When you search the internet for how to restore a cast iron skillet you will find as many different options and opinions than “Carter’s got liver pills”.  Some of the more popular methods I have found include using vinegar, oven cleaner, using a self cleaning oven, using a wire wheel with a drill  or even “throw it in the fire!”.  I will have to admit that I was curious and did try the throw it on the fire method.  You definitely have to be careful or you will ruin a perfectly good skillet by getting the iron too hot.

How do you go from rusty to “Good as New?”

Rusty skillet and lid
Cast Iron Skillet

Everybody seems to have their favorite methods and some are fiercely loyal to their choice.  I’m not saying that any method is wrong, they all seem to work well if you use them correctly, but I have my favorite “go to” methods that work for me,  Depending on the condition of the skillet I use an electrolysis tank and/or a lye bath.  I have included some videos below from some people who are much better at visually explaining these methods than I am.  You can find more videos on my Cast Iron Restoration Videos page.

To remove rust i use an electrolysis tank made from items I already had around the house.  

I have a manual (not automatic) battery charger, a plastic storage tote to hold the water solution, some rebar, an old mower blade and a broken shovel.  Not nearly as elegant as what you will see in the videos below, but I’m cheap and it works.  You make an electrolyte solution by mixing sodium carbonate with water at the rate of one heaping tablespoon full of sodium carbonate per one gallon of water.  Sodium Carbonate can be found as Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda.
The first video is from Florida Urban Homesteading.  You can find them on theirYouTube channel:  Florida Urban Homesteading

Please check out this video by TheCulinaryFanatic on YouTube.  His name Jeffrey B. Rogers and he knows his stuff.   You can also find him on his Facebook page.  This is the first of a three part series where The Culinary Fanatic builds his electrolysis tank.  One thing you will find out about The Culinary Fanatic is that when he does something, he does it very well.  

To remove layers of built up grease, old seasoning (especially on skillets with an unknown history) and other assorted crud I use a lye bath.  Similar to the way I set up my electrolysis tank, I used items from around the house.  I use a plastic storage tote to hold the water and lye solution.  Always use 100% sodium hydroxide crystals at the rate of 1 pound to 5 gallons of water, I use Roebic Crystal Drain Opener.  You need to add the crystals to the water not the other way around.  Adding water to the crystals will cause a chemical reaction and it may boil up and splash on you.

This video come from the Third Street Kitchen channel on YouTube.


After you get your skillet all cleaned up you will want to season it.  Check out how to season and care for your cast iron skillet.   Also check out how to clean your cast iron skillet.

Feel free to leave comments below.  Tell me how you restore your cast iron skillets.


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