Gym equipment maintenance is essential for keeping your gear fully functional but most people can easily neglect this aspect, especially when it comes to weight plates, bars, and dumbbells.
When storing your weights in a home gym, something that’s difficult to manage is moisture, humidity, or damp and without proper maintenance, this often leads to rusty weights. Look on any marketplace and you’ll find second hand weights that are almost always rusty due to years of neglect.
While these might be good for a bargain, can you still use rusty weights, and is it safe to use rusty weights? It is safe to use rusty weights as rust is a non-toxic chemical to humans. While it may be safe to use rusty weights, it’s not advised due to staining it can cause to clothes, irritation it can cause to skin, and also because rust is quick and easy to remove from weights with most household items!
In this article, we’ll cover why you can still use rusty weights (safely) but also why we wouldn’t advise it, how easy it can be to remove, and how you can find some bargains with rusty weights!
Is It Safe to Use Rusty Weights?
Rusty weights are not a major problem for your workout. Regular rust is not toxic because it is just iron combined with oxygen, both of which are present in your body. If you accidentally ingest rust, it gets broken down in your stomach and even absorbed into the body. But exercising with rusty weights is a bad idea because of something else.
The main problem lies in that rusty weights can harbor Tetanus, an extremely dangerous bacteria that is potentially fatal. That’s why the Tetanus vaccine is mandatory in many countries around the world. Tetanus is transmitted when a wound gets in contact with a rusty item. So, if your iron weights are both rusty and chipped, it is a major safety hazard that should be addressed.
Because rust is very easy to remove from weights with just a few household items, there is no reason for you not to clean them. Also, protecting the weights from future rusting is easy as well.
Another reason why you don’t want to use rusty weights has to do with cleanliness. Rusty weights will destroy your favorite gym shorts and don’t even think about wearing a white shirt while exercising. Rust stains clothes easily and is very difficult to remove, so consider that before using them.
And if a flake of rust comes off the weights and gets into your eye while doing an overhead press or other similar exercises, you could hurt yourself. The flakes may also cover your face, clothes, and other gym equipment.
Do Rusty Weights Weigh More?
In short, yes, rusty weights weigh more than clean weights. When iron rusts, it reacts with oxygen and water. Rusting can be exemplified in this chemical equation: 4Fe + 3O2 + 6H2O → 4Fe(OH)3. The amount of water that gets absorbed varies, which also affects the overall weight. While the iron itself does not weigh more, the overall object that has rusted does.
This means that your rusty weights will weigh less after you clean them. They will actually weigh a bit less than they did originally because you will remove a small amount of iron in the form of rust.
But there is a scenario where rusty weights can weigh less than the original weight. This happens when the weights are left outside for years and rain washes away the rust. Each time this happens, a small amount of iron is removed from the weight plate.
This is one reason why it’s important to keep your weights from rusting outside.
But before you go and make your weights rust on purpose to increase the mass, think again.
There are way more drawbacks to using rusty weights than clean ones. If you want to exercise with more weights, simply buy more plates. You can buy used, rusty weights and clean them yourself. You will learn how to clean them by reading the next part of the article.
How to Clean Rust From Weights?
There are several methods to clean rust using various household items. Here are some of the things that you can use to remove rust from weights:
- Wire brush
- Plastic tub
- Vinegar (white is best)
- Lemon/lime juice
- Phosphoric acid
- Citric acid
- Oxalic acid
- Baking soda
- Coke (It contains phosphoric and/or citric acid)
- Store-bought rust removers
You do not need all of them and you do not have to buy an expensive rust remover because something as cheap as vinegar will do the job just fine. But there is a reason why those products exist and if you want to clean your rusty weights as much as possible, you may want to consider it.
The first step is to brush your weights with a wire brush. Apply gentle pressure in a circular motion and most of the rust will be removed just from this. If they are very rusty and you have a Dremel tool at hand, use that to remove the rust instead.
The next step is to soak the weights in a plastic tub with the rust remover of your choice (excluding WD-40). Make sure to dissolve the solution in water. For example, if you are using white vinegar, use a mixture of 50% water and 50% vinegar for best results. Do not make the solution too acidic because it can do more harm than good.
Now you leave the weights completely submerged for at least 24 hours and up to 72. Once that is done, take the weights out and thoroughly scrub the weights to remove the remaining rust. Again, you can use your trusty wire brush or a Dremel tool. If there is still a lot of rust left on the weights, soak the weights again, but replace the solution with a fresh one.
Once the weights are out, wipe them dry and spray them with WD-40. This is not necessary, but it will help remove even more rust. Let them sit for about 20 minutes and then scrub the weights. Again, wipe them dry and you are good to go.
You can repeat this step just like the previous one if there is still some rust left. Once that is out of the way, it is time to protect the weights from further rust.
How to Prevent Rusty Weights?
The best way to prevent rusty weights is to paint them and maintain them regularly. You can use any kind of paint you like that is made to stick to metal, but one of the best ones is Rust-oleum. For best results, do more than one coating as this will greatly reduce the chance of the weights rusting again.
Once you have painted the weights, you need to maintain them regularly. Use the weights regularly and keep them clean and dry. You can use a wire brush after each workout for a quick clean. It only takes a few minutes, so it’s worth the effort.
Also, the best way to prevent rust is to keep a thin layer of oil on them. You can use any oil that is made to be put on iron for this purpose.
Rusty weights can be an excellent bargain when browsing Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace and while most will not consider them because they don’t look appealing, it only takes a few hours to clean rusty weights and have them looking almost brand new!
Not only is it safe to use rusty weights but cleaning and maintaining them will only take the initial time to clean the rust (2-4 hours) followed by 10 minutes monthly to maintain the weights and keep the rust off. If you have rusty weights, we don’t tend to recommend using them in this condition, not because they are unsafe but more because cleaning them is so effortless and is time well spent.