How to Remove Rust and Restore Cast Iron Skillets

Cast iron cookware is almost indestructible. It does, however, require a little maintenance to keep it in good shape. The finish can become worn, and there can be some rust spots that appear from time to time. In this case, you must remove the rust in order to restore it.

How to remove rust and re-season cast iron skillets:

  1. Remove all the rust from the surface of the cast iron by scouring it with steel wool.
  2. Wash the pan, rinse, & dry.
  3. Apply oil to the entire surface.
  4. Bake at 500℉ for 1 hour.
  5. Allow it to cool before removing it from the oven.

A rust “eraser” like this one found on Amazon, will really help speed up the process of getting rid of rust on cast iron.

Now, let’s cover the process in greater detail.


1. Remove The Rust

The first order of business is to remove the rust by using a scouring pad, steel wool, or a rust remover like this one found on Amazon, which was designed specifically for that purpose.

This step, while removing the rust, will also remove some of the finish from the pan, but the process includes re-seasoning the pan, so it really doesn’t matter.

2. Wash, Rinse, & Dry The Pan

After removing the rust, wash the pan in warm, soapy water, rinse well, and dry thoroughly. I often make sure the pan is completely dry by placing it in a warm oven for a few minutes or either on the stovetop on the warm setting.

It is extremely important that the pan is no longer damp before the next step.

Related The Best Cast Iron Skillet Size (Based on Your Needs).

3. Apply Oil

When the pan is thoroughly dry, cover the entire pan, bottom, top, sides, and handle, with a thin coating of oil. Use a paper towel to make sure there is not too much oil on the pan, but it should have a coating of the oil spread over the entire surface.

For the type of oil that is best to use, here is a video that provides a list of the top 5 oils to use for seasoning cast iron. Any oil that fits this criteria will work:

  1. It must have a high smoke point.
  2. It should have a mild taste.
  3. It should have a neutral odor.
  4. It should be easy to find.
  5. It should not be extremely expensive.

My preference for an oil for seasoning cast iron happens to be the oil that I use on a daily basis, which is Canola oil. The Lodge Cast Iron Company recommends vegetable oil, shortening, and Canola oil, as well.

I also wrote an article on the topic called 5 Best Cast Iron Seasoning Oils (Advice From a 50-Year Chef).

4. Bake For 1 Hour

The next step is to place the oiled pan upside down on the top rack in your oven with a drip pan underneath and bake it in the preheated oven for 1 hour at the temperature which is the smoke point for the oil that you used to coat the pan. I normally bake the pan that I am re seasoning at 500℉.

Inverting the pan during the baking process will ensure that there isn’t an excessive amount of oil pooling in the bottom of the pan so that the result will be an even coating over the entire pan.

The important thing to remember here is that during the baking process, the pan must be heated at the oil’s smoke point for 1 hour which will form a chemical bond through a process known as polymerization to create the layer of seasoning that will give the pan a smooth non-stick surface that cooks like a dream.

5. Allow Pan To Cool

When the pan has baked for 1 hour, just turn off the heat and let the pan cool down with the oven. Do not remove the pan from the oven until it has cooled completely. I usually just leave the pan inside the oven overnight.

For more information and a demonstration of the seasoning process, here is a video I made that explains things in greater detail. This is also the method recommended by the Lodge Cast Iron Company.

Now, let’s talk about some steps we can take to maintain and keep our cast iron from rusting in the first place.

Causes of Cast Iron Rust

There are several things that can cause a cast iron pan to rust. Those things include:

  1. Letting the pan soak in water.
  2. Washing cast iron in the dishwasher.
  3. Allowing the pan to air dry after washing.
  4. Stacking cast iron pans that are not completely dry.
  5. Storing cast iron cookware in a humid or damp area.
  6. Water somehow getting into the pan.

Related Cast Iron Skillet Care | 8 Things You Must Know.

How To Prevent Cast Iron Cookware From Rusting

Taking care of cast iron cookware is not difficult, but there are certain things that can prevent rusting and will keep your cast iron cooking perfectly. Here are some do’s and don’ts that will keep your cast iron from rusting and in good shape:


  • Don’t leave cast iron sitting in water.
  • Don’t wash cast iron in the dishwasher.
  • Don’t use steel wool on cast iron unless you are re-seasoning.
  • Don’t allow cast iron to air dry.
  • Don’t stack cast iron unless completely dry.


  • Do wash cast iron cookware by hand.
  • Do wash cast iron in warm water with mild dish detergent.
  • Do dry cast iron thoroughly after washing.
  • Do apply a thin coating of oil with a paper towel after washing and drying cast iron,
  • Do use cast iron often. Every time you cook something in cast iron using oil, that oil adds to the finish of the pan.

Final Thoughts

Cast iron is one of the few types of cookware that can be passed down for generations. I have cast iron cookware that my grandmother got when she bought a new stove sometime between 1900 and 1914, and it still looks practically new and cooks like a dream.

Jelly Grandma's 10-inch Cast Iron Skillet
My 10″ Cast Iron Skillet

I hope this guide has will help yours last for many decades to come!

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss Why You Have to Cook Cornbread in a Cast Iron Skillet.

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page.

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