Rust on a Dutch oven is inevitable as, unfortunately, no science has stopped rust from forming on cast iron. So, the onus is ultimately on the owner of the cast iron to clean and restore it. Fear not, as there are several ways you can clean rust off a Dutch oven. All you need to do to remove the rust from a Dutch oven is:
Scrub the surface with a scrubbing brush, steel wool, and water, repeating until completely rust-free. Rinse and dry thoroughly before wiping the entire surface with seasoning oil. Place in an oven or grill at 400 degrees until the oil reaches the smoking point. The oil reacts with the iron, and the surface is seasoned.
Granted, tremendous care should be taken when cleaning rust off an oven, and there is a little more work than that to complete the job. But the prospect of getting the cast iron to look and perform like it was brand new is actually exceedingly high.
That is why Dutch ovens remain popular in the kitchen, centuries after the first Dutch oven was actually used.
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How to Clean Rust off a Dutch Oven
The option you pursue when deciding to clean the rust off your Dutch oven will ultimately hinge on a few things:
- how severe is the rust on the oven is
- how much time do you actually have on your hands
- what resources do you have at your disposal
Outlined below is the “QUICK FIX” and generally the standard way of removing rust from cast iron or your oven.
Followed by other ways of removing rust, which you may prefer to try over the quick fix.
Tools Required to Clean the Rust off Dutch Ovens
- Heat source
- Wire brushes
- Aluminum foil
- Carb soda
Quick Fix for Removing Rust From Cast Iron Dutch Ovens
When removing rust from your Dutch oven, it is always important to know that the cast iron didn’t develop rust in just one day, which is why it can sometimes take an exceedingly long time to remove the very same rust.
Patience is always a virtue when faced with rust removal.
Remove Rust with Wire Brushes
The quick portion of this rust removal fix is to use a cordless drill that would have a wire brush suitable for rust removal at the end of it. This will speed up the first part of any rust removal project.
The drill itself will cost a little more than a wire brush but on the upside, you should be able to use the drill for an extended period for many different projects.
Sure, the wire brush at the end may wear out pretty quickly, too, but if that saves you time trying to remove rust from your Dutch oven, then both are worth every penny.
If you are able to get a drill with a wire brush attachment that should always be your first step if you are looking to save some time removing rust from your Dutch oven.
If you are unable to access a drill and wire brush head it is not the end of the world though, as you can use the wire brush on its own and manually. In this context, the smaller the wire brush, the better.
A smaller brush will allow you to get into all of the tight corners of the Dutch oven. Once you are done scrubbing the rust out of your Dutch oven, the next port of call will be to rinse those contents out with hot water.
You will then put the Dutch oven on your chosen heat source. That could be anything from a burner to a fire or inside a conventional oven. Just make sure that it is hot.
The primary objective of that will be to make sure that you have dried all of the water out of the Dutch oven once you have washed away all of the rust and rinsed the cast iron.
Always remember that moisture is always a source of your rust problems in the first place. Neglecting that piece of information during cleaning will be counterproductive.
Further Cleaning Required
You can apply the sea salt technique outlined below just follow the same routine. If for some reason you cannot find a potato to cut up, you could just use an old piece of leather to get the same job done.
The results should be the same – or similar at the very least. The same principles for rinsing and drying will be adopted once again. Keep at it until you are convinced that all of the rust has been removed.
If you feel the need, you can add some lubricant to the process. Something like cooking oil or water should do the job just fine there too. Make sure the Dutch oven you are using is warm and even hot – especially when you start adding the oil to the process.
If you are struggling, there is also the option to apply some baking soda to your rust-removal process. That is if you are not totally satisfied with your original set of results. Once you have added the baking soda, you can then use some white vinegar.
The combination should bubble or fizz in the same way that it does when you use the same combination to unblock a drain. As would be the case with a blocked drain, you will let the combination set in your Dutch oven for about 10 minutes, at the very least.
When you feel the timing is right, you can then take a little brush or sponge and start scrubbing where the baking soda and vinegar combination started to fizz.
When the liquid starts to turn a rust color again, you definitely know that you are heading in the right direction.
If you get the feeling that there are still deep pockets of rust in your Dutch oven, you can then just pour straight vinegar into the cast iron and let it rest there for about 30 minutes.
Warm the Dutch oven gradually before you do this.
You should start seeing those final pockets of rust popping up in the vinegar – at which point you should know that it has done the job.
For more serious cases, you will have to repeat the process over and over until you are convinced that all the rust has been removed.
You may actually do this for anything between six and eight hours or more. That would primarily be to give yourself some peace of mind. To make you feel like you got the job done.
As you have used a lot of water, natural solvents, scrubbers, etc on your cast iron, it is imperative that you dry it completely, as you do not want the iron wet before you begin the restoration process.
Dry the oven by hand with a towel, then place the oven and the lid over low heat until fully dry.
Alternatively, invert the oven and lid inside a warm conventional oven for 15-30 minutes. This method is quick and easy as you do not need to leave the conventional oven turned on.
Cast-Iron Rust Removal Options
Grill Rust Removal Method
If you have a grill at your disposal, for example, then putting a rusty Dutch oven in that grill to have it cleaned is a more meaningful option. It is also a popular option but one adopted by people who have a few extra hours to spare in a day or even a week, come to that.
Those who pursue this route need to be as even-handed as possible when they go about their work. Rushing towards the complete removal of the rust on your Dutch oven here will be counterproductive, and you will probably end up having to start your work again.
Lye Solution Rust Removal Method
Alternatively, you could place your rusty Dutch oven in a bucket full of lye solution to help remove the rust and crud that normally comes with the territory. Again, you will need a few spare hours in your day or schedule.
Sometimes, adopting this method will require that you do this job overnight. It is a time-consuming process and not always particularly efficient. Nevertheless, it remains an option to try and remove rust.
Electrolysis Rust Removal Method
This method uses science instead of muscle. It is a process called electrolysis, which you can use to remove rust from your Dutch oven.
It is a potentially dangerous exercise, given that you are dealing with electricity and water in the same place at the same time.
So, you ought to be clear on what it is that you are doing and still be careful regardless of how much you think you know when using electrolysis.
There is minimal room for error here, but if and when electrolysis is done right, you will produce outstanding results when removing the rust from your Dutch oven.
It is technically not the most popular method because it requires so much care.
I suggest that if you have a much-loved piece of cast iron and the funds to pay someone to carry it out for you this is the most effective method you can use to remove rust from your Dutch oven.
The bonus with this method is that you do not have to touch the rust yourself – happy days.
Sandblasting Rust Removal Method
There are also some sandblasting techniques available from a few online experts, although that does seem like a considerable amount of work just to remove some rust from a pot.
While it does work, you will also need to be really careful with how you go about it, especially when you are trying to remove rust from a very old Dutch oven.
If you don’t fancy any of the options we have already mentioned here, for whatever reason, there are perhaps a few others we could look at to help clean the rust off your Dutch oven.
Clean Rust off Your Dutch Oven With Natural Ingredients
Clean Rust off Your Dutch Oven With Salt and a Potato
Sometimes, the best things in life are free – or cost next to nothing at the very least. Using a potato and salt to clean the rust off your Dutch oven will initially come across as a rudimentary technique, but you shouldn’t knock it until you have tried it.
The salt you are probably looking for here is coarse sea salt. The first port of call will be to pour the salt into the open Dutch oven. You should also pour some salt on the inside of the Dutch oven lid, which you can just place on the ground with the inside facing up.
Once you have done that, you can then grab your potato and cut off a piece. Use that piece to start scrubbing away at your Dutch oven. The convenient method will be to scrub the flat end of the potato in circles, along with the parts of the Dutch oven where you poured the salt.
The salt and the potato will effectively function as an abrasive rubbing or scrubbing product. The combination is surprisingly effective too. It also helps that it is food.
Always good to take the opportunity to clean with something that you can digest.
It is also important to note that this will not be that useful when you have cases of exceedingly high levels of rust. You are not going to make a tremendous amount of headway under those circumstances. For heavy or deep rust, you will need some of the more sophisticated techniques.
Nevertheless, when you have scrubbed the cast iron with this potato for long enough you will be able to at some point determine whether you have attacked most of the rust on your Dutch oven or not.
If and when you are convinced that you have tackled a sufficient amount of rust on the Dutch oven, you can then fetch a hose pipe with a powerful head and hose the inside of the Dutch oven down.
You will notice that some of that rust will remain embedded despite your efforts, but you will get the rest of that once you have seasoned and restored the Dutch oven.
The seasoning and restoration of a Dutch oven is always a part of the process, regardless of which technique you adopt to attack the rust on your Dutch oven.
What to Do With Heavy Rust on Your Dutch Oven
Sometimes, the techniques we have already covered in this article are not enough, and more drastic options are required.
Self-Cleaning Oven to Remove Rust From Cast Iron
One of those options is something called a self-cleaning oven.
A number of people who have recently purchased a conventional oven may have one of these.
The self-cleaning oven is used at about 500 degrees Celcius – pretty high temperatures. It is usually used to burn off leftovers inside the oven from baking. Critically you do not need to use any chemical agents to realize your objectives here.
If you have the option, you can also use a self-cleaning oven for your Dutch oven rust and it does an equally outstanding job on that. I would suggest giving a self-cleaning oven a go at your rust if you have access to one.
Bertha Oven to Remove Rust From Cast Iron
An alternative to this, although less recommended would be the Bertha oven. I would not recommend using this technique on older or thin cast iron on Bertha but anything else should give a positive result.
Once the Rust Is Removed
When you are done with any one of these techniques, you might find that the inside of your Dutch oven is a little rough. You can use a little sandpaper and apply that for a few minutes, just to smooth off your finish, before you embark on the seasoning and restoration process.
You should never think that you can get away with not seasoning or restoring a Dutch oven, once you have cleaned it and removed the rust. The whole point of seasoning is to protect the Dutch oven from any more harm or damage.
Seasoning A Cast Iron Dutch Oven
The full process can be seen in my article on how to season new cast iron cookware.
Alternatively, here is the method you can follow using a grill or your conventional kitchen oven. Ensure there is adequate ventilation, as smoking will occur during the process.
Line the Shelf
Line the barbeque or oven shelf with aluminum foil because you will be inverting your Dutch oven and its lid.
Heat your barbeque or conventional oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees Celcius.
Place the Dutch oven, including the lid, inside for 30 minutes.
Remove the Dutch oven and allow it to cool down to the touch.
Using your choice of oil and an old rag or cloth rub the oil all over the oven inside and out. Remember handle, loop handle crevices, and ridges.
Check out the best oils for seasoning cast iron cookware I explain in-depth about 23 popular oils we use when cooking and seasoning. Why some are suitable and some are not great for seasoning cast iron.
Invert the Dutch oven and its lid on the foil lining. Oil runs off when inverted and does not get stuck in any crevices.
Bake for 45 minutes; allow it to cool for 30 minutes
When cooled, use mitts to remove the oven and wipe off any excess oil. Remember, you are after a shiny, repellent-looking surface.
Repeat the process until the surface looks shiny it will stop food from sticking as well as repelling any rust. You may have to repeat the process five or six times.
I have actually broached the rust removal from the cast-iron subject before – check out the article.
Another Way to Remove Rust From Your Dutch Oven
An important consideration to make whenever you decide that the time has come to remove the rust from your Dutch oven is whether the entire exercise is worth it or not.
Dutch ovens are normally durable products that can be passed down from generation to generation.
However, that is not always the case. There are exceptions that make the rule, and it is always best to avoid trying to save those ‘exceptions’.
Whatever you try to do, to save that Dutch oven, will be counterproductive and a complete waste of time otherwise.
We love our Dutch ovens but there are times when you should chuck them in the bin or restore and season it the best you can but find another use for them around the yard. Planter?
A prominent example of when this will remain your only option is when you find a crack in your Dutch oven.
It is not always easy to spot something like that but the moment that you spot a crack in your Dutch oven it is best to abandon the whole project of removing the rust.
Just as damaging as a crack is a big chip on your Dutch oven. Again, if you bump into one of those, it is best to avoid wasting your time any further.
Final Thoughts – How to Clean Rust off a Dutch Oven Camping Pot: Quick Fix
Taking your time from the beginning of the rust removal process all the way to the completion of the seasoning process will give you a well-performing piece of cooking equipment.
Then with regular care, maintenance, and storage, you will not need this rust removal process to carry out again.
If you start the rust removal and/or restoration process of your cast iron and find it to be damaged and beyond repair clean it up and use it around your yard as an ornamental piece.
Or, you could try to get a few dollars by selling it and putting that money toward a new cast-iron camp Dutch oven.
One-Pot Cooking Rocks