How to Clean Rusty Cast Iron with Vinegar

If your cast iron has developed rust, not all hope is lost. You can remove minor rust from your cast iron using white distilled vinegar and a scrub brush or sponge. 

How to Clean Rusty Cast Iron with Vinegar

For regular cast iron cleaning, stick to water and a soft towel.

Remove Rust from a Cast Iron Pan: Step by Step

To clean your rusty cast iron, you’ll need water, white distilled vinegar, and steel wool or a scrub sponge.

Step 1: Fill Your Sink with Half Vinegar and Half Water

Fill your sink with equal parts white distilled vinegar and water. Make sure you fill the sink enough to submerge your pan.

If the rust is only on the inside of the pan, you can fill the interior with the vinegar and water mixture instead.

Step 2: Allow the Pan to Soak 

It can take one to eight hours for the rust to lift. Check every hour on the progress. Don’t allow the pan to soak for longer than eight hours, or it can ruin it.

After one hour, scrub the area with an abrasive sponge or steel wool to see if the rust is soft enough to remove. If not, check back in another hour.

Step 3: Scrub Off the Rust

Use your steel wool to scrub the rust off the pan. After you’ve removed the rust, rinse it with water and dry it with a towel.

Step 4: Reseason Your Cast Iron

With the pan clean and dry, it’s time to reason it. Coat the inside and outside of the pan with a thin layer of oil that can reach high temps, like vegetable or canola oil. Put the oven in the pan upside down and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Repeat the process, adding another thin layer of oil and rebaking it. When finished, your pan should have a smooth but non-sticky finish.

How to Prevent Cast Iron from Rusting

Keep your restored pan in good shape with these tips to prevent rust from reoccurring.

  • Wash your pan with water and a soft cloth after each use – never put it in the dishwasher
  • Don’t use abrasive sponges or cleaning pads
  • Keep the pan dry – excess moisture is what leads to rust
  • Store your pan in a dry environment
  • Keep your pan seasoned – the layer of oil protects against scratches and rust

Discover more ways to clean with vinegar: 18 Household Items You Can Clean with Vinegar