How to Clean and Reseason a Rusty Cast Iron Pan

Shawna Bailey
by Shawna Bailey
4 Materials
1 Hour

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.

For other types of pots and pans, learn how to clean a burnt pot using everyday household items here.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

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.

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

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.

Look at that rust just flake off!

Step 3: Rinse Your 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

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

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.

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

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.

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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  • Ginger Ginger on Mar 12, 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 Ann14494362 on Jul 10, 2017

    Yes. Been waiting for this info.