How to clean cast iron

Whether you bought an expensive cast iron product or grabbed it for a bargain (like all our products!) it’s important to take care and know how to clean cast iron properly. Of course, some people like the rustic, shabby chic appeal of worn cast iron and it can look really good, but some prefer the rustic shine – and, knowing how to clean cast iron isn’t only about maintaining its aesthetic, but ensuring it continues to function in the best way, especially heading into the winter.

Become an Expert in How to Clean Cast Iron

ironmongery care

As tough and durable cast iron is, harsh conditions and general use can start to take its toll. This won’t hurt your cast iron providing it is not left for a long time, so it’s important you know how to clean cast iron before the damage gets too severe.

You don’t only need to know how to clean cast iron for when it turns orange and the paint starts to flake away, but iron often comes in intricate shapes and has many crevasses, so it could be something as little as dust collection, which understandably, you don’t like the look of.

Not to worry, this blog will take you through the best ways to clean and maintain your antique belongings, so by the end you’ll be an expert in how to clean cast iron.

Why Does Cast Iron Rust?

  • Damp environments: warm and wet is the worst combination for cast iron, (moisture accumulates on the surface and its mix with oxygen is what causes rust)

  • Failing to do regular maintenance: regular checks are important!

  • Salt water: in seaside areas, cast iron will often rust more quickly due to the electrolytes acting as an accelerant eating away at the iron,

  • Moving parts: products such as hinges and door knockers, have moving parts that will continuously rub together, eventually wearing down the external layer, resulting in rust.

Top tip: to prevent damage right from the onset, be extra careful when fitting and using a screwdriver to ensure you don’t scratch or scrape the iron. Then, from day one, the main hack is to keep your cast iron product as clean and dry as possible – hence the regular checks.

General Cleaning

For a timeframe in how to clean cast iron, you should be looking at yearly cleaning – but as I mentioned, regular check-ups should also occur. So, be sure to re-read this ‘how to clean cast iron’ blog this time next year for a refresh!

Simply follow these steps to get back to that classic iron shine from a general, yearly clean. It’s recommended that if your unit of cast iron is something like a hinge or door knob, to remove it from the surface it’s fixed to for cleaning, to ensure you can clean all the crevasses fully, and don’t risk damage to the other surface.

What you will need:

  • Hoover (brush-end application if possible)

  • Bowl/jug of soap and water (mild soap)

  • Nylon scrubbing brush (a toothbrush would work just as well)

  1. Use the hoover to remove all the dust (if you have a brush-end application, these work great!),

  2. Using the small nylon scrubbing brush, or toothbrush, scrub the surfaces, crevasses, and tight curves (all the nooks and crannies!) with the soapy water,

  3. Be sure to rinse it fully with clear water,

  4. Let it air-dry.

It’s advised to also put oil in the moving joints (if there are any) to help keep them in good condition too – this would also be yearly. Linseed rust oil is an excellent option for giving rust protection.

Removing Rust

There are a few very easy ways to remove rust, so there’s no need to worry about how to clean cast iron with a full regime every time, if rust occurs you can try one of these tricks.

  • Wipe the rust spot with an oily rag.

  • Rub the rusted area with sand paper, then wipe it down with a damp cloth.

  • Use black enamel paint to seal the rust and prevent further rusting.

  • Soak it in a weak acid, such as vinegar; once the rust has dissolved, rinse and dry as soon as possible.

Cleaning to Repaint

How about if you want to spruce it up a bit, give it a refreshing coat of paint? What you want to know is how to clean cast iron ready for a new coat of paint. These easy-to-follow instructions will help you get that refreshed look.

What you will need:

  • Eye protection

  • Dust mask

  • Paint scraper

  • Wire brush

  • Sand paper

  • Paint appropriate for iron

  • Automotive wax (if wanted)

  1. Use the paint scraper to scrape off any loose flakes of paint, or you can use a jet washer if wanting to remove all the paint,

  2. Then, use the wire brush to get rid of large areas of rust – make sure to wear eye protection and a dust mask for your safety,

  3. Sand paper the remaining areas of rust – ensure you check all crevasses and intricate bends,

  4. After there’s no rust left, follow the previously mentioned general cleaning steps,

  5. Once dry, paint as soon as possible (iron left exposed will quickly develop more rust).

Top tip: After you’ve perfected your coat of paint, and it is dry, use automotive wax and buff the surface, using a soft cloth, to give it an attractive shine. Waxed surfaces not only look better but are less likely to collect dust and dirt and are less likely to rust.

 how to clean cast iron


We hope this taught you a thing or two about how to clean cast iron, and you now feel confident knowing how easy it can be to maintain if you keep on top of it.

If you’re wondering if you should even clean it - it’s antique, so isn’t it supposed to look aged? Cleaning something that’s supposed to look antique, doesn’t diminish its antique feel, it only protects and enhances it. Whether you have a cast iron door knocker, shelf bracket or gate latch we will help you keep it’s gorgeous, timely appearance so it continues to serve you well.

Give us a tag or a mention on Instagram @Hammerandtongs, if you used any of our tips. We’d love to see the clean and shiny cast iron products in your home! Make sure to share these how to clean cast iron tips with any fellow cast iron lovers to help them out too!

Thankyou for reading, and we can’t wait for the next blog.
From, The Hammer and Tongs Team.