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Friday, April 5, 2013

Cast Iron Cookware Restoration Part II

vinegar has been working (two skillets and lid)
I started the restoration quite awhile ago.  Finally, a month or so later, I am going to work again. This is where I am today. The skillets and lid above have been in the tub with two gallons of vinegar. Today, I am adding another two gallons and more cast iron.

two skillets and a lid
a better angle to see the pot lid shaded from the sun

The pot lid was not submerged in vinegar. You can see at the bottom of the lid where it is sitting in a skillet. There is a great red, nasty-looking scum. 

another two--(pot and lid and skillet)

The pot at the right was given to me in 1981 by a friend. I think the skillet at the left is the one I use with the pot lid to cook in. Well, before I burned several chicken breast to it. They were charcoal. I lay down for just a minute on the couch and awoke to stifling and blinding smoke. When I cook now, I do not lie down. I added these to the tub and filled the pot with a gallon of vinegar.
The pot was supposed to be free of rust. However, I can see red rust through the oil in places. I have not used it since I 'finished' it. So, this will have a run through the vinegar bath.
3 skillets and a cornbread fish  pan
When I add a caption, blogger moves my picture!
Blogger has made a decision on the lines!
These four have been on the grill since last summer. They should have been cooked today, but I have clothes on the line nearby. The tiny skillet, back left, is one I have had for maybe 40 years. The other three were given to me. I gave Mark a skillet for cleaning two for me. I know I started with the tiny, 8-inch skillet, the pot and lid and a deep skillet and a shallow skillet. So, I had four pieces and one lid for years. I bought the Lodge lid for $5. The rest were given to me on Freecycle in a load of free stuff.
I have 9 skillets, two lids, and a pot.
I am leaning over here with hair and sweatshirt hanging in my face,
both in my way.
My 10-inch skillet is still in the house. Only the bottom is rusted, so I cannot tell the difference in its cooking ability. Now, I am off to the store to buy two more gallons of vinegar. That will make 8x$2.38. It is worth it to not have to pay to have these sand-blasted at $50/hr. Plus, this will make the job easier for me or whoever uses steel wool on them. I must remember to buy steel wool or find mine. After this next two gallons, I will finish by covering with water any of the cast iron not submerged in water.
Stay tuned for the next episode of "fun with vinegar."
I will keep my original four skillets and one more, the pot, the two lids. The rest is going to be sold. That makes four skillets I will sell.  That will mean one pot, two lids, the 8-inch skillet, the 10-inch skillet, three large skillets all will live in my house.  One of the large skillets is very deep, so that serves as a pot sometimes. I have used it for beans and a roast.
 Someone said on jambaloney's post that covering with water would work to loosen the rust. I remembered that a skillet full of water had no rust below the water line.
Your turn
Has anyone used just water?  Do you treasure lots of cast iron? Yes, I do not need all this!


  1. i love using my iron skillets and pots..i have never tried the "vinegar" soaks you describe but twice a year when hubby has a big ole fire going outdoors, we place our iron cookware down in with the coals and let the yuck cook off. then, when all is cool we re-season with a light rub of lard and a hot (not smoking hot) oven. skillets and pots come out like new and almost stick free.


    If I MUST wash it, I used a hard bristle brush and the hottest water I can get from the tap. I dry it with a paper towel and evaporate any residual moisture by heating it on the stove for a minute.

  3. OH!! I know. Too little, too late. But all your work could be avoided by spraying the skillets with oven cleaner, placing them in plastic bags in the sun for several days. THEN rinsing with vinegar. Go to YOUTUBE and write in 'cleaning cast iron with oven cleaner' and all of the directions are there.

    1. lotta joy,
      I have seen those videos, but I don't want chemicals on the porous surface that I will eat from. Thanks for the suggestion.

  4. Anon,
    Mine got rusty and the ones given to me were rusty when I got them. I had rust and yuck. I am hoping this works. Stick-free is the goal! I never had a fire in the yard since it is illegal here. I an glad you use them, too.

  5. The pans in the top picture look worse than when you started. Did you try wiping the rust off at all? I would be nervous to add to this experiment without knowing what's going on under the surface.

    I never wash my cast iron. After cooking, I heat and scrape any stuck on food until it's gone, then wipe the pans down with an oily rag. I've never had a problem with rust.

    I do have an aluminum skillet that rusts, but I also wipe it with an oily rag to remove the rust before cooking.

    In the pictures it looks like the vinegar is eating through the pans.

  6. I do the heat and scrape bit too. However, I do put water, not soap, on mine in the process most of the time. Remember, most of these were not mine. Two of the ones that were mine burned so badly with chicken that they had to be put outdoors because of toxic smoke. AND, I left them there for months. The items I have in the house were not so bad and still not in the tub.

    It does look terrible. Because of my back, I did not investigate what was happening under the rust glob. I don't think it is eating through the skillet, just the rust. Okay, now I am getting nervous about it. LOL, surely it won't dissolve my cast iron. ???

    I have weeds that will get a dose of the vinegar water when this is over.

    1. I am afraid it might eat right through your cast iron. Those pictures just don't look good.

      Please wipe down one of the earlier pieces to see what's happening before you add any more to the bin. It would be so sad to lose them all!

    2. Unfortunately, all were in vinegar when you told me this. Then, I covered them all with water to make a solution of the water and vinegar. Today, Sunday, I am going to take some of the pieces out, wipe them down and see what is happening. Then, maybe I will use steel wool on them.

  7. if you cannot have a good old fashioned open fire in your yard for burning limbs, leaves, stumps or whatever, have you tried using lava rock in a grill? once your grill gets really hot with lava rock, set the skillets right on top of the lava rock and keep it hot for several hours...if skillets are really yucked up with burned grease etc.. then they will smoke some as the stuff burns away...let things get cool to the touch before removing the skillets from the grill. if there is rust on the skillet, then you need to just wipe it down good with damp cloth and give the inside and the outside of the skillet a wiping of lard, shortening or cooking then put in warm oven for awhile to "season" (turn black) if rust has gotten too deep into the iron then you may just have to use those skillets/pots for doorstops-rust causes pitting in the iron and real bad rust will make your skillets/pots useless for cooking.

    1. I just put the skillets right on the grill. I hope I don't ruin my skillets! That scares me.

  8. I love my cast iron pans and use them daily. I have never had rust. I always heat,scrape and use a bit of salt if they need a scrubbing. I never use water or steel wool on my pans and I always re-coat with a bit of oil before putting the pan away.

    I have never heard of using vinegar on the rusty cast iron pans. I hope it works out for you.

    I have a lot of old family pieces of cast iron, including one really rare piece that all the serious collectors have never come across. It is foreign and very old. It was given to my grandparents when they got married by an old sheepherder that use to work and live by my grandfathers ranch. It was old when he gave it to them, but in excellent like new condition. I had it passed on to me when my grandmother died. Its a large dutch oven and I remember it being used for Sunday dinners at my grandparents house. Now I use it, and I am sure it will still be around long after I'm gone.

    1. Kathy,
      I never had rust until I burned chicken in two of the items and had a charred chunk to get out of the house. The other pieces were given to me. Thirty years of no rust and then I lose a grip on keeping things nice! Ack!

      I have seen several videos about vinegar on cast iron. But, jambaloney convinced me it was really a good idea.

      The old sheepherder piece sound fantastic. If you ever post a picture of it, let me know. If you send a picture, I will put it i this post.

  9. Hey. My comments aren't showing up!

    1. lotta joy,
      Now they are. Thanks for alerting me.


Okay, hoping the annoyances have gone away.