How to Remove Rust From a Cast Iron Pan

How to Remove Rust From a Cast Iron PanCast iron pans can last for generations if well cared for. Unfortunately, if they are washed improperly or stored for long periods, they will rust. Don't think you have to throw away a rusted cast iron pan. You can restore most rusted cast iron using the following method. This method can even be used on the toughest jobs, such as a 40-year-old cast iron Dutch oven completely covered with rust, and they will turn out beautifully.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Fine steel wool or sandpaper
  • Kosher salt
  • Light cooking oil (such as canola oil) or melted vegetable shortening
  • Paper towels
Step 1
Remove as much rust as possible with the fine steel wool or sandpaper. Be gentle and avoid scratching the pan's surface.
Step 2
Pour about 1/4 cup of salt into the pan. Add the same amount of vegetable oil or melted shortening. Some cast iron users claim that vegetable shortening is superior to oil for cleaning and seasoning cast iron because it is less likely to turn rancid, but most people report no problems using vegetable oil.
Step 3
Scour the pan inside and out with the salt and oil mixture using a folded paper towel. Add more salt and oil and change paper towels as needed. This will not only scrub away the remaining rust, it will allow oil to begin to coat the pan's surface, which is necessary to season the pan.
Step 4
Rinse the pan with hot water and dry thoroughly with a dish towel or paper towel.
Step 5
Heat oven to 400° F. Season the pan by coating it lightly with vegetable oil or melted shortening. Place the pan upside down in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan and allow it to cool slightly, add another coating of oil or melted shortening, then bake for an additional 30 minutes.
Step 6
Allow the pan to cool, then buff with a paper towel and store away from moisture. If your pan has a lid, don't store it with the lid on tight. Place a paper towel between the pan and lid to discourage condensation.

Tips & Warnings

When seasoning your skillet, leave only a very thin coating of oil on the surface. A thick coating of oil can turn rancid and impart a terrible taste to your food. If you're using a skillet that hasn't been used for several months or more, even if it's not rusted, wash it with mild soap and water. Restore the seasoning by rubbing the pan lightly with oil, heating it briefly on the stovetop on high or in a 400° F oven, and then buffing it with a paper towel.

Article Written By Marsha Maxwell

Marsha Maxwell has been a professional writer and editor for since 1988. Her work has appeared in "The Valley Journals," "Classical Singer," "NetWare Connection" and Trails. She also teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. Maxwell has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Chicago.

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