Today:24 May, 2024

How to remove rust from cast iron cookware

Cast iron skillets are passed down from one generation to another. These lovely pans are of immense sentimental value to us. They remind us of the times we spent at our grandma’s, enjoying favorite meals. No one can spoil a child better than grandparents!

But, that cast iron pan you’ve been using for years now seems to be a bit rusty (or a lot!). And obviously, you don’t want to throw it away because it means so much to you. Plus, it’s a great ally in the kitchen.

There is no reason to worry because we have the answer to your question of “how to remove rust from cast iron cookware”.

With these tips and tricks, you’ll restore shine and nonstick properties to that cast iron pan in no time!

How to remove rust from cast iron cookware

Whether your cast iron skillet is totally rusty or rust has just started showing up, below you’ll find tips on how to clean rusty cast iron.

For a pan completely covered in rust

A cast-iron skillet completely covered in rust may not look encouraging to you, but rust can be gone pretty easily. All you need is vinegar and water. And sink. And a few more things but we’ll explain these in steps.
Okay, so how to get the rust off cast iron skillet with vinegar?

First, you need to empty the sink from other dishes. Then use a drain plug or sink stopper. Add 1:1 mixture of water and white vinegar. Your skillet needs to be fully submerged into the mixture so that there is no rust left. If the skillet is completely rusted, leave it for 4-6 hours in the sink. If the things are not so bad, leave it for less than that.

What’s important when leaving the pan submerged in vinegar is checking it regularly (try doing that every 40 minutes). Vinegar is abrasive and so if left for too long, it can eat cast iron.

Okay, so what to do once the rust comes off the pan?

Remove the cast iron from the sink and run it under the faucet. Use a soft sponge and gentle detergent to clean it completely. After washing, use a kitchen towel to pat dry the skillet. Water is the enemy of cast iron so treat it that way.

How to season a rusty cast iron skillet

The last step would be to re-season the cast iron. Add a small amount of vegetable oil to the pan and place it in the oven for 60 minutes, at 350 °F. According to Lodge Cast Iron, you should place a sheet of aluminum foil in the oven (on the bottom rack). Then put the cast iron on the top rack and turn it upside down. The foil will catch the oil so you don’t have to clean the oven later on.

After one hour, turn off the oven and leave the pan right there, to cool. And there it is – your cast iron skillet is back in the game!

For a pan that doesn’t look so bad

If your skillet doesn’t look so bad, you can try this method of removing rust from cast iron. Use steel scrubber to scrub rust from the pan. The next step would be to run the pan under tap water and wash it with gentle dish soap and a mesh sponge.

Pat dry it with a cloth or paper towel. Then follow the guidelines covered above on how to season a rusty cast iron skillet.

How to keep rust at bay

Now that you’ve learned how to remove rust from cast iron skillet, it may be a good idea to learn (once and for all) how to actually keep rust at bay. This will definitely save you from hard work in the future! So, follow the rules closely.

Water is the enemy

As mentioned, cast iron doesn’t like water; it’s how the rust started appearing in the first place! If there’s one thing to keep in mind regarding cast iron it’s to never leave it soaked in the water after cooking.

Once you’re done the cooking, clean the skillet immediately. To do that use coarse salt and kitchen towels. This should do the trick.

In case the skillet is very dirty, follow this little trick and learn how to clean a rusty cast iron skillet with salt.
Cover the affected areas with a generous amount of regular salt. Use a halved potato to scrub the salt into the skillet. Use circular motions as this will speed up the process of removing rust from cast iron. Run the skillet under tap water and pat dry it with kitchen towels. To sum up, wash the pan only when it’s so dirty that other tricks cannot help.

Season it regularly

Keeping the cast iron seasoned helps to prevent rusting. And it also helps to keep nonstick properties active so you can truly enjoy cooking.

Store it with love

Let’s be honest here, we don’t spend too much time thinking about storing our cookware, whether it be nonstick, stainless steel or cast iron. The truth is we think it’s enough to clean our cookware thoroughly and that will keep it functioning like new. But, storing is as important as cleaning. Cookware can get damaged or scratched if not stored correctly.

To protect your cast iron skillet, store it in a dry place and don’t forget to place a cloth in the pan. It’s best not to put another cookware on top of it to avoid scratching.


  • Is it OK to cook in a rusted cast iron pan?

You shouldn’t cook in a rusted cast iron pan although a few rusted spots don’t make such a big deal as one would think! To find out more about this topic, read this article.

  • What kind of vinegar to use for cleaning rusty cast iron?

You should use white vinegar. Refer above to learn how.

  • How long can you soak cast iron in vinegar?

Not longer than seven-hour as this can ruin the cast iron. However, it depends on the level of rustiness on your skillet. If it’s completely covered in rust, it will probably take 3-6 hours for rust to dissolve. Keep an eye on the cast iron to see if rust is gone and then remove it from the vinegar.

  • What are the best homemade rust removers for kitchen utensils and similar objects?

Unfortunately cast iron isn’t the only thing in our house prone to rusting. Kitchen utensils, garden tools, and similar items can also rust. Read here to learn how to make your own rust removers.

  • Is cast iron dishwasher safe?

No. No. No. Keep your cast iron skillet as far as possible from the dishwasher if you plan to use in the future.

The bottom line

And there you have it – tips on how to get the rust off cast iron and bring back its power. Try these out and let us know what you think. Also, please remember to take care of your cast iron skillets and store them carefully.

It looks like those rusty days are over!

Joseph is the founder and Chief Editor of "Indoor To Outdoor". He is an entrepreneur with experience in sales of household products. He also travels a lot, takes pictures and loves to ride a bike.

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