Your kettlebell handle and the bell should be maintained to keep rust at bay. A kettlebell handle can come with a layer of protection against rust which can become an annoyance when you train in a warm environment or even high reps as it will become slippery due to sweat. Without that protection, it might rust, so it becomes a choice between having a kettlebell handle that is uncomfortable and doesn’t hold chalk very well, or a handle that requires your time and attention but is pleasant to hold and work with.
How often or even whether you need to maintain your kettlebell can depend on your environment. A humid environment and/or close to the sea can cause the kettlebell to rust faster.
A rusty or handle with irregularities will cause friction, friction between the kettlebell and hand will turn into calluses, and when not maintained can turn into a painful condition and/or rip. Once it rips then it usually means that you’re out of action for a week or more. It is much better to maintain the hands and avoid injury.
If your handles become slippery very quickly then you have the option of stopping what you’re doing and wiping the kettlebell down or you can use chalk. When you use chalk you normally chalk your hands lightly making sure you get the whole hand on the inside, and the handle can be much thicker. Chalking the handle can become an art. If your handle does not hold chalk well, you can make it slightly moist.
“I strip the varnish off the handles of new competition bells using citristrip and a paint scraper. Lot less work to get to the base steel.” Michael Hawkins II
For chalk you have the following options:
Liquid chalk is great if you’re not in a position to drop chalk on the floor as it’s usually dust-free and does not make a mess when applied. Block chalk is better for the kettlebell itself as liquid chalk doesn’t do the same job. Chalk balls are handy and in between liquid chalk and block chalk when it comes to making a mess.
“Put half volume of chalk bits and powder and half volume rubbing alcohol, blend or mix thoroughly. There you have instant chalk.
I fill a plastic bottle with the mixture and put two rust-proof bolts inside. When I start and finish my workouts just shake the bottle and put the instant chalk on the handles and hands. Works wonders!” Felipe Lopez (admin note, can dry the skin)
For hand maintenance you have the following options:
Foot scrapers are designed for the feet but can just as easily be used for the hands, and to be honest, foot scrapers are what I personally use. Hand scapers are smaller and more portable. Last but not least is callus treatment for cracked or ripped hands.
For kettlebell maintenance you have the following options:
Sanding sponges are great because they are more durable than sandpaper. Sandpaper on the other hand is great to have and get into the cracks and also easier to work with when you use a strip and just both hands to quickly sand the handle on the inside. You want to use a fine grit last and a rougher grit if you are dealing with a lot of rust or deep uneven areas.
After you have removed the rust you can try an anti-rust treatment.
If you use power chalk you can use a climbers chalk bag and this comes in really handy when you are doing long endurance sets. You just rack the kettlebell, chalk one hand, and upon switching you do the other hand. If your kettlebell has cracks in it and the kettlebell is hollow, use super glue to fill the cracks/holes, this is especially great when you take your kettlebell to rivers as I do. One of our kettlebells had water in it which seemed impossible to get out.
We put our sanding paper/block in a snaplock bag and keep one in the car so we always have one handy.
“Sanding belts are useful for getting the inside of the handle. Run the belt thru the handle and hold with each hand on either side.” Rick Silcott