Expert Guide: Removing Rust from Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron cookware, including skillets and grill pans, is highly regarded by chefs for its exceptional heat conductivity and durability. However, proper care is essential as cast iron can rust if neglected. Brandon Moore, co-founder of Lancaster Cast Iron, explains that rust develops on cast iron in areas where the seasoning is inadequate, allowing moisture or humidity to react with exposed iron.

Cast iron enthusiasts value these kitchen tools for their longevity and heat retention capabilities. However, maintaining them requires vigilance against rust formation caused by insufficient seasoning or moisture exposure.


Timely intervention is key when addressing rust on cast iron cookware, requiring minimal supplies and effort. Even vintage pieces can typically be rejuvenated unless the rust has significantly compromised the integrity of the iron, leading to structural weaknesses or thinning.

Discover the straightforward steps to safely remove rust from cast iron and restore its functionality with ease.


When rust appears on your cast iron cookware, prompt action is crucial to prevent its spread. Exposing damp cast iron to air accelerates oxidation, exacerbating rust formation. For instance, leaving a cast iron pan soaked in water or exposed to humid conditions can result in rust developing within 24 hours.


Essential Tools and Materials:


  • Stiff-bristled nylon brush
  • Steel wool scrubber
  • Oven
  • Microfiber cloth


  • Lemon juice
  • Baking soda
  • Plastic wrap
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Vegetable oil

Maintaining vigilance and using the appropriate tools and materials can effectively combat rust on cast iron, ensuring its longevity and performance in your kitchen.


Expert Guide: Removing and Preventing Rust on Cast Iron Cookware

Maintaining your cast iron cookware involves proactive rust removal and proper seasoning to ensure longevity and performance in the kitchen.


  1. Scrape Away Visible Rust Use a stiff-bristled nylon brush or a non-metallic scraper to eliminate visible rust particles from the cast iron surface. For smaller rust spots, this step may be sufficient before proceeding to washing and seasoning.
  2. Prepare a Cleaning Paste If rust remains after scraping, prepare a cleaning paste. For a heavily rusted cast iron skillet, combine one cup of baking soda with one tablespoon of lemon juice in a small bowl.
  3. Treat the Rusted Areas Apply the cleaning paste evenly over the affected rusted areas. Cover the paste with plastic wrap or place the cast iron in a sealable plastic bag. Allow it to sit for at least 24 hours. Afterward, scrub the treated areas vigorously with a stiff-bristled brush. Rinse thoroughly with hot water and inspect for any remaining rust. Repeat the paste treatment if necessary.
  4. Wash and Dry Thoroughly Once the rust is removed, wash the cast iron in hot water with mild dishwashing liquid. Dry it immediately and completely using a microfiber cloth. Ensure the piece is completely dry to prevent rust formation.
  5. Season the Cast Iron Preheat your oven to 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit. Apply a thin, even layer of vegetable oil to every surface of the cast iron piece using a cloth or paper towel. Ensure all surfaces are coated to prevent rust.

    Place the cast iron upside down in the hot oven, with a disposable pan or baking sheet on a lower rack to catch any drips. Bake for one hour, then turn off the oven and let the cast iron cool completely inside the oven before removing it.


Expert Tips to Prevent Rust on Cast Iron Cookware

Maintaining the integrity of cast iron cookware requires careful attention to prevent rust and preserve its performance over time. Here are essential tips to ensure your cast iron remains in optimal condition:

  1. Avoid Dishwashers: Never place cast iron pieces in automatic dishwashers. The harsh cleaners and extended cleaning cycles can damage the seasoning and promote rust formation.
  2. Hand Wash Carefully: Never soak cast iron in water. Hand wash it promptly in hot water using a mild dishwashing liquid. Dry immediately with a lint-free microfiber towel to prevent moisture from causing rust.
  3. Watch for Acidic Foods: Be cautious with acidic ingredients like tomato sauce or vinegar in newly seasoned cast iron pans. These can damage the seasoning and expose the iron to rust. Ensure new pans are well-seasoned before using with acidic foods.
  4. Monitor Seasoning: If food begins to stick to your cast iron cookware, it’s a sign that the seasoning is thinning. Re-season the pan promptly. Generally, re-seasoning should be done at least twice a year to maintain a protective layer against rust.
  5. Thorough Drying and Storage: Always allow cast iron cookware to air dry completely after washing. Ensure it cools down completely before storing to prevent condensation buildup that can lead to rust.
  6. Storage Environment: Store cast iron in a dry environment away from humid areas such as sinks or unconditioned outdoor spaces. Humidity can accelerate rust formation even on seasoned cast iron.
  7. Avoid Stacking Without Protection: Avoid stacking cast iron pans directly on top of each other as this can scratch the seasoning and expose bare iron to moisture. If stacking is necessary, place a layer of paper towels or a dishcloth between pans to protect them.






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