How to Restore Rusty Pans

Don't just throw out a rusty pan. If the structure is sound, it can be cleaned and put back in a busy kitchen's circulation of useful and dependable pots and pans.

Untidy Kitchen slow motion.
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If the structure is sound, your rusty pans can be cleaned and put back in a busy kitchen’s circulation of useful and dependable pots and pans.

If the red menace of rust has attacked the favored pots, pans and metal cooking items in your kitchen, then you can return them to a somewhat close approximation of their former pristine exterior. From a swish of lemon for light rings to an overnight treatment to remove rust with vinegar and baking soda, there are many ways to restore pots and pans that have been taken down by rust.

Lemon to Remove Rust

Citric acid can renew a rusty pan in a few ways. Slice lemons or cut them up with some salt and place them in the bottom of a rusty pan, leaving it to sit overnight. The citric acid from the fruit and oils from the lemon skins will remove rust and shine up the metal at the same time.

Powdered citric acid can be bought online and at big box home improvement stores. Sprinkle this powder over dampened rusty areas and let it sit for 15 minutes or up to two hours.

Scrub the citric acid around the area to remove rust. Shine up with a dollop of toothpaste after finishing the rust removal treatment.

Baking Soda to Remove Rust

A few simple shakes of baking soda powder over rusted areas can be enough to remove the top layer of lightly damaged pots and pans. Run cool water over the metal kitchen ware and sprinkle a layer of baking soda over the affected area. Let the baking soda sit on the metal for a good hour or so before scouring it with steel wool or metal brush.

Make sure that the metal cookware can handle the scrubbing from these abrasive cleaning tools. Test a small area before you begin to ensure that the surface isn't further damaged by vigorous scrubbing of metal on metal.

The best items for this treatment are those with a few light rust rings, items made of thin metal with a few rust spots or baking pans that get splotches of light layers of the red menace. This takes some time and requires a little elbow grease to get the best results. For serious rust problems, combine the baking soda treatment with a vinegar bath.

Vinegar Bath to Remove Rust from Metal

Vinegar is used for cleaning so many household materials and surfaces. It is also one of the best ways to remove rust and add a bit of shine to your tarnished metal cookware. Although it takes a day or two to get the best results, the vinegar bath removes most of the rust in pots, so you don't have to spend a lot of time and energy scouring your pans at the end of the process.

Submerge the pots, pans or utensils in a tub filled with distilled white vinegar. Let the item sit in this bath overnight. The acidic solution will gently eat away at the metal and remove the rust that clings to the surface of the otherwise solid material.

Scour the metal item with a long metal brush or a round of steel wool to remove the last layers of rust. This also removes other tarnished spots and sanitizes the item. For items that are too large to soak, wrap them in rags soaked in vinegar and keep them moist overnight.


Kimberley McGee

Kimberley McGee

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.