Cleaning Irons

 
 

Disclaimer: This information is offered with NO liability or responsibility on the part of PITCA.

The following information is either from our personal experience or gleaned from various conversations and meetings. There are certainly other methods...but it's a starting point!

It's important to Test...Test...Test! Before you risk ruining a good iron, test the methods on this page on a low-value iron.

If you have a high-value iron we strongly recommend NOT cleaning it in any way. Removal of patina or paint can greatly devalue an otherwise high-value iron!

 

Cleaning Strategies

 

There are three basic schools of thought regarding cleaning irons. Personally, PITCA members generally prefer strategy #2, but we know many collectors in both of the other categories. It depends on your personal taste and whether or not you intend to sell the iron in the future.

  1. Do nothing to the iron...keep it as you found it.
  2. Lightly clean and polish without removing the patina.
  3. Completely clean the iron and make it look like new.

Heavy Rust: Use a "brass" wire brush (gently please) combined with a 50/50 combination of linseed oil & turpentine. The brush removes the larger rust and the liquid acts as a lubricant and also changes the remaining red rust color into a nice patina.

Light Rust: Use a "soft bristle" brush (such as an old nail or tooth brush) or a VERY fine wet sandpaper combined with a 50/50 combo of linseed oil & turpentine. The brush removes the rust and the liquid acts as a lubricant for either the brush or the sandpaper preventing scratching or damage. The oil also changes the remaining red rust color into a nice patina.

Another strategy is to brush the object clean, no oil, and then spray paint it with flat black stove paint. THEN you can use the oil when the paint is dry to give it a more patina/less glossy look.

 

Products

 

WENOL German-made cleaning paste made with jeweler's rouge used for cleaning irons. A favorite of many collectors. Wipe on and gently buff. Polishes well, without removing plated metals. Use on brass, copper, chrome, stainless steel or pewter.

FLITZ Metal Polish used for cleaning irons. Available at most hardware stores. WD-40 Spray lubricant may be sprayed on irons first and left to sit a while, before starting the cleaning process. Available at all hardware stores.

SNO-BOL Used for cleaning brass irons and fluter rollers. Actually a toilet bowl cleaner which contains hydrochloric acid. Accordingly, it can really damage irons and rollers...so be very careful using it. 

Turpentine & Boiled Linseed Oil (50/50 mix) Used for cleaning irons. Wipe on and use soft brush (such as an old tooth brush) to get into crevices. Then wipe with a soft dry cloth. Leaves a uniform sheen covering light rust color. No glossy lacquer look.

Cape Cod Metal Polishing Cloth A polishing cloth useful for just a quick re-polishing of already restored pieces.

Minwax Paste Finishing Wax Use this paste wax to polish wooden handles. Select color according to wood handle color.

Bijen Boenwas A German bee's wax used for polishing cast-iron surfaces. Check on Google and use the Translate function to read the ads.

Goo Gone Citrus-based cleaning fluid removes sticky label residue.

Marvel Lubricating Oil ® May be used with steel or brass brush wheels when removing heavy rust. (No longer listed by this name on the Marvel Mystery Oil website but still sold online by 3rd party sellers.)

 

Tools

 

Steel Brush Wheels Used for removing heavy rust on iron (never brass) objects. Use Marvel Lubricating Oil with these wheels.

Cloth Polishing Wheels Used for polishing objects after heavy rust removal. Use low-abrasive polishing stick (rouge) with these wheels.

 

Cleaning Fluter Rollers

 

Using a plastic container such as an athletic water bottle (not metal), fill the container with enough Sno-Bol® to completely cover both fluter rollers, but without the rollers in the container yet.

THEN carefully place the rollers into the container, making sure they are completely covered.

Set a TIMER to exactly 1 hour; no more! You might want to experiment with the time on low value items.

It is important that BOTH rollers are placed in the solution at the SAME TIME to ensure identical cleaning levels. The solution will remove the tarnish and grease off of the rollers.

After the allotted time, remove both rollers and place in a bucket of clear water and scrub off the tarnish and residue with a bristle or brass brush and rags. Do not use a steel brush since the rollers are brass and will scratch!

Then dry the rollers and polish with Wenol or other metal polish.

Wax Cleaners & Polishers

(1) A Marvel wax pad by the Marvel Supply Company of Williamspost, PA. "They will not injure the Finest Fabrics and will last a long time." The pads were saturated with Pure Bees Wax, Para Wax and a specially compounded Polishing Oil. 

(2) A cardboard box containing a beeswax cake insert. "For Cleaning, Smoothing and Waxing Flat Irons." Measures 5" long, 3 1/2" wide and 1" deep. Produced by the Bodine Roofing Company of Mandfield, Ohio and Patented April 13, 1897. 

Images provided by PITCA members Anne & Bob Daly.