Shawna Bailey
Shawna Bailey
  • Hometalker
  • West Orange, NJ

How to Clean and Reseason a Rusty Cast Iron Pan

4 Materials
$1
1.5 Hours
Easy

My grandmother always told me you can't clean an iron skillet, no matter what. It's one of those myths passed down from generation to generation. You heard me: it's a myth! It's true that cast iron skillets cant be put in the dishwasher or cleaned with your regular dish soap, but that doesn't mean you can't restore it to its former shining glory. Here I'll show you how to clean and season your old iron skillet in 6 easy steps.
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
how to clean and reseason a rusty cast iron pan
Here's what you're going to need (you probably already have all of this on hand): a damp cloth, kosher salt, cooking oil, and an oven (not pictured).
You can find Kosher salt in any grocery store. For cooking oil soybean, grapeseed, canola, sunflower, or even shortening all work. Do not use olive oil or butter.
how to clean and reseason a rusty cast iron pan
Look how rusty this is! If you haven't seasoned your pan recently, your pan might look just like this (although I hope not as bad). When you don't season a cast iron pan, you let water dry in it, which can lead to rust.
Step 2: Dip the Damp Cloth in Salt and Rub Off the Rust
how to clean and reseason a rusty cast iron pan
Grab your damp cloth and pour some Kosher salt on it (the dampness helps the salt adhere to the cloth). Then carefully rub off the rust with the salt.
I know a lot of other tutorials use a potato instead of a damp cloth, but I prefer a damp cloth, because it allows me to get into the edges of the pan.
how to clean and reseason a rusty cast iron pan
Look at that rust just flake off!
Step 3: Rinse Your Pan
how to clean and reseason a rusty cast iron pan
Wash your pan under running water. This may seem counter productive, since all that rust was actually originally caused by water, but it's the best way to get the rust residue off.
Step 4: Dry Your Pan on the Stove Top
how to clean and reseason a rusty cast iron pan
Grab a towel and dry it as best as possible. (This step isn't actually shown in the video, so good for you for reading this post!) Place your pan on your stove top and turn on your strove. The heat will help it dry, and you'll start to see a noticeable difference in color and sheen when it’s dry. This heating also opens the pores of the cast iron.
Step 5: Pour Oil in the Pan and Rub It in
how to clean and reseason a rusty cast iron pan
When you can see a noticeable difference in color, turn off the stove and coat your pan in oil while the pan is still hot. The oil goes inside those open “pores” and seals them up. You should use oven mitts to prevent any burns.
how to clean and reseason a rusty cast iron pan
I prefer to pour the oil in and swirl it around. You can also use a paper towel to blot the oil on. Pour off any excess oil. You want a thin even layer over the entire skillet.
Step 6: Bake It
how to clean and reseason a rusty cast iron pan
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place your pan in the oven upside down and bake it for one hour. Remember to put a tinfoil pan on the shelf below or cooking sheet underneath to catch any excess oil. When you take it out of the oven be very careful! That pan can get really hot.
how to clean and reseason a rusty cast iron pan
Once your pan has cooled it is ready for use. Look at that beautiful shine! I’m ready to make some of Grandma's cornbread in there.

Suggested materials:

  • Kosher salt
  • Cooking oil
  • Damp cloth
See all materials

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Have a question about this project?

19 questions
  • Lad6890382
    on Dec 5, 2016

    How do I clean it after use to restore it for next time

    • Sedwi
      on Dec 5, 2016

      Never use soap. Just rinse out with warm water and dry it well.

    • Lea4803241
      on Dec 5, 2016

      I pour some salt in mine and use some paper towels to scrub anything stuck to my pan or whatever is left after cooking in it. It works great gets stuck in food off easily. Not using water at all is best I think. Have never had carryover taste from last thing cooked either.

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Dec 6, 2016

      Dry it and heat it up with cooking oil, until the oil gets absorbed in to reseason after every use.

  • Ann12213999
    on Dec 5, 2016

    My cast iron was accidentally left in sink with water. It seems like a layer came off in middle like raked wall paint. I cleaned, dried and oiled and seasoned. Looks good again but not even. Anyvsuggestions

  • Kim Chi
    on Dec 5, 2016

    Y can't we use soap in washing a cast iron pan? I've been using soap and nothing happens yet i would say. Should I stop using soap to wash my pan??

    • Diana
      on Dec 5, 2016

      Soap actually takes the seasoning off the pan and can make it rust. Using your cast iron pan seasoned well will act like a non stick pan

    • Danielle
      on Dec 5, 2016

      That being said yes, if you have something particularly icky in your cast iron you can clean it with soap. HOWEVER. If you do that you need to wipe dry, heat it up on the stove so it's completely dry, then take a rag or paper towel and some tongs and oil and wipe a thin coat of oil on the pan to give it a quickie reseasoning. This needs to be done as soon as you are finished washing it, no drip drying!

    • Joyce
      on Dec 5, 2016

      I have found a couple of ways to clean an 'icky' or stuck on food issue in a cast iron pan. You can use the oil and salt option if it isn't too bad. If it has a really hard stuck on issue, I heat the pan as is (with stuck on food), when it gets to the point of when you would add food, I add some water and then using a wooden spoon or a pancake turner and work the water around, just as if you are deglazing a pan with wine or broth for a recipe. It loosens the stuck on food. Rinse with water, dry well and wipe with oil.

    • Susan
      on Dec 5, 2016

      I have a couple of cast iron skillets and a large Dutch oven I use frequently. I also frequently wash with just a tad of Dawn. I immediately rince, dry, then place on burner, turn heat on medium (electric stove), and heat just until handles start to get hot -about 4-5 minutes. I allow to cool a bit and then apply a thin layer of vegetable oil. I've never had a problem with this way of cleaning. Main thing is to never allow them to soak in water.

    • Karen
      on Dec 5, 2016

      I wash mine with Dawn all the time. Wash, rinse, & dry on burner. Then I take a Crisco baking stick & rub all over the inside of skillet while hot. Then store. I also put a paper towel between my skillets while stored so the oil doesn't get on bottom of stacked skillets.

    • Brian McDonnell
      on Dec 5, 2016

      I never use soap on my cast iron skillet. Immediately after cooking I rinse it under hot running water, using a dish brush to get into the corners. Anything really stuck on, like residue from bacon, I use a small, stiff paint scraper. This won't hurt the cast iron. I cook it dry on the stove then lightly oil while still hot. I've been doing this for years and necer had a rust problem.

    • Donna-Marie Stenlake
      on Dec 6, 2016

      I also do the deglazing trick when something gets stuck. I use coarse salt and if I have one a halfed lemon to clean. I rinse with water dry on the gas stove which I watch until nearly dry, turn off burner as the pan will continue to evaporate the water. Cast iron stays hot longer than other metals. Oil (use sprayegie oil for light oiling) I have two cast irons a skillet and large pot both over 100 years old. Inherited!

    • Donna-Marie Stenlake
      on Dec 6, 2016

      Just a thought, do not store your soups and stews in the pot as they do leach the iron. it is okay to cook acidic foods in cast iron, but long cooking times may add the iron flavor. Most important is that the pots be very well-seasoned.

    • Rod
      on Dec 6, 2016

      I learned this when I was a cook... No soap, no water, take oil and pour into pan, then the salt, and use the salt and oil to clean. sometimes you have to add more salt and oil. Then brush salt out and you're done.

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Dec 6, 2016

      You can but it should be used very sparingly and then immediately reseason after. it's not good

    • Kim Chi
      on Dec 6, 2016

      U guys are super awesome!! Thank u for responding to my question. But after reading everyone's answer, I wanted to know those who uses salt (Rod)to clean with oil only; won't it season the pan and make it salty for next usage?? Sorry, I've owned one prior to the one I have now and it got rusty and I threw it away. I've only had this second pan for about a month now and am planning to really take care of this. Thanx to all the suggestions, I'm for sure this one will last a long time. Thank u everyone again!!!

    • Lea4803241
      on Jan 8, 2017

      It doesn't make your food salty at all. This is the only way I have ever cleaned mine and never had that problem. Sooo sorry to hear that you actually threw a pan away, thats a shame.😒

  • Bar9408576
    on Dec 5, 2016

    I have an old corn stick cast iron pan. A number of the small "kernels" have rust spots that I can't get out. Any suggestions for getting the rust out?

    • Danielle
      on Dec 5, 2016

      Use a small wire brush, you can find them at places like Harbor Freight Tools and Lowes. I have one that's about the size of a toothbrush just for hard to reach places. They're less than $5 generally.

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Dec 6, 2016

      Have you tried scrubbing them off with kosher salt and a damp cloth?

    • Bar9408576
      on Dec 6, 2016

      Yes, the rust is in the tiny "kernel" indentations and I can't get in effectively to clean them. Will try the wire brush and then again with kosher salt.

  • VENA SILLIPHANT
    on Dec 5, 2016

    I know buter can go rancid, but why not olive oil?

    • John
      on Dec 5, 2016

      Olive oil has a very low "smoke point", so the oil actually burns, which can lead to off flavors. Best oil to use is flax seed, really. Flaxseed oil forms a polymer (complex chain molecule) which coats the iron in the pan and creates essentially a non-stick surface.

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Dec 6, 2016

      Don't use olive oil for this, please use cooking oil.

    • Cheri Collins
      on Dec 6, 2016

      You can also use a paper towel to spread a very thin layer of LARD to season - I've done it for years.

  • Martha Sterling
    on Dec 6, 2016

    I have a smooth glass top electric range so I can only use my iron skillet in the oven. So, what do I do after washing and drying the skillet with a dish towel? I usually reseason the skillet then wipe out with a paper towel. After the skillet is completely cool, I then store in a ziplock plastic bag. Thanks.

    • Car5424721
      on Dec 6, 2016

      I use mine on my electric stovetop. Just can't move it around. And don't drop it on the glass top.

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Dec 6, 2016

      It sounds like your doing a great job caring for it already. I don't store mine in a plastic bag. does that help a lot?

    • Roxene
      on Dec 6, 2016

      After cleaning, place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom or even line with coffee filters to keep from rusting again.

    • Kim B
      on Dec 7, 2016

      I hand always used both my Lodge cast iron and Le Creuset cast iron on my glass cooktop. Just remember that you don't need high heat.

  • Debra
    on Dec 7, 2016

    When should you reseason the pan

  • Carolynne Hebert
    on Dec 10, 2016

    What kind of paper are you using in the oven?

  • Irene Wilson
    on Dec 19, 2016

    The sides and the bottom of my cast iron skillet has a built up on them how do i remove it and make them smooth again

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Dec 20, 2016

      scrub them with kosher salt and a damp cloth

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Dec 20, 2016

      then re-season

    • Donna F Bratcher
      on Dec 25, 2016

      If you have a self cleaning oven put the cast iron in oven and clean it when cool then season it again. My grandmother built a fire in the yard and put her iron in fire or she would go to the sand ditch and scrub with sand to clean then reseason. Sand takes a lot of elbow grease.

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Jan 8, 2017

      Sand sure does.

  • Lisa House
    on Jan 6, 2017

    My daughter has a set of cast iron cookware that have anodized aluminum bottoms and porcelain coated cook surfaces...they work fine on the glass top electric stove but everything sticks to the porcelain...is anyone familiar with this type of cookware and have any suggestions on how to use and can it be made to be nonstick? Thank you in advance for any information.

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Jan 8, 2017

      If the inside is cast iron then a really good seasoning should help things not stick to it.

  • Gail Robinson
    on Jan 7, 2017

    Can you use cast iron frying pans on the new glass top burners? I have two different answers to this.

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Jan 8, 2017

      Gail, sorry I can't answer your question I don't have a glass top burner and can't answer you with surety. I think this might be an excellent question to make a discussion on this website though and get some expert answers from.

    • Lea4803241
      on Jan 8, 2017

      I use them on my glass top. Just make sure you pick up your pan to move it verses sliding it. I don't slide pans myself but some people do. Haven't had any problems so far. And no scratching from sliding. Not sure what the manufacturer says about this though, just my opinion!

    • Gail Robinson
      on Jan 8, 2017

      Thanks ladies for your feedback. Now I just have to clean them!

    • Dee
      on Jan 16, 2017

      I have two styles of cast-iron pans. One has a complete flat bottom and can be used on the glass top ranges, however you must be very careful to prevent scratches. My other cast pan has a thin ring around the bottom, which prevents the bottom of the pan from actually contacting the surface of the glass top range, so it does not work.

    • Jody
      on Jan 26, 2017

      I've been using mine on my 37 year ceramic top stove. We moved in with cheap pots and only flat works on that type of cooktop. She's right about sliding. It can scratch and you have the joy of cleaning that. Cast iron works great on induction burners too.

    • Joanie
      on Jan 28, 2017

      I use Cast iron ALL the time....I have 5 sizes. I never slide them, but then again I never slide any of my pans. I would guess that you shouldn't slide.

  • Bun14525609
    on Jan 16, 2017

    Mine came out sticky, what did I do wrong? I used canola oil

  • Bun14525609
    on Jan 16, 2017

    Mine came out sticky, what did I do wrong? I used canola oil

    • Shawna Bailey
      on Jan 17, 2017

      You used too much oil. Try heating it back up and then wipe off the excess.

    • Joegee
      on Apr 17, 2017

      Shawna is absolutely correct. I made this same mistake when I was a bit younger. (Just a few decades ago)
      You need to wipe out the oil until you think that you took it all off...you won't have gotten it all. The crucial oil is still in the pores.
  • Janice Yaya Bennett
    on Jan 30, 2017

    Do you have to use Kosher salt? What else can I use?

  • Viv34237909
    on Oct 16, 2018

    Can I clean the bottom exterior of the skillet at the same time than the inside?

  • Chris Grube
    on Jan 19, 2019

    Why can i not use olive oil to season a cast iron pan?

  • Sharon Sosa
    on Jan 26, 2019

    Does anything special need to be done to the exterior bottom of the pan like the inside?

  • Faye Stanley
    on Feb 15, 2019

    What kind of paper you used to put skillet on

  • Dianne Stinson
    on Jun 4, 2019

    What did I do wrong? Do I need to start all over?

Join the conversation

2 of 42 comments
  • Gin12775965
    on Mar 13, 2017

    thanks, I have some rusty old pans in garage. will try. do you use oil then when cooking something , after you clean it?
  • Ann14494362
    on Jul 10, 2017

    Yes. Been waiting for this info.
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