Dutch Oven Restoration
Occasionally a Dutch oven doesn't get proper care and ends up with a bit of rust or grime. This isn't usually too big of a problem but there are a few things to know. First, avoid the use of metal scrapers or steel wire brushes as the use of these tools can result in scratches or gouges in your oven. A plastic scraper and steel wool are better choices. Scrape out the larger contaminants then scrub the rest with steel wool. Once the oven is clean simply re-season and return the oven to service.
Occasionally one can come across that Dutch oven that is totally covered with rust, grime and gunk. Never fear, there are several methods that you can use depending upon how bad the condition your cast iron.
Brute force in the form of scrubbing is one sure fire way to get your Dutch oven clean. Use nonmetalic scrapers to clean out the loose bits then scour the oven with steel wool until you have bare metal. Some people suggest using an electric drill with a wire brush to lessen the amount of elbow grease required for more difficult rust. If using this method be sure to use only brass wire brushes. Brass is softer than cast iron and it will not damage your cookware.
I have heard some people suggest chemical warfare when dealing with cast iron cookware that is in dire shape. One of the more common methods used is to soak the Dutch oven or frying pan in a bath of oven cleaner. While this method will certainly remove grime and gunk, it also bathes your cookware in toxic chemicals. This is something that I am personally reluctant to do.
Instead of using an oven cleaner, try soaking your fouled cast iron in a bath of white vinegar. It may take longer to soak the grime off of your Dutch oven but white vinegar is not toxic. Once the grime is removed simply use steel wool to clean out any rust. Thoroughly rinse out and dry your cast iron treasure and immediatly re-season to prevent it from rusting.
One can always use the electron for severely fouled ovens that require critical care. Through a process known as electrolysis one can clean that oven to a factory new look without using a lot of elbow grease. All that's needed is a tripod, a plastic container large enough to completely submurge the Dutch oven in water, an automotive battery charger, a metal plate and water.
Place the metal plate in the plastic container and fill the container with enough water to completely cover the dutch oven. Set the tripod over the plastic basin and hang the oven from it with the oven (not the bail) completely submerged. Connect the negative lead of the battery charger to the oven and the positive lead to the metal plate and turn on the battery charger.
The electrical current will remove the rust and gunk from the dutch oven and deposit it onto the metal plate. When complete, your cast iron will be factory clean and ready for seasoning.