Barbell Care: How To Clean and Maintain Your Barbell

Taking care of your barbells is part of the process of lifting. Like the car you drive, maintenance is part of the game. Here are some tips on how to take care of them, so your barbells last for life.

When you finally find the barbell that you searched for, you’ll want to keep it looking nice. It’s easy to maintain it. Just like a car, it needs regular steps that keep it looking good. It’s a safety concern as well. Think about a gun you don’t maintain. So be smart, and follow this guide.

When you do, it gives a sense of pride too. When you begin to lift, you’ll feel great about the steps you took to get here. It feels almost as good as the workout itself.

The Process

Barbells can look as good in twenty years, as they did the day you bought them. The care requires a few things first. They are simple things to make the whole job more efficient.

• One nylon brush
• Two clean rags
• A 3-in-one oil

Step 1:

• Take a bit of oil, and place it on the knurled areas.
• Really work it into the knurling.
• Use the brush to get it in there good.

You must clean the knurling. Rust will develop otherwise. It will corrode. Keep it in good shape so it lasts.

Step 2:

• Place a pinky size bit of oil on a clean rag and wipe the bar completely. Don’t do the sleeves just yet though.
• Take the nylon brush and work it into the bar. This eliminates all topical rust.
• Allow that oil to dry.

When you wipe the bar with this oil, and scrub off the developing rust, you save your barbell. Rust is the enemy here. It also protects against the moisture from the sweat that collects. That’s where the rust comes from. The body oils and sweat get together to make a concoction of yuck. Wipe it off. The brush is your friend. Don’t forget to keep that clean too.

Step 3:

• First you want to place the bar standing up.
• Then, put on a pinky size bit of oil on it, at the sleeve by the floor.
• Work the oil up to the sleeve.
• When a few bits of oil are on it, spin the sleeve.
• Do so slowly.
• Then, use a clean rag to wipe off the oil.

This keeps the sleeves spinning as they should. Lubrication is a necessity for the bearings. They are an integral part of the function of this piece. That’s why it’s so important for them to remain properly lubricated. These little steps go a long way.

Other Tips for Maintenance

Cleaning the knurling, on a regular basis, is the most important things you can do. Did you know that a simple towel wipe after use goes a long way? When you do that, you’ll avoid rust from happening in the first place. Store the bar in a horizontal position. When you store it vertically, the debris can get into the sleeve. That creates damage to your rotation.


You can buy barbells that have different coatings. Each one offers a different level of durability and resistance to corrosion. These help prevent the need to use the brush cleaning maintenance. Each is rated on a level of one to ten.

• Black Oxide
• Hard Chrome
• Stainless Steel
• Zinc
• Hard chrome
• Budget chrome
• Cerakote
• Bare steel

The black oxide coating provides a mild coating. It also gives you some more durability to the knurling on the bar. On a scale of one to ten, this is a four.

Hard chrome gives you a hard level of durability. It’s highly resistant to corrosion as well. It’s one of the most popular coatings for many barbells. It rates at a level seven for a coating. It even looks good.

Stainless steel gives a ten rate level. It is the most durable and resistant to corrosion. It’s also the best choice for aggressive knurling. Even though it’s the most durable coating, you need to maintain this one as well.

Zinc has a rating of six out of ten. You can get it in standard zinc, black zinc, and bright zinc. It’s a durable choice for your barbell over the years. You have a powder-like surface on it most times. It’s something to consider in relation to the oil.

Hard chrome has a level seven for it’s coating. It does rub off over the years. It’s does offer a higher level for resistance. It’s not a bad selection for people that can’t afford the stainless bars.

Budget chrome has a level three coating. These are a bad choice. It looks great when you first get it. Over the years, it cracks and deteriorates to the point where it’s just dangerous to use.

Cerakote has the highest level of coating to steel. It has such a hard coating that it’s used for firearms. It feels different than the other lower ratings for sure. Once you use this one or steel, you’re not going to want to go back. It’s seriously good.

Bare steel offers a level two coating. This one requires constant cleaning. It’s a pain to maintain. You need to to clean this one on the daily. Otherwise it will corrode like crazy.

Advanced Cleaning Steps

Some lifters will take a toothbrush and clean the knurls for a light cleaning scrub. It works well for those barbells that have the higher level of coating, but still need to clean the corrosion that happens. Don’t forget that towel wipe each time either.

The bearings and bushings are crucial for maintenance. The spin to the sleeve gives you assistance in your moves. Do not slack on this part. Every time you lift, you need to to use the towel to remove any debris that gathers here.

How Often?

The daily workout needs to be done. That’s a given. You don’t want the sleeve to break one day. If you don’t do the maintenance, then the breaks will eventually happen. It can get dangerous. Take the daily wiping with a towel serious.

Remember to keep your barbell dry. Don’t hand things on it either. There is a basic schedule for the steps listed at the top here. The brush and the oil maintenance need to happen according to this schedule.

• Black Oxide: Every two to four weeks
• Hard Chrome: Four times a year, every 3 months at most.
• Stainless Steel: One to three months
• Zinc: Do this every two to four months.
• Hard chrome: Every one to three months
• Budget chrome: Monthly
• Cerakote: Every one to three months
• Bare steel: One to three weeks

Over the years of use, you’ll get to where you know when it’s time. You’ll notice the corrosion or build-up of gunk. Your climate where you live means a lot too. If you live in a dry climate, you won’t need to do this as much.


The tools for daily wiping can extend beyond a towel, too. There are wipes you can buy that are made specifically for the pH. of your set-up. Your cloth should be a microfiber cloth. Think the clothes that you get from the car wash place. The ones used to shine the car work best. Make sure the coating doesn’t interfere in the wipes of the cloth. Each barbell comes with a pamphlet that tells you what is the best selection for maintenance and care.

• In general, the nylon bristle brushes work the best.
• Brass is best for hard rust stains and corrosion. More on that here in a bit.
• Steel wool works for other types.

Here’s the breakdown. The nylon brush works best on your budget chrome, black oxide, and black zinc. You don’t want to remove the coating. You simply need a brush that grabs the gunk and removes it. The brass one is your go-to for your bare steel, or steel bar. The steel wool works on the rest, Basically, if it isn’t mentioned already here, it works with steel wool. You need a fresh piece every time you clean it for that weekly or monthly maintenance.


The most amazing thing about this is the oil. You don’t need anything fancy for this. Simple WD-40 works wonders. If the smell bothers you though, or you want something more froufrou, then here’s a few choices.

• 3-in-1 Oil
• Industry standard oil
• Hoppe’s #9 Lubricating oil

The 3-in-1 Oil is the best of the best here. It’s inexpensive and gets rid of the debris you find inside the bearings. Hoppe’s #9 lubricating oil is a good choice too. They even make a specialized oil for lifting that you buy where you bought your barbells. The choice is up to you.

Important Details

When you clean, never do so in the rack. Some lifters will lift one need and rotate it in the rack. Two things here. Number one, it damages the metal. Two, it can get oil in places you don’t want it to be in. That can lead to serious damage over time. It’s also a good way to destroy your barbell. Squeeze collars work well for this cleaning and maintenance. They hold the barbell still while you clean it. Then, you just flip it over and repeat the process.

When you’re done with your daily maintenance there, just add this to the weekly and monthly maintenance up above. When you get it all lubed and clean, apply AIM Lubricant to the bar, and rub it in with the cloth. That’s another thing. Never use your bare hands. It should go without saying, but your hands have oils and salt on them.

The longevity of your barbell depends on protection from that. You’ve already worked out and gotten those things on it. You don’t need to get more of it on there. The presence of that grime is why the daily care is so important. Simply incorporate it into your schedule, and you’re good to go.


These tips are great for someone that needs to restore a damaged barbell too. Maybe you have inherited one, and you want to get out and start lifting. If the barbell gets corroded, the cleaning tips above will help you restore the system too. You can get the barbell back in working order when you do all of that. If you’re just beginning, these older barbells can be a real find. If the grime isn’t coming off, then follow these tips. Note, this only works on stainless-steel and bare steel.

• Take the brass brush and scrub all the gunk off. Get as much as possible.
• Soak it in a mixture of vinegar and soap for ten hours.
• Use rubber gloves to remove the bar from the mixture.
• Brush it again with the steel or brass brush until it gets clean.
• Repeat as necessary.
• Rinse with warm water and baking soda, dry and oil it.

The acidity of the vinegar mixture makes it acid. When you apply the baking soda, it sizzles with bubbles and is cleaning the barbell. It’s neutralizing the acid. This is handy for refurbishing. Don’t let you barbell get like that, though.

These tips are perfect for regular maintenance, and advanced care. You can restore an old barbell too now. The only question is, how’s your lifting going? Get to it.

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