How do I clean a rusty cast iron skillet?

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Does anyone know how to clean a rusty cast iron skillet? This skillet was my mom's and I use it all the time. Recently I have noticed that it is rusting and I can't seem to get the rust off. I have heard that there's a way to clean a rusty cast iron skillet with salt, but I am not familiar with that.

q how to clean a rusty cast iron skillet
  10 answers
    • See 3 previous
    • Jennifer Jennifer on Nov 28, 2018

      Thank you Lisa for this great information! You seem to have a lot of experience with rusty cast iron skillets. So you think that shortening is the key, and it's not a good idea to use the self cleaning oven method? Isn't is more work when done your way?

  • Mogie Mogie on Nov 19, 2018

    Very good site (plus tips on how to prevent rust from forming again):

    https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/the-easy-way-to-restore-a-rusted-cast-iron-skillet/

  • Hi Jennifer - This is a great tutorial on how to clean, season, and care for cast iron skillets. Hope it helps! Hugs, Holly

    https://pinkfortitude.com/cast-iron/

  • Coonb Coonb on Nov 20, 2018

    My parents were older and definitely "country folks". When my mama's cast iron needed cleaning, my daddy would build a small but, hot fire, coat the skillet with shortening, bacon grease or cooking oil (whatever was handy) and bury it into the hot coals of the fire. The skillet stayed there until the fire burned out and it was cool. With a wire brush, he would give it a good scrubbing, grease it really good and back to the kitchen it went. Mama passed away at 102 and now I'm cooking with her cast iron. Her cornbread pan is a non-stick dream.

    • Jennifer Jennifer on Nov 20, 2018

      Thank you Coonb for the detailed instructions and for sharing that piece of your family history. I hope you enjoy your skillet for many more years to come.

  • Yair Spolter Yair Spolter on Nov 20, 2018

    Hi Jennifer,

    There's a great post here on Hometalk that shows you how to clean your cast iron skillet in four easy steps:

    1. Dip a Damp Cloth in Salt and Rub Off the Rust
    2. Rinse Your Skillet
    3. Dry Your Skillet on the Stove Top
    4. Pour Oil in the Pan and Rub It in
    5. Bake It

    All details are in the tutorial, and it even has a cute video. I hope this helps!

    https://www.hometalk.com/23751399/how-to-clean-and-reseason-a-rusty-cast-iron-pan

  • Maria Maria on Nov 20, 2018

    A few days ago a person told about using some Barkeepers cleaners to get rid of rust on stainless steel sink. I used baking soda and it works great. Hope this helps anyone else. Love your site. Maria

    • See 2 previous
    • Jennifer Jennifer on Nov 20, 2018

      Lisa, won't the cleaning agent be rinsed off and all gone by the time I use the pan for cooking? You think this is possibly unsafe?

  • Kc Kc on Nov 20, 2018

    Consumer Reports just reported on the proper cleaning and seasoning of cast iron pans. Don't use any cleaner that you wouldn't eat. Cast iron is porous and will absorb impurities.

    • See 1 previous
    • Kc Kc on Nov 20, 2018

      Consumer Reports confirms the use of coarse salt with oil as a good scrubbing agent to remove rust. An occasional cleaning with water (and a tiny drop of dish soap) should always be followed with re-seasoning.

  • Debbie C. Debbie C. on Nov 20, 2018

    My Grandmother taught me to scrub a rusty pan clean with sand. Living in the south, it is everywhere. Then, rinse with warm water and season it with cooking oil. Bake it in the oven, at 350° until it is seasoned.

    • Jennifer Jennifer on Nov 21, 2018

      Debbie, that is fascinating that you can use sand to clan a rusty cast iron skillet. I honestly would not have though of that thrifty solution. Thanks for sharing!

  • Krafty Kathy Krafty Kathy on Nov 21, 2018

    Lots of good answers here which remind me of growing up on the Gulf coast where the humidity rusts things quickly. Dad would use sand on camping trips but momma ocassionally used dish soap but always rinsed and dried it thoroughly then wiped with Crisco. Everyone in our neighborhood had ovens with gas pilot lights so cast iron was stored in the oven to help it dry. So I still put mine in the oven even though it is electric. If is warm after baking it helps keep the pans dry to prevent rust.

    • Jennifer Jennifer on Nov 21, 2018

      Crisco! I had not thought of that. To be honest, I hate the idea of using Crisco in food, but this seems like a great way to put it to use. Thanks for sharing your story Kat.