How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron Cookware

How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron Cookware

Nothing - and I mean nothing - cooks better than a good cast iron skillet. It’s been a staple in farm houses and country residences for generations, serving up hearty dishes like cornbread, pan fried wild game and slow-cooked stews. As long as you keep it well-oiled and stored in a dry place, this tough cookware will only need minor upkeep. If neglected, it is prone to oxidation. However, it’s easy to remove rust from cast iron and have it looking new in only a few hours.

What You’ll Need

Steel wool
Dish soap
Crisco vegetable oil shortening (or cooking oil of choice)
Aluminum foil

Remove the Rust

If rust covers the entirety of your cast iron, start by submerging it in a mixture of white vinegar and equal parts water. Leave the cast iron to soak for a few hours and check on it frequently. The vinegar will eat away the rust, but it can also start to damage the cast iron. As soon as the rust starts to flake away from the surface of the pan, remove it.

If rust lightly covers or dots the outside, you can skip the vinegar step. Scour the cast iron with steel wool until you remove all of the rust and what’s left of the seasoning, which is the layer of oil that coated the pan to give it a non-stick surface.

While normally you would never wash your cast iron with soap, in this case rinse with warm water and use a sponge with soap to clean it. Check for any leftover rust. If you’ve removed all of the oxidation, dry it with a towel and stick it on the stove on a low setting to ensure it’s completely dry.


Coat the entire piece of cast iron, including the handle, in a cooking oil of your choice. Crisco shortening, for example, works well. Be sure to only use enough oil to lightly coat the surface. Too much will cause the cast iron to become sticky. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and place a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom rack to catch any drippage. Place the cast iron upside down in the oven and let it bake for an hour, then turn off the oven and let it cool completely inside of the oven.

Your pot or pan will look brand new. Just be sure to stay away from cooking highly acidic foods like tomatoes as it can eat away at the seasoning. To avoid further rust, each time you use your cast iron, rinse in warm water and use coarse Kosher salt and a towel to wipe away leftover food. Wipe cooking oil on the inside of the cookware and heat it on the stove until it dries and starts to emit smoke. This gradually builds up layers of oil to keep your seasoning in tact so you can continue to use your cookware for years to come.