings that are in oil. You won’t need to perform this task if you have oil-impregnated components. However, if you do see small holes in the bar’s sleeve, you can add a few drops of oil into these holes to allow the sleeve to move smoothly. You'll want to dab up any excess oil with a rag.
A few tips for all kinds of traditional and Olympic bar maintenance include:
- Recommended to get away with following these steps bi-weekly.
- WD-40 is one of the most praised lubricants, but it actually causes gunk to develop over the long term. Always use oil for your cleaning and don’t attempt to use WD-40, which may negatively impact barbell sleeve movement.
While you can follow the three steps above for nearly any barbell that you own, you should also adhere to the tips below for cleaning different bar types.
Stainless steel barbell cleaning
Follow the same cleaning procedures as above, but keep in mind that stainless steel is resistant to rust thanks to the presence of chromium in the metal’s chemical makeup. However, if you use rough bristle brushes or alcohols, which will strip the chromium oxide from the bar, it will allow rust to form.
Hard Chrome barbell cleaning
Hard chrome is a great option because it’s resistant to corrosion and is fairly durable. While you may need to clean these bars less often, they should still be cleaned routinely. You can clean these bars every 1 – 3 months.
Black Oxide barbell cleaning
Black oxide is less durable than most other barbell types, and a routine cleaning every two weeks or so is ideal. However, you may need to increase this duration if using the barbell in a commercial setting.
Since the oxide can degrade, it’s best to wipe these bars down with a microfiber cloth rather than bleach or wipes, which can damage the coating.
Barbell care is a fast and easy way to protect your investment. If you have barbells that you rely on during your workout, proper maintenance can keep your equipment in good condition for years to come and reduce potential safety risks, too.