How To Strip Cast Iron Without Oven Cleaner

  • Post category:Cookware

If your cast-iron skillet is developing rust and needs a good stripping, don't despair. While one of the most common methods is to use oven cleaner, if you don't have any on hand, there are other ways you can restore your cast-iron skillet. Let's take a look at a variety of options to get your cast-iron skillet back to its former glory.

Use the following methods to strip your cast-iron skillet without oven cleaner:

  • Lye bath
  • Molasses soak
  • Oven self-clean
  • Electrolysis
  • Vinegar bath
  • Hot coals

As you can see, there are several alternative methods for stripping a cast-iron skillet. In this article, we will take you step-by-step through each of these methods so that you can decide which one is best for you. In addition, we will answer other frequently asked questions about cast-iron skillets, so let's get to it!

Empty cast iron frying pan on dark grey culinary background, view from above - How To Strip Cast Iron Without Oven Cleaner

What Can I Use To Strip Cast Iron?

For centuries, cast iron has been used for everything from cooking to warfare. It is durable, long lasting, and easy to care for. But sometimes, it does need a little TLC.

Over time, cast iron can develop rust and other buildup that can make it difficult to use. In these cases, it is necessary to strip the cast iron down to its bare surface.

Not only does this remove the buildup, but it also saves you from buying a new skillet. So, what can you use to strip cast iron?

As mentioned earlier, one of the most common methods is using an oven cleaner. Oven cleaners do an excellent job breaking down and removing the buildup on cast iron.

They are also relatively inexpensive and easy to find. However, if you don't have any oven cleaner on hand, there are other ways you can strip your cast-iron skillet. Let's take a look at some of these alternative methods.

cast iron skillets staked

Lye Bath

Lye is a caustic chemical that is often used for cleaning. It effectively breaks down and removes rust, buildup, and other debris. Be sure to use protective gear when handling lye, as it can be harmful to your skin and eyes.

To use this method, you will need to:

  1. Put five gallons of water into a container and one can of lye into the water. Be sure to add the lye to the water, not the other way around.
  2. Stir the mixture until the lye has dissolved.
  3. Place your skillet into the mixture and let it soak for 12 hours to a few days (depending on the amount of buildup).
  4. After the allotted time, remove the skillet from the lye bath and rinse it off with clean water.
  5. Use a wool scrubber or steel wool to remove any remaining buildup.

Molasses Soak

Molasses is also effective at breaking down and removing rust, buildup, and other debris from cast iron.

Note that you will want molasses that is used for animal feed, not the kind you would use in baking. Check your local feed store or online for molasses specifically meant for animal feed.

To use this method, you will need to:

  1. Mix one part molasses with nine parts water in a container.
  2. Place your skillet into the mixture for a few days to a few weeks. If possible, set the molasses to soak in warmer weather, as it will speed up the process.
  3. After the allotted time, remove the skillet from the molasses soak and rinse it off with clean water.
  4. Use a wool scrubber or steel wool to remove any remaining buildup.

Oven Self-Clean

If you have an oven with a self-clean feature, you can use this to strip your cast-iron skillet. If you have a day where you aren't using your oven, set it to self-clean and place your skillet inside.

  1. First, be sure to remove any food or debris from the skillet before placing it in the oven.
  2. Once the cycle is complete, the oven will be hot, so use caution when removing the skillet.
  3. Use a wool scrubber or steel wool to remove any remaining debris.
  4. Then, rinse the skillet with clean water and dry it off.

Ensure that your home is properly ventilated when using this method.

Vintage cast iron skillet on rustic wood background with vegetable prepare for cook

Electrolysis

Electrolysis is a process that uses electricity to break down and remove rust. It is more labor intensive but is one of the most effective ways to strip cast iron.

To use this method, you will need to:

  1. Add 10 gallons of water to a thick plastic container.
  2. Next, add a cup of washing soda to the water.
  3. Place a piece of iron or steel in the water.
  4. Now, submerge the cast-iron skillet in the water.
  5. Using a battery charger (make sure it's off), connect the negative battery clip to the cast iron and the positive cable to the metal.
  6. Turn the battery charger on and let it sit for 12-24 hours.
  7. After, turn the battery charger off, and remove the pan.
  8. Scrub the skillet with water and dry it off.

As you may know, water and electricity don't mix. Therefore, be sure to take the necessary precautions when using this method.

  • Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.
  • Do not use a metal container, as this will conduct electricity.
  • Be sure that the area around the container is dry to prevent any accidents.
  • Keep children and pets away from the area.
  • Do not leave the battery charger unattended.

Vinegar Soak

Vinegar is a popular cleaning agent that is often used to clean cast iron. It effectively breaks down and removes rust, buildup, and other debris from your skillet. If your cast-iron skillet isn't too dirty, a vinegar soak may be all you need to clean it.

Follow these steps to use this method:

  1. Fill a container with equal parts water and white vinegar. Ensure there is enough liquid to fully submerge the skillet.
  2. Place your skillet into the mixture and let it soak for 30 minutes to a few hours (depending on the amount of buildup).
  3. After the allotted time, remove the skillet from the vinegar bath, scrub with a stiff brush, and rinse it off with clean water.
  4. Dry the skillet with a clean towel.
  5. Repeat this process if necessary.

Hot Coals

Similar to the self-cleaning oven method, hot coals can also be used to strip cast iron. This is a great method if you don't want to tie up your oven for a day.

To use this method, you will need to:

  1. Build a fire outside and let it burn until the coals are red hot.
  2. Using tongs, bury your skillet in the hot coals.
  3. Be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands.
  4. Let the skillet sit in the coals for 8-12 hours or overnight.
  5. Remove the skillet, and wash it with hot soapy water.
  6. Use a stiff brush to remove any remaining rust or debris.
  7. Rinse the skillet with clean water and dry it off.

As with the other methods, be sure to take the necessary precautions when using this method. Wear gloves and be cautious of the hot coals.

Cast iron pan on concrete background with red ripe tomatoes and red pepper

How Do You Season A Cast-Iron Skillet?

If your head is spinning from all of the different methods to strip cast iron, don't worry; seasoning is much simpler. In addition, regularly seasoning your cast-iron skillet will mitigate having to strip it as often.

Seasoning is the process of coating the skillet with oil or fat and then heating it. This creates a nonstick surface and helps to prevent rust.

Nonetheless, if you had to strip your cast-iron skillet, this is the final step to get it ready for cooking.

Here's how you season a cast-iron skillet:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash the skillet with hot soapy water and dry it off.
  3. Next, using a paper towel or clean cloth, coat the entire surface of the skillet with vegetable oil, canola oil, olive oil, or melted shortening.
  4. Place the skillet in the oven upside down on the middle rack.
  5. Bake for one hour.
  6. After an hour, turn off the oven and let the skillet cool inside.
  7. Once it has cooled, your cast-iron skillet is now ready to use.
  8. Be sure to store it in a dry place.

For a freshly stripped cast-iron skillet, you may need to repeat this process a few times to create a nonstick surface.

It is important to note that you should never use soap to wash your cast-iron skillet. The soap will remove the seasoning that you just spent time creating.

If you need to clean it, simply rinse it with hot water and dry it off. You can also scrub it with a stiff brush.

Read more: How Long To Season Cast Iron? [Inc. In The Oven Or On The Stovetop]

Final Thoughts

pile of cast iron skillets on old wood table

Cast-iron skillets are built to last a lifetime. However, sooner or later, you will need to strip and re-season your skillet. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can easily and effectively clean your cast-iron skillet.

Made it to the end? Here are other articles you might find helpful:

Do You Season The Outside Of A Cast Iron Skillet?

Poorly Seasoned Cast Iron: What To Do Now?

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