Cast iron is known for its rugged durability. Distinguished from other metals by its capacity to retain and evenly distribute heat, cast iron is the preferred material for creating everything from cookware to pot-bellied stoves. With proper care, cast iron pieces can easily become family heirlooms, passing from one generation to the next with no signs of deterioration. Under certain conditions, however, cast iron can begin to rust. Should a favorite piece show signs of corrosion, use a simple potato to remove the rust and restore the surface.
Sprinkle 2 tbsp. of baking soda over the affected area. Cut a raw potato in half. Use the flat end of the potato to rub the baking soda into the corroded portions of the cast iron. Press firmly on the potato and use small, circular motions to loosen the rust. When the surface becomes slippery, slice off the soiled portion of the potato, creating a new "scrubber." Wipe the baking soda away with a damp cloth and repeat, if necessary, until the rust is no longer evident.
Combine ½ cup of warm water and 1 cup of distilled white vinegar. Cover any stubborn rust spots with a cloth that has been moistened in this solution. Leave the cloth in place for up to 2 hours, then swab the area with a damp sponge to remove any lingering residue.
Wash the item in hot, soapy water. Use a stiff-bristled brush to scour the surfaces, removing any dirt or sticky residue. Under normal circumstances, cast iron should never be cleaned with detergent or vinegar as both ingredients will remove the metal's protective coating.
Cover small pieces of cast iron with a light coating of vegetable oil. Use a paper towel to distribute the oil evenly over the surface of the metal. Place the item in 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 1 hour. This process seals the metal and helps to protect it from surface damage and corrosion.
Buff large cast iron items with sheets of waxed paper. Place the paper against the metal and rub briskly using small, circular motions. The friction will transfer the wax to the cast iron, covering the metal in a thin layer of protective polish while bringing out the shine.