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How to Clean Your Sweaty Dumbbells

A person wiping down dumbells and cleaning them.
New Africa/Shutterstock.com

Thanks to sweat, germs, dust, and dirt, your dumbbells need a proper scrubbing every now and then. If it’s been a while since you cleaned these gym necessities, we’ll show you the ropes.

Like anything else, gym equipment needs to be cleaned from time to time, and your dumbbells are no exception. The process will depend on what material they’re made of, but we’ve got the instructions and items you need to get the job done.

What You’ll Need

Two images of products listed in the article below with brands like MR. SIGA and Eurow.
MR. SIGA/Eurow

A set of dumbbells is a necessity for many exercise routines, from strength training to Pilates. This is why many people have a set they either take to the gym or use for home workouts. Whether your set is made of iron, or coated with neoprene or plastic, it’s vital that you use the proper tools and solutions to clean them so they won’t be damaged.

Some chemicals are far too harsh, while others will leave certain dumbbells still feeling sticky and gross. You likely already have everything you’ll need to clean your set of dumbbells, but if not, it’s all just a click away:

Mr. Siga Microfiber Cleaning Towels

This ultrasoft six-pack will come in handy for all your cleaning needs.

Eurow 2.6 Gallon Collapsible Bucket

Handy for mopping floors, scrubbing bathrooms, or washing fitness equipment.

SAMMART Collapsible Water Basin

The perfect size for soaking rusty cast-iron dumbbells.

Dawn Platinum Dishwashing Soap

A few drops of this mixed with hot water makes the perfect all-purpose cleaning solution.

Ecodite Wire Brush Set

Scrub off all that ugly rust.

Heinz All-Natural White Vinegar

Can help remove rust from iron dumbbells.

Rust-Oleum Flat Black Spray Paint

Give those old dumbbells new life.

You might not need everything on this list, especially if you don’t have a set of cast-iron dumbbells. You’ll find the cleaning instructions below for the specific type you have.

How to Clean Rubber-, Neoprene-, or Vinyl-Coated Dumbbells

A person using a microfiber towel to clean off some dumbbells.
Nok Lek/Shutterstock.com

Most dumbbells are made of iron, but then completely coated with rubber. Sometimes, just the weights on the end are coated with rubber.

Neoprene—which is also, technically, rubber—is stronger than regular rubber and offers more resistance to weathering. This prevents dumbbells from rusting, as long as the coating doesn’t get scraped away.

If you have vinyl-coated dumbbells, avoid washing them with any abrasive chemicals, as this might cause the coating to crack, and make them prone to rusting.

You can clean rubber-, neoprene-, or vinyl-coated dumbbells in the same way:

  1. Mix a few drops of dish soap in a gallon of water and wet a microfiber cloth.
  2. Wring out as much water as possible.
  3. Gently scrub away any dirt or buildup.
  4. Dry your dumbbells with another microfiber towel.

You should clean your rubber-, neoprene-, or vinyl-coated dumbbells about once a month. This will make them last longer, but also ensure that bacteria and germs don’t collect there month after month.

How to Restore Rusty Dumbbells

an old pair of iron dumbbells that are rusted.
marekuliasz/Shutterstock.com

Uncoated iron dumbbells are one of those timeless pieces of fitness equipment you’ll see in just about any gym. The only problem is they rust over time, due to the moisture in the air and the sweat from your hands.

Luckily, you don’t have to replace your dumbbells even if they’re completely coated in crusty, orange rust. With a little patience and elbow grease, you can restore those old weights in just a few days if you follow these steps:

  1. Brush off as much noticeable rust as you can with a wire brush or sandpaper.
  2. Fill a water basin with a solution of half water and half vinegar.
  3. Place your rusty dumbbells in the basin and let them soak for up to 72 hours.
  4. Remove the dumbbells from the solution and scrub off any remaining rust.
  5. Rinse the dumbbells, and then wipe away any residue and smooth out any rough spots.
  6. Let them air-dry thoroughly (at least 24 hours if you’re going to repaint them).
  7. Spray paint one side of each dumbbell, and then allow them to dry before flipping them over and painting the other sides.

Painting your dumbells isn’t necessary, but doing so can add years to their lifespan. This is because the paint will protect the iron from moisture, and prevent your weights from rusting again.


Like all workout equipment, your dumbbells also need the occasional wipe-down. Cleaning them regularly will not only extend their lifespan, but it’ll also prevent nasty germs and bacteria from collecting there over time. Plus, wiping them down or scraping off that rust also tones those muscles, right?

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »

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