How To Clean and Season an Old, Rusty Cast Iron Skillet

Apartment Therapy Tutorials

Cast iron skillets get better with age- as long as you're consistently cooking with them, and as long as you don't clean them with soap. If it's been ages since you've actually used your skillet, chances are it's in need of some TLC. Covered in rust, you say? No problem! Reach for these three simple kitchen staples to help you return your pan to its former glory.

What You Need


  • Coarse salt
  • Oil (vegetable, olive- even Crisco works!)
  • 1 potato


Depending on the shape of your pan, this job could get messy. I recommend going outside, or covering your table in newspaper for easy cleanup.

1. Sprinkle a hefty amount of course sea salt into the pan. I used about a half cup to start for my 12" skillet, and added more as needed.

2. Cut your potato so that one half easily fits in the palm of your hand.

3. Place the potato cut side down on top of the salted pan and start scrubbing.

Work your way around the pan in a circular motion, apply a good amount of pressure.

The potato is just moist enough to help the salt work off the rust.

4. Continue to scrub the sides, edges, and bottom of your pan. Don't forget the handle!

The salt will get very dirty very quickly. Depending on the condition of your pan, you may want to rinse the dirty salt out and start over with new, clean salt as you continue the process.

5. Once the pan is clean, rinse with water and pat dry. Place the pan on the stove over low heat for a minute or so to help dry out any remaining moisture.

6. Once dry, pour a small amount of oil in the pan and rub it in with a paper towel until the bottom and sides of the pan are coated. Use a clean paper towel to remove any excess oil.

7. Keep pan over low heat for 30 minutes.

8. Once your skillet has cooled, wipe off any remaining oil before storing away.

To keep your skillet in tip-top shape, repeat the oil/heating process after each time you use and clean your skillet. If possible, store your cast iron in the oven to keep away ambient moisture.

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Re-edited from an original post by Michelle Chin published on 7.29.11.

(Image credits: Ashley Poskin)