How to Fix Your Rusty Cast Iron


After Hurricane Harvey’s flood waters receded, my cast-iron cookware was covered in rust. Is it a total loss?

—Amy F., Texas


A little surface rust on a cast-iron skillet can often be remedied with steel wool and some elbow grease. But for removing serious rust, Jeff Rogers offers these tips:

What you’ll need:

A large disposable aluminum pan

1 gallon or more distilled white vinegar

Rubber gloves

A stiff-bristled brush

1. Soak each piece of rusty cast iron in a solution of one part vinegar and one part water.

2. Using the brush, test each piece after 30 minutes to an hour to see if the rust is coming off. Let the skillet soak a little longer if needed, but don’t get taken in by the idea that if one hour is good, ten hours is ten times better. “With vinegar, you don’t want to go longer than necessary,” Jeff says. “After it gets done eating the rust, it will start eating the iron.”

3. Once you have scrubbed the skillet clean of rust, rinse it thoroughly with water.

4. Dry skillet completely, and reseason.

Use a disposable aluminum pan for soaking and cleaning your cast iron to protect your sink.



  1. I have some old dutch oven types that are very covered in rust as they were found out in NM desert area. I was told to put them in an oven that is cleaning itself. That the high heat in the oven would make the rust fall off. True or false?

    • Hi James, thanks for reaching out with this question. We haven’t tried this method ourselves, so we’re hesitant to say it’ll work for sure. As always, researching different methods is the most helpful. Check and see if anyone else is giving that a try and if so, maybe they can share their tips and tricks. Sorry we weren’t able to give you more information, but let us know how it goes!

    • False. Use heat to remove old seasoning. Rust can be removed through electrolysis or a 30-45 minute soak in 50-50 vinegar and water.

    • True. I’ve actually burned rust off by leaving it on the burner on low for a couple of hours (with the stove fan on high) and it totally took care of it.

    • Some ovens go to a high enough temp to damage the iron. If you can get to 500 degrees that’s all you need. That will cook off carbon buildup and do all that heat can do on rust. The remainder can be removed with half vinegar and half water solution. NEVER use steel brush or power tool wire wheel on cast iron. That would ruin it. There are people who restore valuable pieces By electrolysis but you can do it with some work just as well.

  2. Too much heat can damage the Dutch oven or skillet. Heat won’t take rust off but will take off old seasoning. Use a short vinegar/water 50/50 mix for 30 minutes and scrub. You can also use coarse salt and a bit of cooking oil and scrub with a stainless scrub pad.

  3. So 50/50 water and vinegar is like 2 cups of each or whatever the amount takes to emerge the skillet. Is vegetable oil good to use? My mom always used bacon grease .

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