Durable cast iron stoves can lose their lustre with regular use. Some cast iron stoves are rescued from years of disuse in barns and sheds, requiring restoration and rust-removal before they can be used again. Cast iron of any age is susceptible to rust. Most cast iron stoves respond well to a thorough and energetic dusting, scrubbing, scraping, sanding and polishing. Set aside a day to restore your cast iron stove. Be sure the cast iron stove is completely cold before beginning.
Spread an old sheet on the floor next to the cast iron stove. Remove any loose pieces, such as burner caps, to the sheet to be treated separately.
Brush away surface dust and loose residue on your cast iron stove with a soft-bristled broom. Clean corners and curves with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Dip the toothbrush in vegetable oil to remove dirt trapped in narrow spaces.
Dip a nylon pot scrubber in a dish of clean vegetable oil. Scrape off excess or baked-on dirt, grime or food from your cast iron stove. Clean the loose items in the same manner, then return them to the sheet. Wipe the residue away with a dry terrycloth rag.
Scrape away any rusty patches on your cast iron stove with fine-grade sandpaper or dry, detergent-free fine-grade steel wool. Press vigorously.
Remove rust from the loose items in the same manner, then return them again to the sheet. Wipe the residue away with a clean, dry rag.
Work top to bottom, left to right, until all excess dirt and rust is removed from your cast iron stove. Wipe the entire cast iron surface down with a barely damp clean rag. Wipe down the loose pieces with a separate barely damp rag. Dry completely with a clean rag.
Apply stove blacking or polish to cast iron stove and loose elements as directed by manufacturer. Most polish manufacturers direct the users to apply the polish or blacking as they would apply wax to a vehicle. Have an ample supply of dry, clean cloths on hand. Allow the cast iron stove to dry completely before returning the removable parts.
If your cast iron stove is very rusty, you can use a vacuum cleaner with hand attachments to suck the rust dust away after you clean a section. Keep your restored cast iron finish looking like new by polishing it with a rag daubed with olive oil once a month.
Never apply stove polish to a cast iron stove that isn't completely cold. Be sure the fire has been out at least 12 hours before you begin working on the stove finish.