Whether you want to keep them for personal use or spruce them up to resell, old cast iron skillets are worth the restoration effort. Oftentimes you will find these gems in rough condition. Cast iron requires regular maintenance, so that neglected pan you found at the yard sale may look beyond repair. However, with some elbow grease, you can restore cast iron skillets to a fabulous condition.
If you plan to use the restored pans for cooking, be aware that the restoration process uses harsh chemicals. As a matter of safety, use protective gear, such as gloves and goggles, during the process.
- The simplest product to use on old cast iron skillets is oven cleaner. Move outdoors or into a well-ventilated area and thoroughly spray the skillet with oven cleaner. The cleaner needs time to work, so seal the skillet inside a plastic bag and let it set for two days. Use a brass brush to lift debris from the skillet. Repeat this process to tackle stubborn debris if necessary.
- For old cast iron skillets that are rusted but in otherwise good condition, a drill with a wire wheel attachment will do the trick. If the rust is particularly stuck on, soak the skillet in equal parts water and vinegar for three hours before tackling with a wire wheel.
- If you need to restore several cast iron pieces at once, consider a lye soak. Find a plastic tub large enough to fit all your pieces and fill it with a lye and water solution. Mix one container of lye with 1 ½ gallons of water and thoroughly cover your old cast iron skillets. After soaking the pans for five days, use a wire brush to scrub off any leftover residue.
Restoring your old cast iron skillets may take elbow grease, time and hard-hitting chemicals, but the restored classic pieces make the effort worthwhile. When restored, you will have a handsome decorative piece for your wall, or a refurbished classic to sell for profit.