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Cast iron cookware is sturdy and long-lasting. It’s ideal for cooking because it facilitates uniform heating. It has natural non-stick properties and it retains heat better. But for something so good, there is the bad part too. Leave it exposed to a little moisture and it rusts quickly. If you have pots and pans made up of cast iron, you should be taking care of them and not let them be anywhere near water. But, if they still get rust on them, don’t fret! There are ways to clean rust from cast iron cookware and make them look as good as new. Read on.

How To Clean Rust Off Cast Iron

There are different ways to get rid of the rust. You can choose one depending on the amount of rust your cast iron cookware has.

Scrub It Off

  • Normally, you wouldn’t want to bring anything abrasive near your cast iron cookware. But, if it has got rust on it, you can scrub it away using a steel wool or sandpaper. Use a little dish wash liquid and warm water for stubborn rust.
  • Another good way to get the rust off is to layer the pot or pan with salt. Use enough salt so that there is a thick layer on the entire surface. Now, cut a potato in half. Use it to work up the salt toget the rust off.

Use Baking Soda

If the rust is mild, you could try using baking soda. Sprinkle some baking soda and water onto the pan. Use a delicate sponge to scrub gently at the rust. Let the baking soda and water paste sit for a few minutes, and again scrub gently.

Vinegar to the Rescue

If your pot is very damaged, Vinegar can come to the rescue.

  • Mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a large tub or bucket – the quantity should be enough to submerge the damaged piece of cast iron. Let the pan soak in this solution till the rust comes off. However, check the progress every hour or so and remove the pan as soon as the rust is off. If the pan is left longer, the vinegar will harm the cast iron.

Bring in the Chemicals

If nothing else works, this is your last resort. Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is one such chemical which can help in removing the most stubborn rust. Usually, inexpensive toilet bowl cleaners contain 20% HCl which should be enough to get rid of the difficult rust stains. However, remember that HCl is strong and you should protect your skin and eyes by wearing gloves and safety goggles while handling it.

Rinse It Off

Once you have managed to clean rust from cast iron pots or pans, rinse them thoroughly with warm water. You can also use a little soap and a sponge to get rid of any residual rust. Pat dry using a clean dishcloth or paper towels immediately. You can also put the cleaned pan on stove on low heat to ensure that there is no moisture left.

Re-season Cast Iron

This is a very important step. All that scrubbing and washing will remove the seasoning of your cast iron cookware. Seasoning is important to protect your cookware from further rust and also to bring back its non-stick quality. Take a little vegetable oil and spread it over the pot or pan using a paper towel. Don’t forget to coat the underside and the handle too.

As an alternative to vegetable oil, you can also use other forms of fat like lard or shortening. If using oil, go for ones with a high smoking point like canola oil or peanut oil.

Put it in the oven

Pre-heat the oven at 300 to 350 F. Put the coated pan upside down in the oven over a rack for about an hour. Place an aluminium sheet underneath to catch any dripping oil. After an hour, let the pan cool down before taking out from the oven.

Further Cast Iron Care

Now that your cast iron cookware is as good as new, follow the below tips to prevent it from rusting again.

  • Don’t use harsh detergents for cleaning.
  • For cleaning, heat the pan and pour water into it. Turn of the heat. The hot water will help getting off the stuck food residue.
  • Rinse with warm water and dry immediately.
  • While storing, store in a clean and dry place. You can also keep some paper towels on top to wick away any moisture.

Great video on cleaning cast iron: