How to remove glue from cast iron pans
February 11, 2018 6:30 PM   Subscribe

I am receiving a half-dozen antique Griswold pans from my parents. Mostly frypans, but also a couple waffle irons and a muffin tin. The cookware was hung from the wall as decorations for most of the past couple decades, and my parents had stuck felt pads on the edges of the pans to keep them from marring the wallpaper. How do I safely remove the (decades-old) glue residue?

I discovered my mom was removing the pads and dutifully scrubbing the residue off with paper towels and Goo Gone. Her theory was that since pans can be re-seasoned, it doesn’t matter if she’s using solvents on the metal. I would rather not have pans with patches of solvent-stripped metal on them exposed for a week before I can re-season them again.

So, questions in a nutshell:
* Is there a safe way to remove glue without affecting the seasoning?
* If not, is it safe to use solvents as long as I re-season the pans immediately?
posted by ardgedee to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
Try soaking the residue with olive oil? Thats my go to when I can't find the Goo Gone.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 6:37 PM on February 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seasoning is all about the inside of the pan. Good old fashioned steel wool and a lot of elbow grease should do the trick.
posted by furtive at 6:37 PM on February 11, 2018 [8 favorites]

I can't imagine you can hurt the pans themselves - you might just not like the look of the stripped spots, but they will re-season over time. Before going to Goo Gone, though, I'd try just plain rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad - it removes most adhesives really well. Another thing you can try is olive oil and a little fine steel wool. People often use peanut butter or mayo or coconut oil instead of olive oil. All the same thing - the oils do the work.
posted by Miko at 6:38 PM on February 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oops, furtive is right. "Seasoning" is about the cooking surface. The word for the coloration on the back and sides is "patina."
posted by Miko at 6:39 PM on February 11, 2018

I'd start with steel wool and not solvents, honestly. It doesn't sound like most of this is on the cooking surfaces of the pans anyhow, so you should be good.
posted by jessamyn at 6:46 PM on February 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

Seasoning is surprisingly strong stuff. Like, you need oven cleaner to strip it off. So I wouldn't expect Goo Gone to touch it
posted by O9scar at 7:01 PM on February 11, 2018

Rubbing alcohol dissolves glue and adhesive residue.
posted by jbenben at 7:43 PM on February 11, 2018

Best answer: If you think being stripped for a week is a problem, you may have some misunderstandings about cast iron. The whole point is that it's nearly indestructible.
One of my favorite pans was left outside for well over a year, including months of drizzle. When I found it, it was rusted in most places, with only scraps of any patina/seasoning intact.

And it's completely and totally fine now. Simplest is scrubbing with abrasive, but it's a complete non-issue to use whatever the heck you want, even in if you don't re-season it. Some small and shallow exterior scuffs will darken and even out themselves with time and use.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:50 PM on February 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

using a hairdryer to warm up the gluey bits will help soften them up and make them easier to scrub off
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:55 AM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I get the impression that Mom hung the pans up with the open side against the wall, in which case, the padding would be on the lip of the pan. Hence ardegee's concern about stripping the seasoning off.

I don't think there's really much to worry about in any case. If hot water won't cut the glue, then alcohol or Naphthalene (Ronsonol-type lighter fluid) will.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:22 AM on February 12, 2018

I've cleaned up some pretty abused old pans. I would not be at all worried about using solvents to strip the glue residue. I mean, I've used oven cleaner to remove poorly-done old seasoning, and that's far scarier stuff than Goo-Gone IMO. Wash the spots where the solvent landed, dry the pans in a warm oven. If the stripped parts get a little rusty while exposed, white vinegar will fix it right up before you re-season.
posted by desuetude at 7:27 AM on February 12, 2018

Try one in the freezer overnight, and see if the glue pops right off when you take it out. Cast iron expands and contracts quite a bit (for a cast metal object) and old glue doesn't, so either a cold contract or a heat expand is going to leave the glue in one position or another, and probably unattached. Bonus: no solvents required.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 1:23 PM on February 12, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks for everybody's help! I had time to take care of the pans today and the upshot is that most of the stickers had already been removed, but the glue on a lot of them were so dried up that I had to scrape it off with the back of a knife because solvents of any kind were no use. The tips of the pour spouts all had felt pads on them, so I felt like it was more important to get as much crud off them as possible.

91% Rubbing alcohol had no meaningful effect on non-dried glue residue. Which is not to say it wouldn't work for different glues.

Olive oil didn't do anything for the glue either, but it was still handy as a thin film to seal the parts of the metal that had been exposed to solvents and scraping.

So thanks everybody for the tips and in general for talking me down from my panic. I'll try posting photos later, after giving the pans a quick re-seasoning.
posted by ardgedee at 1:04 PM on February 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

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