How to Get Rust off a Cast Iron Skillet


Cast iron skillets or pans may be heavy-duty when it comes to cooking food, but they are so fragile to rust. Good thing that the solutions for this dilemma can be found inside your very own kitchen.

Now, there are two major ways on how to get the rust off a cast iron skillet and we’re going to share them with you. Also, we’ll be giving you some tips on how to prevent rust on your cast iron pans.

How to Remove Rust from Cast Iron

The two most common ingredients for the job are vinegar and salt. Find out more about these two simple answers to a big kitchen problem:

  • Vinegar

    You will not use pure vinegar in removing rust from a cast iron skillet. White vinegar must be mixed first with water. The two should have equal portions with their total amount based on the skillet’s size. To give you an idea of how much vinegar solution will be needed, the mixture must be able to submerge your skillet completely. This solution is meant for skillets that are so damaged by rust.

    Regarding the right container to hold the vinegar solution, you can use the sink. Obviously, you have to block the drain by using the sink’s plug. The large size of the sink will help you submerge the rusty skillet perfectly. You can even use a bucket to fully soak the dirty pan.

    Check the skillet every 30 minutes and observe how much rust is floating in the water. While there is no strict duration to complete the process, avoid soaking the skillet for eight hours or more. Once the pan becomes rust-free, remove it from the vinegar solution immediately. Vinegar is too strong that it can damage a bare pan after an extremely long time of contact.

    Wash the skillet after. You can use soapy water, mild detergent, and a soft sponge or brush to scrub the remaining vinegar off the pan. Do not use a rough sponge because it can deteriorate cast iron.

    To dry the cast iron skillet, just pat it with a paper towel or cloth right after washing it. For extra measure, put the skillet inside a warm oven for 30 minutes. Moisture is the enemy of rust, so it is really crucial to ensure that the cast iron pan is extremely dry.

    Lastly, season your cast iron skillet once again. Soaking it in a vinegar solution eliminates the seasoning. Rub the pan with vegetable oil or other similar products. Next, put the seasoned skillet inside the oven one more time in 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave it for at least 45 minutes. However, do not let it exceed for one hour.

  • Salt

    For a gentler alternative, use salt in removing rust from a cast iron skillet. Sprinkle it all over the pan’s rusty part. Make sure to leave a thick layer of salt on the surface. A 12-inch pan usually needs 1/2 cup of salt.

    The interesting part is to use a potato cut in half to scrub the salt on the entire pan. Do not use the part with skin. We need the actual potato for this step.

    What’s up with potatoes though? Potatoes have the right blend of hardness and softness. They also absorb salt for fewer residues in the end. However, the main reason is that this non-toxic crop has oxalic acid, which can combat rust.

    Going back to the process, make sure to exert more pressure on the potato to ensure that rust is removed. Also, the potato must be moving in a circular motion.

    After removing rust, rinse the cast iron skillet using a faucet. We need some pressure from the flowing water to completely remove potato and salt residues. Again, do not wipe the skillet dry. Just pat it with a paper towel. Instead of using the oven, since this is a milder cleaning process, use a stove in low heat to totally dry the pan. Never leave the skillet wet with water. Dry the pan instantly after exposing it to water.

    When it comes to seasoning, apply it again all over the pan in small doses. You can use olive oil for this. To spread the oil, use a paper towel. Once you are okay with the oil’s coverage, gently wipe the skillet again with a new paper towel to remove excess oil. Expose it once more in low heat for 30 minutes. Then, before finally storing the skillet, make a final wipe using another paper towel to take off excess oil.

How to Prevent Rust on Cast Iron

When you clean a cast iron skillet, never forget the major factors that can cause rust to form again.

  • Cleaning

    We can soak a rusty cast iron skillet in a vinegar solution to restore it from damage. However, never soak a pan in pure water just because you want it to be clean. After using the pan, we recommend cleaning it at once. Use coarse salt to eliminate food residues. As much as possible, do not wash the pan unless it becomes unbearably dirty. When you need to wash it though, dry it immediately afterward.

  • Storage

    Do not store a cast iron skillet together with wet kitchenware. For additional protection, you can cover the pan with paper towels while storing it. This leads to minimal washing due to protection from dust.


It is not necessary anymore to worry about how to get the rust off a cast iron skillet. The solution is right in your kitchen. Just remember that the vinegar solution is only for extreme cases. Salt rub, on the other hand, can be done all the time after cooking. Do not wash a cast iron pan too much. Simple rubbing of salt and patting of paper towels will do if the skillet is not too dirty. Water is the number one enemy of rust, so keep the pan away from it as much as possible.

If you are planning to add more kitchenware in your home, check out the best 12-inch skillets, cake pans, cast iron dutch oven for camping, and other types of pots and pans in today’s market!