One promising energy storage technology is the solid oxide electrochemical cell (SOC), which can both store electricity as chemical fuels (electrolysis mode) and convert fuels to electricity (fuel-cell mode). The widespread use of SOCs has been hindered by insufficient long-term stability, in particular at high current densities. Here we demonstrate that severe electrolysis-induced degradation, which was previously believed to be irreversible, can be completely eliminated by reversibly cycling between electrolysis and fuel-cell modes, similar to a rechargeable battery. Performing steam electrolysis continuously at high current density (1 A cm−2), initially at 1.33 V (97% energy efficiency), led to severe microstructure deterioration near the oxygen-electrode/electrolyte interface and a corresponding large increase in ohmic resistance. After 4,000 h of reversible cycling, however, no microstructural damage was observed and the ohmic resistance even slightly improved. The results demonstrate the viability of applying SOCs for renewable electricity storage at previously unattainable reaction rates, and have implications for our fundamental understanding of degradation mechanisms that are usually assumed to be irreversible.