How To Clean Rust Off A Dutch Oven Camping Pot


We have actually broached this subject before and while doing it established that there were actually several ways one could go about cleaning rust off a Dutch Oven. 

Rust on a Dutch Oven is inevitable and the onus is ultimately on the owner of that Dutch Oven to clean and restore it. 

Granted tremendous care is taken when cleaning rust off a Dutch Oven, the prospects of getting the cast iron to look and perform like it was brand new are actually exceedingly high. That is why Dutch Ovens remain popular in the kitchen, centuries after the first Dutch Oven was actually used. 

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 how severe the rust on that Dutch Oven is, how much time you actually have on your hands and what resources you have at your disposal. 

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 that 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. 

Alternately you could dump 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 business and not always particularly efficient. It remains an option to try and remove rust nevertheless. 

It is sometimes said that if you are feeling lazy, you need to start using your brains a little more. 

That is to say, instead of working hard, you need to start working smart. In the context of trying to remove rust from your Dutch Oven, you need to start turning to a little more science. 

There is something 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 admin but we would put it to you that this is the most effective method you can use to remove rust from your Dutch Oven. 

There are also some sand blasting techniques available from a few pundits online, 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 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 one critical aspect about this technique is that it can be implemented when time is of the essence – or not necessarily on your side. You will also often find that there is always salt somewhere in the vicinity, while potatoes also have this uncanny ability to pop up just when you need them. It is called FOOD. 

With all of the Dutch Oven cleaning techniques that we mentioned above, you will often need a utensil that is not always around. Whether that be an abrasive cleaning brush or cleaning vinegar. Those are things we don’t usually go out of our way to stock up on when we do grocery shopping once or twice a month. 

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 obviously facing up towards the sky.

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 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 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. 

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 it 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 it in the bin or use it as a fancy dog food bowl even. 

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 on 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.

Enough of that for now though. 

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 exceedingly long to remove the very same rust. Patience is always a virtue, especially under these circumstances. 

One manner in which you can try and expedite the process is to purchase and use a cordless drill, that would have one of those wire brushes at the end of it. 

The drill itself will cost a little more than you like but you should be able to use it for an extensive period. Sure the wire brush at the end will 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 managed to get the drill and a wire brush, that should always be your first step if you are looking to save some time removing rust from your Dutch Oven. Failure to find a drill and wire brush head should not be 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. That is a standard measure, we guess. 

You will then put the Dutch Oven on one or other heat source. That could be anything from a burner to a fire. 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 source of your rust problems in the first place. Neglecting that piece of information during cleaning will be counterproductive.

You can then go back to the sea salt technique that we mentioned earlier in this blog post and follow the same routine. If, for some reason you cannot find a potato to cut up, you really 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 on 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 colour 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 in 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 can actually do this for anything between six and eight hours. That would primarily be to give yourself some peace of mind. To make you feel like you got the job done.

What To Do With Heavy Rust On Your Dutch Oven

Sometimes the techniques we have already covered on this blog are not enough and more drastic options are required. One of those options is something called a self-cleaning oven. 

Most people who have recently purchased an oven will 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 from baking. Critically you do not need to use any chemical agents to realise 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. If you have the option, then we would suggest you do this.

An alternative to this, although less recommended would be the Bertha Oven. We would not use older or thin cast iron on Bertha but anything else should fly. 

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 sand paper 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. 


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