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Cast Iron Cleaning and Seasoning Help With and Tips & Techniques For Cast Iron Cookware Restoration

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  #1  
Old 12-12-2014, 09:03 AM
PeteK PeteK is offline
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Default Question about cleaning

Greetings, all. My first post here! Sorry if it's too long...

I had a mild interest in cast iron cooking a while back, and acquired two Griswold pans: a #3 and a #6. I didn't do much to them after purchase, just cleaned with soap and water, then added a layer or two of my own seasoning. But I left the majority of the old crud, err, seasoning. Since then, my interest level has increased, and I've read a ton about both cleaning and seasoning. There's certainly a wide range of opinions out there!

Anyway, I've recently picked up two #10s, a #8, and am awaiting another #3. I like the #3s for omelets, because my kids like them but don't love them. These are all small logo, more recent pans - bought more for use than collecting. And I've begun really cleaning them down to the metal and seasoning them from there using six layers of flax seed oil (a la Sheryl Canter).*

Thus far, my cleaning method is now:
1. Soak in a lye bath for several days, depending on how much crud is on the pan(s).
2. Douse them with vinegar and then scrub them with a stainless steel scouring sponge and Barkeepers' Friend.

That has done a good, but not great job. There are still dark spots from some really stuck-on crud. I got both a coarse and fine wire brush drill attachments and tried them on the one wobbly pan I have (always practice on scrap!), and they didn't seem to get the crud off, they just shined up the area around it, lol. It doesn't bother me so much on the bottom or outside of the pan, but I dislike it on the inside.

So finally to my first question: I have some 400 and 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper, as well as some 0000 steel wool. I thought about sticking some sandpaper to a small, round and flat piece of wood and hitting the bottom of the pan. And then sticking some to something more flexible and doing the sides. Then polishing it up with the steel wool. Is that unheard of or considered heresy? If not, is it even effective? It occurs to me that the crud has most likely sunk into the pores, and there's virtually no way of getting it out.

I do have a second question. Yesterday I won an auction for my first (and most likely only) pre-Griswold "Erie" piece. I'm sure I overspent, I'm sure it's in rough shape and probably not worth it, but I wanted just one piece of 100+ year old Americana. I'll try to link a pic below. The question is this: are there certain cleaning methods that you specifically would or would not use on a piece that's meant to be collectible rather than useable? I would think a lye bath would be fine, but my guess would be to do little more than that. I'm curious to know what you all think.

Thanks for reading!

TL;DR
1. Is using sandpaper on the inside of a pan meant for use rather than display okay and/or effective?

2. What cleaning methods would you suggest/avoid for older, more collectible pans?

* I know there are tons of opinions on seasoning. I've read many of them. Stinking up my kitchen for hours on end is my choice, and I'm fine with it, and happy with the result. To me it's become something of a hobby.

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  #2  
Old 12-12-2014, 09:52 AM
Doug D. Doug D. is offline
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Default Re: Question about cleaning

I would put away the drill. Yes, there are the old timers who used to and still use a mild steel wire wheel on a bench grinder as their method of choice, but in these days of "TL;DR", people read just until they think they know what they need to know and then go off and irreversibly damage, from a collectible standpoint, valuable vintage pans. 400 and 600 grit sandpaper are quite fine, abrasively speaking, but I still would not recommend sandpaper except on already polish-ground surfaces like the insides of skillets; sandpaper on the outside "as-cast" parts is to be avoided. There are other methods you should try first on those residual dark spots. Steel wool is OK, as are stainless steel scrubbers like Chore Boy, and soft to medium bristled stainless steel hand brushes; anything that changes original cast or polished surface texture or appearance is verboten, ordinary utensil marks from cooking use excepted. All of the acceptable methods and implements are covered on the cleaning and seasoning pages of the main website, and are safe for any pan of any vintage. http://www.castironcollector.com/restore.php
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  #3  
Old 12-12-2014, 10:09 AM
PeteK PeteK is offline
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Default Re: Question about cleaning

Thanks for your quick reply!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug D. View Post
I would put away the drill.
Already done!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug D. View Post
400 and 600 grit sandpaper are quite fine, abrasively speaking, but I still would not recommend sandpaper except on already polish-ground surfaces like the insides of skillets; sandpaper on the outside "as-cast" parts is to be avoided.
I should have made it more clear that this is exactly what I'd been thinking. I was considering it exclusively for the inside of the pan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug D. View Post
There are other methods you should try first on those residual dark spots. Steel wool is OK, as are stainless steel scrubbers like Chore Boy, and soft to medium bristled stainless steel hand brushes; anything that changes original cast or polished surface texture or appearance is verboten, ordinary utensil marks from cooking use excepted. All of the acceptable methods and implements are covered on the cleaning and seasoning pages of the main website, and are safe for any pan of any vintage.
Noted. I was thinking that a medium stainless brush would help get the crud out of the lettering. I also noted recommendations about popsicle sticks, bamboo skewers and old credit cards. I have plenty of those and will give them a shot this weekend.

But for the older piece, I think I'll stick with a long soak in lye water and some gentle handling beyond that. We'll see how it looks after that.

Thanks again.
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  #4  
Old 12-17-2014, 03:31 AM
RickC RickC is offline
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Default Re: Question about cleaning

Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteK View Post
So finally to my first question: I have some 400 and 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper

==========

Yesterday I won an auction for my first (and most likely only) pre-Griswold "Erie" piece. I'm sure I overspent,

==========

1. Is using sandpaper on the inside of a pan meant for use rather than display okay and/or effective?

Point 1: I read this and it gave me the shivers.. No sandpaper!

Point 2: Welcome to my world. Overspending is a way of life if you want nice things, don't have the time to hunt them, and don't live on the Eastern side of the U.S. Cast iron made it's way out West, but I'm not seeing much..

Point 3: At the end of the day, it's your pan to do what you want with, but if you ever plan on selling it, nobody in their right mind will buy it. I have a feeling that once you lye bath that Erie, it will be nice and smooth and you'll love it. If not so smooth, season it, and try it. I've had great luck with an old Griswold skillet that looks like it had been buried underground for 20 years.

Oh, and welcome to your new addiction!
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  #5  
Old 12-17-2014, 06:15 PM
JeanC JeanC is offline
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Default Re: Question about cleaning

I agree, please.. no sand paper or wire wheeled drills. Listen to these people, they know what not to do.

Also.. the flax seed oil will chip off, creating a mess of your pan... I wouldn't use it.
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  #6  
Old 12-21-2014, 10:50 AM
PeteK PeteK is offline
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Default Re: Question about cleaning

I hope you'll notice that I asked the questions *before* I did anything, with the exception of the wire wheel (and that was on a scrap pan and not one I intend to use). I'm not terribly bright, but wise enough to know to ask questions and try to learn from other people's mistakes.

The flax seed seasoning has already been done on most of my pans. They've been very thin coats, and they don't seem like they'll chip. But I'll keep an eye out for that, and if it happens I may switch to another type of seasoning.

Thanks for the replies.
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  #7  
Old 12-21-2014, 11:05 AM
Jeffrey R. Jeffrey R. is offline
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Default Re: Question about cleaning

Welcome to the forum PeteK

My cleaning method is real easy. A warm and Very Strong Lye Bath. Warning, if you wanted to steal one of my pieces out of my lye bath, your hand will come out with no skin left. I do use a sharp wood chisel at the right angle to the surface to help lift the heavy crud, then let it swim for a day or two more. I also have a small like tooth brush style SS brush to help. Do not use a brass brush. E tank for any rust, then off to the oven.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jean View Post

Also.. the flax seed oil will chip off, creating a mess of your pan... I wouldn't use it.
That will happen with any oil, fat ,grease if not applied right.

Flax seed , grape seed and olive oil works just fine. But there are differences with all oils. Knowing how to apply them is the trick.

Last edited by Jeffrey R.; 12-21-2014 at 11:31 AM. Reason: Glasses and fingers were not on the same page.
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  #8  
Old 12-21-2014, 01:07 PM
Doug D. Doug D. is offline
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Default Re: Question about cleaning

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeffrey R. View Post
That will happen with any oil, fat ,grease if not applied right.

Flax seed , grape seed and olive oil works just fine. But there are differences with all oils. Knowing how to apply them is the trick.
The only pans I've ever had seasoning lift off of were two: the one before I knew what "very thin layers" meant, and the one I used flaxseed oil on after I knew what "very thin layers" meant.
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  #9  
Old 12-21-2014, 05:03 PM
Jeffrey R. Jeffrey R. is offline
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Default Re: Question about cleaning

Hi Jean,
Could you explain "chip off" Just how thick was on your pans?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jean View Post
Also.. the flax seed oil will chip off, creating a mess of your pan... I wouldn't use it.

Hi PeterK

Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteK View Post

The flax seed seasoning has already been done on most of my pans. They've been very thin coats, and they don't seem like they'll chip.

Thanks for the replies.
Have you used your flax seed seasoned pans yet. Would you care to give us some feed back. Also how thick are you putting it on?

Hi Doug D.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug D. View Post
The only pans I've ever had seasoning lift off of were two: the one before I knew what "very thin layers" meant, and the one I used flaxseed oil on after I knew what "very thin layers" meant.
Do you remember just what type of flaxseed oil you used?

Thank you.
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  #10  
Old 12-21-2014, 05:35 PM
Doug D. Doug D. is offline
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Default Re: Question about cleaning

International Collection cold-pressed virgin flaxseed oil, which should be essentially the same as that used in the oft-referenced blog article.
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