How to Clean a Wok With Rust

by Véronique Raymond
man making noodels

You might be concerned about rust if you have a stainless steel wok. While a rusted wok doesn’t look too bad, it does negatively alter the taste of your food. Beyond affecting what you cook with your wok, rust can reduce the utensil’s lifespan, which is a major reason to actively care for it.

Combining proper maintenance and cleaning is an effective way to ensure your cookware is properly taken care of and you can continue cooking your favourite Asian cuisines. If your wok is bad beyond salvaging, you might need to get a new one. Click here to check out some of the best woks in Canada.

Keep reading to learn how to clean a wok with rust.

Cleaning Tools

Here are the items you will need to clean your wok:

  • Hot water
  • Steel wool
  • Dish soap

Cleaning a rusty wok requires an entirely different approach than one would normally use when cleaning a wok that’s merely dirty.

First off, you should never use any metal cleaning tools when cleaning a wok as that could damage the cooking surface. Also, do not put your wok into a dishwasher, regardless of its condition – rusted or not.

A rusty wok needs thorough cleaning to get the rust out and restore the original clean surface. Keep in mind that even if you have a good quality wok, it is can also get rusty over time, depending on how well you clean it after use.

Excellent quality does not prevent rust; instead, it is how well you maintain the utensil that can keep it in good condition.

Remove Rust Using Steel Wool

You need a large amount of steel wool if you have a large wok. The first step would be to add some soap to the steel wool to make it lather. Only use steel wool on a rusted wok because of its abrasive nature.

Keep in mind that the rust is not likely to go away with just a single scrubbing session. You might need to use the scrubber a couple of times to see the desired result.

The best way to get rid of the rust quickly is to make sure the steel wool is lathered with soap. A ball of soapy steel wool won’t take as much time to make the wok’s surface clean and shiny.

Your sink should be filled with soapy warm water to make the process a lot easier. Carve out sections of the affected areas, going over with the steel brush one section at a time.

After every scrub, you should rinse the wok to ensure that the rust is indeed coming off. Also, check if other areas require additional scrubbing. This process should be repeated multiple times to ensure all stubborn rust is gone, and the surface is smooth.

Depending on how bad the rust is, you might require a lot of steel wool. Once the entire surface of the wok is rust-free, you can begin rinsing it out using running water.

Give the wok a final rinse using hot water. Do this once you are happy with the results of the scrubbing. Once done, you should let the wok completely dry before you season it. You can use kitchen towels to pat away any water to dry the wok.

Re-Seasoning the Wok

Since you used hot water on the work, it is best to allow it to cool down completely before you start the seasoning process.

You have a few different options when it comes to a seasoned wok. The method you choose is simply down to your personal preference, but the most popular method uses vegetable oil.

Re-Seasoning in the Oven

This process involves heating the wok first and then adding a thin layer of oil to it. Next, line the wok with aluminum foil before placing it on the top rack of your oven.

Set the oven to a high temperature range of about 250 to 450 degrees. Place the wok into the oven and allow it to heat for about an hour. After an hour, turn off the oven and leave the wok inside overnight.

The next morning, remove the wok and use paper towels to clean off any excess oil. You aren’t limited to one type of oil when seasoning your rehabilitated wok. You can use just any oil you have, including sunflower oil, peanut oil, or even canola oil, among others.

Re-Seasoning with Salad Oil

You only need to pour a little bit of salad oil, a tablespoon full at most, into the wok. You can either spread the oil by moving the wok around or using a paper towel. The next step is to add a bit of oil enough for shallow frying. Turn the stovetop to low heat, and place the wok on it. You want the oil to be hot but not too hot that it starts to smoke.

Re-Seasoning with Unsalted Solid Fat

Once the wok is sufficiently clean and dry, you can re-season it using margarine or solid fat. The fat should be rubbed all over the wok and then placed over a fire to heat it. The heat shouldn’t be too high; you just need it sufficiently high to melt the fat.

Once the wok is hot enough, you can turn the heat off while leaving the wok on the heat source. Let the wok cool down before wiping off any excess fat. Store your wok after wiping it clean.

Preventing Rust

A rusty wok is a result of improper cleaning after use or generally poor maintenance. Also, bad habits such as using an abrasive material to clean your wok can make it prone to rusting.

The best way to take care of your wok after use is to wipe it off using paper towels. When washing your wok, always use warm soapy water for best results.

Also, leaving some water in your wok when you store it is the quickest way to cause rust. For this reason, make sure that your wok is completely dry before putting it in storage.

If you are getting a new wok, always season it before first use. Doing this ensures that it doesn’t easily rust.

Taking Care of Your New Wok

Chef is stirring vegetables in wok

Source: Shutterstock

As stated earlier, any wok you purchase needs to be seasoned first. This is a step you do not want to skip at all. Skipping it could cause you to potentially ruin the wok forever. If your wok comes with detachable handles, you should assemble them.

Fill the wok with water and put it over a high heat source to bring it to a boil. You should boil your wok for about five minutes and then pour the water out carefully.

Scrub both the interior and exterior of the wok using soapy water as well as a steel wool sponge or any other abrasive material. Doing this to a new work helps get rid of any lacquer or protective coating the manufacturer placed inside of the wok.

Rinse the wok out with clean water and then place it on the stove on medium heat. As soon as the water in the wok evaporates, the bottom starts turning into a dark colour.

Move the wok all over the burner to make sure every area of the wok comes into contact with the flame. This will cause the entire wok to change colour. It might be necessary to hold the wok at awkward angles to achieve this. However, the result should be a deep brown colour all over the metal surface.

As soon as the wok is dark, you can pour in your preferred oil and rub it all over the wok using a paper towel.

Once this is done, place the wok back onto the burner or stove on medium heat for a maximum of 10 minutes. Be careful not to cause the oil in the wok to smoke. After 10 minutes, your wok should be perfectly seasoned.

When cleaning your wok, use soapy water and a soft sponge or washcloth. You should only use abrasive materials like steel wool pad if you have to get rid of accumulated rust.

After cleaning, your wok should be placed on the burner to get rid of any leftover water. Placing a little bit of oil in the pan can help to prevent rust.


A wok with rust is something nobody wants to have in their kitchen. As with all things, prevention is a lot better and cheaper than cure, so you should actively take steps to make sure your wok is protected against rust.

In addition, cooking on a rust-free wok is both healthier and makes your food tastier. Nevertheless, if you do have a wok with rust, you can use the method above to get rid of it. You should note that depending on how bad the rust is, your wok might require a few cleanings before it is rust-free.

The most effective way to handle a wok with signs of rusting is to ensure it is kept clean and re-seasoned many times over.

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