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How to Clean a Rusty Cast Iron Pan and Bring It Back to Life

Got a cast iron pan that's crusted with rust? Don't toss it! Underneath the rust is an almost indestructible pan that will give you a lifetime of cooking pleasure. So, whether it's a thrift shop find or a hand-me-down, here's how to clean a rusty cast iron pan and bring it back to beautiful life -- just like new again.

Neglected Cast Iron Pan

Neglected Cast Iron Pan | Photo by Noel Christmas

Yes, that’s my pan. It was once my Mom’s. She would not be pleased with what I’ve let happen. Especially that little bit of burnt cheese that's been there for a long, long time.

The good news? While cast iron pans can get a little scrungy looking, cleaning a rusty cast iron pan is simple; in fact, cast iron frying pans are dead simple to bring back to life. With just a little cast iron skillet care, they'll be back to the amazing kitchen tools they’re touted to be.

How to Clean a Rusty Cast Iron Pan

You may have heard that cleaning cast iron is difficult, because of water and rust and how soap isn’t good for it. Those both could be concerns, but they’re easily dealt with.

This pan has both rust and baked on food residue (Sorry, Mom!). So it’s going to take a little elbow grease. Break out the scrubbie-sponge and some soap (Yes, you can use soap!). You can also use fine steel wool to remove the rust and/or very stubborn burnt on food.

Now go ahead, scrub-a-dub-dub. Your pan can handle it. Scour away all that gross rust. You'll be surprised how quickly it cleans up.

It's okay to use soap on cast iron

It's okay to use soap! | Photo by Noel Christmas

So that's how to clean rust off cast iron pans. Easy, right? And now that you've brought your cast iron pan back to life, let's keep it alive! Now you need to know how to reseason a cast iron pan! For tips on day-to-day regular care, check out this step-by-step guide for how to clean and season a cast iron pan, which includes tips for everyday washing and care of your re-claimed cast-iron pan.


Check out our collection of Cast Iron Skillet Recipes.


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About Noel Christmas

Noel would really like that with some extra ranch dressing on it.