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I didn't wipe out the thin layer of oil. Big mistake. The layer of goo that has now formed is hard to scrape, and the outcome will anyway be patchy without a ton of effort.

damaged cast iron pan

I am thinking of using mineral spirits, a powerful solvent meant for removing grease from garage door runners. I'd of course need to rinse very carefully, before starting from a bare pan.

Is wiping with mineral spirits a viable option to reset cast iron?

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  • I would recommend warming up the pan, and then scraping with a heat safe scraper (I use the ones from lodge which are especially good at getting into corners). Once you get the bulk of it off, you can scrub down anything remaining (which is still easier to do when it’s warm)
    – Joe
    Feb 11 at 14:41

3 Answers 3

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I would not suggest it. First mineral spirits are toxic, and unless you strip the pan down to the bare metal it would be hard to be sure you'd removed all residue. Second, the spirits wouldn't necessarily remove just the goo; they'd be likely to strip off at least part of the seasoning underneath.

I'd recommend instead scrubbing with soap and boiling hot water.

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  • I see your point. Unlike, say, stainless steel, cast iron is porous, and no amount of subsequent cleaning will guarantee that some of the solvent doesn't remain lurking in the nano-crevices, subsequently leeching into the patina then the food.
    – Sam7919
    Feb 11 at 4:02
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    It probably won't remove the seasoning, because it doesn't remove linseed oil that has polymerised (which happens at room temperature). But it will taint the seasoning. Similarly it's really hard to get it completely off your hands if you're going to be cooking. A couple of washes might be enough before chopping onions but not before kneading bread
    – Chris H
    Feb 11 at 12:18
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Mineral spirits are bad news—you don't want to eat them, and you don't want to inhale them after you heat them up. Moreover, cast iron is porous, so you really have no way of completely removing mineral spirits from the iron once you start using it. Using mineral spirits to clean anything you are going to cook with is likely a bad idea.

My usual strategy for cleaning cast iron which has food or other gunk cooked on is to put it on the stove over high heat, and boil a couple of cups of water in it. After boiling for a few minutes, scrub it out with a scouring pad. A little bit of dish soap might help. After scrubbing it out, quickly dry it an reseason.

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OP here. This is not a direct answer to the question asked. It's a sequel for what to do next.

Boiling a little water in the pan will somewhat soften the not-enough-polymerized oil. It would then be easier to scrape it off. (It would be prudent not to throw the oil, in any form, down the sink. Doing so risks 1- eventually clogging the system, perhaps one's own, and 2- the folks at the municipal authority would get really mad, because it means they need to use that much more emulsifier before waste water is returned to nature. Use a fine sieve and ditch the oil with compost or with refuse.)

pan cleaning

Ultimately you'll find that attempting to clean with any kind of scouring pad is difficult. The pad will instantly be filled with gunk, and it will be immediately harder to collect anything. A better approach is to continue scraping with a hard object (such as a metal spoon or spatula).

Note to self: never keep a cast iron pan perfectly horizontal after adding a thin layer of oil after cleaning.

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