How to Remove Rust from a Cast Iron Stove

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A well cared for cast-iron stove makes a gorgeous centerpiece for your home.
Image Credit: trevarthan/iStock/GettyImages

A well cared for cast-iron stove makes a gorgeous centerpiece for your home. But prolonged exposure to moisture can transform a cast-iron stove into an eyesore when rust appears. The rust not only looks dingy but also creates a fine dust that you don't want to breathe in. Nor do you want the rust to completely eat through your cast-iron stove, rendering it useless. Fortunately, removing surface rust from a cast-iron stove is a relatively straightforward project.

Take Safety Precautions

Removing surface rust from a cast-iron stove is easy to do, but repairing a stove that has already been significantly weakened by rust or succumbed to it entirely in the form of gaping holes is another matter entirely. If the rust has gotten so bad that the metal needs to be replaced, your best bet would be to seek out a professional with experience repairing and welding cast-iron wood stoves. Because you don't want the stove to fail and cause a house fire, major cast-iron stove repairs aren't a great DIY project.

If you know how long the rust has been on the stove and you're tackling it quickly, it's likely just surface rust. If you're able to manipulate the metal in any way with your hands or a mallet, then the rust has weakened the cast iron. And if flakes of rust easily come off in layers, a hole has already made its way through the metal.

Once you've determined you're just dealing with surface rust, make sure you gear up with the proper safety equipment. You don't want rust to get in your eyes or lungs, so wear safety glasses and a face mask. Next, make sure you're working with a cast-iron stove that has had a chance to completely cool off and isn't lit so you aren't at risk for burns.

Gather Your Materials

In addition to basic safety gear, you'll also need a way to scrub the rust off. You can use a wire brush, but if you're not a fan of elbow grease, try a drill with a bristle brush attachment. Or, take the stove outside and use a sandblaster.

Next, you'll need a way to wipe up the loose rust. A shop vac or damp cloth work equally well. If you use anything other than a wire brush for your wood stove cleaning, be aware that the rust dust will settle on surrounding furniture and flooring.

Finally, you'll need black grate polish, rubber gloves to wear while applying the polish and a dry cloth to apply it. Zebraline black grate polish is a popular brand for cast-iron stoves.

Removing Rust on a Wood Stove

With your safety precautions in place and safety gear on, use your preferred scrubbing tool to loosen the rust on the woodstove. You should quickly see a change from orange to brown or black as the iron underneath is once again exposed. Next, use the damp cloth or shop vac to remove the loose rust from the surface of the stove.

Finally, apply the black grate polish with a dry cotton cloth, working in small circles. When the polish has fully dried, you can apply another coat. Don't skip this step, even if you think your cast-iron stove looks great after some scrubbing with the wire brush. It's important to protect the iron in order to prevent further rust from forming.

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Cathy Habas enjoys distilling even the most complicated home improvement tasks into bite-sized pieces. She believes in empowering homeowners one article at a time.

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