How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron Pans?

Cooking in an iron pan can be an aesthetically appealing experience. It will give your food some nicely charred edges that will look great on the dining plate.

Apart from that, an iron pan can be an extremely sturdy piece of cookware that can be passed on from generation to generation.

Add to that the fact that a cast iron pan is also an effective way to get plenty of iron into your food. This is really good news for people who don’t get enough iron from their diet. They can cook their food in an iron frying pan and increase their iron content at the same time.

Unfortunately, rust is one of the worst things that can happen to your cast iron pan. And cooking in a rusty pan is definitely the last thing you should be doing, especially if you are extra concerned about your family’s health.

Don’t Soak your Iron Pans Overnight in Dirty Water

If you have left your pan soak in dishwater overnight, the odds are that it will start rusting. However, this does not mean that you should throw it away. Here are a few methods that you can use to clean the rust so that your cast iron pan is as good as new.

There is no need to panic if you start noticing small rust flakes on your cast iron frying pan. In fact, there are plenty of modern and traditional ways to remove rust.

For example, you can remove the rust using ordinary salt. This method works best for very minute flakes of rust on the bottom of the pan.

On the other hand, a larger amount of rust all over the base might require a full-on vinegar bath. Let us take a quick look at both these methods.

Using Salt to Clear Minor Rusting of your Cast Iron Pans

You should start by sprinkling a liberal amount of salt on the cast iron pan. The amount of salt that you might need will vary from pan to pan, depending on its size.

You should continue to sprinkle the salt until the entire main surface of the cast iron pan is completely covered in a thick layer.

As a general rule, you may use about half a cup of salt for a cast iron pan that is one foot in diameter.

If it’s a very large pan and 2 feet in total, then you will have to use a full cup of salt and so on.

Also read: How to Clean a Cast Iron Pan with Salt?

Scrub the Iron Pan Vigorously with a Potato

For this purpose, you will have to take a large potato and cut it in half. The raw potato is usually course enough to effectively rub away all that rust as you use it to rub the table salt into the rusty iron. You will have to place it on the rusty side of the cast iron pan (cut side down) and proceed to scrub away at the salt. If you do this long enough, it will remove the rust pretty effectively.

  • You will have to exert a great deal of pressure because the more the pressure the faster will you be able to scrape off all the rust
  • You should rub the potato in a constant circular motion
  • Don’t forget to scrub the sides and bottom of the pan. This is necessary to ensure that the rust does not come back

Rinse and Carefully Dry the Pan

Once you have finally managed to scrape away the rust, the last thing you want is for it to come back again. This is why you should rinse your cast iron pan under the faucet. This way you will be able to get rid of all residual traces of not just the rust, but also the salt and potato as well. After that, you should proceed to pat dry the pan with a moisture absorbing paper towel. You should do this as soon as possible. Finally, you should place the iron pan on your stove on the low heat setting. This will eliminate any lingering moisture content on the surface of the pan.

Here, it is extremely important to understand that you must dry the pan off immediately. This is because water is one of the biggest causes of rust. If you leave the cast iron pan wet, your efforts and hard work will be wasted since it will just get rusty, all over again.

Using Vinegar to Remove Rust from Cast Iron Pans

This method is useful when there is a lot of rust and the pan may be considered unusable because of it.

Use White Vinegar and Fresh Water

Vinegar has proved to be useful in removing rust since time immemorial. You can even start using a pan that has become very badly damaged because of rust. Mix white vinegar with equal parts water. You should use enough water and white vinegar to fully submerge the iron pan.

  • Mix the water and white vinegar thoroughly
  • You should do this before adding the mixture into the bucket or sink containing the rusty cast iron pan

You should Soak the Pan in the Mixture

You have to make sure that the whole pan is completely submerged in the mixture by placing the cast iron pan into the sink. You must let it soak for a couple of hours until all the rust is completely removed.

Check the Pan While it Soaks

How long you should soak your pan varies on the amount of rust on the pan. You must not keep it in the mixture beyond 8 hours at most. However, it is a good idea to remove it from the mixture a whole lot sooner. Check the pan at least once every 30 minutes approx. You should take it out of the vinegar bath as soon as you see that the rust has dissolved.

In case you leave the iron pan in the water and vinegar mixture after all the rust has dissolved, the white vinegar will react and eat away the iron itself.

You Should Thoroughly Wash the Cast Iron Pan

Once you are done with the vinegar bath, it is imperative that you wash it thoroughly, as soon as possible. The best way to do it is to scrub it with a mild detergent that has already been mixed with hot soapy water. This will get rid of any lingering vinegar residue. However, be careful of using a harsh abrasive scrubber so soon after the vinegar bath. It might damage the iron of your pan.

Place the Pan in the oven

After washing it you should pat it dry with a paper towel. After that, you should place it in a hot oven for around half an hour or so. This will help to remove any excess water and vinegar still left in the pan. Now your cast iron pan is perfectly rust-free once again.


Now that you know how to remove rust from cast iron pans, it is always wise to remember that prevention is better than cure. In other words, it is always better to make sure that the pan does not rust in the first place. This way, you won’t have to spend the time and effort to clear it away.

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