How to Clean a Wok with Rust?

A rusty wok may get you worried because apart from the normal food stain, it’s coming up after endless efforts of care, seasoning, and cleaning. However, this is a normal occurrence, especially in high humid areas.

Carbon steel and cast iron woks may get rusty with infrequent use as the patina starts to thin out. To avoid a weird metallic taste of rust in your food, you have to clean your wok thoroughly before your next cooking session.

We have a simple procedure to get your pan to a renewed working state. In this article, you will find almost everything about How to clean a wok with rust. Have a look.

Method to Clean a Rusty Wok – 5 Steps

Before you consider replacing, you should know how to deal with a rusty wok. Unless it’s overly crusty, you can still treat and use your wok again. Let’s dive in.


Requirements: Steel wool, hot water, low-heat stove, paper towel, canola oil

Step 1: Soak your rusty wok in hot water for 5 minutes. Rust is oxidized iron that slowly dissolves in water.

Step 2: Scrub off the rusty surface using steel wool then rinse off with hot water till the wok is clear and spotless. Under normal conditions, steel wool is a harsh scrubber. But, you need to remove the thin layer of rust to avoid further thickening.

Step 3: Leave your wok to air dry for about 10 minutes before you place it on a low-heat stove to completely dry. Humid conditions increase the chances of rust occurring.

Step 4: Apply a thin layer of oil to your wok and let it heat for a few minutes. Before the oil reaches the smoky point, remove the wok and allow for cooling. Heating the wok makes it porous so that when you add the oil, it penetrates to form a thin layer from inside.

Step 5: Wipe away the oil using a paper towel while spreading uniformly over the whole surface. Your wok is ready and safe for another stir-frying session.

Other applicable methods include scrubbing with salt or using a mixture of water, lemon, vinegar, and a scrubber. However, with the lemon/vinegar method, vinegar may react further with the wok to levels that may change the iron properties.

So consider any other methods before you resolve to use the vinegar mixture. Check out this second method of cleaning rust using coarse salt.

Remove Wok Rust with the Salt Scrubber Method

Salt is another effective available cleaner. Read on to find out how you can clean your rusty wok with kitchen salt.


Step 1: Heat about half a cup of salt in your wok. Using a cloth towel, identify the rusty area and scrub with the hot salt. Hot salt is a substitute for hot water.

Step 2: Once you’re done, clean the wok with a clean towel and place it on low heat again.

Step 3: When hot enough, introduce some vegetable cooking oil and allow it to heat till the oil forms some rainbow. Remove the wok and let it rest for a while, then spread the oil to the rest of the wok surface.

Step 4: Wipe out the excess oil using a paper towel and then store it on a dry rack facing down. You should try as much as possible to keep the wok free from dust and water.

Otherwise, whichever method you use, remember to re-season your wok. And with constant use, the patina builds up again.

Paper towel for cleaning

This is Bounty Quick-Size Paper Towel. This towel is perfect for your wok cleaning. Because the absorbed power of this towel is very good.

You can use this towel without any doubt for your cleaning process. 80 more sheets per pack, that means 8 extra days. The price of this product is under control.

How Can You Control Wok Rusting?

A wok is valuable cookware and a few measures put in place will reduce chances of rusting. Click through for a few tips on how to keep your woks rust-free.

* Avoid acidic sauces in your cast iron and carbon steel woks. Acids wear down the iron coating and may also cause discoloration.

* Do not keep your wok without use for longer periods. Using your wok occasionally reduces the patina. However, frying foods with your wok keeps your wok in great condition.

* In case of food burns, consider soaking your wok for a few minutes in hot water and clean using a wok brush or a soft sponge. Metal objects may scratch your wok exposing it to rust.

* Do not keep your wok under high humidity. A partially wet wok is prone to rusting as carbon steel carries some percentage of iron.

* Abrasive scouring pads, harsh soap cleaners, and dishwasher expose your wok to losing the seasoning. A soft sponge and hot water are enough to clean stuck food.

* Stacking woks may also expose them to scratching. It’s better to keep them separate.

* Lastly, oil your woks both inside and outside as oiling keeps away air necessary for rusting.

Health Implications of a Rusty Wok

A rusty utensil is not safe to use. Neither is a rusty wok. But before you consider replacing them, identify any suitable method above and treat your pans. Carbon steel and cast iron woks rust is reversible and easy to treat before it becomes too crusty.

Rust is associated with harmful bacteria that cause tetanus. So you should check your woks frequently to confirm that they are spotless and in a working condition. Rust may also tamper with your food taste and smell which makes it unsuitable for human consumption.

Do you need to re-season your wok?

Scrubbing your pan with a coarse scrubber to remove rust removes the thin layer that makes your wok nonstick. You don’t need the oxide layer. So after scrubbing, you need to season your wok again to create a new patina which also improves with frequent use.

That said, your procedure will only be complete if you season your wok. Otherwise, it may still be prone to rust. Under normal cleaning, avoid the coarse scrubbers as they are not needed in wok cleaning.

Wrap up

Oiling keeps iron under airtight conditions. However, if you have to keep your carbon steel woks and cast iron cookware for longer periods without use, ensure you store them in a cool dry place.

Besides, occasional seasoning is also a remedy for rust if you can’t use them regularly. If your woks catch rust, the above procedures should help you rid your woks of the oxide layer. Get your pans to be all new again.

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