Before you throw away those rusted kettlebells that you feel have exceeded their expiration date, or perhaps have been left outdoors and neglected – don’t! Getting rust off a kettlebell and restoring it to its former glory is easier than you think.
How to get rust off a kettlebell? There are different ways to get rust off a kettlebell but the most common way to restore a kettlebell is to sand off the rust either by hand, or using an orbital sander. Although, rust can also be removed by spraying the kettlebell with WD40, or by using household products.
Kettlebells are not cheap, especially those that are made of cast iron or steel, which is why we shouldn’t throw them away when they rust; instead, we can easily clean them up and restore them for continued use.
In this article, I’ll teach you 4 easy steps to restore kettlebells (steel or iron) to their former glory, provide other household alternatives for removing rust, and discuss how we can prevent future corrosion from overtaking our kettlebells.
Looking for a kettlebell? Check out our reviews of the Top 5 Kettlebells For The Money, which are still high quality.
4 Steps For Restoring A Kettlebell
The four steps for restoring a rusted kettlebell are:
- Sand The Rust Off The Kettlebell
- Clean Off The Kettlebell With Alcohol
- Prime With Rust Reformer
- Protect with Paint
1. Sand The Rust Off The Kettlebell
To get the rust off a kettlebell we will need to sand the kettlebell by hand or with an orbital sander – starting with a coarser grit sandpaper, and finishing with a finer grit sandpaper.
If there is a significant amount of rust on our kettlebell in multiple areas then it is worth using an orbital sander to speed up the sanding process. However, if it is just the handle or smaller areas of rust then sanding by hand shouldn’t take too long.
I suggest starting with a coarser grit sandpaper (100-150 grit) to take off the majority of the rust more quickly – any coarser will likely result in more scratching of the kettlebell than is necessary. After removing most of the rust, we will want to finish sanding with a finer grit sandpaper (320-400 grit) to smooth out the metal so there are no jagged pieces – especially on the handle.
2. Clean Off The Kettlebell With Alcohol
After the kettlebell has been sanded we should clean the kettlebell off with rubbing alcohol to remove any rust particles/debris – especially if we are planning to paint the bell.
Rubbing alcohol works well to clean the kettlebell after sanding to remove any remaining dirt and rust. I have also used TSP (trisodium phosphate) to clean kettlebells and it work great as well.
This step is important if we plan to paint our kettlebell following rust removal, because we want to make sure there is no dirt or rust particles leftover that will impair the paint’s ability to adhere to the metal.
3. Prime With Rust Reformer
Once the rust has been sanded down and wiped off, we will want to prime the bell of the kettlebell with a spray-on primer to prep the surface for paint adhesion.
I don’t recommend painting the handles of kettlebells, especially if we’re using the kettlebell often and/or performing higher reps like we would in kettlebell sport or crossfit. The reason for this is that the paint on the handles will chip off with heavy usage and create a ragged surface. In addition, it also affects the handles ability to retain chalk – which is good for clean up but is bad for gripability.
To avoid getting primer on the handles, we should tape them off with painter’s tape before spraying on the primer to the bell of the kettlebell.
I suggest using a primer that is made for rusted surfaces so that it is made to adhere to rust and create a smooth base for paint, while also helping to prevent additional corrosion from occurring later on. The most popular brand for kettlebell refurbishing is the Rust Reformer from Rust-Oleum – which can be applied by spraying on 2 thin coats for full coverage, and left to dry for 24 hours.
4. Paint The Kettlebell
The final step in restoring our kettlebells is to apply multiple coats of spray paint over the primer on the bell – while avoiding the kettlebell handle.
Personally, I like to finish the restoring process by applying paint to the bell of the kettlebell to give that fresh “brand new” look – which is much cheaper than buying a brand new kettlebell.
The paint also gives another layer of protection from future corrosion, especially if we apply a top coat over the paint which gives a longer lasting finish that is more resistant to peeling or chipping over time. The paint not only looks nice, but it also prevents moisture from getting to the metal and causing future corrosion.
I suggest applying 2-3 coats of both paint and topcoat to ensure we’re getting full coverage and avoiding paint dripping that can occur when we only apply 1 thick coat of spray paint.
If overspray does get onto the kettlebell handle, we can sand it down again with our finer grit sandpaper to smooth it back out and remove any unwanted paint or primer from affecting our grip.
One of the reasons why people buy plastic kettlebells is that it avoids the rust situation entirely. Check out some other differences between Plastic vs Iron Kettlebells.
Other Methods To Remove Rust
Spray With WD40
Spraying our kettlebell with WD40 and letting it sit overnight also works to remove rust, and can help to protect our kettlebell from corrosion in the future.
After sitting overnight, we should be able to wipe rust away with a rag – although, we will likely still have to sand the kettlebell down to smooth out the surfaces – especially if we plan to restore it with a coat of paint.
In addition to removing rust, the WD40 can also help protect our kettlebell from future corrosion by applying a protective coating on the surface of the kettlebell.
Soak In Vinegar
Another method for removing rust from a kettlebell, is soaking the kettlebell in vinegar overnight – which is a product we likely already have on hand in our pantry.
The vinegar will react with the rust to dissolve it as it soaks; however, we will likely have to sand the kettlebell further to smooth out the surfaces for use. In addition, the vinegar will not provide continued protection from future corrosion.
Scrub With Steel Wool & Dish Soap or Baking Soda
Another solution for removing rust from our kettlebell using products that we likely already have on hand, is lathering the kettlebell in a baking soda paste (baking soda + water) or dish soap and scrubbing off the rust with steel wool.
Lathering our kettlebell with either a baking soda paste or dish soap will encourage the rust to release from the metal surface of the kettlebell, and allow us to scrub it away with the steel wool. As with the other methods, we may still need to sand the kettlebell with sandpaper to get the desired surface for better usage, and for a smoother paint application.
Check out our complete guide to sizing a kettlebell, including how to know if a kettlebell is too heavy for you.
How Can We Prevent Future Rust And Prolong Our Treatment?
While kettlebells will likely rust again at some point in the future, we can slow down the process by painting and sealing the kettlebell, keeping the kettlebell in a dry environment, and performing regular maintenance.
Kettlebells are more likely to rust when they are in a wet or humid environment because water is the top contributor to the corrosion of metal. This is why I suggest painting our kettlebells to keep moisture from reaching the metal (but not the handle – we can always sand this is more easily if necessary), and keeping kettlebells indoors and out of humid areas if possible.
Regular maintenance should be performed to prevent corrosion from occurring. This is usually done by touching up any areas that are starting to rust (by sanding it down), and spraying kettlebells periodically with WD40 for additional rust protection. The WD40 has an anti-rust formula which is especially important for those in environments with higher levels of humidity.
Other Kettlebell Resources
- Powder Coat vs Competition Kettlebells: Pros & Cons
- Adjustable vs Standard Kettlebells: Pros, Cons, Differences
- E-Coat vs Powder Coat Kettlebells: Pros, Cons, Differences
- 1 Arm vs 2 Arm Kettlebell Swings: Pros, Cons, Which Is Best?
- 33mm vs 35mm Kettlebell Handle: Which One Should You Get?
- Kettlebell Window Size: What Is It? How Big Should It Be?
- Best 5 Kettlebells For Small Hands
- Kettle Gryp Review: Pros, Cons, Is It Worth It?
- 7 Best Kettlebell Swing Alternatives (With Pictures)
- 5 Best Competition Kettlebells (Crossfit or Kettlebell Sport)
- Kettlebell Gloves or Chalk: Which Is Better? (Pros & Cons)
- 5 Best Kettlebell Gloves To Protect Your Hands
- Best 5 Kettlebells For Two-Handed Swings
- 3 Best Rubber-Coated Kettlebells
- 7 Best Kettlebell Apps For Both iOS & Android
- How To Chalk A Kettlebell Properly (4 Steps To Follow)
While getting rust off of a kettlebell does require some effort, it is worth the effort due to the amount we will save from not having to purchase a new kettlebell. The rust removal process is easy enough that anyone can do it, and the kettlebell will last a long time – especially if we keep up with regular maintenance.
About The Author
Amanda Parker has a passion for competing and coaching in both powerlifting and weightlifting. She uses her knowledge from her Kinesiology Degree, CSCS, and Precision Nutrition certification to coach athletes and lifestyle clients for performance in training and nutrition. Connect with her on Instagram.