How to clean your barbell at home (Remove chalk, dirt, dust, & debris)

What’s happenin’ Fringe Fam? Jo from Jo’s Barbell Service is back again, and he’s here with a goodie. 

If you’re here, you must be interested in learning how to clean your barbell at home, and you’ve come to the right place. You’ve probably bought a barbell or two in your life, (and if you haven't, we've got you covered) and realize what an investment that piece of equipment is for you and your garage gym.

Purchasing a barbell is not like any other purchase for your garage gym. It truly is an investment, and if taken proper care of, it can last a lifetime. Really! You’ll likely be writing your most well-kept barbells into your will for your kids. 

When using your barbell and putting in work, it’s really easy for there to be a buildup of dirt, chalk, debris, and even dead skin and blood (EW!) These build ups can ruin your barbell if left untreated. They’ll oxidize and turn to rust, leaving you with a rusty, mostly useless investment piece in your garage gym. The main location of the build ups is going to happen in between the knurling, which is the cross-hatching on the shaft of your bar.

Even if you wipe down your barbell with spray and a rag daily after use, that rag is going to miss a few spots: it’s unable to penetrate the small areas between the knurling to remove the most detrimental build ups for your bar. This is exactly why Jo recommends the Two-Week Tuneup for your barbell to keep your barbell feeling and looking fresh.

The Two-Week Tuneup: Tools

To complete this, you’ll need 3-in1 oil and Blaster Multi-Max. Jo prefers these two products because they’re typically widely available at any hardware store or online. These products are inexpensive and super effective. We also have a barbell cleaning kit for your convenience that contains a nylon brush, cleaning solution, and micro-fiber towels.

You’ll also need a short, strong bristle brush. This brush needs to be able to get in between the cross-hatching on your barbell.

If you’ve got a Cerakote, Zinc, or other material coating your barbell, make sure you use a nylon brush. If you use a brass or stainless steel brush, it will scratch the surface and ruin the coating, chipping it away.

Use a brass or stainless steel brush if you’ve got a bare steel bar, a stainless steel bar, or chrome bar.

You’ll want to have a microfiber towel or an old t-shirt on hand, and just make sure whatever kind of rag you choose doesn’t leave any lint behind.

To protect your flooring, lay out a cardboard box to catch any drippings that might fall during the tuneup.

Lastly, you’ll need a pair of gloves and safety glasses.

The Two-Week Tuneup: Cleaning the Shaft

First, you’ll need to scrub your barbell down with the brush that works best for your barbell.

If you’re cleaning a Fringe Sport Wonder Bar like Jo, then you’ll want to make sure that you’re using a nylon bristle brush. Wearing your safety glasses and gloves, take the bristle brush and scrub in a diagonal direction - with the crosshatching, and not against it. Scrub off any chalk, dirt, or debris on your barbell by using the diagonal pattern and making sure you’re getting in between the knurling.

how to clean a barbell

Depending on the condition of your barbell, you might want to consider wearing a mask while completing this step. If it’s super dirty and gunked up with chalk, dirt, and debris, you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing a mask so you won’t risk inhaling any dirt or dust particles.

This might take a little while to complete, but if you’ve done it effectively, you’ll see that after your barbell is wiped down, most of the chalk, dirt, debris and whatever else might be on your barbell will have come off.

Next, grab your 3-in-1 oil. You’ll want to coat the knurling part of your barbell, and rub it in. This is where the gloves come in extra handy so you’re not coating your hands in oil, too.

After the oil has been rubbed in sufficiently, grab your brush again and repeat the first process. Make sure to scrub in a diagonal pattern to match the knurling.

You might be a little weirded out by the thought of putting oil on your barbell, but trust us, this is good. The oil won’t ruin your bar, but the opposite: it will actually protect your bar. Once it dries, it acts as a layer of protection against corrosion and oxidation.

Once you’ve completed the scrubbing process, grab your rag and wipe down any excess oil or chalk, dirt, or dust that’s come off in the second scrub.

If your barbell was super gunked up, and this process hasn’t left you satisfied with the way your barbell looks, you can repeat the scrubbing and oil process until you feel like you’ve gotten the majority or all of the debris off of your barbell.

Once you’ve completed these steps, grab your 3-in-1 oil again and apply a very thin layer on the knurling and rub it in. Instead of wiping the thin layer off, let it sit for a few hours. When it dries, it will add an extra layer of protection against oxidation and corrosion.

The Two-Week Tuneup: Cleaning the Sleeves

cleaning a barbell

After you’ve finished the tuneup on the shaft of your bar, move to the sleeves next. This will help keep the sleeves in tip-top shape along with the shaft, and remove any dirt, dust, or debris buildup.

First, like the shaft, take your brush and scrub the sleeve, removing any loose chalk, dirt, debris, or whatever might’ve found its way onto your barbell. You’ll notice that instead of a diagonal pattern like the knurling, the sleeve runs straight up and down. Take your brush and scrub in the same direction, moving from the end to the shoulder to ensure that you’re getting in between the small crevices of the sleeve. Just this process alone should remove a lot of gunk from the sleeve of your barbell.

At this point, your barbell is probably looking a lot better already. While you’re working on the sleeves, remember to wipe down the end caps with your rag to keep those looking nice and clean too.

Don’t forget to wipe the part where the shaft enters the sleeve: this is where all the dirt and debris from the knurling gets into the sleeve, which can build up and affect the spin of your barbell.

If you feel like your sleeves still need more attention, take your 3-in-1 oil and spread a thin layer over the sleeve. Rub it in, and repeat the scrubbing process. Scrub in the same vertical pattern to make sure you’re really getting into the crevices.

Just like your shoulders might need a little extra work, the shoulders of your barbell probably will too. Don’t forget to include them in your scrubbing process. Get the outward facing part of the shoulders, but between the sleeve and shoulder and shaft and shoulder on each side too.

After you’ve finished scrubbing, use your rag to wipe down the sleeves.

The Two-Week Tuneup: The Bushings

You might think the tuneup would be completed here, but it’s important to remember the inside of your barbell as well. Every two weeks, Jo recommends putting a little bit if 3-in-1 oil inside the sleeves.

Previously, Jo showed us how to take the sleeve off completely for cleaning, but that won’t be required in this process. You can still oil your bar without having to disassemble and reassemble it.

To oil the sleeves, take your bar off of the rack, and stick it inside of two plates (we recommend 45s or 55s for stability, or stacking more plates) to leave your barbell standing vertically. 

how to clean a barbell

From here, grab your 3-in-1 oil. If you’re doing this consistently every two weeks, you won’t have to put very much oil into the sleeves. Just a touch of oil will keep a nice level of lubrication throughout the sleeve.

Take the oil and put a very small amount on the part of your barbell where the shaft enters the sleeve. As you put the oil down, rotate the shaft to make sure the oil penetrates the bushing.

If you’re an Olympic weightlifter and you want a super fast spin on your barbell all of the time, take the Blaster Multi-Max and add a very small amount on top of the 3-in-1 oil. You really don’t need much. In the video, Jo sprayed the Multi-Max for about a second, and it was a touch too much. Add little by little - you don’t want any excess. Once you’ve sprayed the Blaster Multi-Max on top of the oil, rotate the shaft like you did previously.

Once you’ve completed the oiling of the bushing on one sleeve, let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes to make sure it completely penetrates the bushing, wipe down any excess oil and lubrication around the shoulder, and repeat on the other side.

The Two-Week Tuneup: The Recap

At this point, your barbell should spin much smoother and longer than it did before its tune up. Once you get familiar with this process, it can be completed in about 10 minutes (not including wait time). It doesn’t take very long, and it’s fairly easy to do yourself.

It’s important to stay on top of the health and cleanliness of your barbell with a Two-Week Tuneup. Make sure you continue to wipe down and clean your barbell after each use to reduce the amount of chalk, dust, and debris that might collect and start to age your bar.

Because we recommend oiling your sleeves in a vertical position, be cautious when storing your barbell. If you store vertically, the oil and lubrication of your barbell could seep out, requiring you to service your barbell more frequently. Vertical storage is not bad, but just requires more maintenance because your bushings won’t be as lubricated.

If you can, store your barbells horizontally. If you’re tight on space, it’s okay to store your barbells vertically, but be sure to keep up on maintenance.

The Two-Week Tuneup is for those that are consistently using their barbells. If you don’t use your barbell very consistently, you can get away with less maintenance, but if you’re an everyday gym-goer, you’ll need to stay on top of your Tuneups to keep your barbell looking and feeling fresh.

Remember, whenever you’re doing a Tuneup, you’ll want to do it at the end of your workout. Bars can be a little bit greasy and slick right after the Tuneup is completed, which is okay because they’ll dry eventually, but it does make the barbell slippery and therefore dangerous to use straight away (if you must use your bar right after the Tuneup, be sure to wipe down your barbell as much as you can).

If this process is daunting or you’re uncomfortable with doing Two-Week Tuneups on your own, contact Jo’s Barbell Service and he’ll come to you to get the job done and keep your barbell in tip-top shape.

Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below, or send us a message!

Get out there, lift something heavy, and then give your barbell a Tuneup ;)

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.