Removing rust stains :Cast Iron and Carbon Steel Skillets/Woks: Facts & Seasoning tips

Removing rust stains

Removing rust stains


Removing rust stainsrust removal5








Cast Iron  Skillets:

Why they are preferred for certain dishes:

  • Studies have shown that  cooking in iron pots can help reduce the risk of anaemia. When you cook food in iron skillets, it reacts with the metal surface. As a result, iron gets released in the food. This is why green vegetables cooked in an iron wok become darker in colour!
  • Iron pots and pans heat up evenly and keep food warm for a longer time. They are also ideal for slow cooking.

However the following notes to be taken into consideration

  • It is best not to cook in Iron pans every day. Using it only two to three times a week can help to prevent an overload of iron in your body.

  • Sour or acidic foods may react with the iron to create an unpleasant metallic taste. Lemon, Vinegar or Tomato based dishes etc are best cooked in other cookware.

  • It is best not to use dish soap at all but if you need to : Wash iron pans with a mild detergent and dry immediately with a kitchen towel. Wipe with a thin coat of vegetable oil all over to protect it from rust.

  • Water and other fluids should not be stored in iron cookware. Iron reacts with moisture and forms rust. Drinking water will be contaminated. For the same reason, any food cooked in iron cookware should be transferred immediately to a glass or enamel dish.

  • Transferring food to other cookware will keep the food from going dark, and changing in taste as well.

  • Difference between Cast Iron and Carbon Steel woks or skillets.
  • Carbon Steel is lighter, tougher and arguably more responsive to heating/cooling (traditional woks are carbon steel).
  • Widely, Cast Iron  is preferred over carbon steel for everything except the Wok.
  • If seasoned and maintained correctly, both have the same non-stick properties as teflon without the leaching chemicals or flake factor.  
  • Carbon steel is preferred for its ability to heat up rapidly to the correct high temperatures and once well seasoned will have a natural non stick patina surface that lasts.
  • Some Carbon Steel woks come from the store with an anti-rust oil applied to it.Rinse and dry thoroughly over your stove burner.


Seasoning,Cleaning and Preventing Rust on  Carbon Steel:

  • After initial cleaning and wiping dry, Put in two tablespoons of cooking oil [any will do except olive oil, groundnut is preferred]. When the oil is warm rub the interior with a paper towel until the whole surface is lightly coated with oil. Heat the wok on very low burner for about 15 mins wiping occasionally with more oil. You will see it start to darken in colour. This means your wok is becoming seasoned and with use it will get darker and even black.

  • Never scrub your wok after it has become seasoned especially with any harsh cleaners or metal scouring pads. Just wash it gently under the tap with plain hot water and gently wipe off food debris with a sponge or traditionally with a Bamboo brush cleaner.

  • If food has burned on or you think it has to be washed more thouroughly, try to remove food debris as carefully as possible without harsh detergents or scouring pads.  Rinse and dry the inside and outside with paper towels. Then to finish drying, place the wok over a medium heat and ‘burn’ to sterilise it ready for your next cooking session. Wipe the inside of the wok with a small amount of oil and season as before.

  • Always remember to season before storing for any lengthy period of time to avoid rusting. If rust does occur gently remove this by using a little cream cleanser on the spot and then re-season. 

  • Do not put the wok in the dishwasher. If rust appears or it is accidentally cleaned in the dishwasher, simply re-season it, being careful to remove all the rust. The wok will build up a black layer, but don’t worry this will prevent it going rusty and helps the non stick process.

Removing Rust Methods for Cast Iron and Carbon Steel

rust removal

Gentle scrub and rinse

  • Removing rust stains

    Rusty spots all over

    Wash with water and gentle detergent  once. Scrub if needed. Dry completely outside and inside with towel.





  • Add lemon juice or vinegar and a good spoonof salt.rust removal
  • Scrub gently for 10 minutes.You will see the liquid turning dark.





  • rust removalRinse out. Scrub well with steel scrubber(Important:You will never use steelscrubber on the pans once seasoned)
  • Dry well with paper towel. Add lemon juice/vinegar again and Sprinkle Baking Soda all over surface. Allow to sit for a few minutes. Scrub again.
  • Rinse. Dry Immediately with kitchen towel.
    rust removal

    Rust is gone


  • Continue to Season: Place cookware on stove on gentle
  • heat and apply a thin coating of oil all over the surface. Allow to warm up.Wipe with kitchen paper towel till it no longer returns color.
  • Allow to cool. Also apply a thin layer of oil on outsides and store till next use.

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  • After Cooking: Once a wok/skillet is ‘seasoned’ it should never be scrubbed with steel scrubber or You will have to ‘re – season’ from scratch.
  • If food has stuck to bottom Pour water and bring to boil. Add mild detergent and allow to sit, overnight if needed.
  • In the morning, scrub gently with a plastic brush or scrubber. Rinse. Dry. Apply a thin coat of oil each time before setting away  for best results.
  • Over time, with well seasoning your cast iron and carbon steel will give the best non- stick effectiveness and you wont be able to do without them. They last a lifetime.
  • If at any point you want to scrub your woks clean. Do so and repeat the entire process.

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About Shana Shameer

Love Cooking and discovering the very Best recipes out there.

8 thoughts on “Removing rust stains :Cast Iron and Carbon Steel Skillets/Woks: Facts & Seasoning tips

    • You haven’t mentioned your location, but if you have Asian or even easier Indian Markets nearby, ask for a carbon steel ‘kadai’. Asian stores also provide them but it’s harder to ascertain the metal used.

    • I know that in most Indian cities, if you go to any well known stainless steel and iron, COOKWARE Items store and ask for a ‘ Traditional Chinese Kadai’ this is what you will get. Carbon steel is also known in some places as ‘Black Steel’.
      You can ask for the type of Wok/ Kadai that darkens upon heating. Carbon Steel Woks are also rubbed with an oily/ waxy substance. This is essential in keeping the wok rust free. As for the specified locations I am unsure. But Carbon Steel woks are available online as well.
      Hope this helps.

  1. Hey, I’m having trouble sealing my wok, I followed the instructions that came with it, first use, it rusted up. I’ve found this page GREAT! Removed all signs of rust. The bottom side of the wok has gone a blue colour from the heat. I can’t really see any difference inside the wok. What is it supposed to look like? Also, I have one area that keeps smoking and seems to look like its burning but it comes off easily. Is this just a sign of a bad wok? Im not sure what its supposed to look like when it’s seasoned does it matter what kind of cooking oil you use and what kind of cooker you would be heating on?

    • Hi Krystal,

      Sounds like the wok just hasn’t been seasoned completely yet. Once seasoned it should look dark on the inside a not very pretty. It’s okay to have patches that are darker than others though. It should however be very smooth. If you feel some stickiness or burning in hot spots, you want to restart but doing the steel scrubbing once more and seasoning from the beginning.The one area you mentioned that keeps burning up might have some buildup, which is common too. Palm oil is good to use when seasoning. It does not leave a sticky residue that is hard to get rid of. If any residue has developed and the steel scrub and simple soap is not doing the job. Restart seasoning process after cleaning with a gentle oven/stove cleaner. It’s pretty hard to ruin a carbon steel or cast iron wok. Eventually it will get seasoned. Some take a bit more time. I have one wok that is well seasoned and turned totally black in 3 years while another is grey and black in patches after one year but still well seasoned without any problem. I also have a good wok that past 10 years without any trouble whatsoever and it has turned uniformly black and shiny too. If your food does not stick to the wok in the slightest, it’s well seasoned!
      While seasoning the next round, Bring to heat on medium. It should reach max heat before oil is added. And don’t add so much oil that it clots and gets polymerized on the bottom. Best way is to use kitchen towel to wipe the wok all over the inside surface thoroughly.
      Then heat till the color change is complete. Depending on your stove, this might take a while. Also remember to -keep wiping off with clean kitchen towel till no more black residue comes off.
      Do a light seasoning after each cooking session to keep it in best condition till it is ‘stick free’. Use soap as infrequently as possible.
      As for oils used in wok, the ones with a high smoking point are best like rice bran oil and peanut oil. Peanut oil is probably the most popular for wok cooking but can cause issues for those with allergies. Most refined vegetable oils are okay to use. For Asian Wok frying/stirfrying – Remember to add oil to a hot wok and not add the oil and wait till it’s smoking.
      Olive oil and other pungent oils like Mustard oil can be used but the flavor often messes with asian style cooking. Here is a list of smoking points for future reference.
      Hope this has helped in some way.
      Shana (

  2. Greetings! We just bought an iron kadhai and it leaves a black residue on the hand when touched. Had applied oil on it and left it overnight. And i later scrubbed it with steel wool and mild liquid detergent but the black residue is still around :( Do you have any advice on this? Thanks!

    • Hi. Most cast iron or iron products come with some kind of pre seasoning, to prevent rusting prior to being sold from the shop.
      This is a protective coating on them which must be removed. Some companies use a special food-safe wax or water-soluble shellac. Scrub the item with a scouring pad, (I scrub extra vigorously) using soap and the hottest water you can stand. Rinse thoroughly . Then wipe clean with towels. Place on stove to get it as hot as possible. Turn off heat and wipe oil on the inner surface. (thin layer and careful of the hot kadai) . Reheat and repeat by applying another layer of oil. Allow to cool and wipe with another towel.Leave only a very thin layer of grease on the quad before storing. This should remove the blackish residue. Iron pans, if left with water(even droplets) will rust and cause a brownish color to come off of them.. this can be simply re seasoned. If black color persists, I would not trust the product.

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