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Feb 1, 2011 04:01 PM

Cast Iron Problem

The bottom of my new Lodge Logic cast iron pan is all rusted after it was placed on top of a pot that had water in it. The cooking surface is still good, just the bottom was rusted. I tried to get some of the rust out with salt and water, but now it looks stripped and stained. Can my pan be fixed? Or should I make my husband buy me a new one--even though he denies he put it on the pot with water?

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  1. Don't make your husband buy you a new one. A bit stripped and stained is perfectly fine as long as you cleaned up the rust. There is two approach from here on. One method is to keep using the pot. The external/outer surface will eventually season itself as you use it more and more. Oil will accidentially get spill out. Another way is to intentionally season the bottom of the pan. Put a very thin layer of oil (very thin) and then put it in oven at ~400-450 oF for 30 minutes to an hour. You may repeat the step.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      What Chemicalkinetics said is exactly what I would do. Cast iron rusts all the time when not used or stored away and neglected. Some of the best cast iron I have seen was left in an old barn or storage shed. Completely rusted. Just clean off the rust, wash it off, make sure it is good and dry, coat it with grease ( a very thin layer) and bake in oven on about 400 degrees for about an hour)
      Though yours is only rusted on the bottom, I would still grease up the whole pan, inside and out. Never hurts to apply another layer of coating on the cooking surface. Also you don't want to risk baking off the coating you already have on the iside.

      Just warm your pan slightly and wipe it down all over with thin layer of ( I use lard, bacon grease or shortneing) then wipe off any excess grease (very important) then put it in your oven.

      It will be good as new!

      1. re: dixiegal


        Ditto to Chem and Dixie posted above.

        There are few things more satisfying during a cold, snowy winter to spend sometime seasoning some cast iron.

        Maintaining your cast iron cookware involves little more than cleaning it an then drying it on the stove top or in the oven and coating with a very light coat of oil while the pan is still warm. I dab a little canola oil on a folded paper towel, rub the inside (and sometimes the outside of the pan. I feel the iron surface with my hand to see if I have too much oil, if so, I wipe it out with a cloth rag which avoids paper towel lint sticking to the oiled cast iron.

        1. re: redrako

          Can you recommend a cloth rag that doesn't leave lint sticking to the oiled pan? I can't find any paper towels or cloth rags that don't leave lint behind.

          1. re: iyc_nyc

            I use old tee shirts. They've been washed so many times that they no longer put off many threads (lint) and my spouse is happy to not have to look at them. :)

            1. re: redrako

              ahh, have many t-shirts but they all shed!

              also, is it true that certain synthetic cloths -- e.g., microfiber -- can melt if put on a hot pan, as when using it to wipe on/off oil when seasoning?

            2. re: iyc_nyc

              I don't have problems with paper towels, at least not on carbon steel, which I use more than Lodge cast iron.

      2. Why worry about the rust? I doubt if the rust is deep; more likely just orange color that is more obvious when dry. It isn't going to harm you. I'd just use it.

        1. If you can use it as an excuse to get hubby to buy you a new one, more power to you, but get something of a different size because the one you already have is fine. Cast iron is, for all intents and purposes, indestructible. Just scrub off the rust and forget about it. Since the rust is on the outside, you can use a piece of steel wool or a scrubber or whatever is needed to do the job. If you want to oil it, or even re-season it as suggested by others, that's fine, but not really necessary.

          Why was the pan in another pan with water in the first place? I hope you weren't putting it the sink to wash it. NEVER NEVER NEVER WASH A CAST IRON PAN. When finished with it, just wipe out and put away. If there are bits of food charred and clinging to the inside, you can scrape them or even heat the pan and throw in a tiny bit of water to deglaze it, then wipe and add a touch of oil before putting away.

          5 Replies
          1. re: johnb

            It is perfectly fine to hand wash your cast iron. I have done it for over 30 years and my mom and grandmother long before that. Heck I will even scrub it with steel wool if necassary. I will say that I never leave the pan in water for very long but I will boil some water with a top on to help dissolve whatever is baked on. If that doesn't do it for me, I get the stainless steel wool pad after it. If the pan looks as if I scrubbed a little too much, I will grease it up and pop it back in the oven for a while.

            As for scrubbing off the rust and not reseasoning it. I disagree with that. For it is going to immediately rust again. Not only would I recommend reseasoning and baking the oil/grease on, I advise doing it more than once to get a good coating back on it.
            Rust left on iron long enough will pit the metal. Rust is like cancer to metal, it eventually eats it up.

            1. re: dixiegal

              Just one more thing - I do use water on my cast iron and dry immediatly; however I had a pan that started to rust and found that my husband had been going me one better and using Dawn on it. You can't beat Dawn for degreasing! We just seasoned it again with a bit of oil and put it in a hot oven and it is as good as new.

              1. re: dixiegal

                Though in my experience, cast iron pans get enough grease drips on the outside without needing an intentional outside seasoning. I just focus on treating the inside right, and keeping the outside dry.

                1. re: dixiegal

                  "Rust left on iron long enough will pit the metal. Rust is like cancer to metal, it eventually eats it up."

                  Is this true of flash rust as well? and does rust engender more rust?

                  1. re: dixiegal

                    ditto to what Dixie said. I almost always wash with some soapy water, immediately dry over a stove top flame and lightly oil.

                    The proverbial cast iron skillet that your grandmother used was often used everyday for years. The pre-seasoning that Lodge provides or subsequent seasonings that we do, only provide a fraction of seasoning that those legendary pans had.

                    Having restored a few pieces, I can personally vouch for how quickly naked cast iron will rust. Right now most parts of the U.S are experiencing cold temperatures, so it's the perfect time to grease up your cast iron and bake some seasoning on.

                2. If you find flash rust quickly appearing after you have removed the rust, try putting some vegetable oil onto some steel wool. Give it a quick scrub to remove the flash rust and wipe off with a paper towel.

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: SanityRemoved

                    But doesn't that leave steel wool particles that are hard to completely wipe off w/o running under water, which then creates more flash rust? sigh, can't figure out this vicious cycle unless okay just to cook with the flash rust and hope it seasons over time. Was just worried that any rust, including if covered over w/seasoning, would impact the integrity of the pan.

                    Is it bad to have steel wool particles in one's food or is it okay in small doses? I also have yet to find a paper towel or cloth towel that doesn't leave tiny particles or lint on CI when wiping it dry or wiping it with oil - maybe my CI is simply not smooth enough.

                    1. re: iyc_nyc

                      i wash with a plastic brush & rinse in water. dry with a towel and then put on the stove on low heat to make sure all the water gets evaporated. i'd rather eat a small particle of lint vs. bits of steel wool :)

                      1. re: drewskiSF

                        Thanks.. Was responding to SR re: wiping off rust with steel wool/oil - find that paper towels will leave lint on the oiled CI when trying to wipe off the steel wool dust!

                      2. re: iyc_nyc

                        any steel wool you get on the pan would be rinsed off with hot water and a brush- then like everybody else says, set it on a hot burner for a minute or five to dry- end of problem. If your cast iron is that bumpy I'm not sure what you should do other than start over- I mean, does it have crevices and deep pits? Did it cost less than a dollar? Good cast iron isn't that difficult- a few tricks, maybe, but really pretty easygoing, and you don't have to avoid water like you seem to think you do.

                        1. re: EWSflash

                          Thanks. It's Lodge and vintage ERIE and Griswold.. Rinsing off w water leads to flash rust every time, no matter how fast i move from sink to stove!

                          1. re: iyc_nyc

                            Outside or inside? The internal surface should not rust. It may need a few more seasoning sessions.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              2nd. sounds like the seasoning has worn off.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                both! received pans with rust on them, so now caught in my little vicious cycle, trying to remove rust with steel wool to season with rust free bare CI >> then need to remove the steel wool dust/particles but the only way i've found to remove the dust thoroughly is under water >> flash rust forms (instantly) >> try to remove with steel wool >> cycle repeats again.

                                i posted about this once before but since sanity brought it up again.. i thought i'd try again..

                                1. re: iyc_nyc

                                  Ok. You are not talking about rusting during cooking. You are talking about flash rusting during cleanup for the seasoning. You are saying is that as soon as you remove the rust from the cookware, presumably with water and soap, new rust quickly form before you have a chance to season the surface?

                                  What I will do is to remove as much rust as possible with whatever method you are comfortable first even if you use water. A thin layer of rust will form, but that is ok. For the very last step, use a paper towel, oil and some salt. Basically you are using the salt as the abrasive, the paper towel as the vehicle and the oil as the lubricant. You may not able to remove every single rust, but you will able to remove much of it. Then you are left with an oily pan with salt all over. Now raise it with water. Yes, water. Don't wash, just rinse. It is ok, because the oil basically coated the surface. The water is to simply dissolve the salt and remove it from the cookware.

                                  Now, you can put it in the oven to season. You don't have to do this is subsequent steps.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    okay - let me try try that.. so i shldn't worry about the tiny bits of residual rust pitting the iron/getting worse over time (per comment earlier in this thread)?

                                    1. re: iyc_nyc

                                      Ok, let me also try to phrase this again.

                                      For seasoning: it is best to remove as much rust as possible before seasoning because a seasoning surface building on top of rust is not stable. Now, it is impossible to absolutely remove every bit of rust, but try to do a reasonable good job.

                                      For cooking: After the cookware has been seasoned, it may occasionally have small amount of rust appears. If so, you can do what you described: rub the rust off with a oiled paper towel. However, if this occurs often, then you may want to reapply the seasoning. No need to strip the original surface off. Just wipe another layer of oil and bake it in the oven. Now, if the rust only happening at the interior surface on the bottom of the cookware, then you may season it on stovetop, which is faster and easier.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        hey chem, got it the first time -- tk my reply wasn't clear! just wanted to make sure it was okay to have a 'bit of rust' left - i tk you are saying that's fine.. so that's helpful!

                                        1. re: iyc_nyc

                                          :) Actually, I don't fully understanding. You are simply referring the flash rust while you are in the middle of seasoning steps, right? You don't mean you have rust now that you are cooking, right?

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Hey Sanity (if you're still on this thread): can you help out here?

                                            Sanity wrote (above):"If you find flash rust quickly appearing after you have removed the rust, try putting some vegetable oil onto some steel wool. Give it a quick scrub to remove the flash rust and wipe off with a paper towel.. "

                                            That's what I was originally responding to bc that seems to happen to me. So not rust when I am cooking, but in b/w cooking when I'm trying to remove rust thoroughly using steel wool - whenever I use steel wool I then need to remove the residual steel wool dust, which I've only been able to do effectively using water -- leading to what appears to be flash rust again!

                                            Paulj below may be right -- but I actually am pretty careful to scrub off all the rust down to the shiny iron --to a fault, actually! But hopefully I'm wrong and Paul is right, bc that would make my life easier. I have read elsewhere (can't remember where) that rust forms instantaneously even if you can't see it right away - it's a chemical reaction I thot right when the iron comes together with air and water --? Chem might have to correct me here..

                                            1. re: iyc_nyc


                                              Ok. If you are using steel wool to remove rust, it may very well remove the seasoning surface as well. A gentler procedure is to use paper towel or cloth towel dipped in oil and salt to remove the rust.

                                              Paul is correct that there are many different forms of iron oxide. Some is very desirable. One particular is called black oxide or black rust. A lot of knife lovers here intentionally pursue achieving this black oxide (patina) on their knives. However, red rust is not good. It weaken the surface and it will flake off. Yes, iron oxide form readily fast. The goal is prevent massive formation of red rust.

                                              Ultimately, I think you should re-season these questionable spots.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                I'm Andrew Chang and I approve this message.

                                                with the flash rust try the oil & salt mixture which will both remove the rust and help to season the cast iron. use the steel wool or sandpaper for heavier rust issues.

                                              2. re: iyc_nyc

                                                Rust isn't that fast. Do you have a carbon steel knife around the kitchen? It can used to cut wet things, even acidic items like a lemon, washed at bit later and dried, and not develop rust. It may stain from acidic items, but the rough rust that eats away at the steel takes some real neglect.

                                      2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        I doubt if this 'flash rusting' is really rusting. More likely the cleaning is not removing the rust. Once the wet rust dries, it changes color, become the bright orange we associate with rust.

                                        There are several types of iron oxide. The problem, in the long run, with the type we call rust, is that it is porous and flakes, allowing more rust to form underneath. Other forms form a stable coating, and sometimes are intentionally created for this purpose. I remember on skyscraper in downtown Chicago with such a fish, a dull red if I recall correctly.

                                        If the pan is kept dry, the rust should not get deeper. In humid conditions it may be hard to keep it dry.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          What Chem says about dealing with the flash rust sounds good. Wish I had read it before. It took be a bit to realize what the term "flash" rust is. But I did deal with it a month or so ago when I was re-doing and old neglegted skillet of mine. I baked it at high temps for a long time to get the seasoning brittle enough to scrub off. This took a few days of baking pan and scrubbing down to the bare metel. In the process, I did experiance the flash rust. What an amazing thing. This rust would form before your eyes on a completely heated dry iron pan. No way could I beat the rust, so I gave it a final wash then dried then warmed in the oven and began the greasing baking process. Yep, had to go right over the thin coating of rust. Now this wasn't rust you could feel, just enough rust to turn the pan a slight brown color. I probably could have go more of it off and kept it off long enough to season had I done the oil/salt scrubbing thig. Anyway, it worked out ok. It took several layers of grease to cover the pan like I wanted but it is fine now.

                                          I just used paper towels to coat the grease on. This is a very old pan and it is perfectly smooth. So no problems with bits of paper.

                                          My not so smooth pans, I will only warm enough to help spread the grease and I put it on with my hands. Once completely covered, I will then wipe with a paper towel or cloth. If it a newer and very rough pan, I might only pat the excess grease off and then rub with my hands again to even it out. I will repeat until I feel like the grease is thin enough. I have also heard that some will use a basting type brush to brush on the oil/grease. But you still have to find a way to get off the excess.

                                2. re: iyc_nyc

                                  A little lint will also burn off and not hurt you. ;-)