If you have a set of barbell weights all to yourself, you don't really have to worry about someone else's germs making you sick. But if you exercise at a public gym, the equipment can be crawling with bacteria and sweat left behind from the last patron. Cleaning up barbells should be done regularly to remove the build-up of germs on public barbells, but also to remove grime and rust from personal sets.
Fill a spray bottle with equal parts water and vinegar. This cleaning solution won't corrode or rust your barbells. When you're done with your workout, spray the bar and the plates down with the solution and then wipe well with a dry towel. Leaving barbells wet could result in rusting.
Clean the barbell and the plates once a month. Disassemble all of the plates and carry the smaller 2.5, 5 and 10-pound plates to a sink. Fill the sink with water and about 1 teaspoon of dish detergent. Use a scrub brush to clean the plates thoroughly and then dry them with a clean towel.
Inspect the barbell and the plates for signs of rust. If you notice any, wet a piece of steel wool and rub the barbells in a circular motion to remove any rust. Then, rinse clean with water and dry well with a towel.
Invest in a proper barbell rack. Storing your plates and bars on the floor makes them susceptible to dust, moisture and rust. A rack keeps them off the floor, easily accessible and even easier to clean since they're all in one place.
At the Gym
Clean your hands with hand sanitizer both before and after using barbells and plates at the gym. Using antibacterial gel when using the equipment helps limit the spread of germs and is especially important if you're unsure of how often the barbells are cleaned.
Spray down the barbell and plates with antibacterial spray before and after you're finished using the equipment. Most gyms have spray available. If not, ask at the front desk. If no cleanup material is provided, pack antibacterial wipes in your gym bag and wipe the bar and the plates down well.
Dry the equipment with a clean towel. Keep one in your gym bag for this purpose, or use paper towels if the gym provides them for you.