Tips for removing glass from a heating coil?
December 3, 2007 9:37 AM   Subscribe

How do I safely remove glass that has melted to my stove?

So my girlfriend ran out of room in the disk rack and leaned a glass pot on one of the burners on our oven's range. I accidentally turned on the wrong burner when making tea and the whole thing melted down and the house filled with a strange smell. I let the thing cool down and then covered the mess before banging around in there with a spoon which allowed me to remove most of the glass through breakage.

My problem now is that there are still small, jagged fragments left on the coil and I don't know what the best way to proceed is. Can I just reheat this thing and try to melt the glass down further? Can I sand the coils and try to remove the glass that way?
posted by crazy finger to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
It's possible to buy replacement coils. That might be your best bet.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:45 AM on December 3, 2007

Heating elements for electric stoves are pretty cheap and available everywhere. You might want to just consider replacing it.
posted by dersins at 9:46 AM on December 3, 2007

I'm not certain that the melted substance is actually glass, as glass doesn't melt easily. Glass would have cracked or broken, but not melted.

The best way to proceed, regardless of the melted substance, is to simply replace the heating element/burner. Find the brand name and serial number for the range. You may need to order the part through a store (Home Depot, Sears, whathaveyou).
posted by wg at 9:52 AM on December 3, 2007

Sounds like everybody is pushing for replacement, and at $20, it might be a better idea than trying to sand down the one I have, but I would still like to know if anybody with experience or knowledge in this area would make a recommendation against sanding the burner.

Also, I'm quite confident the substance was glass. The entire teapot didn't melt down into a puddle, it just melted down a few inches in between the coils. When it cooled and I went to pull on it a little, it did crack and shatter.

Once, in a German high school science lab, I got to try my hand at glass blowing. The result was that the teacher walked over, inspected my creation, then shattered it against a table. When I shattered the teapot, all I could think of was that science lab.
posted by crazy finger at 10:23 AM on December 3, 2007

Wow. The Melting Point of Glass seems to start around 2,500°F for non-exotic types of glass. I'm really surprised that your electric range is capable of producing those temperatures. Though I can't find definitive evidence that electric stoves don't get that hot, I would have said that your stovetop is from the future — a future without safety concerns, at that.

I vote for replacement. I'd be concerned about the microscopic glass particles that sanding would create -- you'd want a damned proper respirator, and a workspace that could be thoroughly cleaned up afterwards, preferably outside.
posted by mumkin at 10:37 AM on December 3, 2007

It's probably not real/pure glass, mumkin.
posted by Dasein at 11:21 AM on December 3, 2007

Diamond nail file,take off the high points, no need to replace a burner that gets hot.
posted by hortense at 11:42 AM on December 3, 2007

You say it was a teapot? So was it ceramic, rather than clear glass? In that case, you've melted the glaze on the outside of the teapot. Glazes often contain fluxes, which lower their melting point. Not worth your time trying to remove that, when a second-hand appliance store would sell you another element for a few bucks. The problem with hortense's fix is that the melting residue will stick to other pots.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:29 PM on December 3, 2007

I melted the ceramic coating off a teapot onto a burner by forgetting it. It was clearly melted when I lifted the teakettle off the burner. I just lived with it; most of it wore off. Now I only use teakettles that whistle.
posted by theora55 at 1:32 PM on December 3, 2007

Most electric range elements are actually made of a thin coil of Nichrome resistance wire, over a ceramic form, covered by a formed tube of carbon steel, as a cover. If you don't care about appearance, you can scrape on the flat top of the carbon steel cover layer with an old knife, or steel wool pads, quite a bit, if you don't use much force, and the cover layer isn't worn. But you can also easily bend or punch through a worn cover layer when using pointed tools, creating an area which won't be in contact with your pots, later. And if you don't get all the contaminant off, you may have high spots, that prevent full contact with your pans, leading to hot spots for the element, and premature burn out.

If you bend the element, or damage the cover layer surface, or fail to fully remove the contamination, the usual result is that the Nichrome inner wire burns up, sometimes pretty spectacularly, when the element is heated. If you've ever had a burner element burn up, shooting sparks all over, you'd probably agree that $20 to replace it, avoiding that drama, is a good deal.
posted by paulsc at 2:14 PM on December 3, 2007

Before replacing the coil you could at least make an attempt to salvage it. Just turn the burner to high and when it gets red hot, scrape it gently with a long flat screwdriver. You will probably need a damp oven mitt to protect your hand from the heat. Don't use force such that you could slip and jam your hand into the burner. Eye protection would a good idea as well.
posted by JackFlash at 5:39 PM on December 3, 2007

I may try JackFlash's suggestion, but in the end I may just go to Home Cheapo and get a $20 replacement coil. Will report back!

Also, I don't know why nobody believes me, but I'm absolutely certain that this was a glass teapot. Clear glass, not ceramic, very similar in appearance to the type of glass one uses to drink beverages. Honestly, I'm looking forward to the next comment:

"You've probably actually smelted a cast-iron pan, not a glass teapot."
posted by crazy finger at 6:22 PM on December 3, 2007

Behold! This is the type of thing that I melted:

Glass Teapot Google Image Search
posted by crazy finger at 6:23 PM on December 3, 2007

It is not surprising that you melted a glass pot. I turns out that Pyrex glass used for cooking vessels has one of the lowest melting points of common types of glass, around 550 degrees centigrade. Pyrex is not used because of its melting point but because of its low coefficient of expansion which makes it less likely to shatter during extreme temperature changes. A red hot burner is probably in the range of 800 to 1000 degrees centigrade, plenty hot to melt Pyrex.
posted by JackFlash at 1:25 AM on December 4, 2007

Thanks JackFlash, I was really puzzled by this. Never knew that about Pyrex. Rather fascinating. /struggles to resist the urge to go put pyrex cup on stove
posted by Goofyy at 6:26 AM on December 4, 2007

SO and I are suitably impressed and deperately want to know what kind of stove you have!!

I'm inclined to think the pot wasn't Pyrex. As that crap just tends to shatter. And that it was more likely borosilicate.

And that means you have a kiln and my SO is so very jealous!! Seriously though what brand/model of stove is it?
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 12:44 AM on December 5, 2007

Pyrex can be melted in the microwave
posted by hortense at 2:05 AM on December 5, 2007

« Older support our troops with extreme noise terror   |   The Birth of a Film Critic Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.