Cleaning Trivets


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

The following information is either from our personal experience, gleaned from various conversations and meetings, or from reliable Internet sources. It's emphasized that heating a trivet can remove existing enamel or loosen glitter. Also, vigorous cleaning techniques used on Cast Iron can scratch Brass. The preservation of patina is always a consideration when dealing with antique metalware. Be sure to read through the entire article first before proceeding.


✽ Cleaning, Polishing and/or Seasoning Cast Iron Trivets

1: Wash the trivet well in warm soapy water. NOTE: If the trivet is plated or has traces of paint, enamel or glitter, STOP HERE. 
2: Scrub until the trivet is free of rust, using *Bon Ami powder (see below) & a steel brush, steel wool or Brillo Pad.
3: Dry the trivet with paper towels.
4: Coat the trivet with vegetable oil and let sit for 15 minutes while you ...
5: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
6: After 15 minutes, carefully wipe off all the oil with paper towels.
7: Bake the trivet on a rack in the oven for 1 hour. You’ll notice a slight odor while the trivet bakes; open a window during this process.
8: Allow to cool on a baking rack.

* Note that Bon Ami is not interchangeable with Barkeeper's Friend. Bon Ami has no oxyalic acid or chlorine and is less abrasive than other cleansers.

Bar Keepers Friend has oxalic acid and is slightly abrasive. Oxalic acid dissolves rust and will take the color out of fabrics just like bleach. Barkeeper's Friend Cleaning will strip a cast iron pan of seasoning.

Alternate Method: Glorifying Antique Polish

The citrus and beeswax formula in this polish is designed for wood but it's also great for polishing and protecting the decorative cast iron you display. Just gently clean a trivet, apply polish, let sit for about 15 minutes, then wipe off and buff the to a beautiful shine. It's especially useful for cast iron trivets with enamel or japanning, finishes that could bake off if seasoned in a hot oven. Jim Ellwood (Trivets & Stands) recommends this polish and Lynn Rosack (The Expanded A-Z Guide To Collecting Trivets) also uses and loves it. WARNING: not to be used on cast iron used for cooking.


✽ Cleaning & Polishing Brass Trivets

Wash the trivet well in warm soapy water. Clean until the trivet is free of dirt and grime, using a soft dental toothbrush, nylon brush or soft sponge. Dry the trivet with a cloth towel.

  • Homemade brass polishing cleaners or polishers using the following household products are not recommended: vinegar, salt, flour, baking soda, and/or lemon. The results can be unpredictably harsh, potentially discoloring, altering or removing the aged patina.

Following the directions on the product, polish with a brass polish. There are special considerations when working with brass:

  • Brass is a soft metal and easily scratched. Don’t use cast iron techniques on Brass!
  • DON'T polish lacquered brass as this will lift some of the protective coating. If you're unsure whether brass has been lacquered, apply polish to a small area. Dark tarnish on a polishing cloth shows the piece is unlaquered and you can continue to polish. Likewise, no color on a cloth signifies the brass is protected with a coat of lacquer; do not attempt to polish that piece of brass!
  • It’s your call whether to polish the back of an antique brass trivet. You’ll notice that most have not been polished on the reverse through time, leaving that side with a dark, verdigris finish.
  • Oils from the human hand can hasten the return of tarnish on brass, so you may want to handle these trivets wearing gloves.


✽ Use Caution With Bronze!

 Advice from the Henry Ford Research Center:

“Historic cast bronze is usually 90% copper, 6% tin and 4% zinc. It has been widely used since antiquity for weapons, sculpture and decorative objects. Bronzes are traditionally patinated and usually appear anywhere from light green to dark brown. Patinas are sometimes described as any controlled corrosion that imparts an aesthetically pleasing color and/or texture to the artifact. Patinas may be applied with chemicals or may have accumulated over time naturally; in either case, owners should be aware of the potential value of these finishes.

"Stable or painted surfaces should be kept dust free. Vacuum-clean all stable artifacts regularly, using the nozzle attachment with a brush. A bristle brush or a toothbrush may help to raise dust from crevices."


✽ Plated Finishes

  • If the plated finish is chipped, clean carefully so you don't further flake off the finish.
  • Nickel-plated: Clean using the Brass technique. Follow with a product designed for Stainless Steel or Silver, like Flitz Liquid Polish.
  • Brass-plated: Clean using the Brass technique. Follow with a polish designed for Brass.
  • Copper-plated: Clean using the Brass technique, following with a commercial Copper polish. Warning: Techniques such as lemon juice or vinegar mixed with salt, flour and/or baking soda can often be too harsh, leaving the metal with an unattractive orange hue.
  • Avoid replating unless it is the best option to preserve an otherwise interesting or valuable design.


✽ Horseshoe Plaque Trivets

  •  Follow Trivet Methods #1 or #2 for plain cast iron.
  • If there are traces of paint, enamel or glitter, use Method #2 only as the finish could be damaged with abrasive or heated methods.
  • Avoid stripping and re-painting unless to correct a grotesque paint job.


✽ Attempting a Repair

Unfortunately, arc welding or “gluing” pieces of cast iron back together is generally not successful when attempting to repair broken metal trivets.

That being said, a small repair can be attempted with a topical product like J B Weld or Loctite Epoxy Adhesive but the visible repair will likely affect a trivet's display potential and value.

More complicated repairs are best not attempted.