How to Clean a Rusty Skillet

How to Clean a Rusty Skillet. Don't toss that pan - a little elbow grease (and some real grease) is all it takes to bring a rusty cast-iron or steel skillet back to life.

  1. Assess the degree of rust on the skillet. If the rust forms only a thin coat on the outside, then the skillet can be saved. If the rust has penetrated deeper than about 1/8 inch, then it's probably doomed.

  2. Use a steel scouring pad or a copper mesh scouring pad and a heavy-duty scouring powder mixed with hot water to scrub the skillet.

  3. Scrub the entire skillet vigorously. If it still has some old "seasoning," or glazed-on oil, scrub this off as best you can.

  4. If necessary, use a variable-speed drill fitted with a wire brush attachment to clean out and smooth deeper pockets of rust. This can also be used to clean the entire skillet.

  5. When all the rust has been scrubbed off, wash the skillet well with regular soap and water, then rinse it in several changes of water.

  6. Dry the skillet in a hot oven for at least 20 minutes and allow to cool completely.

  7. Season the skillet well before using. (See "How to Season a Cast-Iron Skillet," under Related eHows, for instructions.)

  8. Tip

    Rust is a common affliction of cast-iron cookware and older steel pots. As long as the rust is not too pervasive it can be scrubbed off. Make sure all the rust has been scrubbed off and rinsed away. Season the pan properly with vegetable oil immediately after it's been cleaned. Seasoning coats the pan with a glaze of baked-on oil that will protect it from rust in the future.