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How To Clean Rust Off Your Cast Iron Skillet

November 11, 2018

How To Clean Rust Off Your Cast Iron Skillet

You are here to save your cast iron skillet from the kiss of death - rust. Not only is it ugly, the food you cook in a rusty skillet won't taste very good I'm sure. (Note: Ingesting small doses of rust will not harm you. You would have to eat a significant amount of weight in rust to do yourself real harm.)


Why Is My Skillet Rusty?

But before we get to fixing your fine piece of cookware, let's discuss a few possible reasons why you got rust in the first place.

1. You soaked your pan in water or put it in the dishwasher. 

  • Rusting is the chemical breakdown of metal iron. In order for the oxygen to get to the iron, it needs to pass through water first. Lots of water means lots of rust. 
2. You did not "season" or oil your pan properly. 

(Read below on how to clean and season your pan properly)

  • We already know that water and oil don't mix. A layer of oil prevents the oxygen in the air from meeting up with the water on your pan, thus inhibiting rust to form. This is why seasoning your pan with oil will keep it beautiful and functional for a very long time. 


But How Do I Get The Rust Off?

Here is the step by step on how we restored our rusty cast iron skillet. (Don't freak out, water IS involved, just roll with it.)

How To Clean Rust Off Your Cast Iron Skillet - Paleo By MaileoStep 1: Grab a steel sponge or a steel wire brush and start scrubbing like mad, getting every crack and crevasse of your skillet. Rinse with hot water and place on the hot stovetop till the water evaporates. If there is still a noticeable amount of rust, scrub some more, rinse, and dry on the hot stovetop again. 

How To Clean Rust Off Your Cast Iron Skillet - Paleo By MaileoStep 2: Carefully remove the pan from the stovetop (remember the handle may be hot.) Sprinkle a generous amount of course sea salt in the pan - we used Redmond's Real Salt. Grab a piece of cloth, or a piece of leather, and scrub the salt in. The salt picks up any extra rust that you've scrubbed off with the steel sponge/brush. Once the salt is pinkish brown, dump it into the sink and rinse the skillet with hot water, and dry again on the hot stovetop.

How To Clean Rust Off Your Cast Iron Skillet - Paleo By MaileoStep 3: If there is still some deep rust, pour a generous amount of baking soda and white vinegar into the pan. Let soak for at least 30 minutes. Rinse and dry on the stovetop again. Repeat this step as needed. The reason soda and vinegar can remove rust is because it is very high in citric acid. Citric acid, plus rust, makes water and hydrogen. This is basically the reversal of how the rust came to be, remember when water and oxygen made rust?

How To Clean Rust Off Your Cast Iron Skillet - Paleo By MaileoStep 4: If the pan looks rust free, perform Step 2 again, except you will be adding a nice dollop of oil to the warm pan - we used Primal Kitchen's Avocado Oil - but you can use any vegetable oil or lard. Get to scrubbing again. The salt will be picking up any left over rust particles, while the oil coats your clean pan. Make sure to rub all the creases. Dump out the salt and wipe any excess oil from the pan. It should be glossy black now and rust free!


How to Clean and Season Your Cast Iron Skillet

How To Clean Rust Off Your Cast Iron Skillet - Paleo By Maileo

Step 1: Take your HOT skillet and rinse it under HOT water, scrapping away any stuck on food with a spatula or wooden spoon. Always use HOT water, otherwise you run the risk of cracking your skillet. Use caution as lots of steam will occur.

Step 2: If you've got some really stuck on food, heat up the pan, pour some salt on the food and add a teaspoon of water to the pan. That should be enough to dissolve the food and make it easier to scrub off with your spatula.

Step 3: Dry out your pan on the hot stovetop. Pour a nice amount of vegetable oil or lard into the warm pan, and massage the oil into the bottom and sides of your pan with a clean dry rag. Take caution not to burn your hands as the pan will be hot! Make sure there is no access oil.

And there you have it, a clean Iron Skillet, ready for cooking!


If you ever have questions, post in the comments below, we are here to help! 

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