How to Clean a Rusty Cast Iron Skillet


Those of you, who own antique iron skillets, know the amount of problems rust can give you. The surest and quickest way to handle this sort of issues is turning to a specialist. But this will also cost you the most! There is a cheaper and effective way to get rid of rust from cast iron skillets, from the comfort of your own home. This way, you are the one who completely controls the process of cleaning, and can ensure only natural materials are used. So, grab the following items in order to begin making a homemade natural solution to rust on cast iron skillets:

• some raw potatoes;
• salt (kosher type will work great);
• towel;
• a bit of Crisco (the un-buttered flavor);Cast-Iron-1

The sink should have a few teaspoons of salt sprinkled in it. Put the skillet in and scour them with a potato from which you sliced the top. Make sure all of the rust spots have salt covering them. Rinse them off the skillet afterward and if there is not much improvement, use some more salt on it. Dry the areas worked on with the towel. When your certain that you’re satisfied with the result, take a bit of Crisco and rub it on the skillet. Remember to not wash the skillet with soap and rinse it after each use. Also, make sure you avoid the dishwasher, not let it soak for a long period of time, and if you see fit it needs scrubbing, don’t throw it in the sink but leave it to cool down while putting salt on it.


        • Crisco is already rancid like most vegetable oils and shortening. They are heavily processed and one of the steps is deodorizing. They remove the rancid smell so you are none the wiser.

          Lard and butter is actually much healthier for you than shortening, although there are several shorting lobby organizations that say otherwise. The American Heart Association was created by Proctor and Gamble, the makers of Crisco, in 1915. The purpose was to sell shortening by indoctrinating people to believe lard and butter were bad.

          Stick to saturated fats like butter and lard. Some plant fats like coconut and olive oils are not bad, but they must be extra virgin and cold pressed. Oils made of less saturated fats should never be heated as they go rancid quickly.

          • Prescott on said:

            One correction (everything else sounds right): The Association for the Prevention and Relief of Heart Disease was formed in New York City in 1915 and grew over time when similar organizations joined together in 1924 and called their partnership the American Heart Association. Proctor & Gamble didn’t come into the picture ’til 1940, when they chose AHA as the charity recipient for their radio show “Truth or Consequences.” That allowed the AHA to become a national organization.

          • Hi, I’m a biologist. If I can butt in this conversation for a second, I’ll address a common misconception I just read.
            Animal fats are mostly saturated fats, with the exception of omega fats. Non-omega fats are indeed saturated. Saturation has to do with the shape of the molecule, not with the origin of the fat. Unsaturated fats are bent at an angle along the molecule and saturated fats are not. Actually, the number following the Omega (like Omega-3) indicates between which carbons the unsaturation can be found, starting from the end of the molecule. Shortenings come from originally unsaturated oils which are mainly produced by plant sources. The oil, which is liquid in its unsaturated form, is then processed to force the end of the molecule to become straighter by inverting the angle of a double carbon bond, therefore forcing the molecule to take on the linear shape of classic animal fat. This allows it to remain solid at room temperature. The unsaturated molecules are generally liquid since their bent shapes keep them from piling up together. The same reason applies when we say that unsaturated fats are healthier, since they don’t pile up as much in your arteries in the long run, especially when the inner lining of the arteries is made rough by atheroma plaques and previous damages.

        • Lard as a pan seasoning will not go rancid if you are using the pan regularly. If you are using your pan as a decorative item to hang on the wall then yes it will eventually go rancid and you should use a stable veg based oil.

      • I use coconut oil, NEVER goes rancid and health benefits are much better. Crisco is soy based and many people have allergies to soy.

        • Coconut oil’s health benefits aren’t better, they’re different (easily-digestible saturated fats as opposed to lard’s mostly mono-unsaturated fats) and I’ve primarily used lard on my cast iron pans without it ever smelling rancid.

          • Coconut oil is medium chain triglycerides which makes it much healthier for you. I’m not saying real lard is not good for you just that coconut is better.

        • People have allergies to tree nuts – coconut oil, too. Tree nuts, peanuts, and shellfish are three of the biggest, life threatening food allergies.

    • Crisco is a shortening. Basically, you’re using this to season your skillet. You can use any type of lard, etc. to season your skillet.

    • caloy on said:

      The first time I read about Crisco was in Randy Shilts’ “And the band played on” the oral history of the beginings of the HIV AIDS Epidemic. Apparently Crisco has other non conventional uses. It is also popular in prison, but not in the kitchen.

    • The best oil to use, because it creates a smooth stick free surface is organic flaxseed oil. And you put it all over the pan, then wipe it all off before you heat the pan. You want a very thin film of oil, so the oil doesn’t get sticky or turn brown. You will need to do this a ew times to get the result you want.

  • bill tippett on said:

    Lard is made or rendered from hog fat!! Also best for seasoning a skillet I think..just seasoned one my self..the main the as they said is not ruin it all with hot soapy water!!

  • Hillary on said:

    The easiest way is to put it in a self clean oven and run the self clean and when it is done wipe out the white dust and season. That’s it!

    • echoes on said:

      Putting them in your self cleaning oven and running it is the quickest, easiest, fastest way to clean cast iron cookware. I sell reconditioned cast iron for a living and I load up the oven with old pieces just about every month. As for seasoning, vegetable/corn oil works just as well as more expensive lard. Just be sure to wipe off/dry it as much as possible before you store it (or sell it, as I do) – and heating it up in the oven after oiling on low heat for about an hour works great. Also, the dishwasher is just fine for cleaning, only you have to recondition it after each wash. I am not sure why people are so afraid of clean cast iron. And what is the point of a potato? #0000 steel wool and salt is better and faster for quick rust removal.

      • I think they use a potato because it causes some metals to develop a patina that helps to prevent rusting. I’ve seen that trick mostly used with knives.

      • Nancy on said:

        Most corn oil is GMO. For those that don’t know, gmo corn has a pesticide in it called “roundup”. Cast ironware absorbs the oil one cooks with. I for one would not use corn oil OR plastic veggie oil. Lard can take a high temp when cooking. When done cooking, rinse or scour the pan with a bristle brush, wipe dry, then wipe the pan or dutch oven with more lard. Never use soap. Cast iron absorbs the soap! My cast iron pans and dutch ovens have been passed down to me by my grandmother, along with her wisdom.

  • The best way to oil your skillet is to use a cooking oil spray, put it on lightly and wipe off with a paper towel, it will leave a shine and keep your skillet in good usable shape. You don’t want to leave a heavy amount in the skillet because if you have more than 1 you know you’re going to stack them then you’ll have it on the outside of one skillet and when go to use that skillet it will smoke up your house. I’ve had great success in doing my skillets this way and they haven’t had a bit of rust in them in over 20 years, yes the same skillets.

  • Judy on said:

    I’ve had the same skillets for over 40 years and just wipe them out after each use; if there is food stuck to them I let them cool in the oven;use a PLASTIC flipper scrap the food off;maybe rinse it out & dry with a paper towel…..I season them once a year with lard/hot oven & wipe them out with a paper towel & let cool down before stacking them.

    • Listen, language evolves; grammar, syntax, diction, words themselves….so quit with this silly prescriptivist attitude. You comprehended what the message was conveying.

        • iam sorry,i haft to make a remark on this, one thing, some people like me have a hard time at spelling.not every one can spell good. and sometimse not there falt. like me. i even spell backwards some times.its called dexlidaa, i thank thats how its spelled. any way its not right to judge people that cant spell as well as you. only god has the right, he made them that way for a reason. please, i do feel that people are getting off the subject at hand. back to the pots people, how to clean them god bless.

          • Neither Florence nor Paul were being critical about a particular person. They have passed no judgements. They were asserting that mistakes have been made and should be corrected.

            Internet publishing is the modern-day book publishing, except that anyone can publish their own work these days and the presentation can look just as professional as the websites published by professional writers and editors.

            While typos happen in both books and the internet, writing becomes problematic when a reader reads pervasively poor grammar and spelling errors. At the very least it is distracting, sometimes to the point of the message being jumbled and lost. At worst, a person believes the writer is a professional and that they are writing accurately. As such, the reader will copy the writer’s mistakes.

            This is different from an evolving language, where words and styles go in and out of fashion. I am describing situations where words are misused and communication degrades.

            Ceasing to care is how illiteracy grows. The more you see a mistake, the more you cease to realize it is a mistake.

            If I were the author of this post, I would want people to help me communicate my message. I would have appreciated it if Florence would have listed the erroneous passages to help me identify and correct them.

      • Shaena on said:

        LMAO. That’s told her!

        And seriously? Am I the only one who seasons cast iron with nothing but clarified bacon grease??? Best thing I’ve EVER used…my great-gran used to strain her hot grease through her mesh strainer(paper towel in it). Once the hot grease had gone through and come out clean, she’d brush it in with a basting brush, then wipe out the extra and bake it on for a couple of hours.

  • Use coconut oil is best, Crisco is hydrogenated not good. using cast iron skillets gives you natural iron that you need for your body. I recommend that you don’t use it with a lot of tomato base items like spaghetti sauce, unless your skillet is well seasoned.

    • I agree oils from tree nuts are best. Yet consider the fact not everyone can use tree nut oils due to food allergies. If I used coconut oil I would likely die without benadryl and epi-pens, and then, I might still die.

      • Shaena on said:

        Bullcrap! Olive oil is perfectly acceptable for cooking. The Italians and Greeks will be the first to call you out on that noise.

    • Olive oil will leave the olive flavor in the skillet. It is best to use a neutral flavored vegetable oil, lightly spread in a clean (preferably with abrasive sponge and hot water [no soap]), stove warmed (med. low) skillet, then left on the burner to cool.
      If your pan gets really bad rust, you may have to “start over”. Get out the sandpaper, remove all rust, clean well, oil heavily, put upside-down in cold oven with something underneath to catch drips, and heat up to a very high temperature, then leave in the oven to cool. Repeat the seasoning if necessary.

  • I just use a teaspoon or two of organic virgin olive oil, and then vibe it around the skillet with a paper towel, this gives perfect result

  • Wow. Where do people get their info. Olive oil is amazing to cook with. Ask all of Italy and Greece.

    However, don’t use it on a skillet.

    Also, all of these comments are OFF TOPIC. This is about getting RUST off.

    I don’t know about salt and potato, but SAND PAPER works.

  • I have cleaned many a rusty cast iron pan. Nothing will get them looking as good as the “after” pictures above. Those have the look of brand new.

    Never-the-less, scrubbing with salt and some from of cooking oil WILL remove the worst rust. Then, just use it. Repeated using and careful cleaning will continue to improve the finish of the pan. I use a Dobie pad to get stuck on bits off; nothing harsher.

    The only thing that I have not tried for renewing a cast iron pan is putting it in a fire. I’ve heard this works and want to try it.

    • Brenda Littau on said:

      I stick mine in the campfire all the time. Have for years. I make dump cakes in them and they are too difficult to clean the sticky while in the campground. SO I just turn it upside down in the fire, burn out the reminants. Then season it. I also use metal scrubpads with no soap. I’ve seasoned in the oven during winter, and our bbq pit during to get the job done. When they are rusty, yes I accidently left it out in the rain once, you just have to scrub it, heat it, season it, over and over till the rust is gone. Next time I will try the salt. 🙂 My 3 cents worth.

  • Chef Chick on said:

    NEVER USE SANDPAPER !!!!! a properly seasoned pan uses that carbon coat as a non- stick surface……..THE fastest , easiest way to remove the rust —Coca-Cola.
    The Phosphoric acid reacts with Iron Oxide to form a substance which wipes off Easily .

    sandpaper …….you’re killin me guys…………eat well !!

  • After rejecting the names “Krispo” and “Cryst” (the latter for obvious religious connotations), the product was eventually called Crisco, a modification of the phrase “crystallized cottonseed oil”.

  • The chemical makeup of cooking oil is this: The worse it is for your body, the better it is for your cast iron. Lard, bacon fat, shortening are all great for seasoning it and getting a bond to the metal that will prevent rust and won’t wash away. Season it repeated, take care of it, then use whatever oil you want when actually cooking.

  • this just cracks me up all of this fuss over lard and such I am using the same cast iron that belonged to my grand parents and I am in my 50’s back in the day they only had lard it’s not like your licking the skillet my parents used lard and I use lard I also season in my wood cook stove as they did.I to how ever have found that a self cleaning oven works well to clean old pans to re-season my point to this is the seasoning of cast iron is not hard and I believe that a method used for a few hundred years still works and is cheep it might take a little work but worth it .

  • Louise Newren on said:

    just read a research item on lard…. it is less on cholesterol than anything out there contrary to the belief of everyone…. they found some lard that was at least several hundred years old and it had not gone rancid and was still usable… I think this will be better for storage also, than the other forms of cooking oils, etc, that can go bad after time….
    and, it adds wonderful flavor if using to cook with,…,,,,,

  • Susieq on said:

    I would like to know if using a paper towl would be acceptable rather than cloth. I buy earth friendly towels…..thank you in advance

  • You have forgotten the last and most crucial step. After your oil or lard or crisco or bacon grease etc. Put it in a preheated oven at about 350 to 400 F for about 20 to 30 mins make sure to place it uoside down. Place a cookie sheet lined with foil on rack below to catch the dripping oil substance. The cast iron will look as if painted a glossy black when done properly. I prefer to use a gas grill outside due to the smoke and no messy cleanup of the oven. Let cool naturally. Repeat as reqd to keep the glossy shine. This sheen also make the cast iron have a no stick quality. Lightly coat with oil for storage. I keep a paper towel between my iron skillets just to absorb extra oil and keep oil on them at same time. I store my dutch ovens this way in my camper with the lids cracked off or just off them period.

  • Maria Suarez on said:

    My grandmother lived to be 103 and never used any other skillet besides a cast iron one. If one of us idiots (my word for her grandchildren, lol) left water in one of her skillets until it rusted she would grease it up and put it in the oven on high heat until it started smoking. Then she’d get it out, let it cool to warm, rub it down with newspaper, and re-grease it. She used whatever grease/oil/shortening/lard was onhand. The result was always the same, her skillet would return to it’s beautiful ebony color and would not stick next time it was used.

  • Andrew on said:

    Most of us have the self cleaning ovens, While the oven cleans itself, place your rusty cast iron in there. Put it in the oven upside down with one or two pieces on the rack or racks and let the oven do its thing. Let every thing cool down wash and dry the cast iron then re-season. This is a good way to put cleaning the oven to good use.

  • Yvonne on said:

    For the rust, use plenty of mineral oil and let it set for a while. Then use paper towels with a lot of elbow grease (arm power!) to wipe it off. You don’t want to ruin it with harsh abrasives!

    I was told to use mineral oil for cast iron (and also unfinished wood that you want to protect) because it does not go rancid.

  • Eric M. Bram on said:

    To the author: In what way do “antique iron skillets” differ from modern iron skillets, and why does rust supposedly affect them more? Or do you just refer to iron skillets as “antique” because you think of them as old-fashioned? I bought mine new this year from Target, which sells USA-made Lodge brand cast iron skillets for $15-20.

  • When giving advice you should make sure you know what your talking about, saturated fats become solids at room temp, whereas unsaturated fats do not, unsaturated fats do not go rancid.

  • The reason you use Crisco or Lard is that the oil is strong enough to not break down in the heat. STOP WORRYING ABOUT WHETHER ITS HEALTHY. You arent eating it…. your are using it to set the skillet, silly people.

  • What a load of shit.

    Hiw on earth do you get roundup to “grow” as part of the plant since its not genetic based and couldn’t possibly be inserted into the plant in any form.

    In the concentrations that ARE SPRAYED onto crops it is not toxic. UNLIKE the COPPER BASED and highly toxic substances “allowed” in so called organic farming.

    You don’t need to wash veges sourced from conventional farming. But see how sick you’ll get from ingesting copper sulfates for a while. Amazing how organic encourages washing of even organic veges. If its so good and safer why?

  • When you season cast iron, you are burning off all the parts of the hydrocarbons and leaving behind the carbon molecules. A well seasoned piece of cast iron will not go rancid for a long time. if you put oil on it after use and store it, that wil cause it to go rancid. As others said if you are using the cast iron regularly you will not have a problem. Also consider using a higher heat to season. I typically season at 450F – 500F.

  • Yes to this. Seasoning creates a polymer coating. Once polymerization occurs it will not go rancid. Saturated fats require more time and heat to polymerize. Unsaturated fats will polymerize at room temperature eventually but may go rancid first.a well seasoned pan can even withstand a little soap as long as it doesn’t soak and does not need to be oiled after every washing.

    • Emkay The Great on said:

      holy crap..the whole clean your cast iron theme got blasted by a degenerate discussion about crisco and which type of oil to use…. ludicrous… cast iron skillets and pans, wiped out and re-oiled after every use, will last hundreds of years… move on!

  • if you all are really having this much trouble with cleaning and cooking with cast iron, maybe you should stick to stainless steel cookware lol, seriously

  • Probably just keep complaining right here with all the other complaining… Crisco, coconut, lard, prison showers, etc. etc. etc.

  • Mike Harrison on said:

    Crisco is created by taking a perfectly natural vegetable oil and passing hydrogen gas through it. This creates a stiff and unnatural molecule which is called saturated. The body burns natural oils and fats first, and if it needs to then it will use the hydrogenated fats.

  • I have a very OLD cast iron pan with a VERY THICK coat of ick on it. Any ideas how to get rid of that thick build up. I mean it is really thick. Thanks

  • Martin on said:

    I thought the topic was how to clean a cast iron pan. I don’t have crisco. Can I use my cold pressed extra virgin olive oil?

  • I feel that coconut allergy could hint at underlying chronic conditions that are flaring up.

    I was chronically ill a few years back – and when i was trying health remedies, coconut oil gave me a big reaction in more than 1 way.
    – skin eruptions
    – nausea
    – headache

    I actually feel that a good organic/cold pressed/virgin coconut oil is VERY POWERFUL anti-biotic and natural health remedy

    These “allergic” reactions for me was the bug or whatever dying off and causing my body some distress.

    After cleansing in other ways and persisting with good quality coconut oil – my body really madea recovery and now doesnt react anything except GOOD to coconut oil.

Post a new comment

Your email will not be published.
Submitting comment...