Steel wool is a cleaning lifesaver! From getting rid of burnt food from your cookware to cleaning the crayon “artwork” done by your kid on your wallpaper to preparing that aluminum for some suitable welding, you can always count on steel wool to get those tough stains and dirt off your surfaces at home and at the workshop.
This is why it should always be kept in the best condition so that you can readily reuse it. When oil, wax, and dirt are not washed out, steel wool loses longevity.
In this article, you will be given detailed step-by-step methods to clean your steel wool, how to keep it from rusting and how to maintain it.
How To Clean A Steel Wool? (4 Methods)
Method 1: Cleaning A Greasy Steel Wool
1- Soapy water solution
3- Rubber gloves
4- Ziplock bag
STEP 1: Pour 2 tablespoons of liquid soap or detergent powder into a bowl.
STEP 2: Add ½ glass of water into it and mix until the solution becomes foamy.
STEP 3: Put on your rubber gloves and immerse the greasy steel wool into the bowl
STEP 4: Do not leave the steel wool to soak. Begin working on getting grease cleaned out with your hands and by gently striking it on a hard surface, especially when the oil is clogged.
STEP 5: Shake the steel wool in the solution in a manner in which the solution foams, again and again.
STEP 6: When the grease is completely gone, run water through the soapy steel wool to get the soap washed off thoroughly.
STEP 7: After rinsing, shake the steel wool to get the liquid out. You can also use a clean towel to squeeze any traces of water residue in it.
STEP 8: To prevent nature from playing out on it, which would lead to rusting, place the washed steel wool into a Ziploc bag and place it in an airy or cold container.
By all means, avoid placing the bag in a place where it could have direct contact with sunlight or heat.
Method 2: Cleaning A Rusty Steel Wool
1- Rubber gloves
3- Ziploc bag
4- Baking soda
STEP 1: Put on your rubber gloves. Pour 1½-2 tablespoons of baking soda into a bowl and mix it with a quarter glass of water.
STEP 2: Stir the mix well before immersing the rusty steel wool inside the solution.
STEP 3: After immersing in the steel wool, let it soak for 3-5 minutes before taking it out.
STEP 4: Do not rinse the steel wool with water.
STEP 5: Next, place it in a Ziploc bag and keep it in the refrigerator or freezer.
STEP 6: Repeat this process daily (ensure it is kept somewhere cold), and the rustic look would gradually dissipate, and your steel wool would be restored.
Method 3: How To Get Food Out Of A Steel Wool
1- Rubber gloves
2- Dish soap
4- Ziploc bag
STEP 1: Put on your rubber gloves.
STEP 2: Pour a few drops of dish soap into a water bowl and mix thoroughly.
STEP 3: Immerse the steel wool in soapy water for 1 minute.
STEP 4: Take the steel wool out and begin to strike it on a surface to get those grains and dried crumbs shook off.
STEP 5: Rinse the steel wool and repeat the above step. Also, with your gloves on, you can pick through the steel wool for the food remains that are finding it difficult to slip through.
Note: This happens when the steel wool is a thick chunk. Grains unavoidably get stuck in the threads.
STEP 6: After the grains are out, dip the steel wool in the soapy water for a final wash, then rinse.
STEP 7: Place the steel wool in a Ziploc bag and store it in a cold environment like a refrigerator.
Method 4: How To Get Paint Off A Steel Wool
1- Rubber gloves
4- Methylated spirits
5- Paint remover
6- Ziploc bag
STEP 1: Put on your rubber gloves.
STEP 2: Let a few drops of the paint remover fall on the affected area/s of the steel wool.
STEP 3: Leave it for about 15-25 minutes after which, you would begin to see the effect of the chemical on the steel wool.
STEP 4: Take a needle and lift off the paint from the steel wool.
STEP 5: After all or most of the paint stains have been peeled off, pour 2 tablespoons of methylated spirits into a bowl.
STEP 6: Touch the affected area, on the methylated spirits. You would notice the methylated spirits giving finishing touches to the steel wool cleaning.
STEP 8: Immerse the whole chunk of steel wool in the methylated spirits after taking it out, keep it in a Ziplock bag.
STEP 9: Finally, place the bag in a refrigerator, but more preferably, the freezer.
How To Keep Steel Wool From Rusting?
Steel wool often comes in contact with water and other liquid substances that affect its properties and cause rusting.
However, it is possible to prevent your steel wool from rusting even if it comes into contact with water daily. Here are a few important things to remember:
1- Avoid Exposing Steel Wool to Air and Sunlight
Where and how you keep steel wool after use, especially after being immersed in water, matters greatly.
When you expose a ball of wet steel wool to natural air, it becomes exposed, and oxidation sets in, which would eventually lead to rusting. (Source) Therefore, a ziplock bag is great for keeping your steel wool in.
2- Do Not Immerse Steel Wool in Vinegar (except When Needed for Wood Staining)
Pouring vinegar on steel wool does two things: it changes its appearance and texture (it degrades it) and makes it susceptible to speedy corrosion.
The acidic ingredients in vinegar contrast with steel properties, causing damage to the steel wool.
3- Soak in Baking Soda Solution Constantly
Baking soda helps to keep a ball of steel wool free from corrosion. There are 2 ways of using baking soda:
One is to soak used steel wool in a baking soda and water solution bi-weekly, while another is daily spraying the steel wool generously with a baking soda and water mix, keeping it in a bag, and storing it at a cool temperature.
4- Store in a Cool Environment
When you place steel wool in a cold environment like the refrigerator or freezer, the iron alloy, and other properties are strengthened and thrive, making it long-lasting.
When refrigerated or frozen, it is preserved and protected.
Can You Dish Wash Steel Wool?
Steel wool can be washed in the dishwasher along with other dishes to help get rid of food particles, grease, and charcoal stains. However, deeply ingrained food particles, grease, and rust might not be handled well by a dishwasher. In that case, you’ll have to use manual washing methods.
Here are the steps to do it:
STEP 1: Soak in soapy water
It requires putting on your dishwashing gloves and pulling the threads apart gently to ensure that the stains and food remains are totally off the steel wool after soaking for a few minutes.
STEP 2: Put the steel wool in the dishwasher
Placing steel wool alongside your dishes into the dishwasher to get it cleaned up is not a widespread practice.
However, it is advisable to only put bigger steel wool pads into the dishwasher that needs cleaning than smaller ones to avoid clogging the pipes.
How Do You Make Steel Wool Last Longer? (3 Tips!)
1- Cut a Little Piece for Each Use
Your bundle of steel wool wouldn’t get exhausted quickly when you cut out little lumps rather than big chunks for each service.
2- Keep In a Ziploc Bag after Use
Have a Ziploc bag assigned for the steel wool you use. Storing your steel wool in an airtight container gets oxygen trapped out and prevents it from affecting its metallic properties leading to rust.
Note: Do not expose the Ziploc bag (with the steel wool inside) to a hot temperature.
3- Wash Off Stains, Grease, Paint, and Food Immediately after Use
This way, the chemical composition of what has been cleaned does not significantly affect the steel wool.
Steel wool is highly regarded among many cleaning tools because of its strength and ability to get any mess or stain covering off hard surfaces. For this reason, it is one staple that is always stocked in the house and workshops.
In this article, we’ve delved into the nitty-gritty of steel wool care and how to keep a ball of steel wool so that it can serve you longer.