How to Restore Rusty Pans

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Metal pans rust when they come in contact with water and are not dried properly. Some rust because of humidity in the storage area and contact with air. The metal pans commonly used for cooking are made of stainless steel, aluminum and cast iron, and all can become rusty. Restore these pans from rust to keep you and your family healthy. Restore rust from cast iron cookware to restore its beauty and value, so you can pass it on to your great-grandchildren.

Things You'll Need

  • Steel wool pad
  • Scouring powder
  • Wet/dry sandpaper
  • Potato slice
  • Dish detergent
  • Paper towels
  • Vegetable oil or shortening
  • Wire brush
  • White vinegar
  • See if your rusty metal pans are nonstick pans. Throw them away if the pans are nonstick to prevent any chemicals from entering your food.

  • Scrub the rust using a steel wool pad and a scouring powder like Comet.

  • Wet your pan and sand the rust away if it is hard to remove with scouring cleansers; use wet/dry sandpaper purchased at a hardware store. Start sanding with a large "grit" or roughness, which has a low number, and work up to a small grit, which has a high number.

  • Scour your rusty metal cookware with a potato slice and dish detergent. Dip the potato slice into scouring powder, then scrub the rust stains.

  • Wash your rust-free pan with detergent and water. Dry it well with paper towels.

  • Season your cleaned metal pan with a thin layer of vegetable oil or vegetable shortening. Pour a little oil or add some shortening and rub it lightly onto the pan's surface with a paper towel.

  • Store your cleaned, seasoned metal pan in a dry area. Cover the pans with a dish towel or paper towels to prevent dust from collecting on the seasoned surface.

Cast Iron Pans

  • Inspect your rusty cast iron pan well before treating it, looking for pits and cracks along the surface. If you find any cracks or pitting, it's too costly to repair them, and your food may still become contaminated. Get rid of it, or remove the rust and use your pan as decoration.

  • Remove as much surface rust as possible with a steel wool pad or a wire brush.

  • Soak your pan in one part white vinegar to 10 parts water for 24 hours to loosen remaining rust.

  • Season your pan after all of the rust has been removed. Coat the pan with vegetable shortening or vegetable cooking oil, then heat it in the oven to make a nonstick finish.

  • Store your clean, seasoned pan in a dry area to prevent future rusting. Soon your cast iron pan will become black and smooth again, lasting for generations.

Tips & Warnings

  • Hand-wash your metal pans rather than use a dishwasher, to prevent rust from forming.
  • Soak pans with Coca-Cola overnight to remove rust.
  • Avoid seasoning your metal pans with butter. Butter becomes rancid quickly.
  • Clean as much rust as possible from the outside of your metal pan, but do not season it. Do not stack it inside of another metal pan to avoid getting it rusty.
  • Switch to stainless steel cookware instead of aluminum cookware if you are also concerned about aluminum getting into your body and possibly causing health problems. According to John Messmer, M.D., associate professor of family and community medicine at the Penn State College of Medicine, "Very little of the aluminum we ingest comes from cookware. In a worst case scenario, a person using uncoated aluminum cookware and storing all food in aluminum containers is likely to absorb about three or four milligrams of aluminum a day."

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