Large, heavy duty bucket or barrel
1-pound can of lye
4-5 gallons of water
Long, wooden piece to stir with
Protective eye goggles
Several wire clothes hangers
Put on your rubber gloves and protective goggles. Add four to five gallons of water to your plastic bucket.
Slowly pour the can of lye into the bucket of water, and carefully mix the contents together using your piece of wood.
Bend your wire hangers into hook-shapes that fit over the edge of your bucket, to suspend the cast iron pots and pans from. Make one hook per piece of cookware to be cleaned.
Slip one end of a wire hanger-hook through the hole found in the handle of each cast iron pot or pan you wish to clean. Hang these over the edge of the bucket, so that the lye water covers them.
Allow the cast iron pieces to soak in the lye water for one day to one week, depending on how dirty they are. The lye water will not damage the cast iron, so don’t be afraid to soak them as long as they need.
Remove the cast iron pieces from the lye bath, while wearing your gloves and goggles. Take the pots and pans outside and spray them down with a hose with a high pressure setting. The grease should simply wash away. If some remains, wipe the surface with a scouring pad until it is clean.
Wash the cast iron pots and pans in the sink with warm water and dish soap, and rinse thoroughly. Allow them to dry completely.
Coat the cast iron cookware with mineral oil, and allow them to sit overnight to absorb the oil. Wipe off any excess mineral oil the next day. The mineral oil protects the cast iron surface.
Always add the lye to the water, and never add water to the lye. Adding water to the lye can cause the mixture to dangerously heat up, and possibly cause burns.
Always wear your rubber gloves and goggles when working with lye. If the lye water comes in contact with your skin, rinse immediately.
Because cast iron is heavy, your bucket may become unbalanced and possibly spill. Because lye is caustic and can cause damage, make sure your bucket is of heavy construction and is balanced well.
Save the lye water for the next time you need to clean your cast iron cookware. It will last through several cleaning sessions.
While the lye water will thoroughly clean your cast iron cookware, it will not remove rust.
Wagner And Griswold Society: Cleaning Cast Iron With Lye