Cooking With Confidence
How to clean and reseason an old cast iron skillet. It can be brought back to life really easily with a few hours of basic work!
by Nick

Repairing a Cast Iron Skillet

One of the very first pieces of kitchen equipment I purchased with my own money was a cast iron skillet. The above skillet is the same one that I bought almost six years ago. POOR POOR SKILLET!

As you can see, it has seen better days. Generally, if you treat your cast iron skillet well, it won’t get like mine above. But after a few moves and years of use (some improper), mine just got a bit worn. A few months ago I noticed that it was starting to rust pretty badly and by the time I got around to fixing the problem, my skillet was almost entirely rusted out!

Now, some people might say that this means I need a new skillet, but oh no. One of the awesome things about these skillets is that with a little work and a few hours, you can bring it back to almost better than new status.

I figured I’d snap some photos as I went so you can know how to clean a cast iron skillet also.

In fact, if you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can almost certainly find one at a garage sale if you search around a bit. It’ll probably look as bad if not worse than mine, but with these steps, you can bring it back into good shape.

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet

You probably heard it: “Never ever put soap on your cast iron skillet!”

That’s generally good advice because it strips out all the oils that have seasoned the skillet. When we are looking at a skillet like mine though, step one in getting it back into good shape is to very thoroughly clean it.

That means getting off all the rust and crud and basically starting from scratch.

For this, you’re going to want to pick up some steel wool scrubbers!

cleaning a cast iron skillet

Steel Wool is your friend.

Get some really hot water, a good amount of soap, and a scrubber and really go to town on the skillet. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard work.

You want to make sure you thoroughly scrub all the inside of the skillet. Get the sides and the bottom really well. Make sure all the rust is out. It’s going to take 10-15 minutes of good scrubbing to get the job done.

suds and water for cleaning a cast iron skillet

The only time soap is okay.

After this, your arms will be exhausted, and you’ll have a nice clean skillet.

This was mine after about 15 minutes of scrubbing. Looking better already!

cleaning a cast iron skillet

Clean, but rough.

Of course, the problem is that now this skillet is just a big piece of iron with no coating at all to protect stuff from sticking to it. One of the joys of having a good cast iron skillet is that almost nothing sticks to it.

Right now though, this pan is like Velcro. All the little crevices in the iron are going to make anything that touches it stick to it. You can see how it’s kind of a dull black/gray color. That means it’s clean, but not seasoned for cooking.

Seasoning the skillet

Honestly, the hard part is over. Now we just need to get the skillet ready for cooking.

Seasoning, as it’s called, involves cooking a very light layer of fat or oil in the skillet for many hours. As the skillet heats up, the metal expands slightly and the iron basically absorbs the fat. Then as it cools, the oil sticks on the skillet and makes it shiny, smooth, and most importantly non-stick.

You can use vegetable oil for this, but honestly, bacon grease is the best thing for it. So assuming you’re not vegetarian, pull out some good fatty bacon.


Bacon is always good.

Add the bacon to your cast iron skillet and put the skillet on very low heat. After about 20 minutes, most of the fat should have rendered out of the bacon.

You should end up with something like this!


You just need the grease.

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet – Cooking the pan

After you have your bacon grease ready, remove the bacon from the pan, pour off the bacon grease and save it, and wipe the pan really clean. Be sure to get any bacon bits that are stuck to the pan out of there.

Then, using a paper towel, pour a tiny amount of bacon grease back into the pan and rub it around the pan using a paper towel. There should be a very light layer of oil shimmering on the whole skillet. You don’t want any grease pooling in the pan, just a nice smooth layer covering the whole surface.

Heat your oven to 250 degrees and bake the skillet for an hour.

Take it out, rub it with a bit more oil/grease, then back in the oven for an hour.

After two hours, we’re getting somewhere. Notice how the pan is starting to shine a bit.

Two hours

After two hours of baking.

I did this same process two more times.

So in total, I baked my skillet for 4 hours at 250 degrees. Generally, two hours will do the trick, but I like to make sure mine is really nice and seasoned. That might seem like a lot of work, but it’s largely hands off.

When my pan cooled down, I had a nice shiny cast iron skillet that looks a thousand times better than what I started with.

four hours

After four hours of baking.

Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet – The Egg Test

Ok. So the real test for any non-stick surface is a fried egg.

Once you’re ready to test it out, put your skillet over medium high heat and let it get nice and hot. Add a few drops of oil to the pan and crack in an egg. It should slide around and flip easily, just as if it were in a nonstick pan!

I passed my egg test!

egg test

The egg test.

Cast iron skillets aren’t expensive, but there’s no reason to throw one away if you can fix it like new with a few hours of lazy work, and a few minutes of heavy scrubbing.

So, if you have a neglected cast iron skillet or know somebody who does, now you know how to fix it up!

How to clean and reseason an old cast iron skillet. It can be brought back to life really easily with a few hours of basic work!

If you have doubts about why you need a cast iron skillet, here are 10 reasons why you should get one.

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285 comments on “Repairing a Cast Iron Skillet

  1. My problem is not rust but I left my skillet on with something in it till all the liquid went away and now I have a strange flat black build up that doesn’t scrape off even with my trusty steel spatula. Do I try the steel wool treatment? Thank you.

    1. Hey Susan, that’s a bummer. I would give the steel wool a shot because you have nothing to lose. Worst case, you can’t get it off and the pan is garbage. Best case it cleans up just fine and you’ll just have to reseason it. Good luck!

      1. Can always put it in the oven on self clean. After a few hours and a wash and scrub you can reseason your pan and use it again. Don’t get rid of it!!!

    2. I used vinegar on mine – hot – boiled it mixed with some water then used a scraper…also used some soft scrub for the really nasty ones…once skillet is in use, coarse salt is great to clean it!

    3. All that is is carbon. If you have a self-cleaning oven, just invert the pan on the middle rack and leave it there while you run the oven through its cleaning cycle. Afterwards, wipe down with a damp cloth and you should be back to bare metal and ready to re-season – by whatever method you prefer. Personally, I just rub the pan down with Crisco and pop it back into a 350 degree oven for 2 hours – again, inverted so the excess shortning runs off rather than puddling.

      1. I have been producing my own bacon for some time now so needless to say, my cast iron pan gets frequent use. With absolutely no effort at all, that pan now stays in tip-top shape. There’s a lesson in there somewhere…

      2. I do not have a self cleaning oven, but I do heat my house with a woodstove. My wife and I have a griddle that was so built up with carbon deposits it was like layers of shale and we didn’t use it any more. I threw it in the woodstove when it was hot embers and it cooked it clean, just dust remaining of the buildup. Seasoned the griddle and it is like new. The intense heat might crack or warp inferior metal, so beware, but I took the chance because the griddle was unusable anyway. I have since cleaned up a rectangular griddle this way, too. I notice the casts that I cook tortillas or pancakes on tend to build up carbon more than those which foods are fried or sauteed or meat is cooked in.

      3. A FEW WORDS OF CAUTION ! The ‘Use & Care’ instructions for my range/oven state that the racks which are stainless steel “must be removed” from the oven while operating in self-clean mode. Although stainless is very durable & the racks would have to be cleaned separately from the oven, the extreme heat generated may & is highly likely to cause the racks to warp. Just saying…….
        While I’m here I’d like everyone to know that pitting inside your cast-iron is not a good reason to junk it. I have a very old oval baker that came to me with pitting across the entire bottom on the inside, some of them a good 1/16″ or better deep. A good scrubbing & seasoning is all that was necessary to cook non-stick in this pan, cornbread at that & everyone where I come from knows that a pan that will do that is a keeper. No, the pits will not ever fill in & smooth out in the bottom of the pan but they don’t need to.

        1. No, you do not put foil in the oven while running the self-clean cycle. As a matter of fact, the Use and Care Manual to my range instructs you to remove the racks and clean by another method as extreme temperatures are reached that can damage even stainless steel racks( which is the material of choice for oven racks) over time.

      4. Carbon will dissolve into alcohol or vinegar. If the pan is that valuable or dear, finding some cheap, strong vodka or acetic acid (stronger than household vinegar, but DON’T GO HIGHER THAN 10%!) could do the trick. Scrubbing (and gloves!) will still be necessary, but these will be far more effective at removing char than soap and water.

    4. If you’ve got a self-cleaning oven, put the pan in there and let it roll. At the end of the cycle, everything stuck to the pan – and I mean everything – will be ash. The pan will look pretty rough, but wash it and scrub it with some steel wool to clean it up. Dry it off, and re-season. Good as new.

      1. Did you find that after you got them out of the oven there was a residue? I can’t seem to wipe my clean without rusting them!

    5. I have never seen a cast iron that couldn’t be restored.The easiest way to repair cast iron… Throw it right into the camp fire next time you have one, leave it overnight to cool. It will be ready to reseason after a quick wipe with paper towel. I only use cast iron in my kitchen, scrounged from yard sales around town. One had so much baked on junk inside and out I thought it was hopeless until I remembered the traditional way to restore the pans. By morning it was absolutely pristine

    6. A friend once told me that the best way to clean a “cruddy” iron skillet, is to put it in a bonfire, when one is “happening” in your area. The heat will clean all the crud (much like the “clean” cycle on an over), and your pan will be ready to re-season. Sounds like a plan, to me!

    7. Hi there. Cast iron skillets are the best cooking implements ever. I clean mine with hot H20 and some kosher salt. Cleans like magic.

    1. your pan sounds like it has residue (old oil) stuck inside I would warm it up and scrub taking it down to 1st time use. Then reseason it. I use Crisco on paper towel wipe it down (use sparsly) put in 350 oven 2 hours let it bake remove it once or twice to re coat with Crisco be careful its very hot put back in and bake the method she uses in this article is what my dad did and I have done it for years. I wouldn’t do it on skillets that come from China or Korea the metal isn’t the same. this happens when a pan is put away with LOTS of oil in and on it then it sets for a while it won’t rust but the excess oil becomes sticky things tend to stick in it too.

      1. I think 350* is to hot 250 and the 4 hours is best I’d lightly oil it every hour or so. I read on Pintrest Flax seed oil but it must be pure, with no other additives they said health food store refrigerate the oil. Or good ole bacon grease, I oil mine after every use but never use a lot at a time residue or pooling is not your friend.

        1. Don’t uae flaxseed oil. I went on Wagner website, my pans are from Wagner. It says to use Crisco, the solid white stuff. My pans are great now. Give it a try.

  2. I have rust and flakiness on the underside of my cast iron. I reasoned the inside which worked great, but what should I do about the outside?

  3. Once your skillet is seasoned, what is the proper way to clean it since you suggest avoiding soap?

    1. I’d go with the potato – salt promotes corrosion in most metals. Rub it with the cut side of a raw potato, wipe out debris, then rinse with HOT running water. The starch will dissolve and run off almost immediately.

  4. I found a newer, used cast iron dutch oven, and tried to deep fry chicken right off the bat. It started smoking befor I could even continue cooking. Now there are black scorch marks on bottom half outside, and inside, with dark grey on top half. I have attempted to reclean, and season this and it stinks of burnt rubber with slightest heat. I have NEVER seen this with any of my cast iron pans and am worried its beyond my repair. Any help would be great. I am getting sick of this horrible smell.

    1. Hey Christy! That sounds pretty bad. I’m not sure what would cause a rubber smell unless it was something the previous owner did… I would say to bust out the steel wool and crust it completely down until it’s a fresh layer and then reseason it from scratch. Unfortunately you’ll probably want to do the inside AND outside as the burning could be on the outside of the pan. After you reseason it, if it is still smelling and smoking then it’s probably trash. Good luck!

      1. Hi Christy! I know what that is. The pan & it’s lid were waxed to prevent rust, I have one that was prepared in this manner; the wax in question is food grade but not something you want to taste & boy is it ever smelly while it’s burning off. Before you can cook in the utensil the wax must be burned off, scrubbing is not going to effectively remove it. I’m afraid you’re going to have to endure that horrible smell just one more time. To begin, line bottom oven rack with aluminum foil, place pan & lid upside-down in oven on upper rack to allow the wax to drip out/off of the pan & lid. If there is not enough room for both pieces of course you’ll have to do them individually. The next step is VERY IMPORTANT!, turn on the exhaust vent over your stove/oven & if there is a window near-by you may want to open it. Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Now it’s just a matter of time, how long depends on how much wax is left on the pieces. There is going to be smoke generated as the wax melts off, when the smoking stops you’re done. Now you need to wash the pieces with warm soapy water, rinse well & dry thoroughly then proceed with seasoning.

          1. A grill won’t get the metal hot enough to melt/burn off all the wax. Grills are usually calibrated to flame temperature, not the air temperature. When you set an oven to 350, you’re getting 350-degree air around your food & cookware.

        1. Mine are rusting before re-seasoning and I can’t seem to get them clean…tips?

          1. You might want to try seasoning with Lard. That seems to season the cast Iron better.

            My Skillet has a bevel in the middle. It will not sit level, any sugestions.

      2. I know how you feel. I just bought new Pioneer Woman cookware that came with a preseasoned cast iron skillet. I just wiped it out to free it from dust and made hamburgers in it. It smoked and stunk something aweful! And talk about turning the meat black and not burning! I cleaned it afterwards and the black just would not come off. I used scrubber sponges until they were black, threw them away and got another. After 4 ruined sponges I used a steel wool pad. Finally the black was gone and when the skillet dried it was nasty grey and some rust. I was gonna throw it away but now gonna try these suggestions…I hope my skillet can be saved!

        1. I have a Paula Deen dutch oven that did the same. After many uses that faded but the pan sticks. I I decided to put it in the wood stove like i did my old skillets and the results were awful. My old skillets cleaned BEAUTIFULLY, but this thing feels like a Lava rock! The outside turned shades of red and blue. All I can say is that it must be inferior metal. What a waste.

  5. I love garage sales. I bought a #12 for $1.00, a Dutch oven with the lid and s canvas zippered cover for$10.00 what a steal. Believe me I’ve had to scrub a couple with steel wool, reseason with oil and my grandmother taught me to use some salt, a paper towel to really get the oil in. I’m going to try the oil and baking. Thanks for the idea. I too got on this site by accident. I’m glad I did. Too much fun it taught me a lesson not to stop reaching out for new ideas using old stuff. I love it. Thanks for sharing……

  6. I have a cast iron skillet that food was baked in and leftovers not removed for a couple of days. Now the bottom of the pan is “spotty”. It looks like discoloration spots. How can this be fixed? It is a new skillet that was purchased about 9 months ago but has been used quite often.


    1. Hey Lisa, if the spots won’t come off with a plastic scraper, you probably need to reseason the pan from scratch. Scrub it down with steel wool until it’s fresh and then reseason it like I do in this post. It’ll take a few hours of work, but should do the trick. Good luck!

    1. Hey James, since you are just rubbing on a thin layer of the oil you could put a baking sheet under the skillet and tilt it a bit to fit more vertically in your oven. You might have to remove a few racks to get it to fit. If it still doesn’t fit then I’m out of ideas!

  7. I just bought my pan, ‘pre-seasoned’; it obviously needed some additional work. After watching a couple videos, I used Crisco on the inside and outside of the pan – now it’s incredibly sticky. Help!

    Also – if one uses soap, won’t the soap get into the pores of the pan when it heats up?


    1. Crisco should work okay but I usually prefer a more natural grease, like bacon fat. Any fat or oil should work though. If it’s sticky, you probably need to apply a more thin layer and bake it longer. Since soap will kill the fat bonds I never soap my skillet unless I’m completely reseasoning it anyway.

    2. Check out the date on your Crisco sounds old.. Bacon grease is very good but these days people look down on you for suggesting it.

      1. You need to remember that alot of bacon has sugars in it. That will make you cast Iron sticky. If you can find fresh bacon that will work great.

  8. I washed my cast iron skillet, dried it, put on some canola oil, turned it upside down and baked it for one hour at 350 degrees. The skillet came out so sticky. So, I washed it, this time with a stiff brush and a little soap, dried it, added the oil and tried again to bake it for one hour. Now it’s stickier than ever. HELP!

    1. Hey Nicki… I think the problem is two fold… one, you are baking it at way too hot a temp. 350 will possibly burn the oil rather than infuse it into the pan. In the directions, I recommend 250 degrees F.

      Also, I usually bake mine for a total time of four hours. Yes… it’s a long process, but just an hour won’t get you anywhere. Hope that helps!

  9. Just to let everyone know, when I was little bitty my uncle found 12 assorted sized cast iron skillets in the corner of a barn about to be torn down and rescued them. He asked my Mom to render about a pound of bacon and sieve the fat. Then he used the hose to wash the dust and chunks of dirt off of the skillets and left them to dry outside, upside down (so the water couldn’t pool and cause more rust).
    Then he built a large fire, about three foot across and wood stacked about 3 foot high. After the fire settled down to all red and grey embers, he tossed all the pans into the coals. He didn’t let them touch and he tried to make sure they were upside down. (No idea the logic here, folks.)
    He left everything alone until the fire burned out and the skillets cooled completely. He washed them all with a metal scrubber and seasoned them all with the bacon fat inside and out.
    I would recommend doing this to everyone if you have a way to burn those crusted up skillets, charcoal grill or campfire, give it a go. If that crusty/sticky/smelly skillet is going to be trashed anyway and you have the capability, what is the harm?

  10. Love cast iron to cook with. I’ve seasoned just as you do for all of them and for some reason, some seem to take better than others. I assume it’s from years of either caring for them correctly or not. I’m always on the look out for barn sales because you can find very old, odd pieces that I would love to know the history and what was made in them from years ago…if only cast iron could talk!

  11. wow, great post. I bought my FIRST cast iron skillet yesterday. I guess I’ve already made my first mistake. The first thing I did when I brought it home is I washed it with soap to get rid of some of the dust it had on it from laying around in a store. So, if you recommend to never ever clean it with soap, what do you clean it with between uses? Also, when you buy it brand new, is it already seasoned?

    1. Hey Maggie! Most skillets come preseasoned these days. For me, after I use my skillet I rinse it thoroughly with very hot water and use a scraper to scrape off any food bits on it. Then I wipe it out with a dry paper towel. That usually does the trick and keeps it in good shape. Some people also like to rub a very tiny amount of veg oil on it in between uses. Good luck!

      1. I use an old wooden spoon cut it straight across I broke the spoon part some how any way I put about an 1/8 cup of water in it heat it up, and use the spoon to push the food stuff around, then wipe it out with a paper towel. Or when I am cooking the last couple minutes before I remove the food I use the spoon to deglaze the pan put meat on a plate set it aside scrape the bottom with the spoon and wipe out with paper towel. I also wipe the pan with grease and put in the oven. That’s where I have to keep all my pans I use every day. There are plastic scrapers but I forget to turn my pan off and heat up my fingers, so the long handle of the spoon works great I use the heat to my advantage.

  12. bought a used skillet: cleaned it and found on one quadrant the iron isn’t smooth but has little sharpish bumps. How do I, and what do I use to knock these down level with the bottom of the pan?
    Thanks, Bev

    1. Hey Bev, steel wool is really the best way. If it is super-pockmarked then it might not be salvageable though. Good luck!

    2. Oh and PS… you don’t have to completely get rid of the bumps. Some skillets have them after years and years and still cook just fine. Just be sure to get off any rust and give it a shot. It might be just fine!

  13. I have a box of old cast iron cookware, 30 minutes a pan would take 2 days, what do you think about sand blasting them?

    1. Hmm… that might work for cleaning, but you would still want to season them by baking them with fat rubbed on. If I were you I would sell the ones I didn’t want as-is and then reseason just the ones I wanted to use. There isn’t really a reason to have that many cast iron pans. A few different sizes is all a normal kitchen needs.

  14. You all are doing the hard work and even probably discarding really good pieces. Just stop by Ace Hardware store and get a bottle of rooto drain cleaner (100% lye), then grab a bin with lid and pour in 10 gallons of water, pour in the entire bottle of lye crystals (1 lb) and mix with a stick. Use rubber globes as this solution can burn your skin! Let the skillet set in completely submerged for 1-3 days. The lye bath will remove all grease, old seasoning and crude that has build up over time. Check daily as some are done within a few hrs and some need 3-4 days plus some scrubbing. Once ready just bring it in under hot water and wash it throughly. Lye will wash off completely and gets neutralized by water. Then scrub it as needed and even use soap if you wish. Dry it fast to avoid rust and you can give it a coating with crisco and bake it in oven at 350F for an hr. That it! don’t sweat it! You can keep the lye properly covered for future use for up to a year.

    1. i want to try your method of cleaning. My mother in law has a cast iron griddle that when used leaves a horrible chemical taste on food. Also, I think it has build up on it. My question Is how do you dispose of the water and lye mixture?

      1. Hey Tressa, I’ve never tried the lye method and haven’t heard of others that use it. Lye is pretty toxic and hard to handle and an extra step that you really don’t need to do. If you just scrub the griddle really well as I describe in the post and reseason it, it will probably be fine. Good luck!

      2. After reading the directions, the only safe way to dispose of the lye solution is with 90 more gallons of water down municipal sewer drain (NEVER PUT THIS IN A SEPTIC SYSTEM!) . Neutralizing the mixture is dangerous and not something I would recommend to someone without solid knowledge of either chemistry or HazMat handling. It should also not be put into irrigation or runoff water nor dumped in a field. Lye can poison drinking water and render land infertile.

    2. Do not use a plastic container to do this as the water will get extremely hot when you add the lye! Also remember to wear gloves and eye protection and always add the lye to the water not the water to the lye.

  15. Hi Nick,
    I burned food onto my skillet and had to scrub it down hard. It is becoming more seasoned however I have pitting on the bottom. Do I season the skillet with the pits or try to get rid of them?

    1. Hey Cheryl, you probably won’t be able to scrub out the pits if they are deep… You can still use the pan for many things with pits if it is seasoned correctly. If it’s causing a lot of issues though, it might be replacement time… Good luck!

  16. Hi Nick,
    Due to my ignorance, I think I have mishandled my newly bought lodge skillet. It was exposed to high heat on the stove and now has a huge black burnt mark in the pan. Any suggestions how the skillet can be salvaged? Also, I don’t own a oven, how can I season the skillet on stovetop? Thanks!

    1. Hey Nancy, the black burned mark isn’t a huge issue. I imagine you could get it off with steel wool, but you then will definitely need to reseason it. As far as I know you can’t really reseason a pan on the stovetop just because it’s really tough to control the temp. You need many hours at a constant low temperature. Even low on the stovetop would be too hot I think. You could give it a shot but you’d want to keep a really close eye on it. Maybe you have a friend who has an oven that you could borrow for a few hours and repay them a cast iron skillet meal? :)

      1. Thanks Nick for your prompt reply. I can try steel wool to remove the burnt marks. Since I can’t season the skillet without an oven, Is it ok to warm up the skillet and apply shortening after each use?

        1. I don’t know where you are in the country, Nancy, but I sometimes season mine in my charcoal smoker/grill.

    2. the black mark is heat damage it will not effect the usability of the pan if it is seasoned agin

    3. Hi Nancy,

      I have seasoned my skillets on my gas stove top. Grease the skillet, lowest heat on stove top, keep it on for about an hour. Repeat everyday for about 4-5 days until the skillet is uniformly black and shiny. Works like a charm.
      Hope that helps.

  17. I have a pan that has cleaned up OK but where gunk was on the pan the stain is etched into the surface how smart would it be to get some medium emery paper working my way up to a very fine paper and try and remove the blemishes or would it be best just to leave them if nothing else to add a bit of character to an old pan

    1. Hey Mal! I would say try to cook something simple in the pan and see how it goes. I don’t think the stain is necessarily bad but the only way to know is to try something like an egg in it. If it sticks or affects the food then you’ll want to buff it out (you’ll probably need something like steel wool) and then reseason the pan. Good luck!

  18. Thanks for the how-to…thought I knew all there was to know about “seasoning” my cast-iron pan, but when I couldn’t remove the black flaky stuff (no rust) that I’ve now learned is carbon deposit, I went in search of a solution and found your website. I’m going to try the inverted pan plan in my self-cleaning oven. Can’t wait! Thanks for the good advice!

  19. I have two cast iron tea kettles which we fill with water and keep on our wood burning stoves. They help to get some moisture in the air. They tend to rust both inside and out. I did season the outside at the beginning of the winter and tried doing the inside but did not have too much luck. Any tips you might suggest for seasoning the inside.

    1. Put about a half teaspoonful of oil in the water and keep an eye on it. You may need to adjust the amount added and how often you add it. Just experiment. You can’t hurt anything. I would suggest mineral oil.
      Do you drink from the kettles? You might even be able to use scented oil but that would be another step in the process.

    2. Hey Cat,
      That might be tough… not sure how I would get rust off the inside of a kettle! If you have a metalworking shop somewhere near you, they might be able to open it up and sandblast it, but that might be more expensive than just replacing it. Also, I’m not sure that it’s a huge deal if you are just using it to boil water. I might just leave it. :)

  20. My mom always put her skillets in the woodstove and burn off the rust or just to keep it cleaned up like that every now and then. Her eggs would just slide off the skillet with ease. She always kept it seasoned with a little oil wipe on it with a paper towel

  21. I bought an unmarked skillet from ebay that had been cleaned and lightly seasoned. When the skillet arrived it was a light muddy brown color and smelled of metal. Iam afraid to use it because of the smell… should I clean it with soap and water? What do you suggest?

  22. I have done a few pieces of cast iron using the self cleaning oven method. Then I put the item in a sink with two gallons of cheap white vinegar. The low pH of the vinegar removes traces of rust. I often scrub with some coarse steel wool while its soaking. Next I have my oven at 380 degrees. I pull the cast iron out of the vinegar, dry it with a cloth towel and give a a very light coat of cheap part animal fat shortening. Back into the oven for an our, upside down so it can drain. I pull it out, wipe it with a cloth and again with a light coat of cheap shortening. After about the third time I have a nice even seasoning on the skillet. I only do the outside of the utensil one time.

  23. I have an old skillet at home and I thought that I should throw it away. Thank you so much for this article! Now I know that there is a chance to clean my skillet and to use it again! Carlshalton Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

  24. So so happy to have this how to article. My husband and I are going on a hunt for an old skillet in order to do this, rather than going out and buying a new one. This seems so much more satisfying. Thank you for posting and for adding the great photos.

  25. Do you think your tip for cleaning cast iron pots would work on my black iron stove tops? They have burned on grease build up that I cannot scrub off no matter how hard I try.

    1. Oh gosh… I have no idea on that one. I would look for a stove/appliance specialist in your area and consult them!

  26. I have such iron skittle at home but I was going to throw it away because I thought that I can’t bring it to live. Thanks a lot for this incredible article! Regards!Eden Park Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

  27. I used a heavy duty oven cleaner and placed pans in separate trash bags and seal for a few days . they just wiped clean with rags or paper towels. then a wash with 2;1 water and water vinegar. rinsed with water wipe dry with paper towels then season with lard.

  28. Hi there
    I got a new lodge skillet and didn’t take the paper/plastic off and put in the oven for when I could get to it. I forgot and preheated my oven to cook something else and realized too late I had left it in there. The sticky/gummy stuff on the back of the paper was attached to the cast iron and sort of melted into it. I tried to scrub it off with soap and water, but there is still a spot. I also cooked some sausages in it, and noticed there was a black/sticky material so I soaked for a day in water – huge mistake (should have known better). It left rust marks in my sink which I can’t get out and now the inside looks really funky. Is my best bet to scrub the hell out of it and reseason? What do you recommend?


    1. Hi JM.
      You’ve probably moved on by now, but it all depends on exactly what thevpan was wrapped in. If it was wax paper, then try folliwing step 1 of the article, then rinse clean, dry, then fill thebpan halfway with a simple oil (vegetable or Crisco), and heat to medium (have lid and a CO2 extinguisher handy, just in case). Let cool, drain the still-liquid oil off, then perform step 2 (reseasoning).
      If it was any kind of plastic, it is unfortunately bryond saving. Plastics when heated to melting tend to smoke or fume, and to get it to melt out would require blowtorch heat, which will damage the metal’s properties. Hope you’re OK now.

  29. Well one sure way I was taught to do to the cast iron is every year in the spring when you burn off the part of your garden to put a lettuce bed ( it needs the ash ) once the fire is going place your iron skillet in the fire and go back and get it out once it has cooled. It will burn off any and all crud build up on the inside and the outside wash it and use lard not shortning but lard smear it all over the inside of the skillet making sure to get the sides, place it in the oven on a low heat remove and wip it clean with a rag or paper towel. Repeat one time then smear a little more lard on the inside and put it up.

  30. My brother has benn cooking with cast for years. He has several nice skillets. I’ve recently took up cooking in them, too. I found an deep Griswold in a yard under a pile of leafs. That poor thing was completely rusted. With a little research I came up with about everything all of you have posted. I broght that poor thing back to life. It cooks like new.

    I used a medium corse steel wool to get the tough rust off and rinsed. Placed it on the middle rack of self clean oven (put a cookie sheet that you don’t use under it on the next shelf below to catch the gunk). I set the cylce for 2 hours. After the cycle has completed let it completely cool. I rinced it off and lightly brushed off the loose material. I put 70/30 vinegar to water in a container large enough to submerge the entire skillet. Left it set for a day. Warning…. too much vinegar will do more damage than good. So be sure to delute. Use gloves on to remove. Rince thoroughly, dry with paper towel and let sit for short time to dry, but not to long. It will start to rust again. Coat the entire skillet with bacon grease or Cristo, place upside down in the oven at 250 degrees for 1.5 hours. (Dont forget the cookie sheet! What doesn’t aborb in the skillet will drip). After the skillet has cooled coat the entire skillet with Cristo, handle too. I repeated the seasoning a few more times after the first.

    You would never have known it was buried in a yard for so many years….

  31. I had a sticky iron skillet from using the wrong oil to season it. I have found the best is grease is lard. I would never cook with lard but it seasons the skillets nicely. I worry about using bacon grease because of the salt and chemicals. Lard may be hard to find but it will keep for a long time if you keep it refrigerated.

    1. You’re totally right Linda. Lard would be best. It can be a bit tricky to find though these days and I’ve had good luck with bacon grease as long as you render it correctly. Thanks for the suggestion!

  32. Hi! I found some old Le Creuset cast iron pots (no enamel) at a thrift store that I would like to get seasoned, but they have wooden handles. Do you think I could still put them in the oven at 250?

  33. We bought a four burner gas griddle grill. The griddle is cast iron. My husband did a horrible job cleaning it the last time. I spent two hours scrubbing it with hot water! Salt and baking soda to get the grease off. The re seasoned. Need to go check on it again. Question is, grill is stored outside with a grill cover over it, not a lid. Would humidity cause it to rust also? Wondering what would be the best way to care for this with it being stored outside? Thank You!

    1. Hey Kenna, yes… moisture will definitely cause it to rust so if that’s the only place you can store it you’ll have to reseason it pretty frequently. :(

  34. We got a cast iron skillet a couple years ago and it is one of the enameled ones…it looks like it is either rusting or the enamel is coming off or both…would it be ok for me to do this to it, to scrub it and reseason it???

    1. Hey Tracey, this process won’t work for enameled cast iron unfortunately. Enameling cast iron makes it slightly easier to maintain but the bad part is that if the enamel chips is pretty impossible to fix. :(

  35. I have an old cast iron skillet thats been past down for several generations. The problem is that suddenly I have a large hairline crack that goes all the way thru the pan. I found this out when i poured oil in it to fry chicken. All of a sudden I had oil pouring out the bottom thru the crack. Is there any way to fix this or is it a lost cause?

    1. Clean all oil off of the pan (Dawn works best) and take it to a blacksmith. You can barter with the Amish or Mennanites, the craft is alive and well with them.

  36. The 250 degree with bacon fat method of seasoning works, but it isn’t as good of seasoning as other methods. The best that I have found is to heat the pan in a 200 degree oven, pull it out and wipe it with a very thin layer of Crisco. Stick it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, and pull it out and wipe it out again to remove any fat that has pooled. Now stick it in the oven at 500 degrees for an hour.

    The 500 degrees turns the fat into a polymer layer which is what makes it non stick. The 250 degree method works, but the polymerization takes a lot longer to achieve.

    Cast iron myths:

    Myth: Washing a cast iron pan with soap will ruin the seasoning.
    True or False?: False, in most cases. A well-seasoned pan will be armored with a reasonably tough, near-plastic layer of polymerized cooking fat and carbon, capable of withstanding cooking temperatures of several hundred degrees. Although normally unnecessary, washing with warm water and regular dishwashing liquid using a non-abrasive pad or scrubber will not materially affect a well-established seasoning. Cast iron pans should not be left submerged in water, however, and certainly should never be put through an automatic dishwasher cycle, regardless of how well-seasoned they are.
    Origins: The prevalence of lye as a soap-making ingredient pre-20th Century is a possibility. Also, a very basic initial seasoning may well be removed by a scrubbing with dish soap.

    Myth: The best, easiest way to clean build up from a cast iron pan is to burn it off in a fire.
    True or False?: False. While fire will indeed typically completely remove build up, intense heat will often damage the pan, either by warping or cracking it, or by potentially altering the molecular structure of the iron, making it irreversibly scaly.
    Origins: Most likely from frontier era camp cooks who would have had no other way to refurbish heavily encrusted pans.

  37. Hello, Nick!
    I received a vintage griswold skillet from a lady who used either lye or electrolysis to strip the pan. She then used a thin layer of Crisco to season it. The pan is already a nice black color.
    Like you, I personally would use a natural fat (bacon grease, tallow, real lard) to season my pan. I would NEVER use Crisco, Pam spray, etc. in my kitchen.

    I am wondering what I should do to begin using my pan. Should I be concerned about the Crisco getting in the way of the seasoning I want? Should I simply begin with a good scrub with salt and hot water or soap and hot water?

    Thanks for any advice you may have!

    1. Crisco provides a good durable base season once polymerized. Just add to it with what ever fats you normally use.

  38. Someone gave a cast iron skillet for Christmas once. I didn’t know anything about them, so like I do with every new kitchen utensil I cleaned it before using it… with soap.. I stored it and one day when I see it, it was completely brown. I thought I ruined it, so threw it away :’ ( When I saw in pinterest that I could clean it, I was mad, lol. I threw it away before even using it once.

  39. I bought a ten inch Griswold skillet that appears to be nickel or chromium plated. The first time it was washed, the water ran red with rust even though the surface is smooth and a light gray color with so suggestion of rust or pitting. Any explanations? Or, suggestions as to future care?

  40. Just a note for those of you concerned about lye, my grandmother made hominy in her cast iron using lye and while it definately removes the seasoning (no there was no black residue in the hominy) it never hurt them; she just reseasoned them afterward with a coating of either bacon grease or lard which she always had on hand. I make cornbread and pineapple upside down cake in mine all the time and it doesn’t stick.

  41. I put some Crisco into my cast iron skillet to heat before frying and found grease all over my stove. Seems that there is a crack in the skillet. Is there any way to fix it so that it can still be used?

  42. I inherited a cast iron pan from my grandma. I really don’t think she ever seasoned it. the question I have, is on the OUTSIDE of the pan, it’s crusty. should I use the same method to try to get the crust off, as recommended for the inside?

    1. Hey Debbie! Yes. You definitely can. Cast iron skillets are the same material throughout so you can scrub and reseason the outside as well as the inside. When I do mine, I usually do both just because it’s such a process… I just do the whole skillet when I do it! Good luck!

  43. I just got several skillets from a man who was moving. They have not done anything with them for some time and have mostly surface rust. I was thinking of using a wire brush on a drill to get it off before doing further cleaning and seasoning.
    I will probably season them on my outdoor grill when I get to it.

  44. I mentioned to another poster how I bought a Paula Deen pre-seasoned Dutch oven that turned everything black and stunk horribly. Anyway, it eventually quit doing that over the years, but it sticks horribly. I put it in the wood stove like I do my other skillets (which turn out beautifully) and this thing looks AWFUL, like a Lava rock. It turned red and blue and is as rough as a cob. I assume it’s cheap made metal and needs trashed for a good brand. Now to my question, which brand is good? Thank you in advance.

    1. Hey Susie, I’m a big fan of all Lodge cast iron products. They are exceptional and not ridiculously expensive. Another option though is that you can frequently find great, old cast iron skillets at yard sales and stuff and with a little reseasoning and TLC they can be brought back to life!

  45. It take’s me one hour to read all the messages and was very interested because I buy 3 cast iron about 15 years ago and now I know to use them thank you very much. I live in France.

  46. I have some cast iron skillets that belonged to my Mom and they were left in a storage shed and are now coated with lint or dust lint, does anyone have a suggestions of getting them back to normal. These pans are almost 70 years old and I want to pass them on to my Granddaughter. Thanks for anyones help.

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