Techniques for Restoring an old Cast Iron Skillet
Using Ammonia for Cleaning Cast Iron

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Check out all my web pages on cast iron pots, kettles, and Dutch ovens
(just click on the underlined topics):

Main Page: 
The Irreplaceable Cast Iron Skillet


Question & Answer Pages:

Ammonia for Cleaning Cast Iron

Ceramic Top (Flat Top) Electric Range and Cast Iron Pots

Hot Fire for Curing & Cleaning

Iron and Carcinogens in Cast Iron

Misc. Questions & Answers

Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Pots

Salt for Cleaning Cast Iron

Sanding Cast Iron Pots

Self-Cleaning Oven for Cleaning & Seasoning

Warped or Cracked Cast Iron Pots

Washing Cast Iron Pots

 

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Question:

I was at a yard sale recently, and a lady told me her grandmother had cleaned a very dirty cast iron skillet by wrapping it in a rag soaked in ammonia and leaving it for several days. What do you think of this idea? - Robin (12/5/05)

Answer:
I had not heard of using ammonia before. I did some searching and did find the following:

For heavy burn buildup, such as cast iron pans or Dutch ovens, put the pans in a plastic garbage bag along with a cup of ammonia. Let them sit outside (to avoid the odor!) overnight. The ammonia fumes will loosen the buildup and allow easy cleaning. With cast iron you will need to re-season the surface after cleaning.

If you use this technique, please let me know the results.


Feedback:
I tried ammonia to clean two small cast iron pans.  It seems this method works quite well for people who have lots of time to wait and plenty of ammonia. The first pan was VERY rusted. It looked like something had been left in the bottom and rust had formed over top of that and all up the sides. I wrapped the pan in a rag and put it down in a plastic grocery bag. Then I poured ammonia all over it, wrapped it up in the bag, and put that down in another plastic bag to keep the odor down. All in all, (with lots of peeking and a little scrubbing along the way) I left the pan there for two weeks. Most of the amazing stuff happened the first 3 or 4 days. The clumps of rust were gooey and loose after just a day or so. After the first week, I don't think it really made that much more progress, and I ended up hand sanding it the last little bit.

The second pan was black and had mild rust all over it.  I left it for only one week.  It was nearly grey by the time I took it out.  I scrubbed it a bit with sand paper, but no more than scrubbing a pot while doing dishes.

 



Comments from Ray Moffit (5/14/06):

My mother had a cast iron waffle iron when I was little and she was cooking on a wood kitchen stove.  She gave this to me when I got married and I used it until I got an electric waffle iron. When we moved to another place there was another cast iron waffle iron in an old shed. It was rusted on the outside, but the cooking surface was in good shape. I gave my Mother's to one of my daughters and told them to take care of it. I kept the old one, thinking I would never us it, but it was an antique.

I moved it when we came to town and I was talking about it the other day, and thinking it would be nice for out camping trips. I was going to put it in the camp fire when we went camping and then I saw where you shouldn't do that. I'm trying the ammonia method now. The inside cooking area don't need sanding or scouring but will have a lot to do on the outside.

Results: The ammonia method worked pretty good, but I found when I put it on my gas grill and heated it real hot it worked better.& I sanded with my palm electric sander and then I found steel wool pads for the sander and WOW, It came out looking new and worked real well.


 


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