November 30, 2018 at 8:40 am #14202
I have a cast iron skillet that came from my husband’s parents’ home. It sat in a basement and has some rust. There is also a never-used (still has tag) apfelsikver cast iron pan that has just a bit of rust. I’ve been looking at the internet on the best way to remove the rust and re-season them. The skillet may have stuff burned onto the outside.
The simplest method I’ve found–and one where I already own the “equipment”–is to use a rag and kosher salt to scour off the rust. Then the skillet gets coated in a neutral oil, inside and out, placed on foil (to keep the oven clean), then heated for an hour (I’d have to look up the temperature again), then allowed to sit overnight in the turned-off oven. One site said to do that twice.
Another method suggest buying a woven chain square (Lehman’s has them) and using that to remove the rust. I’d have to buy that.
Has anyone worked with an older cast iron skillet that needed some TLC?November 30, 2018 at 10:10 am #14203
It really depends on how much rust there is. Rubbing it with salt will usually take off both rust and caked on grease, though it might take a lot of rubbing, but if there’s so much rust that the surface of the pan is pitted, then IMHO you need to use something like steel wool to smooth the surface out a bit.
There are commercial cleaners like carbon-off, which you can probably get at a restaurant supply store or on Amazon, that will remove caked-on food and grease, but these are very caustic, so use them properly. I’ve used this to clean the stainless steel backsplash on my range, it worked when NOTHING else would!
Either way, you probably want to reseason it by putting on a light coat of oil and baking it in the oven for several hours.November 30, 2018 at 1:03 pm #14204
I’ve used the kosher salt method. I think that’s the way to go if it’s light surface rust. My way of thinking is, always try the simple easy ways before moving up the ladder.
Something I haven’t tried on cast iron but have used on aluminum sheet pan, is a 3M fine grade sanding sponge, used wet. I think that would work on surface rust on cast iron too.
November 30, 2018 at 1:44 pm #14206
- This reply was modified 1 week, 3 days ago by RiversideLen.
I agree with Len, start with the less invasive techniques and work up as needed. Carbon-off is what restaurants use to clean pans that have had food baked on, here’s a video showing what it can do:Carbon-Off video
I don’t know that it would do much about the rust.
As to the oven temperature for re-seasoning the pan, it should be below the smoke point for the oil you use, unless you enjoy having the smoke detector go off.November 30, 2018 at 4:04 pm #14208
Thanks, Mike and Len. I’m going to start with the kosher salt and a coarse sponge. The skillet seems to have mostly black crud with some areas of rust. It almost looks like something burned onto it, or that it was used over a fire.
350F seems to be the suggested temperature. I have both canola and grapeseed oil, so either should work.November 30, 2018 at 5:46 pm #14210
I started with a semi-coarse sponge and Kosher salt. It was slow going, not so much because of rust but the crud cooked onto the skillet. I remembered that there were some SOS pads (left there in the house when we bought it), so I have now used three of the four, wearing the down to nothingness. It has helped, and I can see the actual skillet, but I am now going to see if there is any oven cleaner around here (we never use the stuff), spray the skillet and put it in a garbage bag for a couple of days, and see if that will get me there faster.November 30, 2018 at 7:09 pm #14211
I’ve used salt and a scrubber-type sponge, but I’ve never had a badly rusted pan to clean. I rarely re-oil my pans, either, and I have one I got new over 50 years ago. I do have a funny looking pan, never seen another one like it, that has some kind of a thick, gooey substance on it that I have not been able to get rid of, although I did manage to clean off a couple small spots of rust. There’s a “new cast iron cooking” group on Facebook that you might look at; they have lots of suggestions for cleaning and also for cooking (though not the healthiest food to eat!!). My favorite cast iron pieces are the bread pans and the huge round pizza pan – I use them all the time.November 30, 2018 at 7:10 pm #14212
Be sure to test to make sure the oven cleaner doesn’t do nasty things to the garbage bag first, like dissolve it.
As to the gooey stuff on your pan, I virtually guarantee Carbon-off would get rid of it.November 30, 2018 at 7:34 pm #14213
Here are a multitude of ideas. The coca cola one is interesting–for all the wrong reasons.
Good point about the garbage bag, Mike. I found some oven cleaner under the sink in the apt., but now I wonder what would be safe to the pan inside. I have plenty of cardboard boxes.November 30, 2018 at 10:03 pm #14214
My husband suggests lining a box bottom with aluminum foil, so that the oven cleaner does not soak through. He also suggests doing it outside so that we do not breathe the fumes. Rain is predicted for tomorrow, so maybe I’ll try it Sunday morning.November 30, 2018 at 10:48 pm #14219
Old timers like my Mom use to throw their cast iron pans in the fire to get the cooked on thick crust off the bottoms then you would reseason them after that.December 1, 2018 at 7:54 am #14221
Well, Joan, my husband nixed putting it in our wood stove, and in this rainy, windy weather, there will not be any outside fires…. 🙂
Some people put them in the oven on the self-clean cycle, but as we’ve discussed before, oven self-clean, especially the really hot ones, may contribute to stove failure. While I could try it with the old avocado green Frigidare that we will donate to Habitat for Humanity if they want it, when we first got the house, the previous people had run the self-clean, and the oven was locked. Someone who knew how to jiggle it got it unlocked for us, and we have never run it ourselves. The sales rep at the store where I will purchase my stove told me that there is an increase in service calls right before Thanksgiving and Christmas because people decide to clean the oven before the holiday baking, and some of the modern ovens get stuck in the locked position.December 1, 2018 at 2:10 pm #14226
I was watching a video on reconditioning cast iron pans with the sound off during last night’s Pas 12 championship game, it looked like she was recommending using steel wool or even a wire brush for a drill in extreme cases. I think she started by baking the pan in a hot oven for several hours. I’m not sure that helps if the pan has a lot of caked on grease and food, though.
There are dozens of videos out there on how to do it, with what appears to be a wide range of methods. I suspect they all work fairly well.
If it was me, I’d probably start by using something like Carbon-Off to take off the grease and crud, so I knew exactly how much rust I had to deal with, then use my stainless steel scrubber to take off the rust and smooth the surface as needed. (I prefer those to steel wool, because they don’t rust, last a lot longer, and don’t leave shards of steel in my fingers. I’ve never tried the chain mail scrubbers, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in the stores.)December 1, 2018 at 4:45 pm #14227
I have a chain mail scrubber. It’s good for general cleaning of the cast iron, I especially like it for my bbq grill grates which are enameled cast iron but it’s not going to get built up crud off.December 2, 2018 at 10:15 am #14233
I will start with the Easy-Off Heavy Duty oven cleaner left behind by our former renters. That way I can use it up and get it out of the house. I’ll then see where the pan is at. I now think that it may have more gunk than rust. I will also look locally for stainless steel scrubbers. I can always escalate if necessary.
December 2, 2018 at 10:48 am #14235
- This reply was modified 1 week, 1 day ago by BakerAunt.
I’ve used sandpaper and steel wool pads before. The Steel wool does a better job of getting into the corner where the pan bottom meets the edge. I think the sand paper is less messy or at least drier. This is mainly to clean off old finish if there is a thick layer. If there isn’t enough finish, just wash and dry and rub a little oil on with a paper towel to remove the rust and bake.
I’ve had to refinish several times because I put too much oil on at once. Oil the pan lightly and then wipe off all the oil you can with a dry paper towel before baking it in the oven. Bake at 400 degrees, 350 degrees is to low to properly bake the oil into a solid surface.
Refinishing a cast iron pan is a lovely excuse for running the over for a couple of hours on a cold day. I might refinish my chicken frier. The bottom is fine but the sides are lumpy so it doesn’t really NEED to be redone its just prettier.
Heating a skillet really hot on a stove top, will weaken the old finish so its easier to remove. I did this on a pancake skillet last year.December 2, 2018 at 4:26 pm #14241
BakerAunt I talked with my cousin who use to collect iron wares and he said if you have rust to soak the pan in white vinegar and water for a little while then scrub and recondition,for heavy build up to soak in a mixture of red devil lye in a plastic container because it’s caustic like the heavy rubbermaid containers for several days,for 5-10 gallons of water use about a can or 2 and you can’t get it on your skin,use rubber gloves to get out of container,he said he’d soak several pans for a week or more,check them and scrub and replace them till it took all grime back to new condition,he said never put them in a fire.Just wanted to share what he said.December 2, 2018 at 7:05 pm #14244
Thanks, Joan. That is interesting and makes sense for someone doing a number of pots at once. I wonder where he dumped the lye mixture when he was done. 🙁 At least I just have the one pan.
That is a good hint about the rust. My husband used vinegar to clean the rust off a used jointer he bought, and it worked well.
We had another rainy day, so I have not yet tried the oven cleaner, which according to my husband contains lye.
December 2, 2018 at 7:09 pm #14246
- This reply was modified 1 week ago by BakerAunt.
Lye is commonly used as a drain cleaner, so dumping it down the drain is one option.December 3, 2018 at 6:10 am #14248
Lye might start to eat through the pipes if there isn’t a clog. Adding a strong acid to neutralize the lye would be dangerous — it might cause an explosion as the two chemicals react. You should wear goggles as well as gloves when dealing with lye.December 3, 2018 at 8:42 am #14251
I don’t think I’d pour it in the drain either,my cousin said he’d pour it around trees ,not a flower bed as it might be too much lye,But ashes from your fire place is basically just potash and they are good for flowers or trees.Old timers use to bury a can of potash under a pecan tree and as it deteriorates it leeches in soil for abundant pecans.
My husbands grandfather one time had a commode stopped up and he over did the red devil lye poured 2 cans in it and he said it started smoking and cracked the commode with an explosion.He said his Daddy told him don’t do it but he was hard headed lol.
December 3, 2018 at 12:04 pm #14255
- This reply was modified 1 week ago by Joan Simpson.
Maybe pour it down the drain slowly as you run the faucet full open to dilute it.
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