Anne L from Kentucky wrote in to Ask The Pan Handler, and said:
“I was just given this beautiful Griswold waffle iron (1920s?) that I would love to clean and restore to actually use but there are so many different ways to do that I wanted to ask for your opinion. It appears to be in great condition for as long as it sat in a basement. I have 5 skillets but as they were all in constant use for many years so I’ve only ever had to re-season and not have to deal with rust. Thank you so much! Anne”
Anne attached 3 photos of her Griswold waffle iron with base with wire bail handle.
Anne, you have a beautiful old size 8 block logo Griswold “American” cast iron waffle iron pattern number 151, with bailed base. While I can’t see the bottom of the base, I am guessing it is pattern number 152; that is the proper base for these paddles. The paddles have what are known as the Alaskan coil handles.
Happily, Anne’s old waffle iron does not appear to be in poor condition; it just has some rust on it that needs to be removed. Often when you run across old cast iron waffle irons, they also have layers of gunk and carbon built up on the cooking surface of the paddles; they can be a bear to clean.
I do most of my cleaning of rust via electrolysis. For just one piece, however, you probably don’t want to go through the time and expense of setting up an electrolysis system. I have used Evapo-Rust to remove rust from cast iron, too. It’s not inexpensive, but it works. You can find Evapo-Rust at an auto parts store; just follow the instructions on the bottle.
Recently, however, I have again begun experimenting with the vinegar and water method to remove rust on some smaller pieces including waffle irons. It has been working very well for me, and I bet it would also work well to remove the rust from your waffle iron, Anne. You need to watch the vinegar process very closely, however; once the rust is removed from the piece the acid in the vinegar will start working on the cast iron, and pitting can result. So if you are going to try this method, do it on a day when you have time to frequently check in on the progress of the cleaning.
Here’s how I would suggest go about cleaning your set using the vinegar/water method:
- Plastic or other container large enough to contain your waffle iron and base. I used an inexpensive dish-washing tub.
- Gallon jug of white vinegar
- Stainless steel scrubbie.
- Something small enough to clean/scrub between the intricacies of the waffle paddle cooking surface. Linda, who dos most of our first-stage (lye) cleaning, loves to use a chopstick with a bit of no. 3 grade coarse steel wool wrapped around the bottom to really get into the nooks and crannies. A small brass or wire brush can also work – you can find them at our local hardware store or an auto parts store. I like to use these handy-dandy little wire brushes that I buy in bulk through Amazon. They are the Allway SMB Stainless Mini Wire Brush. I like using the mini bristles at the top for getting into small nooks and crannies.
- Paper towels or old rags you don’t mind getting really really dirty.
- Screwdriver (in some cases, to remove the Alaskan coil handles)
- Grade #0000 super-fine steel wool (optional – for fine cleaning of wire handles)
- Dishwashing soap. I like Dawn Platinum Power Clean detergent for cleaning my cast iron.
- Rubber gloves
- Fill your container with an equal amount of vinegar and water (1:1 ratio).
- If possible, remove the handles from the waffle iron. If your Alaskan coil handles have a ring at the end, you can insert a screwdriver into the ring and gently twist to unscrew the pin attaching the wire coil to the waffle iron. Anne, in your case it appears that the coil is screwed directly onto the paddle of the waffle iron. In that case, grasp the end of the handle and firmly twist it counter-clockwise until it unscrews from the paddle. If you are unable to get it off, it could be rusted on in which case you can leave it on until the rust disintegrates to the extent necessary to remove the handle. It is not the end of the world if you can’t remove the wire handles. For those of you who have wood handles, you remove them either by gently wriggling them loose and / or by removing the small nail that holds them in place. Do not put wood handles into the vinegar solution! They must be removed before attempting this process.
- Place the paddles, base, and handles and screw pin (where present) into the vinegar solution. Set a time for 30 minutes. You should see the vinegar/water solution start to bubble as it does its work on the rust.
- I wear rubber gloves during this step: After 30 minutes, remove the pieces from the solution and rinse them under cold water. Give them a light scrub with your stainless steel scrubbie. If the rust is still present, place the piece(s) again into the vinegar solution. Repeat as necessary until the rust is removed; checking every 30 minutes or so. If the handles had not previously been removed, remove them if possible once the rust loosens enough to permit removal.
- Once the rust is primarily removed from the paddles and base via the vinegar solution, use your chopstick and coarse steel wool and / or your brush to get into the nooks and crannies, using dish detergent, your brush, scrubbie, and elbow grease to scrub until all rust is removed and the iron is clean.
- Clean the wire handles and screw pin (if present) by using your small brush and the super-fine steel wool (if desired). Do the same for the wire bail handle on the base.
- Dry entire set very thoroughly using paper towels or a dish rag that you don’t mind throwing away.
Once your set is clean, you will need to season it, so as to protect the surface. There are a jillion different ways that people season their iron, and their waffle irons. With your set, Anne, here’s how I would do it:
- Place the base and paddles (without handles) into the oven. Turn the heat to 450 degrees. Set a timer for an hour.
- After an hour, turn off the heat. Once the pieces have cooled enough to handle with mitts or potholders, remove from the oven.
- Grab your oil of choice – I use Crisco vegetable shortening – and rub a very light coat onto the base and paddles. Do not worry about covering every area of the cooking surface.
- Using paper towels or a rag, wipe all of the shortening off of the base and paddles. A film will still remain, but you should not see any oily areas. If you do not carefully remove all of the shortening in this step, you will have an uneven seasoning result which will work but will not be attractive.
- Place the pieces back into the oven. Turn the heat to 500 degrees. Set your timer for an hour. Some people place a baking pan or aluminum on the rack beneath the pieces, to collect any oil that drips from the pieces. I have not found that to be necessary, but if you are concerned about it by all means take this step.
- You will notice some smoke coming from the oven during this process, and there will be an odor. You will want to have your vent fan running. If you have too much oil on your pieces there will be a ton of smoke and you will need to open windows and doors and your family will complain (don’t ask how I know!)
- After an hour, turn off the oven. When the pieces are still warm but cool enough to handle using a potholder and / or mitts, remove them from the oven. Wipe another very thin layer of Crisco on the paddles and base. For waffle irons, I also use spray Pam to make sure I get into all of the nooks and crannies.
- Wipe the oil from all pieces using paper towels or a rag. With waffle irons, I typically put the paddles together with paper towels between, to absorb any excess oil.
- Replace the handles on the paddles.Voila! A clean waffle iron!Anne, I sure hope you will send me some “after” pictures of your beautiful set, so I can show readers how your work turns out! Now, get to cleaning!