cleaning a cast iron skillet

Mayfield, KY(Zone 7b)

My mother recently passed away. I found a very unique cast iron skillet I would like to use. It has some rust on it. I put it in my self cleaning oven last night while I was cleaning the oven. When it came out most of the rust had peeled up in sheets but there was still some remaining. It is a cornbread pan with segmented portions. Does anyone know how to remove the rust in a safe manner so I can begin using this pan? I would appreciate any suggestions.

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Hi Janet,

We were just discussing this the other day, let me see if I can
find it, and I'll be right back.

:-) Karen Marie

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Ah, here we go:

Contains links for cleaning cast iron:

A good thread for cooking in cast iron:

More cast iron cooking:

:-) KM

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

Janet, wuvie knows everything! What a wonderful thing to have and use from your mother. My fav is my mom's chip and dip plate, reminds me of parties and laughter, and mom smiling.

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Duplicate post removed.

This message was edited Dec 31, 2009 9:09 PM

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)


My apologies, where are my manners? I am sorry to
hear of the loss of your mother. (((HUG)))

Karen Marie

Mayfield, KY(Zone 7b)

Great information! I knew someone could help me. Thank you all for the kind words also. I am going to give it a try and I will let you all know how it turns out. Thanks!!

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

Just remember to re-season it after you get it clean. I too have cast iron kitchen ware that belonged to my mother and actually some to my great grandmother. My mother's been gone a long time, but every time I use them she's right here with me. (smile)

Lilesville, NC(Zone 7b)

When i see rust on my iron skillet i let is soak in some hot soapy water and then take a brillo pad to it and it comes out sooo nice and then i place it on the stove top to dry it completely out and put a small amount of butter on a paper towel and wipe it all over the inside of the pan.


Mayfield, KY(Zone 7b)

Good idea! Thanks!

Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

NO! God NO, don't use brillo on an iron skillet, you will possibly ruin the skillet and certainly ruin the "seasoning"! Coat it with crisco or lard and put it in the oven at 350 for about a half and hour, wash it in hot soapy water and most of your rust should peel right off. Just repeat "seasoning" it until all the rust is gone. Butter has a lower "flash" point than lard, I don't recommend using that as you could start a fire with it. Iron gets HOT and stays hot. I always wash mine and then towel dry. I store them with paper towels between the surfaces to discourage rust. These skillets are old, I have a 16" that has to be close to 90 years old, as it was my great grandmother's.
The heat from the oven makes the "pores" in the iron open up and absorb the lard which is the seasoning.


The various oils left from use becomes the patina of the iron. To remove them removes the very life of the iron surface. I have a real problem with this because DW is an RN. The iron has all been sent up to the hunting camp. There it is safe. Now it just gets rubbed down with paper and bacon drippings. It never rusts. Most of it was cast at the turn of the century. Some may have never been washed clean so to speak.

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)


If something's stuck on after cooking, I usually add a little water to the skillet, and put it on the burner till the bits are loosened. Then, rub off with a RUBBER scouring pad, using only enough pressure to remove the bits, NOT the oily patina that is the lifeblood of your cast iron.

I hear yah, Docgipe. I had to hide all my cast iron skillets from the DH and the visiting old Auntie who insisted on SCOURING my cast iron with manpowered elbow grease, cleanser and only God knows what else when I wasn't looking!

Yep. They can't hardly find a cast iron skillet. Well, I left them two that they could mess up....but not the good stuff!

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

I'll never forget washing the dishes at an old boyfriend's house.
He leaned over the sink, eyeing the cast iron. He said "If you scrub
the black off, it's over between us." Then he winked.


I have a collection of cast iron pans and pots that began as hand me downs in family about 1960. None of the pieces has ever been washed by soaking in even soapy water. The patina has made the trip all those years with the exception of a few mistakes made by others in our hunting camp.

On occasional badly rusted pieces I use a wire brush in a hand held electric drill and once even sand blasted but that was a last resort. Resetting the patina took years. Using Pam helped hurry up the new cure on harshly treated items. My piece I love the most is a pancake baker with the four sections featuring spades, clubs, diamonds and hearts. It's always a hit at the hunting camp. I have heard of others but have never seen another in my travels through the area antique shops. The markings prove the item was cast in Erie, Pa.

Judsonia, AR(Zone 7b)

Great thread, I never thought about putting the cast iron skillet in the oven when it's set to cleaning mode.

Mom always told me to clean the cast iron after cooking with Cornmeal, throw some cornmeal in the pan and strape it with a metal spatula to get all the gunk off, heat it if you need to. and then wipe it out.

We use our cast iron at the deer camp also. don't use it at home because of the glass top stove.

and I clean it with cornmeal down at the camp so i don't have to wash it that often.


I believe going into the oven in the modern oven cleaning mode would ruin the patina by burning it out. The patina is in fact your own cooking oils and fats from use. It builds up in the pores and just gets better with each use. Doing anything to remove it is going the wrong direction. The build up is bacteria free because of the surface temperatures that creates the patina.

Judsonia, AR(Zone 7b)

Ok, Thanks, I know nothing about keeping cast iron clean, I haven't used any brillo pads on mine but I have soaked it in hot water to get the food crud off it. then cleaned it with a scrubby pad.


When there are no stickers I have always just wiped it out with a paper towel. Grandma used a washed piece of a burlap feed bag. Geese.....there may not be such a thing as a burlap feed bag any more. LOL

Desoto, TX(Zone 8a)

1/4 cup salt and a paper towel will clean all you need. absolutely no water

Nashville, TN(Zone 6b)

Honestly what many people face seems to be that their cast iron isn't yet seasoned enough to clean it by wiping it clean. It's misleading that many pieces are sold 'pre-seasoned', those of us with more history with cast iron know what real seasoned cast iron feels like. The smooth velvety surface that water just beads on and runs across. Many have never seen & experienced it now days or it was so far in the past that they have forgotten.

Sadly I have none of my mother's cast iron, she abandonded it long ago, before I was born in favor of the new flashy non-stick stuff. My grandmother may still have some but she's half way across the country and I have really only seen her a handful of times. I am the norm nowdays though I think. Almost all of my cast iron is newer, made in the last 25 years. They are what I consider to be well made pieces and we are building a history together. I have had to learn by research, trial and error how to care for them and over the years I have fallen in love with them. They will be handed down to my daughter.

I wish DG had a "primitive cookware" furum for those of us in love with the old stuff. I am still exploring & learning about clay pots, stone ware & wooden utensils :)

This message was edited Jan 13, 2010 4:25 PM

Thumbnail by Raihana
Desoto, TX(Zone 8a)

Happened on a show on "How Things are Made" on the Science Channel. Wish they would repeat it. It was first Griswold bought out by Wagner bought out by Lodge. You definitely don't want the pots made in China. They will break almost as easily as pottery. Also recently, saw a show on the same channel about how Le Cruset is made. No wonder it costs so much. Will last 500 years. Every piece is handled by numerous people. Not just machinery.
We purchased one piece at Costco this year. Best pan in the house. It is iron covered with enamel. I think Costco brought it out in response to "Julie and Julia".


The last piece of cast iron I bought was specifically made for baking breakfast or brunch scones. I think I bought if mail order from King Arthur Flour. It had modern no stick coatings and works like a charm. I have never seen a scone cast iron baking pan in my antique shop and sale travels. One would think there should be some hundred year old ones out there somewhere.

Most fun and most tasty dish I like baked in cast iron is an upside down apple or pine apple cake. Now that is down right sinnfull not to overlook stickey buns served warm in the pan. The best of all does not come out of my house oven. I love to bake in the natural wood charcoal grill with the lid on somewhere between four hundred and five hundred degrees.

The last two posters hit the nail on the head. There is but little good Wagner product still available. Much is in collections like ours and not on the market. The china made truely is not the cast iron anyone over sixty five years of age understands. Even the seconds most of which stayed in a seconds market developed in and around Erie do not surface for resale often. I have been in the Wagner plant in Erie, Pa. Later owners have even salvaged their dumps and sold the iron recovered. Most iron waste was simply reprocessed.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

I have an old ten-inch skillet that belonged to my grandmother. Considering the fact that I am retired, that's an old skillet. It's hard for me to keep it seasoned, though, because one of the items I like to cook in it is tomato sauce, and that does seem to strip seasoning off, although it certainly puts lots of iron into the diet! The outside also has an accumulation on it, so I'm considering using the oven cleaning cycle to get it back down to bare iron again.

I also have an old oval Wagner dutch oven, but it's aluminum, which I don't like to use. I take it out only for cooking lasagne noodles and corn on the cob.

Another favorite of mine, though, is my big soapstone pot. It probably holds about ten or twelve quarts and is wonderful for long, slow cooking.

Burbank, CA

wow lots of great ways of removing rust from a skillet here!! Man I am glad you guys can help, I have some rust on some of my skillets as well, albeit, they aren't as old as some of the ones here but they need the rust taken out of them :) Thank you guys!


Your answers to consider are already in this thread.

Missouri City, TX

I remember my first Boy Scout camping trip. We were on the Green River in Utah, and one of the Dads who went with us dragged out a rusted griddle from behind the seat of his Jeep. handed it to a couple of us and told us to take it to the river and use some fine sand to scrub the rust off.

When we returned he set it on the hot log coals and poured a cup,or more of table salt on it and began scrubbing with an old leather glove, then dusted it off and threw on a pound of bacon. As the bacon cooked, he separated and turned the slices with an old long handled fork, When the bacon was almost done he placed the slices on a double layer of paper plates.

While the remainder of the bacon drippings reseasoned the griddle, he made up a pitcher of pancake batter. Those were some tasty pancakes.

After breakfast, he dragged the griddle off the coals and onto the sand to cool, wiped it down and back behind the seat in the Jeep it went.

At a "flea-market" in Denver I bought a double waffle maker for an wood fired old cast iron stove. The vendor told me to clean it with the self cleaning cycle in our oven. Worked great, but set off the smoke alarm, so had to open doors and windows in below freezing weather to silence the alarm and get rid of the smoke and odor - LOL.

Some of these waffle makers only make one, but the one I got has a center divider so when one is cooking on the bottom over the file, the second one on top can be emptied and reloaded for the next one. I remember my mom using one of there to feed a group of about 12 people. It cooks fast, so the cook can really crank them out. Unfortunately, today's stoves are not built to use the old ring system that was on those stoves, so it sits idle now.

Clinton Township, MI(Zone 5b)

Here is two cents worth of engineering, science nerd advise:

Since you don't seem to remember the pan you found and it is was really rusted (layers of ferrous oxide), the pan probably hasn't been used in years, possibly decades, and after cleaning it will have to be treated like a new cast iron pan and re-seasoned.

Cast iron is strong, and although extreme and WAY more than you will need, cast iron pans can be sand blasted without harming the integrity of the pan in the least (although the resulting pan in light-colored like aluminum, cast iron only turns dark through repeated high-heat treatments like cooking) and it removes any built-up seasoning.

Given this, go ahead and use a Brillo pad on it to remove the rust, it will not harm the pan. After the pan is re-seasoned and gets it's slick surface back, you can still use a Brillo pad on stubborn, stuck-on food, although a well-seasoned pan should not stick. You would have to have a bionic arm to produce enough force and friction to completely remove a well-seasoned surface (I love folklore, but prefer science)! The miniscule stratches a Brillo pad may produce on a well seasoned pan will be filled in when you prep the pan for storage anyway. An even better choice than steel wool would be a brass scrubbing pad. Brass is stronger than stuck-on food but way softer than cast iron. I could go on but have probably put most people to sleep already.

One of my most treasured pieces is a cast-iron Lodge bacon and eggs pan that says 'patent pending' on it from my grandma. Slick as ice, and still cooking up a storm!

OK, I looked and saw when this was originally posted (responses are recent), assuming you already cleaned the pan. What was the result and how did you clean the pan?

This message was edited Feb 11, 2010 2:14 AM

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or sign up to post.