Cleaning cast iron with a battery charger, aka cleaning cast iron with electrolysis, makes it super easy to remove rust and crud from rusted cast iron. Watch this video I made, then we'll step through the process.
Caution! Use the setup outdoors and away from open flames. Don't smoke while doing this. Restoring cast iron with electrolysis produces hydrogen and oxygen. Use this info at your own risk, OK?
Cleaning Cast Iron With A Battery Charger, Step By Step
Above is what my setup looks like for cleaning cast iron with a battery charger. Let me walk you through the process.
You will need a battery charger with a MANUAL mode. This is important. The first one I bought said it was manual, but it wasn't. It should have a switch on it for manual. Here is a link to the battery charger I bought, it works well.
For the metal plates, I used two old baking pans. I used a wire wheel on my drill to remove the coating on the pans to expose the bare metal. DO NOT use stainless steel, bad chemistry will happen. I used a self tapping screw on each pan to attach a 12 gauge copper wire to them, as well as the wire that goes from the pans to the battery charger.
Here is a top view of how my cast iron cleaning tank looks. It is important that the metal cake pans, or whatever metal you are using, does not touch the cast iron to be cleaned. I have been told that you can also use several pieces of rebar wired together for the metal plates. Or visit a scrap yard. Again, do not use stainless steel.
Turn On The Charger And See What Happens
Use a wire brush to clean off the handle of the cast iron where the negative (black) clip of the battery charger connects to the pan. I don't suggest submerging your battery clamps in the solution, therefore, if you want to submerge the whole piece, wrap copper wire around the handle and attach the clip to the copper wire above the water line.
Important Things To Keep In Mind
- Use 1 tablespoon of Washing Soda per gallon of water for the cleaning solution.
- Red clamp from battery charger attaches to metal pans in the tank, Black clamp attaches to item to be cleaned.
- Wear gloves while doing this, OK?
If you've got the rig set up correctly, you will see bubbles start to rise from the solution almost immediately. Let it run for several hours, so all sorts of stuff will have time to bubble off. Most of all, make sure the cast iron pan being cleaned does not touch the metal plates.
Every few hours, pull out the cast iron and clean off the crud with a dish scrubber. Flip the pan 180 degrees in the solution every time you pull it out. Finally, depending on the age and how many layers of seasoning are on the piece, you may need to use steel wool to remove some of the last bits of the material. Learn how to season cast iron here.