Can I eat this - dyed stockpot edition...
June 30, 2011 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Stupidly used a huge and expensive stainless steel stockpot to do some home fabric dyeing with a cheap powder dye (Dylon or something very similar). Can I safely reuse this pot if I can get it looking new again with Bar Keeper's Friend?

After finishing I saw both that the pot was stained and that the dye packet said "DO NOT USE POT FOR FOOD." I really do not want to have to replace this pot, and it's one I like to use for stews and chilli.

I am half-way through scrubbing it with Bar Keeper's Friend and the staining is going, but am I wasting my time? If I can get the pot looking new again is it safe? Is the dye company just covering their ass in case I use the pot with dye residue in it, or is the pot really invisibly permanently changed? Extra paranoid (but also extra poor) because I'm pregnant, I'd probably go for it if I wasn't.

Additional info from chemistry-minded folks on how home fabric dye works on metal and how toxic is is or isn't would be interesting, just because I'm interested in that stuff and dye fabric fairly often.
posted by crabintheocean to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The good news is that you have a new bin for dyeing things.

The bad news is that you need a new stock pot.

Heed the warning.
posted by mkultra at 11:50 AM on June 30, 2011

I disagree with mkultra. See previously, sort of. Note, though, that IANAC.
posted by bricoleur at 11:55 AM on June 30, 2011

Melted plastic is different from a clothing dye. It is designed to hold food. The dye is designed to make small craters in the surface, so the dye will have someplace to adhere. (If you used rit dye, that may not be true, as it really isn't colorfast). That probably means you have to get a new pot.

Since you are pregnant, do not run the risk, You and the baby are more vulnerable.

Can you tell us what brand you used? You could check on the company's website, or contact them.
posted by annsunny at 12:03 PM on June 30, 2011

Response by poster: I'm pretty sure it was iDye natural in royal blue (which by the way was blotchy and runny and I do not recommend!)
posted by crabintheocean at 12:08 PM on June 30, 2011

Response by poster: And I used vinegar to set it, not their fixative. I didn't use any other additives either.
posted by crabintheocean at 12:10 PM on June 30, 2011

They don't list what kind of mordant is in there, if any.. Some are definitely more toxic than others. The color itself may be toxic, as well. Definitely contact Dharma. I have ordered from them, but never had to deal with customer service. They have an MSDS page, but no specifics about what it contains (proprietary formula). The links on that page are pdf format.

That just sucks, bad dye that may have ruined one of your cooking pots.
posted by annsunny at 12:22 PM on June 30, 2011

nthing mkultra. I wouldn't take the chance.
posted by royalsong at 1:13 PM on June 30, 2011

My sister has a degree in fiber arts, and dyes a lot of stuff. Though she most likely uses more serious types of dyes, she's paranoid about never using a dye container for food - some of those dyes are very nasty.

Better safe than sorry!
posted by jpeacock at 1:16 PM on June 30, 2011

Best answer: I am going to go against the grain and say that after a thorough cleaning and several washings and rinsings the pot should be fine. If you are concerned about your pregnancy you might can wait until after you give birth to use it. A couple of points: Stainless steel is meant to be nonreactive and it is unlikely that there is more than surface discoloration. Also, the dyes (after fixing) are meant to be worn next to your skin and so are presumably non-toxic, even if some dyes (as jpeacock pointed out) can be toxic before they react with the material to be dyed and their residue washed out. To help you decide, here are the MSDSs for your dyes and by way of comparison, here is the MSDS for the Barkeeper's Friend you are using to clean the pot. Rather then Dharma, you might want to contact the manufacturer directly, at the MSDS page I linked above.
posted by TedW at 1:41 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anecdatapoint only. I: have done this; am not dead or noticeably more ill. Scrubbed it and then heated water to boiling in it a couple of times, washing in between. I figured by that point, I was getting more dye through wearing the clothing than I was likely to ingest as residue.
posted by grar at 2:01 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you want the surface thoroughly cleaned, look for machine shops or auto body shops in your area with bead blasting equipment. 5 minutes in a bead blaster, and the inside of your pot will be down to fresh stainless steel, and nothing more. It shouldn't cost you more than a few dollars to have somebody do this for you. Obviously, wash and rinse the pot after bead blasting, before cooking in it, to remove loose grit from the blasting process.
posted by paulsc at 2:14 PM on June 30, 2011

Best answer: Scrub thoroughly with comet or ajax (really abrasive) and a metal scrubber. Then barkeepers friend or something less abrasive, until you are certain you've removed a layer of metal. Then boil water with white rags or paper towels in it. If they come out with no dye, I'd clean with bleach, rinse well then use it. It's steel, and even if slightly pitted, it likely to only have a thin layer of dye.
posted by theora55 at 2:35 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you go the bead blasting route, the pot will need to be professionally polished afterward or it will have a rough finish that will be a nightmare to clean.
posted by TedW at 2:40 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

In your shoes I would get a quart of acetone from the hardware store, dump a cup or so on rag and wipe it out (do this outdoors, avoid ignition sources and wear gloves as acetone has a none to pleasant odor, will cheerfully burn if you set it on fire and takes the oils right out of your skin). Then I'd wash it out with soap and water. Then I'd do this once or twice more. If the metal looks clean and a white rag soaked in acetone comes out white, you're probably done.

Then I'd scrub the whole thing out with a green scrubby pad just to be sure. Bead blasting would do it, but is probably more agressive as you need to be. Don't use anything like steel wood because you'll embed iron in the stainless and it will always look a little bit rusty, but a copper or brass scrubbing pad would be fine.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:41 PM on June 30, 2011

"If you go the bead blasting route, the pot will need to be professionally polished afterward or it will have a rough finish that will be a nightmare to clean."
posted by TedW at 5:40 PM on June 30

Eh, depends a lot on the bead media (size, whether glass, ceramic, or steel beads - the OP would be looking for a blaster with glass or ceramic media, not steel beads) and the velocity and angles with which the beads are directed against the metal being cleaned. For most low and medium pressure bead blasters, as are used for cleaning auto parts, cleaning spun stainless steel alloy cooking pots, like 18/10 or 18/8 alloy, you'll get, at most, a softly peened, fairly smooth surface (link to .pdf file of available stainless steel mill finishes. See page 11 for illustrations of bead blasted finishes.)
posted by paulsc at 3:27 PM on June 30, 2011

I think suggesting a pregnant person screw around with acetone is not good.
posted by rikschell at 6:52 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks folks! My plan is to scrub it with Comet and then with BKF, and then make a judgement on whether it's clean. If I can get it looking really clean, I'll boil and dump some water and maybe some vinegar a couple of times. I won't be messing with acetone, and the pot is not expensive enough to get pros involved over chucking it out. I am pretty convinced that believing the pot is contaminated beyond the point where it's clearly bare new steel is a little crazy, I mean, that's sort of the point of steel, right? I also agree with the point that the dyed clothes are safe to wear. Thanks again!
posted by crabintheocean at 9:44 PM on June 30, 2011

A low effort way to assure yourself that you've destroyed organic compounds in the pot is oven cleaner. After you've finished scrubbing, spray in the caustic cleaner and let it sit as directed. Strong caustics quickly breakdown chemicals like organic dyes, but don't affect metals like you pan much at all. It will work better if you can give the pot time in a warmish oven too. If staining remains, don't be afraid to give it a second go. The important thing with caustics is to use enough to breakdown all the residue. If some visible staining remains or it was heavily caked to begin with, you might need another application. Wash with hot soapy water afterwards to remove the cleaner and you should be good to go.

For removing non-metal chemical residues, oven cleaner is going to be a much better choice than vinegar or mild soaps. Abrasive cleaners will work, but may be a lot of effort to remove all the stains. Solvent rinses, like acetone, can be effective, but they're hard to do at home safely, and I'd prefer to use them after the pot is visibly clean anyway, as polishing rather than primary cleaning.
posted by bonehead at 6:44 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just to assure you, btw, I have used oven cleaner on stainless pots (Paderno and Allclad) in the past will no damage to the pots at all.
posted by bonehead at 6:47 AM on July 1, 2011

Given that your body produces acetone as a waste product when you burn fat, I think she's probably already "messing around with acetone" but I'm only a research scientist and don't know nothing 'bout birthin' no babies.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:01 PM on July 8, 2011

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