How to Get Rust off Cast Iron Skillet with Vinegar

No one likes to play favorites when it comes to rating the performance of their cookware. But, there is no doubt that cast iron is a top-notch resource for any good cook. 

However, a significant challenge in owning such a kitchen resource arises in cleaning it when it’s full of rust.

Fortunately, we look at how to get the rust off cast iron skillet with vinegar:

How to Get Rust Off Cast Iron Skillet With Vinegar

Before you start this cleaning process, evaluate the rust damage on the cast iron cookware.

If the amount of rust on the skillet is minimal, consider skipping this vinegar cleaning process. 

You could use a conventional kitchen scrubber and some hot water to clean the pan.

However, if the rust damage on your skillet is extensive, consider using vinegar. That is because it’s safe for cast iron products. 

Vinegar is often highly acidic, and you have to be cautious when using it on your cookware.

Furthermore, it’s a product that companies extract using safe procedures like fermentation. 

Such properties make it notoriously reliable in relieving the elbow grease in cleaning cookware. The things to consider for this cleaning process include:

Items Required:

  • Vinegar
  • Water (warm and cold)
  • Containers or washing trough
  • Kitchen scrubbers
  • Seasoning
  • Gloves
  • Measuring cup
  • Dish soap
  • Towel
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cooking oil

The Steps to Remove Rust from Cast Iron Skillet with Vinegar

Follow these steps to get the rust off cast iron skillet:

  1. Measure the Water and Vinegar

Vinegar is an acidic kitchen product, and you have to use it with caution. Start by measuring equal parts of water and vinegar into a container. 

Then place the skillet pan in the wash container or trough. The acidic properties of vinegar make it a good cleaning product for cookware material. 

It works well for removing rust buildups, soap scum, and various other forms of impurities. You can use any vinegar for this process, and many people prefer the white type. 

That is because white vinegar is the most effective for cleaning cast iron cookware. 

However, apple cider, balsamic, malt, and various other vinegar types come from fermentation procedures.

Therefore, these are much safer alternatives than using white vinegar products.

  1. Soak the Rusty Cast Iron Skillet 

Submerge the cast iron skillets in the vinegar-water mixture. Let it sit in the vinegar mixture for a few hours, and then check back on it regularly. 

That is because the vinegar requires some time to break down the rust.

Plus, the efficiency of the vinegar in breaking down the rust depends on various factors. These include the level of rust damage and the vinegar quality you used for this process. 

Once the rust has come off, remove the pan from the trough. Then, place it on a cool and dry surface for the following procedure.

  1. Scrub the Pan

As the pan is still dry, get a gentle kitchen scrubber or brush and start cleaning the skillet’s surface. 

Do it gently to avoid smudging stains on the structure of the pan or compromising the seasoning in the skillet. Once you are through cleaning, rinse the pan thoroughly.

Use hot water to clean the pan because it works well to remove impurities. Finally, re-clean the pan using some soap and warm water. 

Do this to help reveal the effectiveness of the cleaning process you have just applied.

  1. Let the Pan Sit and Dry

Once you are finished with rinsing the skillet, let it sit in a cool and dry place for up to one hour. 

Then, check back on it, and determine the effectiveness of the cleaning process. Any instance of rust or damaged skillet materials can pose a severe health threat. 

Observe the pan for any signs of damage or even pitting due to exposure to the vinegar carefully. 

If you notice any large chunks of rust still clinging to the pan, then you might have to repeat this process.

  1. Season the Pan

The rust-cleaning process you applied probably took a considerable toll on the surface of your skillet.

That is because the traditional skillet has a delicate surface that contains seasoning products

So, you have to find ways to ensure it won’t impact any unusual flavors to your meals due to such a process. 

The best recommendation is for you to season the pan using traditional kitchen ingredients. 

An oven would work well for this skillet seasoning process. Preheat the oven to up to 300 degrees, and then place some aluminum foil on the rack. 

The foil will help catch any drips of oil that might cause a mess. 

Apply some oil all around the cast iron skillet, and then set it upside down over the foil. Let the pan sit in the oven for up to 40 minutes for the best results. 

If the pan has lots of damage, apply a second layer of oil. That is because it will help improve the oven efficiency in seasoning the skillet.

  1. Store the Pan

Storage is an essential factor to consider after cleaning your pan. That is because leaving your pan in a place with lots of moisture will likely bring back the rust. 

Therefore, you have first to ensure the pan is dry and free from any water before storage. 

The best place to store it would be in a cool, dry, and clean space in your kitchen. However, keep it close enough so that you can check it occasionally for the presence of rust or dirt.

Also read: How To Season Rusty Cast Iron Skillet?

Tips When Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet Pan

Before you clean a skillet using vinegar the right way, you have to be aware of a few helpful things:

How to Remove Old Seasoning from a Cast Iron Skillet

The seasoning on a cast iron cooking component often features polymerized oil. The oil helps ensure the meals you like preparing don’t impart a bad taste on the skillet surface. 

The coating develops when you heat the pan and helps protect your meals from unusual flavors from the metal.

Lye is a popular term people use for sodium hydroxide, which works well for removing polymerized oil.

It’s a common product for various procedures, including soap preparation. 

However, such properties mean that you have to be cautious when using Lye for cookware. 

Some Lye products are strong and can cause severe chemical burns. So, find ways to handle it just like you would with a hot pan. 

While it’s a delicate substance, it works well for removing seasoning on a cast iron pan. In addition, it’s less likely to damage the pan structure or lead to pitting issues.

Heavy-duty gloves will also be helpful for this process. That is because they protect your hands from the Lye you plan on using for the cleaning.

Tips for Preventing Rust

Once you are through cleaning your pan, realize that it might be prone to rusting again. A few helpful tips to stop such issues might include:

  • Ensure you keep the pan dry thoroughly after cleaning. A good recommendation is to clean the pan after use or pat it dry with a towel.
  • Store the pan in a cool and dry place after cooking.
  • Avoid using abrasive scrubbers on your pan. A better alternative is to soak it in some warm water and then clean it using a brush with soft bristles. 
  • Avoid cleaning your cast iron cookware in dishwashers. Instead, do the cleaning process manually so that you won’t compromise the pan’s materials.
  • Avoid leaving stubborn stains from meals on your pan for long durations. Such issues can compromise the quality of the cast iron and seasoning. 


Need to know common questions that people ask about removing rust from cast iron skillet? See here.

Does Vinegar Hurt Cast Iron Pans?

Vinegar can hurt cast iron pans if you fail to use the correct measurements or specific vinegar product. 

In addition, highly acidic products such as white vinegar can lead to excessive pitting, which can be irreversible.

How Long Does it Take for Vinegar to Remove Rust?

The length of time vinegar takes to remove rust can be anything between 6 hours to 1 day. 

However, the efficiency of the process depends on the level of rust damage and the quality of vinegar.

Can Baking Soda and Vinegar Help to Clean Rust

Both these products are excellent cleaning agents for rust and dirt.

However, you have to be careful in measuring and using these products to ensure the best results.

What Type of Vinegar Can I Use to Clean a Cast Iron Pan?

You can use various types of vinegar to clean a pan. Ensure that you mix equal parts of vinegar and water for this process to work well. 

Vinegar in its raw form can easily cause damage to the structure of a cast iron pan, which tends to be delicate.

Why Does My Cast Iron Pan Catch Rust?

The pan can catch rust due to various reasons.

The common ones include poor storage, aging, poor quality cast iron material, and various other reasons. 

The best recommendation is to keep a close eye on your cookware to avoid such issues.

Next time you leave a cast-iron skillet unused, you should be aware that it might accumulate rust, which can be tough to remove. 

However, you can use traditional DIY products like vinegar and a scrubber to restore its functionality. 

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Hey there! I'm Sasha, just your regular mom-turned-kitchen-appliances enthusiast. When I gave my kitchen a makeover, I took a shine to new kitchen appliances like Induction Cooktops, Air Fryer, Instant Pot, Microwave, and Oven. I'm always up to some fun experiment, whipping up a storm, and writing about common questions people have about the efficient use of these kitchen gadgets