How to Remove Rust from Pots and Pans

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How to Remove Rust from Pan and Cookware

Removing Rust from Cast Iron

Rusted cast iron pans.

Cast iron is a wonderful material for cookware that can beautifully sear and fry food. However, cast iron easily rusts, especially when left unseasoned and stored moist. Cast iron is molded in one piece, and should be made from pure cast iron, so cleaning the rust stains from your cast iron is a straightforward process!

What You'll Need

  • Vinegar
  • Hot water
  • Coarse salt
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • Scouring pad OR
  • Steel wool
  • Cooking oil - for seasoning

Step 1: Create a Vinegar Mixture

Take a large container or plug your kitchen sink, and pour in equal amounts of water and vinegar. You may add 1-2 cups of baking soda, which is an optional but recommended ingredient. This is your cleaning solution to clean rust from your cast iron pans.

Step 2: Soak Your Pan

Soak your cast iron pan. You may soak your cast iron cookware for up to 8 hours, but check on it every hour to make sure you don't over soak your pan. The rusted cookware should be easy to clean when the soak time is sufficient.

Step 3: Scrub the Rust Away

Take your cast iron pan out of the soak, and place a generous amount of coarse salt over the entire surface. Use a scouring pad to scrub the rust away. You may use steel wool to remove rust, but use steel wool with caution to prevent deep scratches on the cast iron material.

Keep scrubbing until you completely remove all rust spots from your pan. If the rusted cookware is difficult to clean, allow the pan to soak in the vinegar solution for a longer period of time until the rust areas can be removed easily.

Step 4: Wash and Dry Your Pan

Wash your pan as you normally would with dish soap and water. Make sure you remove any traces of rust, then quickly dry your pan by wiping it with a dry dish towel, and placing it on the stove to cook off any remaining moisture.

Step 5: Season Your Skillet

Seasoning your cast iron will lengthen its useful life, prevent rust, and create a nonstick layer on your pan. Cover your pan with an edible oil, and wipe off the excess. Place the skillet in an oven preheated to 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, then shut the oven off, and let the pan cool inside the oven so the oil can polymerize.

Removing Rust from Stainless Steel

Rusted stainless steel baking pan.

Stubborn rust stains on your stainless steel cookware and baking pans can be daunting, especially as stainless steel is a low maintenance material. However, rust can occur on stainless steel, so here's how to remove rust from your cookware:

What You'll Need

  • Lemon juice
  • Baking soda
  • Scouring pad OR
  • Steel wool
  • Dry kitchen towel or Paper towel

Step 1: Make a Cleaning Paste

Make a cleaning paste with lemon juice and baking soda. Lemon juice is an acidic solution that will lift and remove rust, while baking soda helps to lift away the layer of rust that formed on your stainless steel pots and pans.

Step 2: Apply the Paste, and Let It Sit

Spot clean the stainless steel rust: place a thick layer of paste over the rusted areas, and let the paste sit for at least 15 minutes. If the paste is starting to look dry, hydrate it with some lemon juice. The cleaning paste will also work on other stainless steel cookware, such as baking pans, oven grills, and more!

Step 3: Scrub Out Rust Spots

Test a small area to see if the rust can be easily removed. If not, leave the paste for a longer period of time. If the rust can be easily scrubbed away, use a scouring pad or steel wool to scrub your rusty pots and pans. Do the same for any rusted baking pan, or other kitchen utensils. You may need to use some elbow grease to get all the rust out.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry Completely

Rinse away the cleaning paste, and wash your cookware as you normally would. Towel dry the pan with a kitchen towel or paper towel, and let it air dry completely before storing the pan. Seasoning the pan is optional, but recommended.

Removing Rust from Nonstick Pans

Dirty non-stick pan with wooden spoon.

Removing rust from nonstick cookware is tricky as you can't scrub the nonstick layer as you scrub a cast iron or stainless steel surface. For nonstick pans, we recommend using a cleaning product meant to remove rust from nonstick pans. For the at-home, DIY version, you can use a mix of baking soda and vinegar:

What You'll Need

  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Soft sponge
  • Dry kitchen towel

Step 1: Wash the Pan

Wash the pan as you normally wou to remove any debris or food residue. Clean the nonstick pan with dish soap, taking care not to scratch the nonstick layer. Do not dry the pan as you will need the excess moisture for the next step.

Step 2: Apply a Layer of Baking Soda

Sprinkle baking soda all over the pan until it forms a paste-like layer. Focus on the areas where the rust occurs. The baking soda layer may look dry or paste-like, but not wet as you will spray vinegar over the pan.

Step 3: Spray Vinegar Solution and Let It Sit

Spray vinegar all over the pan until the soda is soaked in vinegar. The solution should react and bubble, which is important in lifting out the rust spots from the nonstick material. Let the solution sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours, replenishing the vinegar as needed.

Step 4: Scrub Away the Rusted Areas

After 30 minutes, take your soft sponge, and carefully scrub away the rusted areas. The rust should be easy to remove. If not, leave the solution to soak for a longer period of time, checking every 30 minutes.

If the rusted area easily lifts off the nonstick layer, then you can proceed with scrubbing out the rust spots. Be careful not to place too much pressure on scrubbing your nonstick cookware to avoid scrubbing away the nonstick layer.

Step 5: Rinse and Dry

Rinse out the cleaning solution, and towel dry your nonstick cookware. Place your pan on the stove, and heat dry the pan to remove excess moisture from the pan, which will prevent rust from forming again.

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