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.


101 Responses to “How to Clean a Rusty Cast Iron Skillet”

  1. Morgane Petit says:

    Hello what is it “crisco” ??? I’m french 🙂

    • Jesse says:

      Crisco is vegetable shortening. You could also use lard from animal fats.

      • Jane says:

        Won’t lard get rancid smelling in time where Crisco will not.

        • Kevin says:

          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.

          • Christi says:

            Very informative. Thank you.

          • Sheri says:

            I believe Crisco was originally developed by the Brown Co. research lab in Berlin, NH.

          • Prescott says:

            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.

          • Melanie says:

            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.

          • Ryan says:

            Oh stop it. Crisco is not rancid. Why do you spread dumb lies?

        • Rob says:

          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.

      • mischa says:

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

        • Thor says:

          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.

          • Tina says:

            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.

        • Ang says:

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

        • Bobbi says:

          Allergic to coconut oil

    • Rhonda says:

      Crisco is a solid vegetable fat/oil..

    • Jim says:

      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.

    • Carol says:

      Crisco=pure vegetable shortening

    • caloy says:

      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.

    • EB says:

      Try “graisse végétale”…

    • David says:

      C’est de la margarine ben cheap `-)

    • Jaik says:

      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.

    • Lena says:

      de la graisse a cuisson blanche végétal communément appeler ici au qC Crisco

    • Suzanne says:

      Crisco is white shortening.

    • Pierre Williston says:

      votre réponse du saindoux ou du gras de grade alimentaire ils sont vendus en carré de 5ou 6 centimetres par 15

  2. Delena Strand says:

    It is solidified cooking grease. Like lard but made from vegetable oil.

  3. TxGold says:

    It’s vegetable shortening.

  4. bill tippett says:

    Carol: Lard is animal fat!! from hogs..

  5. bill tippett says:

    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!!

  6. Hillary says:

    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 says:

      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.

      • Joe says:

        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 says:

        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.

  7. Tom says:

    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.

  8. Tonya says:

    To keep rust away after cleaning put in to a heated oven to dry don’t let it sit out to dry.

  9. Judy says:

    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.

  10. Florence says:

    While I very much appreciate the advice, the spelling & grammar are terrible. Please correct. Thanks.

    • Louque says:

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

      • Paul says:

        Spelling is important. Fix it. There are right and wrong ways to do things.

        • lola says:

          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.

      • Kurt Larson says:

        Thank you for that reply to Florence… a persnickety “biotch” if ever there was one…. 😛

    • Jeanette says:

      Sod off Florence, how’s that for spelling 😀

      • Shaena says:

        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.

  11. John says:

    All natural?? Since when is Crisco an all natural product??

  12. Bob says:

    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.

    • Ang says:

      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.

  13. CharlOuna says:

    and olive oil?

    • Scherry says:

      Olive oil should not be heated or used for cooking… cold only, as in salads. Use coconut oil for heating and cooking.

      • Shaena says:

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

    • Xena says:

      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.

  14. Ned says:

    can a chuck that broke out of the cast iron skillet be repaired?

  15. Mr. NuttyButthole says:

    crisco = crystallized (cris) + Corn Oil (co). Now you all know.

  16. TheMaid says:

    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

  17. chanda says:

    Use bacon grease when trying to revive cast iron. It will work great and well, it’s bacon grease. Need I say more.

  18. Jack says:

    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.

  19. Aileen says:

    Line the pan with Crisco while I dance the disco!

  20. ALF says:

    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 says:

      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.

  21. Chef Chick says:

    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 !!

  22. Tom says:

    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”.

  23. Bill says:

    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.

  24. rue says:

    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 .

  25. Louise Newren says:

    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,…,,,,,

  26. Susieq says:

    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

  27. steve says:

    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.

  28. Maria Suarez says:

    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.

  29. Andrew says:

    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.

  30. Amber says:

    Wash and rinse , Dry . Then rub a small amount of Olive Oil .

  31. Yvonne says:

    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.

  32. Yvonne says:

    Oh, after it’s cleaned up, heat it in a 350 degree oven for +/- an hour.

  33. Eric M. Bram says:

    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.

  34. chickynob says:

    Crisco is not a food product but it does season a pan better than anything else.

  35. Ron says:

    There are far better, less labor intensive methods! Also this method does little for built up crud, just works mainly on rust!

  36. Jeri says:

    Logins sells seasoning spray and it is 100% canola oil.

  37. Bob says:

    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.

  38. Soren says:

    Another way to remove rust from cast iron is by using an electrolysis tank .
    You can find tutorials on utube.

  39. Brianna says:

    Use coconut oil. Crisco is disgusting.

  40. Joe T says:

    Where do you find cast iron to recondition. Would love to get more than the one I have, but they are a bit pricey.

  41. ANNA says:

    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.

  42. Shaena says:

    Strain hot bacon grease through a paper towel in a mesh strainer. Use the clean grease to season the pans. Best stuff EVER.

  43. JL says:

    Sandpaper fools

  44. J says:

    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?

  45. fant says:

    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.

  46. Sondra says:

    It is bad use lard it works much better. I only use lard.

  47. Lea says:

    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 says:

      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!

  48. Joy says:

    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

  49. Ann says:

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

  50. Mike Harrison says:

    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.

  51. robin says:

    so many spelling mistakes has to be intentional.

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