Lye bath cast iron cleaning

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Trapper

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Lye Bath:
Items needed" Drano cleaning crystals, plastic tub, eye protection, rubber gloves, wire
Use a plastic tub. I use an 18 gallon rubbermaid storage tub. Fill with water and add 1 can of Drano cleaning crytals (its lye). The can I use is has a black and blue label. It does not directly say lye in the ingredients it will say "sodium hydroxide". This is caustic. Do NOT put in the lye in an empty tub and then add water. It will boil over like a bad volcano science project leaving a caustic mess.
Once this is mixed I put several pieces of CI in the tub attaching a stiff wire to them for easy removal in a few days. Put the CI in the tub and leave for 3-5 days. Pull it out and rinse well with water. Scrub down with a brillo pad or I also use a soft wire brush on a cordless drill. Take off the crud. Put back into lye and repeat as many times as needed until clean. Then follow reseasoning advise....
Draw backs to lye: Its caustic, leaves a caustic mess to dispose of, takes alot more time than electrolysis, will freeze in the winter
Advantages: Just keep adding water and lye and it lasts for years.
 

old_anorak

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I'll be honest, I've just cleaned badly burnt cast iron like my grandmothers and mom did. I chuck the pan into the fire and let whatever it is burn to ash. After the fire goes out and the pan is cool, I re-season and go on.
 

Roninsensei

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I re-season with flax seed oil its awesome!
 

Trapper

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I'll be honest, I've just cleaned badly burnt cast iron like my grandmothers and mom did. I chuck the pan into the fire and let whatever it is burn to ash. After the fire goes out and the pan is cool, I re-season and go on.
Actually this is the fastest sway to RUIN a good piece of CI. A camp fire can get over 1000'F. This can cause a pan to warp or crack. The heat can also take the temper out of the metal. The pan will come out of the fire and have a redish color to it. It will not take a seasoning very well. Most of the times the seasoning will only stick in blotches.

I saw a guy do this a couple of summers ago. His mother died, she was in her 90's. He was cleaning out her house. They had just broken all of the dutch oven and pots by throwing them into a dumpster trying to have a contest to break them. They also had an entire set of Wagner pans they put into a large fire. I told them how much they lost in breaking the CI. He then showed me the pans in the fire. I tried to tell him they were ruined. I showed him my CI as I was cooking on it. Needless to say he was sick to find out what he did.
 

old_anorak

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Looks like I've been extremely lucky then. I'm cooking on my great-grandmother's cast iron. I do take care to make sure they are not gommed up though. I'll give the lye bath a try the next time I have to clean one up. Thank you.
 

Trapper

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Anorak,
If possible try the electrolysis method I posted in a seperate thread. It sounds harder but its really not. It works much faster and gets to bare metal easier. Best of all no lye water to get rid of. After electrolysis you can water the grass with the solution with no worries. I have truly done both methods on over 100 pans.
 

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