There’s Rust on my Cast Iron!

Castiron1By SaBrina Bone

Have you ever prepared to cook with your beloved cast-iron skillet and seen this?


First, calm down. Don’t  take it out on the dishwasher who unwittingly washed your cast-iron skillet with soap and water, which can wreak havoc on an otherwise well-seasoned pan. Here’s a quick remedy.

1. Remove the Rust
Grab a dry dishcloth. Apply a small amount of canola oil and rub it into the rust-covered spots. The rust should disappear. If this doesn’t do the trick, grab a dry plastic textured sponge (like a Brill) and rub briskly. If this fails you, go for the steel wool and rub until the rust is removed.

2. Re-Season the Pan
Now that you have successfully removed the rust, if the raw cast iron is showing (you’ll see a dull silver color) you must re-season your pan. Seasoning is a curing process through which the pores of the iron are sealed  with oil, which is why cast iron functions a bit like a non-stick pan. In order to season, you must coat the pan with a thin layer of oil and bake it in. I usually bake mine at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pan (larger pans require more time).

3. Clean it properly
Once your cast iron is seasoned and you have cooked your meal, how do you properly clean it?
Rule # 1: DO NOT use soap. Soap breaks down oil, which will ruin your great job of seasoning.
Rule # 2: DO NOT soak your pan. Water and oil don’t mix. Soaking for long periods can un-do seasoning. Simply wash your pan with warm water and a textured sponge and wipe with a dry towel. To ensure no rust will come to your treasured pan, a quick heated dry in the oven will do.

For more tips on how to properly clean and care for your cast iron visit the experts at Lodge.


  1. Karen
    Use kosher salt to rub off stuck on .stuff then oil and heat in your oven.

    November 8, 2016 at 7:19 pm
  2. 7 Surprising Ways to Use Your Cast-Iron Skillets (They’re Not Just for Corn Bread) | Cooking Light

    […] How to Remove Rust from a Cast-Iron Skillet […]

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  4. Jean-Phillipe Ennui

    Huh. I do sometimes simply boil some water in a cast iron pan if there is stuck on, dried food, bit do not ever soak. If you clean them right after using you never need to do this, however. All that needed is hot water and a scruby or soft scouring sponge and no soap. I dry mine on the stovetop before oiling and putting away so they get sterilized there as well.

    June 7, 2015 at 1:45 pm
  5. Michael

    The Canola trick worked like a charm.

    June 2, 2015 at 11:01 am
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  8. John

    To remove rust, put some 50/50 vinegar/water in the pan and watch it carefully. If your pan is sticky after seasoning, you’ve used too much oil. You have to start over. When seasoning, you have to wipe it out until it is essentially GONE before putting it in the oven. You are seasoning the pores, not the bottom of the pan. If you get drips, you didn’t wipe it out enough. To clean a used, caked pan, you can put it in a plastic bag with oven cleaner for a few days. After that, vinegar can be used to remove any rust that remains. Vinegar eats cast iron, so don’t leave it on the metal any longer than needed, and scrub it with soap to stop the reaction. Wipe dry, coat with a thin coat of oil and run it at 500 degrees for an hour. Never use a self-cleaning oven on cast iron, it can warp it, and is a waste of time and energy. You do the opposite of what you do to care for your pan when it needs to be cleaned. Scrubbers, vinegar, soap, etc. Also, when cooking, scrap the bottom of the pan with a stainless spatula to break loose anything that sticks. It won’t become glassy smooth until you use it over and over. Think of the seasoning process as the first coat of seasoning, and each cooking session after that as adding a new coat. I clean my pans with a little peanut oil and salt, with a paper towel. And yes, I cook eggs in mine all the time.

    February 6, 2014 at 7:08 am
  9. Tim

    A better way is to sprinkle some baking soda over the rusted spot, adding a few drops of water and wiping it clean with a paper towel. Baking soda is a ‘reducing agent’. It reacts chemically with the rust and turns it back into iron and the rust will be gone in a jiffy. No scraping required.

    August 21, 2013 at 10:19 pm
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  12. Ivriniel

    Alton Brown says to scrub out cast iron with some salt mixed with oil, and then just wipe it clean.

    January 3, 2013 at 12:28 pm
  13. James at cast iron skillets I like

    Sabrina, Thanks for the post!
    I wasn’t one to be too enthused about pre-seasoned cast iron either, but nevertheless Lodge has done a pretty decent job at it. As long as you do you “do diligents” it’ll last otherwise you’ll be re-seasoning your’s like the rest of us.😀



    January 1, 2013 at 2:16 pm
  14. tkwblog

    Here’s another tip…if you have an extremly rusty cast iron pan with built up gunk (I often buy mine second hand), put it in your oven and run it through the self clean cycle (do not do this if they have wooden handles or other parts that aren’t safe at a high heat). Once cooled, wash and reseason, it will be good as new.

    September 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm
  15. Lorrie

    I bought a pre-seasoned Lodge cast orpm fry pan and am very unhappy with it. I followed the instructions when I first got it but then made the mistake of trying to cook eggs in it and ever since, the bottom of the pan has been sticking and turns to rust when I try to get off all of the sticky bits. I’ve tried reseasoning it in the oven, but it came out with the bottom very sticky. Then, when I cooked a steak in the pan, I had to use a steel wool pad to get off the sticky bits. Now I have rust spots on the bottom and can’t use the pan. I complained to Lodge, but they just told me to try reseasoning it. Frankly, I think there is something wrong with their pre-seasoned cast iron pans. I shouldn’t be having this many problems with a new pan. I’m going to try to re-season it again. If I can’t fix it, I’ll have to stop using it.

    August 19, 2012 at 11:32 pm
  16. BE

    Coconut Oil is the best to season iron pans and when they are truly seasoned you can clean the pans with with no worries of rust; and if you keep cooking with the coconut oil the pan continually stays seasoned. No rust spots when using coconut oil so another use for coconut oil ladies and gents.

    August 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm
  17. Sprklhair

    Not a comment a question? Have a skillet with a high spot on the bottom. Is there any way to flatten pan so it dosen’t spin on our stove?

    May 21, 2009 at 11:53 am
  18. SaBrina Bone

    I was skeptical of the pre-seasoned ones too, until I started working with them. I LOVE THEM! They are easier to maintain and you don’t have to set aside a day to season before use, you can just jump right in. They are, however, more expensive. A good unseasoned one is like $12 the seasoned ones start at like $35.

    January 15, 2009 at 2:09 pm
  19. Shaun C

    I need to get a cast iron skillet and I’m debating between getting a pre-seasoned one or just doing it myself. I’m kinda skeptical about the pre-seasoned ones but I don’t have a reason to be (that I know of). Is there a difference in quality?

    January 15, 2009 at 10:52 am
  20. stacy guthrie, myweddingfilm

    thanks for the tip. i knew there were special steps to using cast iron, i just didn’t quite know what they were!

    January 14, 2009 at 9:42 am

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