Rusty Weight Restoration

A few years ago, I posted a story about how I came across several hundred pounds of discarded dumbbells (original entry). I’m guessing that the weights were originally disposed of due to excessive rust. Below is a picture that was taken before they were cleaned.

Fortunately, I was able to clean up the weights and add a fresh coat of paint. To the casual observer today, the weights appear to be new.

Simple Instructions

Below are weight restoration instructions that were recently posted to my forum. The original source of this information is the Shenandoah homemade equipment site (excellent resource). I didn’t have these instructions two years ago, but I actually followed a very similar approach when restoring my weights.

I’ve summarized the original instructions with the bullet points below:

  • Clean the weights with a hose and wire brush to remove any loose rust and grime.
  • Dry the weights and then place them in a large container filled with Coca-Cola. Several days is recommended (the original poster did so for 4 days). He also recommended swishing the weights within the soda once each day.
  • Remove the weights and then clean them under a hose once more. Use the wire brush again to remove any remaining rust that has been loosened by the soda.
  • WD-40 can also be used to assist
  • Finish by spraying the weights with a quality rust paint product. Rust-Oleum is one well known brand.

Here are the original plates:

Next, you can see the pan that was filled with soda:

Lastly, you can see the end result:

Cleaned and painted plates

As you can see, it is quite possible to restore an old weight set. The use of soda may appear odd at first glance, but it was actually recommended to me by someone who worked at Home Depot. I too thought it was a strange, but it did assist in the process. I was a bit impatient however, so I only left them in the soda for approximately 40 hours. I’m guessing another day or two (as suggested above) would have saved me some scrubbing.


Old weight sets are a common item at many tag sales. If you come across a rusty set, there is a good chance that you can bring it back to life. With the rising cost of iron, a restored set can be a real steal.


  1. If you’re really impatient, a good “rust stop” paint can go on after wire brushing off the loose stuff, no Coke-soaking needed. Eastwood auto supplies sells one that I like, but there are many out there that chemically lock in existing rust so it won’t spread. A little more expensive than Rust-Oleum, but much faster.

    Seriously old-school types can go afer naval jelly (phosphoric acid), but that’s gloves-and-mask time.

  2. This is an extremely useful entry. Free weights over here cost an arm and leg to equip yourself decently. Which is something rather funny because it’s not the very rich people who weight lift seriously.

    And most people around me have this point of view: “I am not going to lift heavy even if they pay me to, so you must be joking if you think that I’m willing to pay myself to do it.”

    Don’t know about the States but I’d like to see my government supporting the youth at least a little bit.

  3. I guess if this rates inclusion, I could be a little more specific. Eastwood Rust Encapsulator: I like it, seems to work, is well-reviewed among people who fight rust all the time:

    If you really want to kill the rust, replace the Coke-soak with a 10-minute treatment with Naval Jelly:

    Does the same thing, only much faster. Wear gloves!

    Your local auto parts store will most likely carry things like this, especially if they do anything with restoration or classic cars. Talk to the folks there; they’ll probably steer you right.

  4. Good stuff, I’ll be on the hunt for discarded weights in my neighbourhood!

    One thing about the coke soak though – if it does that to rust, imagine what it does to the inside of your body! Makes me glad I don’t drink soda!

  5. For anyone wanting to know what it is in the Coke that works. It is phosphoric acid. You can buy it in much stronger % at any car paint store. Always follow directions.

  6. yup. i can attest that the coke + some rustoleum can totally restore rusted weights. my entire outdoor weightroom is now filled w/ shiny red plates that were bought dirt cheap.

  7. Just too add to the list, POR-15 is a great rust proofing and rust preventative product, in addition to adding a super durable finish. Very forgiving also in that you only need to scrape off flaking rust for it to work. It is moisture cured which means the more it is exposed to moisture over time, the more it sets up. It is by far the best rust protection system I have ever used.

  8. Great piece of information! I just found a 40lbs. changeable free weight set on 5 miles and I plan on using your method. Have a great day!

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