Iron is a gorgeous, traditional and incredibly versatile addition to any property. In any ordinary home you may find cast or wrought iron used in garden furniture, gates and fences, window boxes and other exterior fittings. This is also true for interior fittings such as balustrades and banisters, fireplaces as well as of course pokers and tongs and the like, bedsteads, coffee or occasional tables and other decorative furniture, as a frame for a picture or a mirror, to make a decorative light fitting, in functional items such as clothes horses and—of course—the best griddle pans, frying pans and other cookware you'll ever use. It's a durable material with a hundred potential uses, but all that cast iron will need some maintenance in the end!
The good news is that it's still extremely easy, and there are only a few simple steps you need to take to keep your beautiful iron fixtures looking good as new for many decades to come. This article will concentrate on the care and maintenance of cast iron kept in the outdoors, as exposure to the elements necessitates a little extra care.
Prevention is Better Than Cure
One of the best things you can do is to paint your exterior iron. Iron does rust, and avoiding that is your biggest task when you're trying to maintain it; paint, on the other hand, will create a barrier between the iron and the outside world that keeps the rain and humidity out and stops rust spots from forming. Painted iron has a very different kind of a look to exposed cast iron, though, so it's understandable if you feel that you'd rather not paint it. Almost any kind of wax—beeswax is traditional—will offer some measure of protection, and is perfectly sufficient in drier climates such as in much of Australia. If you live somewhere that rains a little more often or experiences frosts sometimes during winter, however, you may wish to purchase a professional-quality iron sealant from your local hardware store.
Keep It Clean & Keep an Eye
Keeping your iron clean will make it easier to see any potential issues, as well as making sure it looks incredible. A mixture of warm water and a little ordinary washing up liquid is all you need; you can swiftly wipe down most of it with a sponge. There may be some small flecks of rust, which can be scrubbed away using a toothbrush. If your iron is painted, keep an eye out for chips in the paint and repair them as quickly as you can. Try to do this on a dry day, so that your iron will dry out quickly rather than sit damp and risk rusting up again.
Nip Problems in the Bud
Bent or broken iron is more likely to rust, and since it is weaker it can put the rest of the object it forms at risk. Plus, it looks neglected. If part of your iron fixture bends, you may be able to fix it yourself using a blowtorch and a hammer--but if you're not confident you can do that safely, get a professional in. If you find a rust spot that has bedded in a little, you need to move quickly to stop it in its tracks; use steel wool to scrub it off as thoroughly as you can, and then apply a generous coat of wax to keep it from spreading. If there are many such spots you may need to call in a professional to deal with them--but they'll appreciate finding that your iron has been looked after beforehand!