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How To Restore Cast Iron

before and after pics of cast iron restoration


In today’s post I’m going to show you how to bring a rusted old cast Iron skillet back to cooking condition.

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Cast Iron cook ware seems to be a staple on any off grid homestead, but more and more people are choosing cast Iron for it’s many benefits. Picking up old cast iron at a swap meet, yard sale or estate sale is an inexpensive way to have some cast iron cook ware of your own, but many times these pieces may not be in ideal shape for cooking.

An old badly rusted cast iron skillet
an old rusted cast iron skillet

There are many ways to remove rust from cast iron. This post isn’t a list of the different ways to do it. This is the process I’ve found to be the quickest and simplest. This process works great and can be done in a few hours depending on how much time you want to spend seasoning the skillet.

Removing the rust

The first step is removing the rust from the skillet. I use a wire wheel attachment on an angle grinder.

Cordless angle grinder with wire wheel attachment
Cordless angle grinder with wire wheel attached

I use two different size wires when removing rust from cast iron. One has thick wires and I use it first to get the heaviest rust off then I switch to a wheel with smaller wires to finish the skillet.

Wire wheels
Two types of wire wheels I use

Click the pic below to check current prices of wire wheel brushes for angle grinders

here are some wire wheel sets for drills to check out.

If you don’t have an angle grinder you can use a drill but it will take more time and more elbow grease because a drill doesn’t spin with the same rpm’s as an angle grinder. Check angle grinders on amazon below.

The trickiest part about removing the rust with an angle grinder can be getting into tight angles on the piece, but I’ve found that’s usually only a problem on the handle where there is a hole to hang the piece on a hook.

Rust being removed from cast iron skillet with wire wheel attached to an angle grinder
Removing rust from the skillet with my angle grinder

Once you’ve removed the rust with the wire wheels you will need to remove the light layer of rust dust from the piece. This is easily done with a rag and some white cleaning vinegar.


Once the piece is cleaned it’s time to heat it up. I clean cast iron in the winter so I can perform the seasoning process on the wood stove. This way I’m not using any propane or electricity. I’m already using the wood to heat the house. Now the wood stove is pulling double duty.

Cast iron skillet after rust has been removed
Cast iron skillet is now rust free

Set the cast iron on the wood stove and heat it up to the point witch you can lightly touch it without burning yourself, but you can’t leave your finger on the skillet (do this test on the upper edge of the skillet not in the bottom of the skillet).

Once the cast iron is hot enough add a 1/2 teaspoon of oil. I use olive oil, but any cooking oil will work. Remove the skillet from the heat and begin rubbing in the oil with a clean rag. Rub the oil in all over the piece making sure there is only a light layer of oil remaining. be sure to remove excess oil. Now let stand to cool.

Cast Iron skillet with first layer of oil in the seasoning process
First step of the cast iron seasoning process

Now heat the pan again until the layer of oil begins to smoke then add oil and rub it in again. Let it cool and repeat this last step at least three times.

Your cast Iron skillet is now ready to cook with.

Cast iron skillet with seasoning process finished
Cast iron skillet is ready to start cooking with

You should make it a regular practice to perform the last step each time you clean your cast iron. Over time this will improve the seasoning of your cook ware.

About the Author

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My wife and I have lived off-grid since 2013. We moved onto a raw piece of land and began building our off-grid homestead. Almost everything we did was a DIY project. The purpose of this blog is to share what we learned along the way.

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