CLEANING IRON—QUICK FIXES
By Doris Mosier
PROBLEM: BUILT UP CRUD & GREASE
- For one piece:
You well need a plastic bag & easy off oven cleaner. Don’t get the unscented Easy off as it won’t work well. Get the original Easy Off Oven Cleaner. Put your crud-covered iron in the plastic bag. Spray liberally with easy off, tie close and let it “work” for 2 hours (or two days—it won’t hurt iron). Scrub with S.O.S. and rinse with soapy water. Dry & oil.
- Many crud-covered pieces:
You will need 20 plus gallon plastic garbage container, can of Rooto lye (sold near toilet cleaning supplies), rubber or latex gloves to protect your hands and water. Use ½ can lye to ½ tub water (hot works faster, but cold works eventually). It is caustic, so be careful. Put a piece of wire through hang hole and totally submerse piece into solution with wire bent over edge of container for retrieving. Leave it in Solution as long as needed to loosen crud. Scrub with S.O.S. and rinse with soapy water. Dry & oil. Cover the solution and reuse with as many pieces as you can totally submerse at once, each on separate wires for retrieval. If the solution appears to be weak after a month, simply add more lye.
- Cover the rusty item in vinegar/water solution of roughly one-pint of cider vinegar to three-gallons of water in a plastic tub. The item needs to be totally submersed for evenness of finish. Don’t leave the item in long as vinegar is an acid and will hurt the finish if left too long. Check it in ten minute intervals and remove each time to rinse, wash in soapy water, scrub with S.O.S. and oil when satisfied with results. You may have to wire brush for stubborn rust.
PROBLEM: IT’S PLATED WITH PORCELAIN OR ENAMEL
SOLUTION: TRICKY–YOU DON’T WANT TO DULL IT
- You can brighten stained porcelain by submersing in a Clorox/baking soda/water combination: Combine 1 cup bleach, 3 tablespoons baking soda, and 1 gallon (or less) of hot water. Check every 10 minutes as porcelain or enamel can dull if left in solution too long. When it is as restored as much as is possible (some staining won’t be fixed), rinse, wash, and dry. Oil lightly.
PROBLEM: IT’S PLATED WITH CHROME OR NICKEL
SOLUTION: JUST TREAT IT LIKE CAST IRON
PROBLEM: SHOULD I CLEAN THIS CAST IRON I JUST BOUGHT?
- Many people ask about this. This vintage iron has been around for years, passing through many hands and processes. For sanitary reasons alone, I’d do this. Scrub the item with S.O.S. or steel wool. Submerge it into a hot sudsy bath and wash thoroughly. Rinse and dry completely. Once dry, coat with your favorite cooking oil, all over. Wipe off any excess as too much oil is NOT better. Put it on a cookie sheet or aluminum foil in a cold oven. For example, a skillet should go face down so only the edge of the rim touches the sheet or foil. Turn the oven to 325 and bake it for an hour. Turn off the oven. Don’t open the oven door. Let it cool down and then remove it. It should have a nice hard sheen. Put it away until ready to use it.
Handy “tools” for cleaning iron: Dremel drill w/variety of brushes, bench brush, long rubber gloves, eye protection, hair dryer for tough to dry items like waffle grids where blow drying will hasten the process, spray oil or a tooth brush for applying oil in tight to reach areas, wire brushes for working on stubborn grease, lots of paper towels, and many soft absorbent rags.
For in-depth cleaning techniques, try http://gcica.org/ as they have many detailed processes from lye baths to electrolysis, complete with pictures to guide you along the way. On their home page, you’ll find the cleaning techniques under the heading COOKWARE.