How To Clean A Rusty Cast Iron Skillet With Salt and Vinegar

The easiest & cheap way to clean a rusty cast iron skillet with salt; is-

  • Thoroughly rinse & de-moisturize the pan on a gas stove;
  • slice one potato horizontally from the middle portion;
  • sprinkle the salt on the pan & rub it with peeled off area of that potato.

This will perfectly removing rust from cast iron skillets.

You can also use this method to clean the insides & also the outside bottom portions of a skillet.

However, if the bottom area is uneven or have a design inception, then apply vinegar & salt & scrub with a scouring pad to get the rust off from that cast iron skillet.

Cleaning cast iron cookware with salts is an effective idea. You can customize this process with vinegar or potatoes, or even with the baking soda.

But, for heavy rusted old pan, you needs the grinder scrubber & a scrubbing brush for flaking of the rust elements from the pans.

In earlier days, I used to grills chicken & red meat on these pans, instead of using the griddles; and used same techniques to reconditioning the cast iron skillets.

In the later part of this content, I will share with you all the kitchen hacks, I have used & also currently using for reconditioning the cast iron cookware.

Related content: Cast iron pans are how useful for eggs over easy?

How To Clean A Rusty Cast Iron Skillet With Salt?

There are many different methods you can use with the salts, to clean up any rusty cast-iron skillet or other cookware.

But, here I will only discuss with you the best & cheapest process to remove the rust elements efficiently.

There are 4 different ways we can use the salt for rust removal. Electrolyte salt-water solution, only salts with a scrubber, with potatoes & lastly, with vinegar. The vinegar salt method I will tell you separately.

Let’s start describing these processes.

1st, submerge your skillet it under the hot water for 5 minutes. Roughly scrub with a scrubber to pull out basic rust element at preliminary stage. Now wash it with plain water.

2nd, Do de-moisturization of your pan. Use a paper towel & wipe on your skillet to soak the excessive water molecules & heat it on the gas oven (2-minute heating process).

If you don’t have the gas oven then you can use induction cooktop set the temperature at 350F & heat it for 5 minutes. Let the pan cool down to room temperature. But be carefully, careless lifting of the pan can scratches on the induction hub surfaces.

Now you can use salt in two (02) different way to pull out leftover rust residues.

Method No 1.- Put two tablespoon of salt & water each one, on the skillet; and keep it for 10 to 30 minutes (based on the rust concentration set the time frame).

Use any hard scrubber or metallic wools, and rub on the rusted areas. After 1 or 2 minutes of scrubbing, the rust will gets entirely vanished from your skillet.

Method 2– Sprinkle one tablespoon of salt on the cast iron pan base & rub with potato inner portion, which I have mentioned at the beginning of this article. Moreover, this a traditional method. You might need a bit more extra work to clean up the rusting areas.

Their is an another salt potatoes rust clean up method, which is more effective.

1st, you need to smash the raw peeled-over potatoes, mix it with one tablespoon of sea salts. Now smear it on the rusted areas. Keep it for 15 to 20 minutes, use any steel wool or scrubber & rub it effectively.

Once you finish that task, rinse your pann with warm water.

In case your pan is rusted heavily and its all surface starts flaking off due to rusting, then must need to perform the electrolysis process to fix this problem.

Why Salt Has Been Use As A Rust Removal?

Before I explain you the whole process, you might needs to get bit more familiar with chemical reactions. For rust creation on the cast iron or carbon steel metal, three elements are most required- electrolyte, water, oxygen.

Actually, high concentrated salt water solution is work as an electrolyte, hast free electron molecules.

On the other hand it accelerate the electron discharge process from the iron; so the rusting process will automatically increases with the time.

Consequently, to speed the rusting process it automatically loose the top portion rust element.

You can see the whole process through your own eyes, if you perform the electrolysis process.

Even if we don’t perform the electrolysis, just keep the skillet with salt & little bit water for longer time; it will also slowly loose up the rust element.  

Why Potato With Salt Has Been Use For Rust Removal?

In cooking caramelization is a process to break down the sugar (carbohydrate/ starch) into three complex polymer caramelans, caramelens & caramelins.

Lots of other chemical & acidic elements are also formed during this process (source-wiki).

When salt directly comes contact with the potato starches; as a result, it automatically enhances the starch degradation process.

In other ward, salt, water with starch push the caramelization process faster. Consequently, in this reaction process, acidic elements are also formed.

Acidic elements have the corrosion power, which helps to loosen up the rust from the cast iron top portion.

Materials Required to Clean the Rusty Cast Iron pans

Must required

Sea Salt.



Paper towel

Hot water.

Steel wool


Liquid soap

Baking soda

Hard scrubber/ aluminum foil.

How To Get Rust Off Cast Iron Skillet With Vinegar?

Vinegar is acidic by nature, which has corrosion power. Vinegar soak is an effective solution for heavy de-rusting.

There are plenty of vinegar available in the market like apple cider vinegar, plain colourless vinegar. Don’t need to use the apple cider it will cost you much higher.

Take a bucket mixed 1:1 vinegar-water solution. Immerse the cast iron skillet under the vinegar soak & keep it for at least 1 hour.

If it’s heavily rusted then you can keep it for 2-3 hour. The vinegar will slowly loosen up the rust from the iron surface.

Backing Soda on cast iron

After pulling out the skillet from the vinegar soak, sprinkle some baking soda to neutralize the acid iron reaction.

Use any metallic scrubber & scrub on the skillet surface. It will remove the excess rust elements from the pan surface. Alternatively you can you use sea salt instead of baking soda. Now clean the pan with plain water & use a paper towel to remove the excess water.

Do you know? pure raw vinegar is very strong it hurt your cast iron kitchenware. So never submerge your cast iron under pure vinegar.

Why Vinegar Used As A Rust Removal?

The vinegar contains Hypochlorous acid which is also called an oxidizing agent. When vinegar comes to contact with the cast iron, it passivating the iron surface.

The passivating layer also protects the iron from further reaction with the vinegar soak.

Automatically the topmost rust surface will loosen up their attachment with the cast iron. As a result, the rust’s are dissolved into the vinegar soak. finally, we get rust-free iron skillet.

Brief Description On Seasoning The Cast Iron Skillet:

Hope you completely de-rust the skillet. Before seasoning, you just need to heat up ( at 325F- 375 F) the pan to make it moisture free. There are many types of oil may be present at your kitchen you can use it for seasoning.

Many culinary people like to use olive oil for seasoning.

But, I like to use the grape-seed, avocado oil for seasoning, it’s not a low smoke point oil.

Take one tablespoon of high smoke point vegetable oil & gently polish with paper towel; make sure each & every angle of the cast iron must be perfectly oil coated.

It will also, wipe out few rust elements from the pan.

Now take a new paper towel & wipe out everything, make sure only a thin layer of oil exist on the surface.

You can again add a tablespoon of oil & repeat the same process twice for better seasoning.

Finally insert the skillet into the oven, set the oven temperature between 400F to 450F, timer for 45 minutes.

After the time out left it for few hours; until the pan & oven temperature comes at room temperature.

Take out the pan. If you want very good seasoning must re-season it for at least two times.

 How do you Prevent a Cast Iron pan From Rusting?

  • Always keep the cast iron in a dry place.
  • Never clean up the food residues with hard scrubber & detergent. It’ damages the seasoning coating. Inundate the skillet into worm lite soapy water, left it for 5 to 10 minutes & use a paper towel instead of the scrubber.
  • Must heat up the pan after cleaning, for every time you use it.
  • If you use a cast-iron skillet on daily basis, must season it at least twice in a month.
  • Last but not in the list, never wash any cast iron kitchenware into your dishwasher.


Is It A Good Idea To Clean A Cast Iron Pans After Using It?

Always think rationally. if you don’t clean the cast iron pan properly; the leftover food residues for few days, can develop bacteria. That is something not good for our health.

Don’t use strong soap or vinegar for every time you clean it. Always clean it plain worm lite soapy water.

Add half teaspoon of liquid soap gel in 1L or 1.5-litre hot water. Sub merge the cast iron pan/ skillet. Keep it for five minutes & clean it with regular water & scrub with a paper towel.

Don’t rub the pan with scrubber or steel wool; it will hurt the seasoning. Lastly, and most important step is dry the cast iron pan completely. Just heat up on gas oven for 2 to 3 minute, it will completely vaporize the moisture.

Is Cleaning Cast Iron With Salt Is A Good Idea?

Yes, it is. It’s a very effective & cost you very little budget amount for cleaning.

Is Rusty Cast Iron Pans And Pots Are Dangerous?

The main health issue arises from rusted cast iron is because of tetanus bacteria. these bacteria infect our nervous system. So, always season your cast iron kitchenware after using it.

This will not only help you to minimize the health complication; it also increases the longevity of the cast iron cookware.

Is Vinegar Bad For Cast Iron?

No, it’s not. Actually, vinegar helps to clean the rusted cast iron skillets. But, cooking acidic foods (tomatoes); even if you use vinegar as an ingredients in recipes; that might destroy the seasoning coating.

In other wards, iron leaching on foods will be increased; So, you have to re-season the cast iron pans and pots.

How To Rust Off An Antique Cast Iron?

Any old or antique cast iron kitchenware’s are completely unsafe for our health.

Not only need to get the rust off from this kitchenware’s; but, also need to re-seasoning it before you use it. You can use industry-standard rust removal liquids.

However, if it just a cookware, skillets or grill pan, then 1st clean it with hot soapy water & stainless steel wools; and dry it completely.
Then use potato & salt technique to get rid of excess rust from the pans or pots. Once it completed, must season it properly.

Final Thought:

I Have Tried To Cover Each & Every Angle To Clean A Rusty Cast Iron Skillet With Salt, Vinegar and potatoes.

There are many different types of the method you can use to clean up rust elements; but, believe me, these are the most effective & easy solution.

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