Kitchen FAQ: How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron Skillet

Did your cast iron skillet maintenance fall by the wayside? Perhaps you inherited an old pan that’s seen better days? Don’t think that rust is a reason to toss your cast iron aside! Our step-by-step guide details how to remove rust from cast iron skillet with basic supplies and simple methods to save your pan.

How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron Skillet and Rescue Your Pan

As daunting as a rusty cast iron skillet can appear, most pans can be saved with the right techniques. The following steps discuss how to remove rust from cast iron skillet and re-season your pan for years of continued use. But first, why does cast iron rust in the first place?

What Causes a Cast Iron Skillet to Rust?

Cast iron is a combination of iron, carbon, and other alloys that make for extreme durability and superior crisping and browning when cooking. However, this combination of materials also makes the pan more reactive to moisture when compared to stainless steel or other cookware. The following mistakes will increase this reactivity and exacerbate rusting:

  • Soaking the pan in water
  • Not drying the pan after each use
  • Lack of proper seasoning
  • Washing the pan in the dishwasher

Is rust on cast iron skillet ok? Not for long. If the rust is allowed to permeate the surface of the pan it can cause pitting that will ultimately destroy it. Here’s how to remove rust from cast iron skillet and restore your pan.

Step 1: Vinegar Soak

For pans with more pervasive damage, a vinegar soak can work wonders. How does vinegar remove rust from cast iron? With prolonged exposure, the acid in vinegar dissolves the rust.

Simply submerge the skillet in a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water. When the rust flakes off with ease, remove the pan. While this can take anywhere from 1-8 hours, check hourly to prevent the vinegar from damaging the pan’s surface.

Step 2: Wash and Scrub

Scrub any remaining rust with a steel wool pad or bristle brush, a drop of dish soap, and warm water. While it may seem like you’re destroying your pan’s seasoning if you clean rusty cast iron skillet with soap and water, don’t worry. The seasoning can be replaced after the rust is removed.

how to remove rust from cast iron skillet

Step 3: Dry Thoroughly

After washing, dry your pan immediately to prevent moisture damage. Wipe dry with paper towels or a clean cloth. If lingering moisture is still a concern, place the pan on the stovetop on low heat to dry up any remaining dampness.

How to Season Cast Iron to Prevent Rust

The best cast iron rust prevention is proper seasoning. Follow these steps to re-season your pan after all the rust is removed:

  • Coat Pan With Oil: Use a paper towel or clean cloth to rub a thin layer of vegetable or canola oil into the skillet. Be sure to coat the outside of the pan and the handle as well as the inside.
  • Bake Pan in the Oven: Position the cast iron skillet upside down on your oven’s top rack. Place a baking sheet or a layer of aluminum foil on the bottom rack to catch any dripping oil. Bake the pan at 450-500°F for 1 hour.
  • Cool Pan Before Use or Storage: Turn off the oven and leave the pan inside until it’s cool to the touch. Store in a cool, dry place.

Whether it’s how to remove rust from cast iron skillet or how to clean your range, our experts have the answer. Call Dave Smith Appliance Services for all your kitchen appliance needs!