Neglecting your kettle can lead to both aesthetic and physical damage over time. Rust can build up in cast iron kettles and will worsen the longer it goes untreated. Knowing how to remove rust from a kettle and prevent it in the future is essential for all cast iron kettle owners.
To get rust out of a kettle, use baking soda, a spritz of water, and a drop of dish soap to scrub the stain. Rinse and dry. For cast-iron kettles, use the self-cleaning cycle on your oven. Wipe away any debris, or rub stubborn stains away with sandpaper. Reseason a cast-iron kettle after cleaning.
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Know Your Kettle’s Material
The first step in removing rust from a kettle is knowing what material your kettle is made of. Some materials — like copper, aluminum, porcelain, and stainless steel — don’t rust. Any stains in the bottom of a kettle made of these materials are likely limescale. Cast iron, however, can and does rust.
Here’s how you can tell which material your kettle is made from:
- Check the bottom of the kettle.
Sometimes manufacturers will stamp or etch the bottom of the kettle with the material.
- Examine the kettle.
Cast iron is noticeably heavy and dense; copper has a reddish coloration, which is easily distinguishable; aluminum is thin and light; porcelain feels like ceramic or glass and is typically heavy; stainless steel is also heavy but not as heavy as cast iron; and electric kettles usually have stainless steel interiors.
- Ask an expert.
Visit a specialty cookware store and ask a salesperson if they can tell you what material your kettle is made of.
You can also compare your kettle to other kettles while you’re there.
- Consider the price.
Cast iron and copper kettles tend to be more expensive than other materials.
Stainless steel and porcelain are average-priced, whereas aluminum tends to be the least costly option.
Once you’ve determined what material your kettle is, you can decide whether it’s rust or limescale. From there, you’ll learn how to start cleaning your kettle so that it’s like new again.
Figure Out if It’s Rust or Limescale
As mentioned in the previous section, copper, stainless steel, porcelain, and aluminum don’t rust. Therefore, if your kettle is made from one of these materials, rust isn’t causing the stains. It’s more than likely limescale.
Limescale is usually a white color but can sometimes take on a reddish hue. Calcium carbonate is the main component of limescale, forming when water is heated and then evaporates. These hard minerals are left behind, and they’re difficult to remove by washing alone.
On the other hand, rust appears as red, brown, or orange flakes or pits on surfaces containing iron. It forms when oxygen comes into contact with the metal over long periods. Oxygen is introduced to the metals through water or water vapor, and this prolonged contact causes oxidation, resulting in iron oxide (or rust).
Copper, porcelain, aluminum, and stainless steel don’t rust. Therefore, if your kettle is made from these materials, it’s more likely that the stain is limescale.
How To Remove Limescale From Kettles
To remove limescale from aluminum, copper, porcelain, or stainless steel kettles (including electric kettles), follow the steps below:
- Fill the kettle half-full with distilled white vinegar.
Fill it the rest of the way with hot water.
- Let the mixture sit in the kettle. It should sit for at least half an hour, but you may allow it to sit for up to an hour if time allows.
- Place the kettle on the stove.
Bring the water/vinegar solution to a boil.
Boil for ten minutes.
- Remove the kettle from the heat.
Let the kettle sit for an additional 30 minutes while the water cools down.
- Dump the solution in the sink.
Rinse the kettle with fresh, cold water.
If a vinegar smell persists, fill the kettle with water and add a tablespoon of baking soda. Again, bring to a boil and let boil for ten minutes. Remove from the heat, dump, and rinse again.
The above steps will work on limescale but shouldn’t be used on rust. If your kettle is cast-iron, use the tips below to remove rust.
Run Your Kettle Through A Self-Cleaning Oven Cycle
To remove rust stains from your cast-iron kettle, place it in a self-cleaning oven, and turn on the cleaning cycle. Be sure to check your oven’s instruction manual or reach out to the manufacturer before doing this. Don’t use a self-cleaning oven that utilizes steam, as this can further damage your cast iron kettle and lead to more rust. Never place porcelain in this high-heat setting.
It works best if you have a dry cleaning cycle that blasts the oven with high heat. This heated cleaning method is designed to loosen hard, baked-on food and debris from a range, but it can also remove rust. This method will reduce the amount of elbow grease you’ll need to remove rust from your kettle, as the rust will already be loosened.
Once the oven cleaning cycle finishes and the kettle has cooled down, remove it from the oven and gently wipe away any debris or rust using a soft scrub brush. If that didn’t remove all of the rust, you might then move on to the next steps.
Scrub Your Kettle With Baking Soda
Baking soda is a slightly abrasive material that can also aid in rust removal.
To use baking soda for rust removal, follow the steps below:
- Place the kettle on a towel or in a sink. Flip it upside down and work from the bottom up.
- Sprinkle the bottom of the kettle with a teaspoon of baking soda. Use your fingertips to spread the baking soda all over the bottom of the kettle.
- Dampen the kettle with water. Mist the baking soda lightly with a spritz of water.
- Add three drops of dish soap. Squirt it directly onto the baking soda.
- Scrub the kettle. Using a soft brush, remove as much rust as you can by scrubbing. Do not use coarse metal scrub pads like steel wool, as these can leave behind tiny pieces.
- Turn the kettle over. Repeat the above steps on the inside, outside, and handles of the kettle.
- Rinse the kettle and dry thoroughly before reseasoning.
Examine your kettle to determine whether all of the rust was removed. If some rust remains, move on to the remaining steps.
Scrub With Sandpaper
If the baking soda method didn’t remove all of the rust on your kettle, you could use sandpaper. Keep in mind that this method will slightly scratch the kettle, so it’s best to use this method only on the inside of the container where it won’t be seen.
To do this, follow the steps below:
- Dampen a sheet of fine-grit sandpaper.
Rub the affected areas in circular motions while following the shape of the kettle—this will make any scratches more inconspicuous.
- Continue scrubbing until you see shiny metal.
Over time, cast iron kettles become darkened due to constant seasoning.
By scrubbing away until you see metal, you’re just removing that layer of burnt oil.
Don’t worry; you’ll reseason your kettle.
- Rub the area with a slice of onion afterward.
The enzymes in onions will help remove rust from metal objects.
- Wash with a drop of soap and hot water.
Don’t use too much water on your cast iron kettle.
Run the kettle under cold water to wash away any debris and rust.
- Pat dry thoroughly.
We’ll discuss reseasoning in-depth in the next step.
Reseason Your Kettle With A Towel And Vegetable Oil
Seasoning your cast iron kettle is essential. A well-seasoned, well-cared-for cast-iron kettle can last a lifetime. Once you’ve removed the rust from your kettle, you’ll need to reseason it. To do this, follow the steps below:
- Use a paper towel or hand towel and dip it in shortening or vegetable oil.
- Rub the shortening or oil over every surface of the kettle, paying attention to the inside.
The oil will need to be bonded to the kettle to recreate the patina (the hard, black seasoned surface), so you’ll need to expose it to heat.
- Place the oiled kettle in a preheated 425°F (218°C) oven.
Heat the kettle for one hour and then turn off the oven.
- Let the kettle sit in the oven until it completely cools down.
You may need to repeat these steps until the surface is once again dark and shiny.
If the surface of your kettle is sticky after removing it from the oven, you likely used too much oil. You may need to scrub down the patina and start again.
Store Your Kettle Properly
When cast iron kettles are exposed to standing water or left wet after use, they’ll rust. Keep rust from forming on your kettle by immediately wiping it dry before storing it. Don’t let liquids sit in your kettle unless you plan to use them immediately.
When storing your kettle, don’t place anything on top of it either. This can hold in moisture which can lead to rust. Keep any lids separate. You can place a paper towel into the kettle to soak up any water that might occur, especially if you live in a humid or damp environment.
Clean Your Kettle Properly After Use
Cast iron kettles need special care. Be sure that you’re correctly storing and cleaning your kettle after each use.
Don’t run your cast iron kettle through the dishwasher, as this moisture can promote rust. When the kettle is soiled, pour a tablespoon of coarse salt into the container and scrub it with your hand or a soft brush. This will remove any debris caused by heating liquids in the kettle.
Wipe out the inside of the kettle and dry it thoroughly. You can do this with a clean cloth or place it in a warm oven for ten to fifteen minutes. Be sure that it’s completely cool before storing it away.