How to Clean Old Salt Shakers and Pepper Mills

Cleaning old wooden salt and pepper mills is easy.

I don't have a fancy kitchen. Except for appliances, it hasn't been updated in many years. When my husband bought the house, it actually had a orange sink. That was replaced with a stainless steel sink in short order.

Our kitchen bowls, utensils and serving ware are a hodge podge of things from our mothers', aunts' and grandmothers' kitchens as well as new items we've acquired. New or old, everything is well used. I still have the first silverware set I bought (weekly, at an IGA store with help from my mother) and my very first mixing bowl (which is actually a collector's piece now.)

Recently, I acquired tall wooden salt and pepper shakers from my parents' kitchen, which are probably 45 years old. I have my own, but I also have great affection for old wooden items from home. So I have more than I need, but I will find a use for all of them, one way or another. I'm good at that.

Meanwhile, I wanted to clean them.
  • First I opened the tops and emptied any salt and pepper left inside. 
  • Next I used a can of air - the kind you clean a keyboard with to blow out any remaining salt or pepper residue. The pepper mill was empty, but the salt shaker surprised me by dumping salt all over me. So, do this over the sink.
  • Then, I used a thin bottle brush to clean the insides again, just to make sure they were as empty as possible. You may want to repeat the blow-out step.
  • Next I used a mildly abrasive pad and a pan scraper to remove any gunk that accumulated on the outside of the shakers.
  • Finally, I moistened a soft cloth with vinegar and wiped off the outside of the shakers.
I'm satisfied that my old/new salt shaker and pepper mill are as clean as they need to be for my use. But it you purchase such items at a yard sale or flea market, you may want to seal them in a plastic bag and pop them into the freezer for two weeks to kill anything nasty that may be lurking inside. As long as the wood is dry, this should not hurt them.

Whatever you do, don't soak your old wooden salt and pepper shakers in water. Not only will this ruin the wood, but getting the insides wet may lead to mold growth, even if the exterior dries.

Postscript on 2-12-14: Adding this link because it was so interesting.


Anne said…
Hi I was interested to see your blog about salt and pepper shakers, mine don't seem to last very long and I have resorted to the ready filled ones from the supermarket. Salt shakers in particular are the worst. Perhaps its the type of salt I used? Anne
Unknown said…
I have never heard of that happening, Anne. The salt must be the culprit. All of mine are pretty old.
Anne said…
I was using sea salt which I think holds more moisture. The pepper shakers weren't so much of a problem.
Unknown said…
Anne, that makes sense: thanks for sharing!
Unknown said…
What do I do if I get water inside the shakers
Unknown said…
I found an old wooden pepper mill in a bin that had gotten water in it. the mill is definitely wet inside but looks pretty good out side. Is there anyway to clean the inside enough to make sure that any mold or other possible nasty things are fully removed? Is there any way to restore it or is its life over?

Popular Posts