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How to Clean Barbell Sleeves

How to Clean Barbell Sleeves (Explained)

A key to effective workouts is good quality equipment. Training in a commercial gym is one thing but once you have your own gear, maintenance becomes essential!

Something that often gets ignored though is barbell maintenance and something that gets ignored almost entirely is barbell sleeve maintenance. If you have a good quality Olympic barbell, the sleeves and bearings need to be free from friction, rust, or dirt in order to spin properly.

Again, this may not seem important but when lifting heavy, sticking sleeves could be the difference between a successful lift or a damaged wrist!

Therefore, in this article, we’re going to cover how to clean barbell sleeves – It’s a relatively boring topic but it’s an essential maintenance task so it’s best to do it properly….

How to Clean Barbell Sleeves

Barbell sleeves typically don’t need cleaning as much as the rest of the bar. This is because you don’t use the sleeves to grip the bar. However, you should clean your barbell sleeves lightly (cloth and some oil) every other week whilst cleaning them extensively once per quarter. 

The biggest issue with barbell sleeves is usually rust. You can clean rust from the sleeves by using a nylon brush or a rag and 3-in-1 oil. For light regular cleaning, put some oil on the rag and rub it around the barbell sleeves. It cleans off any rust and leaves a protective coating on the sleeves.

If you’re trying to clean off rust that’s been there for longer, try using the brush to grind the oil around more on the metal. It should loosen the rust up and allow you to wipe it away with a rag. 

For higher-quality barbells, you may want to use Teflon grease rather than oil. The grease lasts longer in terms of allowing the sleeves to rotate while also being cleaner.

Can You Take Barbell Sleeves Off to Clean Them?

Basic cheaper barbells have sleeves that are fixed in place. They are not removable. You will clean them along with the rest of the bar by wiping them down after use and using rust prevention quarterly.

Olympic-style barbells have sleeves that spin and that can be removed for maintenance. They are held on with a pin and an end cap or snap rings. The sleeves are allowed to rotate around the bar. It makes lifting weights safer.

Barbell sleeves held on with snap rings require special pliers for the removal of the snap rings. There’s an outer ring and an inner ring to remove. The pin and end cap are easy to remove with a hammer and screwdriver. Tap the pin out and remove the end cap. 

Once the sleeves are off, you can wipe away any dirt, debris, or residue on the bar and inside the sleeves. If there’s anything that won’t wipe away, steel wool is good at taking off caked-on dirt and oil. Then you can apply oil or grease.

As a first priority though, it’s often not recommended to remove barbell sleeves as a beginner or if you have an expensive barbell. The reason? You might not be able to put it back together properly or you could damage the bearings. 

If you’re a bit more experienced in the weight room though and have had gym equipment for a number of years then you can take the sleeves off for cleaning and rust removal. This is an excellent way to extend the longevity of your bar and the video below gives a good overview of barbell sleeve removal for cleaning. 

What Should You Clean Barbell Sleeves With?

A clean rag is ideal for wiping away loose dirt and residue or oil. It’s not the best idea to use your sweat rag to wipe down the barbell sleeves as some weightlifters do. All that does is distribute your blood, sweat, and germs onto the sleeves. Always use a clean cloth. 

You can use 3-in-1 oil, WD-40, or Teflon grease. If you’re going with oil, we recommend using 3-in-1 because it’s lighter and thinner. Ultimately, the grease is the best option, though. It lasts longer and makes the least mess.

Can You Oil Barbell Sleeves?

It’s ok and actually recommended to oil barbell sleeves. In fact, some of them have small holes where you can add oil to help them rotate better. Oil also protects the barbell sleeves by coating them. Some barbells have oil within the bearings, so you don’t need to add any. The downside to oil is the mess. Using grease cuts down on the mess and keeps the sleeves spinning better for longer. 

Final Thoughts

Unless you’re a seasoned lifter, cleaning the barbell sleeves might not be something that has ever crossed your mind – or cleaning the bar, in general, might not even be something you’ve thought to do. 

As soon as you go from a budget bar with fixed sleeves to a more expensive, higher quality barbell though, cleaning the sleeves should be something you do routinely along with your regular bar and equipment maintenance (because you do need to this!). 

Cleaning the sleeves initially is not complicated though, just wipe around the bushings/bearings with some oil and brush away any rust. For a more extensive clean, you might need to remove the barbell sleeves completely to clean away any rust, grime, or residue and ensure the sleeves spin smoothly for safe and effective lifting.