How do you store cast iron skillets long term?

Cast iron skillets are durable and can last for decades or even generations when properly cared for. Many people love using cast iron for cooking due to its even heating, natural nonstick surface when seasoned properly, and versatility across stovetops and ovens. However, cast iron requires some special care when storing it for long periods of time to prevent rusting. Here’s an overview of the best practices for long term cast iron storage.

Should You Season Cast Iron Before Long Term Storage?

Yes, you should season your cast iron before storing it long term. Seasoning fills in the pores of cast iron with oil, creating a natural nonstick surface. This oil coating helps protect the pan from moisture while in storage. Make sure to apply a fresh coat of seasoning before packing the skillet away.

Steps for Seasoning Before Storage

  1. Wash the skillet in hot, soapy water and dry thoroughly. Heat the clean, dry pan on the stove for a few minutes to open the pores.
  2. Using a paper towel or cloth, rub a thin layer of high smoke point oil like grapeseed or avocado oil over the entire surface. You want just enough to lightly coat the pan without any excess pooling.
  3. Place the seasoned pan upside down in the oven. Bake at 300°F for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and let cool in the oven.
  4. Rub another thin layer of oil over the surface. The pan is now ready for storage.

Taking the time to season before packing your skillet away will help safeguard it against rust and damage over time.

Storing Cast Iron in a Dry Location

It’s crucial to store cast iron somewhere dry to prevent rust from developing. Moisture is the enemy of cast iron. Here are some good storage locations:

Inside Options

  • Kitchen pantry
  • Coat closet
  • Linen closet
  • Hall closet
  • Bedroom closet

Choose an interior spot that doesn’t see a lot of humidity. Placing desiccant packs or silica gel packets in the storage container can help absorb any ambient moisture.

Garage or Basement Storage Precautions

If storing cast iron pans in a garage or basement, take extra precautions. These areas can be damp and prone to humidity. Place the cast iron in a plastic bin or wrap in plastic before putting it on the shelf. Make sure it’s elevated off a concrete floor. Adding desiccant packs will also help protect from moisture damage.

Avoid Attics for Storage

Attics should be avoided since they can experience extreme temperature fluctuations from hot summers to cold winters. This cycling can cause the seasoning oil to breakdown over time.

Storing Cast Iron Pans Upside Down

It’s best practice to store cast iron cookware upside down rather than nested or stacked right side up. Upside down storage allows air circulation and avoids any moisture build up on the cooking surface.

Here are some upside down storage options:

  • Rest pans upside down on a pot rack or wall mounted pan rack
  • Store upside down on the top shelf of a cabinet
  • Hang pans upside down on hooks
  • Place old towels or cushions in a bin to pad and separate pans stored upside down

Go for wide, shallow bins instead of narrow, deep bins that can trap humidity inside. Make sure pans are fully cooled before nesting to avoid residue sticking.

Should You Oil Cast Iron Before Long Term Storage?

In most cases, yes. Rubbing a micro-thin layer of oil over the seasoned pan before packing it away provides an extra level of protection. Here are some tips:

  • Use a high smoke point neutral oil like grapeseed or avocado oil
  • Avoid low smoke point olive and vegetable oils
  • Wipe the oil on in a very thin layer using a paper towel or lint-free cloth
  • Buff off any excess oil until it looks dry
  • This thin oil coating helps repel moisture and prevents rust

Some people recommend avoiding oil if storing somewhere very dry and cool, like a climate controlled basement. The key is making sure no excess oil remains as this can become sticky over time. A micro-thin layer provides rust protection without risking stickiness.

How to Prevent Rust on Stored Cast Iron

Nothing ruins a good cast iron pan like rust. Here are some ways to prevent rust from taking hold during storage:

Keep It Dry

Always store in a dry place as covered earlier. Handle pans with dry hands before packing away.

Use Protective Storage Containers

Plastic bins, breathable canvas bags, or vinyl covers provide an extra moisture barrier. Avoid packing cast iron tightly in cardboard boxes, which can trap humidity.

Add Desiccants

Throw some silica gel packets in the storage bin or bag to absorb moisture. Recharge desiccants in the oven periodically to keep them working.

Avoid Temperature Extremes

Don’t store cast iron somewhere that experiences big swings from hot to cold. Consistent, room temperature storage is best.

Check for Rust Regularly

Periodically check pans for any signs of rusting. If you catch it early, rust can be removed quickly.

Re-season if Needed

If rust develops, remove it promptly and re-season the pan before placing back into storage. Prevent future rust by identifying and fixing any moisture sources.

How Long Can You Store Cast Iron?

Properly cared for cast iron can stay in long term storage almost indefinitely. Just keep the following good storage practices in mind:

  • Store in a consistently dry place indoors
  • Season pans before packing away
  • Use a protective storage container if needed
  • Consider placing desiccants or silica packets to absorb moisture
  • Store pans upside down to allow air circulation
  • Apply a micro-thin layer of oil before storage for extra protection
  • Check periodically for rust

With proper storage methods, your cast iron cookware can stay safely in storage for years without damage. Periodically re-seasoning and re-oiling provides added insurance.

What’s the Best Way to Re-season Stored Cast Iron?

If cast iron has been packed away for a long time, the seasoning may need refreshing before using again. Here’s how to properly re-season:

Step 1 – Clean the Pan

Use a stainless steel scrubber and hot water to remove any dust or residue. Dry thoroughly. For any rust spots, clean immediately using steel wool and vinegar. Dry and oil the pan to halt further rust development.

Step 2 – Re-season the Pan

Rub a thin layer of high smoke point oil over the surface. Grapeseed, avocado, and refined coconut oils all work well. Avoid flaxseed oil which can get sticky.

Step 3 – Bake the Pan

Place a sheet or foil on the rack below to catch any drips. Put pan upside down in oven. Bake at 300°F for 1 hour, then turn off oven and let cool in oven.

Step 4 – Repeat Seasoning Layers

For optimal re-seasoning, repeat the oiling and baking steps 2-3 more times to build up protective seasoning layers. The pan is ready to use when the seasoning is shiny and dark black.

What’s the Best Way to Remove Rust From Stored Cast Iron?

If small spots of rust develop on stored cast iron, don’t panic. Light rust can be removed without too much effort using these methods:

Baking Soda or Salt

Sprinkle baking soda or salt onto the rusted area. Use a potato half dipped in oil to scrub the rust away. Rinse and dry thoroughly.


Pour undiluted white or apple cider vinegar over the rust spot. Let sit for up to 30 minutes, then scrub with a scouring pad. Rinse and dry completely.

Steel Wool

For tough rust, go over the area vigorously with fine 000 or 0000 steel wool. Avoid coarse grades that can damage the seasoning. Rinse, dry, and oil immediately.


If the rust is extensive, take the pan down to bare metal with 80 grit sandpaper. Rinse, dry, re-season and apply a protective oil coating before returning to storage.

Catching and treating rust early is key before it permanently damages the pan. Proper ongoing storage methods will prevent heavy rust from developing.

Does Cast Iron Need Special Care for Outdoor Storage?

Storing cast iron pans in covered, outdoor spaces like garages, garden sheds, and porches presents challenges from exposure to humidity and condensation. Here are some tips for safe outdoor storage:

Avoid Direct Ground Contact

Place pans on shelving elevated off concrete floors or the bare ground. A few inches of clearance helps minimize moisture transfer.

Use Plastic Containers

Store cast iron pieces nested inside food-grade plastic buckets with sealed lids. Plastic Rubbermaid containers also protect against condensation and humidity. Avoid metal containers which “sweat.”

Wrap in Plastic Bags

First season each piece well. Then place in a plastic bag or plastic wrap to create a moisture barrier. Remove all air from bags before sealing tightly.

Add Drying Agents

Put packs of silica gel or other desiccants inside containers to actively absorb moisture before it builds up.

Bring Inside for Long Duration Storage

For storing cast iron longer than a few months, consider bringing pans inside to more controlled conditions. Outdoor storage risks corrosion over many seasons.

With some simple preventative steps, cast iron can avoid damage in less controlled areas like the garage or garden shed when needed.

What Should You Avoid When Storing Cast Iron?

Here are some common cast iron storage mistakes to avoid:

Don’t Nest Cast Iron Stacked Together

Storing cast iron pans nested right side up traps moisture and air. Always store upside down.

Avoid High Humidity Areas

Attics, basements and cellars often have high humidity from lack of climate control. Choose an indoor closet or cupboard instead.

Don’t Use Cardboard for Long Term Storage

While it’s fine for short transport, never pack cast iron for long periods in cardboard, paper or regular wood. Use plastic bins or canvas totes instead to prevent moisture damage over time.

Don’t Store Near Heaters or Hot Water Tanks

Excessive heat from appliances can cause the protective seasoning oils to break down more quickly. Store cast iron away from heat sources.

Avoid Extreme Temperature Fluctuations

Garages and sheds get very hot and very cold seasonally. This cycling strains the pan. Indoor storage has a more stable temperature range.

Don’t Scrub Off Seasoning Before Storage

The seasoned surface prevents rusting. Avoid scouring or washing away this oil layer before storage.

Following these simple guidelines prevents common cast iron storage mistakes leading to rust and decay. With proper care, cast iron lasts for decades, if not centuries!


Cast iron is built to last generations when properly maintained. By seasoning pans before storage and keeping them dry in temperature stable conditions, cast iron can be safely stored for many years. Remember to store upside down, use protective containers if needed, and check periodically for any rust development. With just a bit of care when packing it away, your cast iron cookware will come out of storage ready to use and keep on cooking.

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