Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Learn to Edit Wikipedia Health and Medical Articles, May 10, 11am-1pm SLT

Wikipedia is a free comprehensive multilingual online encyclopedia that encourages everyone to participate in editing it. Writing the articles and maintaining the site are all done by volunteers. “Dr. Wikipeda” is consulted by over 500 million people worldwide each month for health and wellness topics.

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is hosting an online Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon on Tuesday, May 10, from 11am-1pm SLT (2-4pm Eastern). The webinar (hosted on the gotowebinar platform) will include:

  • An introduction to Wikipedia
  • How to edit Wikipedia articles
  • How editing is monitored on Wikipedia to avoid bias and disinformation
  • Practice editing articles about asthma (although this does not need to be your focus)
  • Suggested next steps and ongoing support

You do not need to have any prior Wikipedia experience, nor do you need to have a specific interest in asthma to participate. Wikipedia chose this topic for their examples because May is Asthma Awareness Month.

If you have ever read a Wikipedia health, wellness, or disability article and wished your own viewpoint were better represented, this is the webinar for you.

Here’s where to register: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/765379262396289036.


Sunday, May 1, 2022

Healthinfo Island Displays and Exhibits for May 2022

You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the SLURLs in this notecard. Click on the poster with the same name as the title of the poster set, and you will get a notecard that contains all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images. 

If you click each poster, you will get a message with additional information and live links.


Central Pavilion of Healthinfo Island

Check out the calming breathing exercise on the back wall!

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/128/126/24

Please note that all displays and exhibits this month correlate with the Mental Health 


Loneliness, Social Isolation and Mental Health

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/195/158/22


Counteracting Loneliness

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/188/181/24


Brain Injury

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/172/155/22


What Defines Community?

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/114/79/24


Why is Community Important for People with Disabilities?

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/98/40/26


Boost Your Resilience

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/50/28/28


Minority Mental Health Equity

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/24/23/30


How to Get Mental Health Help

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/21/63/32

 

Thanks to Anna and Mook for assistance with the posters this month.


Saturday, April 30, 2022

Save The Date! Friday, May 13, 2022: 11th Annual Mental Health Symposium - I Am Not Alone

presents
11th Annual Mental Health Symposium
Friday, May 13, 2022



The 11th annual Mental Health Symposium will take place in Virtual Ability’s Sojourner Auditorium, on Virtual Ability Island on Friday, May 13, 2022.

The theme of this Symposium is “I Am Not Alone.” Our presenters will offer a wide interpretation of the theme, based on their interests and academic backgrounds.

Virtual Ability hosts this annual Symposium to share information about mental health and mental disabilities with the general population. Within our cross-disability community we have members who deal with a variety of mental health issues. Not only is this an opportunity for our community members to learn more about topics related to mental health from experts they probably would not have a chance to meet otherwise, but it also allows the general public to attend a professional conference at no cost.

Link for further information on the sessions and the presenters: https://virtualability.org/mental-health-symposia/mental-health-symposium-2022/.


Sunday, April 24, 2022

What are the “Dirty Dozen” Produce?

Picture of washing strawberries and lettuce
Washing fruits and vegetables

The “Dirty Dozen” is a list of the twelve produce items with the most pesticide contamination as sold in grocery stores. This list is produced annually by the Environmental Working Group (EWG)

The twelve worst offenders for 2022 are:

  • strawberries
  • spinach
  • kale, collard and mustard greens
  • nectarines
  • apples
  • grapes
  • bell and hot peppers
  • cherries
  • peaches
  • pears
  • celery
  • tomatoes

The EWG also produces a list called the “Clean Fifteen.” These are produce types with the least pesticide residue. Many are covered with an inedible peel, which keeps the part you eat free of chemicals. This list for 2022 includes:

  • avocados
  • sweet corn
  • pineapple
  • onions
  • papaya
  • frozen sweet peas
  • asparagus
  • honeydew melon
  • kiwi
  • cabbage
  • mushrooms
  • cantaloupe
  • mango
  • watermelon
  • sweet potatoes

The testing of produce that informs these lists was done by the US Department of Agriculture and the US Food and Drug Administration

Pesticides have numerous health effects on humans, including impacts on the nervous system, skin, eyes, and hormones. Some pesticides may cause cancer.

To reduce your family’s exposure to toxic pesticides on produce, be sure to wash fruits and vegetables properly and thoroughly before eating or cooking them.


Monday, April 18, 2022

April 17-23, 2022, is Psychology Week


The American Psychological Association (APA) has recognized the third week in April as Psychology Week. The purpose of this week is dedicated to raising the profile of psychology as a discipline and profession and celebrating psychology’s contributions that benefit society and improve the quality of our lives.

How can you participate in Psychology Week? Here are some suggestions.


Saturday, April 16, 2022

Spring Home Maintenance Tips

This house was clean yesterday, we're sorry you missed it.

When you set your clocks ahead, check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Set up annual maintenance for your air conditioner. Replace or clean the filters.

Check the outside of your home and any outdoor equipment for winter storm damage.

If you have an outdoor grill, check it to make sure corrosion hasn't compromised the fuel feed. Check your propane tank for damage.

Clean out gutters. Think ahead about April showers.


Friday, April 15, 2022

What Do Doctors Know About Legal Protections for People with Disabilities?

Doctor in white coat standing next to man in red shirt sitting in a black wheelchair

The answer to that question is: Apparently, not enough!

It’s been three decades since the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) took effect. Researchers recently quizzed doctors about the ADA and its requirements to provide appropriate accommodations for their patients who have disabilities. The quiz results are shocking.

Over a third of doctors surveyed said they knew little or nothing about their legal responsibilities as outlined in the ADA.

Almost three-quarters of the doctors did not know who was responsible for determining reasonable accommodations.

One in five doctors could not correctly identify who was to pay for the accommodations.

And because of their lack of knowledge, almost two-thirds felt they were at risk of an ADA lawsuit.

Physicians’ lack of knowledge about accommodations is yet one more barrier between a disabled person and adequate and appropriate healthcare. As our population ages doctors will see increasing numbers of persons with disabilities. Medical schools bear some responsibility for improving physician training on the topic of legal accommodations.

As patients, we can also explain our accommodation needs when we schedule an appointment with a medical office. Ask that your accommodation request be entered into your electronic health record. Don’t feel shy about asking how any new equipment will work for you.

You can become part of the system for improving your doctor’s knowledge about the ADA and its accommodation requirements.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Improve Your Forgiveness Skills


Forgiveness is an important skill to master. Knowing when and how to forgive people who are not good to you will help you manage stress in your life and improve your relationships overall.

Forgiveness is a learned skill that takes practice. Don’t expect to be good at it right away. Forgive yourself if you goof up while learning to improve your skill, because it is not the easiest skill to master.

One useful definition of forgiveness is that it is “a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

Forgiving someone does not mean offering excuses for their behavior. When you think of the phrase “forgive and forget,” remember that forgetting is not part of forgiving. When you forgive someone, you are not saying that they didn’t do anything wrong. On the contrary, they will have to work to rebuild your trust that they won’t repeat that wrong.

Just as forgiveness isn’t about forgetting the wrong, it’s also not about punishing the wrongdoer. Resentment and retaliation are not part of forgiveness.

Research has shown numerous psychological and social benefits of practicing forgiveness:

  • improved sense of mental wellbeing
  • reduction in negative affect
  • feeling positive emotions
  • positive relations with others
  • spiritual growth
  • a sense of meaning and purpose in life, and 
  • greater sense of empowerment. 

Physical health benefits of forgiveness include improvements in cardiovascular health indicators (heart rate and blood pressure).

Robert Enright has identified a Process Model of Forgiveness that involves four phases. Forgiveness begins with identifying that you have been wronged and understanding how this has affected you. Enright calls this the Uncovering Phase. The second phase, Decision, means actively committing to forgiving the offending person.

Commitment is followed by the Work Phase. You try to understand the offender and view him or her differently. This is a reframing or rethinking of the offensive situation. The final phase is Deepening, when you discover that forgiveness has released you from negative emotions.

How to improve your forgiveness skills? Begin with Uncovering. In addition to the obvious facts to think about, try to figure out how NOT forgiving the offending person is affecting you. Perhaps you are angry. When you Decide to forgive, you may come to realize that forgiveness isn’t a favor you are doing for someone else, it’s actually something you are doing to improve the quality of your own life.

In the Work phase, think about the offensive event from a different perspective. Often you will see the people who bully have been bullied, or people who say mean things have heard those things said to themselves. Think about standing in the other person’s shoes. You will be working to develop compassion and empathy. The other person is a human just like you, not someone evil.

In the Deepening phase, you will be able to release your negative emotions about the situation. You can take a positive action by doing something nice for the person who wronged you. When you are good to somebody else, you receive more benefits than you are giving.

The world needs a lot more forgiveness. Let’s all work on our forgiveness skills.


Monday, April 11, 2022

Eat Sustainable Fish


You want to add more seafood into your diet; you know fish and shellfish are healthy foods. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish are particularly beneficial for heart health.

But you’re also concerned about the natural environment. You have heard of overfishing. Over a third of fish stocks worldwide are overfished.  You don’t want to eat species whose populations are threatened. You’ve heard of farmed fish, but how healthy are they compared to wild-caught types?

So many species of edible fish and other seafood to choose from! What are the most environmentally responsible choices?

Here’s help figuring it all out. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has created FishWatch, a database of sustainable food fish and other seafood.    

https://www.fishwatch.gov/

At this website you will find information about various types of seafood, both wild and farmed. NOAA provides many facts about sustainable fishing and aquaculture, both in the US and globally. You can learn how to buy, handle, and cook seafoods safely. As a bonus, you can even get easy recipes for your favorite seafood from NOAA.

Enjoy your Sole Meuniere or Spicy Redfish Tacos.


Saturday, April 9, 2022

Accessible Parking Thoughtfulness and More

Experienced and written by Joy F. S.©


It is fun to be loving. Someone may really need a seat for whatever reason. There are seats, but Oooops - they are all taken by energetic people. It is nice to give a seat to someone who may need it more.

When taking a client who needed assistance to a local museum, I needed an accessible parking spot. Her legal placard was on the rear-view mirror. As I was approaching the very last accessible parking space, a man who noticed the placard still hurried and took this space out of turn. I pulled behind, got out of my car and politely explained that I needed that spot for my client. He drove to a spot further away. Nice. It was fun catching and helping him understand that thoughtfulness wins!

Another incident involved me witnessing a woman parking in an accessible parking spot. She put a placard in the rear-view mirror. She had our same model of car, so it was perfect timing in that I approached her to discuss our cars and offer help! She said that she and others did not need help and was waiting for her children to finish shopping after sports practice. She used someone else’s placard for convenience. How thoughtless, unloving, inconsiderate, and selfish! One should not need to be policed or patrolled to be kind, loving, thoughtful, considerate, polite, and unselfish. People should use their conscience and enjoy the feeling of giving another person a happier, safer and better day.

A bicycle parked across an accessible ramp at an eatery? Despicable! Any guesses what I did? Yup! I reported it and the bike was moved. If they were not going to move it, I would have!

Put yourself in someone else’s situation. How would it feel if you needed an accessible parking spot that was taken by others who do not need it? Not too nice.

Grocery carts left in accessible parking spots?  

That  is…...s  t  r  e  t  c  h  i  n  g   it!

In a store, I saw two teens racing in motorized carts. I asked, “Do you need those carts?” They said “No.” I asked, “How would you feel if you needed them and they were all taken?” A loving gift of a “think-about-it-look” from me was given to them!

For those who can walk and run, great. Enjoy parking further away for your health, refreshment and being considerate of others needing accessible parking spots. Want extra bonuses? Calories gone, and feeling good for the other person!  Imagine that!

Now more! Thoughtfulness goes beyond accessible parking. When on a walk, bike ride or at any indoor or outdoor place, people can clear and collect debris off of walkways and aisles for safety.

Keeping one's own home clear and clean inside and out is needed for family members, friends, clients, or anyone that may have needs. If possible - have ramps, accessible bars and higher toilets installed, double railings for stairs, door areas widened, furniture arranged for open space, an elevator and/or stair lift added, and whatever else! Being prepared is being protected.

When parking vehicles, do they have to be hanging over a sidewalk or accessible parking space? Thoughtfulness that makes it easier for others blesses all and blesses the person expressing it!

Being merciful, thoughtful, loving, considerate, caring and gentle is not bullying!  Go for it!


Sunday, April 3, 2022

April 4-10 Is National Public Health Week


April 4-10 is National Public Health Week. The American Public Health Association has declared this year’s theme to be “Public Health Is Where You Are” to champion the health of ALL Americans.

Here are some interesting public health facts:

How can you get involved? Check out the links in this article to find out actions everyone can take to improve their own and their community’s health


Saturday, March 26, 2022

Celebrate National Nutrition Month in March

You really are what you eat. This is a good time to think about the foods on your plate and in your refrigerator and pantry. Here are some suggestions for celebrating National Nutrition Month.

Learn how to read Nutrition Facts labels. Check out foods before you buy them to see how healthy (or unhealthy) they are.

Include new healthful foods in your meal plans. Check out this “If you like this…, try this…” list of new fruits and vegetables. Make a grocery list that includes the new items you wish to try.

What is your cultural heritage? What foods from that heritage are the most healthful?

Donate healthy nonperishable foods to your local food bank.

Download and read fact sheets, such as these:

  • https://www.nutrition.gov/topics/basic-nutrition/printable-materials-and-handouts
  • https://thecore4life.org/eat2live.html
  • https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/interactivenutritionfactslabel/factsheets.cfm

Learn about Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and what they can do for you. Consider asking your doctor for a referral to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Many insurance plans will pay for you to receive personalized nutrition information related to your disability and your healthy eating goals.

Share healthy recipes on social media this month. Try new healthy recipes you find on blogs or other sites.

Follow some tips for eating healthy on a budget.

Learn more about National Nutrition Month at this website created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: https://www.eatright.org/food/resources/national-nutrition-month.


What Does a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) Do?


Registered Dietitian Nutritionists have college or university degrees in nutrition dietetics, public health, or a related field. They then complete an internship and pas a professional examination before being granted their certification as an RDN. They must maintain their knowledge throughout their career by participating in continuing education coursework.

RDNs help individuals make positive changes in their lifestyles by translating nutrition science into practical solutions. They may work in hospitals or clinics, schools, nursing homes, the food industry, or university or private research firms. Their general goal is to improve the nutritional status of all people worldwide.


Saturday, March 12, 2022

Start Your Day with Humor

Frog husband takes picture o frog wife

Things always seem to go wrong in the mornings, whether you are trying to get yourself out the door to that morning meeting at work, if you have three young children to get ready for school, or even if you work from home but have to take care of pets before you can settle down to an important Zoom meeting. You can’t find your car keys. The dog ate the middle kid’s homework, the youngest threw up and seems to have a fever, and the oldest doesn’t want a bologna sandwich in her lunch. Someone left the lid off the trash bin and the dogs got into it overnight, spreading garbage all over the kitchen floor.

What to do to maintain your sanity?

A dose of humor will help. Look up some jokes online that you can share or chuckle over by yourself to share later with a colleague. Listen to a comedy show. Share some (good) news photos and make up silly captions with the kids. 

If humor won’t be adequate to get you through a weekday morning, it is great to have taken care of as many morning matters as possible the night before. Pack lunches, backpacks, and briefcases. Look over the family event calendar to be sure everyone is prepared for what will take place tomorrow. Check that all signed permission forms are ready to go, and that homework (theirs and yours) has been completed. Put the car keys and personal grooming tools where they belong. Set out tomorrow’s clothing selection. 

Best of all, adopt a new attitude. There never was and never will be a perfect morning routine. The most you can achieve is your best, and that may not be perfect. Learn to accept this. What you do in the morning is far more important than what doesn’t get done.


Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Healthinfo Island Displays and Exhibits for March 2022

You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the SLURLs in this blog by clicking the links below. Click on the poster with the same name as the title of the poster set, and you will get a notecard that contains all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images. 

If you click each poster, you will get a message with additional information and live links.

Infectious Disease Timeline, 1796-1971
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/195/158/22


Infectious Disease Timeline, 1952-present
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/188/181/24


Childhood Vaccination Requirements
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/172/155/22


Learn About Vaccines
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/114/79/24


Insulin Resistance
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/98/40/26


March is National Social Work Month
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/50/28/28


Accessibility FAILS: Ramps
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/24/23/30


Accessibility FAILS: Toilets
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/21/63/32


I think my favorite FAIL poster is the one I call the Ski Jump Wheelchair Ramp. Which one is yours?


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Intro to Audio Description

 


Thursday, February 17 at 11-11:30am SLT

Webinar sponsor: 3Play Media

 



What is audio description? While most people are familiar with closed captioning, audio description is another important accessibility requirement for video content. Audio description narrates the relevant visual information in a video to make your content accessible to blind and low vision users. 

This webinar will cover the basics of how to add audio description to online video, legal requirements for audio description, video player compatibility, examples and demos, how to create audio description, differences between standard & extended audio description, and benefits of audio description outside of accessibility.

 In this webinar, you will learn about:
  • What is audio description?
  • Examples and demos
  • Accessibility laws and compliance
  • Video player compatibility
  • Methods for DIY audio description
  • How to publish audio description
  • Tools & features to make the process easier
Why not add this skill to your disability-supportive accessibility-inclusive toolkit?


Monday, February 14, 2022

Where Did They Go?

An empty park with an empty bench

By Virtual Ability member Shyla, the Super Gecko

Sometimes people disappear from Second Life and we don't know why. But anyone can disappear for a while or even a long time.

When people disappear it can worry us - are they are safe? Maybe their computer went screwy and they can't get online. I don't know, and that leaves me questioning what has happened to them.

Here are some steps I have taken to ensure those whom I interact in Second Life know my status if I should have to be off the grid for an extended period.

I set up a contact system so people in the Second Life groups I am in can know my status.  Here are the steps I took.

1.     I asked a person in Second Life, who I frequently interact with and trust with personal information, if they would be my ‘main virtual’ contact.

2.      I asked a different person to be my ‘physical world’ contact and if it was alright to provide my ‘main virtual world’ contact with their phone number and email, so they could check on me if needed.

a)       I selected two ‘physical world’ contacts, one as a back-up.

3.      I created a list of people in Second Life I wanted my ‘main virtual’ contact to inform of my status should I be out of Second Life for an extended period.

a)       I only selected a few people, one from each group I interact with, so as not to overburden my ‘main virtual’ contact. I call these people ‘secondary virtual’ contacts.

b)      I asked each ‘secondary virtual’ contact if they were willing to notify others in their group of my status should my ‘main virtual’ contact advise them.

c)       I let my ‘secondary virtual’ contact know who my ‘main virtual’ contact is.

4.      I created a list of the ‘secondary virtual’ contacts who agreed to notify others in their group. I included User and Legacy names and gave it to my ‘main virtual’ contact.

5.      I also provided my ‘main virtual’ contact the contact information of my ‘physical world’ contacts and my own.

6.      I gave my ‘main virtual’ contact a note card with the following information:

a)       My personal contact information

b)      My ‘physical world’ contact’s information

c)       The list of ‘secondary virtual’ contacts

d)      When to reach out, meaning how long should my ‘main virtual’ contact wait before reaching out to my ‘physical world’ contact? A week? A month?

e)      I asked them to reach out to me first, and then my ‘physical world’ contacts.

f)        I thanked them and shared how special and important their service was to me and how I valued their willingness to take this on.

7.      Last, I committed to keep my ‘main virtual’ contact up-to-date, providing a new note card with any changes to my ‘physical world’ and ‘secondary virtual’ contacts.

a)       I plan on putting the date or a version number on any updated lists to make it easier for my ‘main virtual’ contact to know which contains the most recent information.

It seems like a lot, but it didn't take long, and everyone I asked appreciated I put this process in place.

It’s a gift to have something in place to ensure others know what might have happened if you leave Second Life for an extended period. I hope this is helpful in doing so.

 

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Weather Tip - What is a Blizzard?



The TV weatherman is calling for a blizzard. What does that mean?

Blizzards are significant winter storms that can cause lots of problems and damage., The National Weather Services has defied a blizzard as a winter storm with:

  • 3 consecutive hours or more with considerable falling and/or blowing snow,
  • visibility of a quarter mile or less, and
  • frequent wind gusts or sustained winds at or over 35mph (56 km/hr).

A ground blizzard occurs when snow is not actually falling, but loose snow on the ground is being blown about by strong winds.

For more definitions and a nice wind-chill chart: https://www.weather.gov/dmx/wintersafety

Here’s information on how to prepare to survive during a blizzard. The most important advice: Don’t leave your home!

  • https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather
  • https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/winter-storm.html
  • https://www.almanac.com/are-you-prepared-next-blizzard
  • https://virtualability.org/get-ready/

Some people even find joy in blizzards.

  • https://www.almanac.com/joys-blizzards-1


Saturday, February 12, 2022

February on Healthinfo Island

Can you treat bladder dysfunction without surgery? Why won't my doc treat my bronchitis? What 49 other conditions (including Ehlers-Danlos) can mimic Marfan Syndrome? What can cause “brain fog”? What is mindful eating useful for?

Learn about these topics and more during February. See notecard for SLURLs to poster sets on Healthinfo Island. Get a full text notecard plus image descriptions.

Healthinfo Island Displays and Exhibits for February 2022

You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the SLURLs in this notecard. Click on the poster with the same name as the title of the poster set, and you will get a notecard that contains all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images. 

If you click each poster, you will get a message with additional information and live links.

Central Pavilion of Healthinfo Island

Check out the calming breathing exercise on the back wall!

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Healthinfo%20Island/128/126/24


Sunday, January 30, 2022

Winter Home Maintenance Tips


Adjust ceiling fans so they spin clockwise. Since warm air rises, your fan will not distribute it downwards.

With cold weather upon us, this is a good time to check the seals on windows and doors. Replace weather stripping if necessary.

If your home has an attic, check the ventilation and seals on the ducts. You don’t want an ice dam to form on your roof in cold weather.

Some good places to clean:

  • The exhaust hood and filter in the kitchen above the stove.
  • The refrigerator and freezer. Don’t just clean the inside; pull the fridge gently out from the wall and vacuum the coils on the back side of the appliance. It will function more efficiently.
  • This is a good time to clean and organize storage areas, including closets, cupboards, the basement and garage.

 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Donate blood in January!


It’s a good time to donate blood.

Make an appointment today to donate blood. 

Ten percent fewer donors stepped up during the pandemic than in previous months. The bad weather this winter caused several blood drives to cancel. The Red Cross has announced a national blood crisis. The shortage of blood and platelets is extreme right now. Help people who need transfusions get the care they need by donating blood or platelets in January.

To sweeten the deal, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts will donate a dozen Original Glazed doughnuts to everyone who donates blood this month. The National Football League is offering one lucky donor a trip to Super Bowl LVI. 

Find out if you are eligible to donate blood, then call a donation center today to arrange your visit. Donating blood is a safe and easy way to support your friends and family in a time of critical need.


Thursday, January 27, 2022

Restoring a Cast Iron Pan

By Orange Planer
Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Cast iron pans are amazing tools in the kitchen for three reasons:

  1. They are tough –

    1. They can take any heat you throw at them without affecting the pan; that makes them ideal for gas or electric stoves, campfires, or a grill (glass-topped stoves can be an exception),
    2. They can be dropped, hit, dragged, or run over and except for a scratch or two the pan will be undamaged,
    3. Taken care of, they will outlast you, your children, their children, and beyond

  2. They are dense so they retain heat, which is great for –

    1. Putting on grill marks,
    2. Caramelizing foods,
    3. Even and steady cooking, and finally

  3. A correctly “seasoned” cast iron pan is the most non-stick utensil you own.

What is “seasoning” when talking about cast iron pans?

To protect the cast iron from rust it needs to be coated in a material that can take high heat and is food-grade safe. That material is a neutral-smelling polyunsaturated oil heated past its smoke point. The process of laying down that material is called polymerization. It occurs when the polyunsaturated oil breaks down and reacts with the iron and joins with other polyunsaturated oil in the same state, forming long molecular chains. The result is a hard, smooth coating that is water-repellant and can withstand very high heats (well over 600 Fahrenheit (°F) or 315 Celsius (°C)) when cooking.

Unfortunately, the seasoning can be damaged by several things. It can be chipped off by whacking it with a metal utensil, scraped off with sharp objects, dissolved by soap or acid (such as tomatoes), or scrubbed off. If that happens oxygen can access the cast iron. The iron will react with the oxygen, forming FeO2 (iron oxide, called rust). Once the rust starts it will over time eat into the iron and destroy the pan. If you have ever seen a car overtaken by rust, that is what happens to damaged cast iron pans.

To repair the pan, four tasks must be done (with the author’s recommended ingredient list):

  1. Remove all the seasoning (see below for other methods of seasoning removal)
    Ingredient: your oven and a vent to remove the smoke that may come from your oven.

  2. Remove the rust
    Ingredients: 
    1. A plastic container with tight-fitting lid that is wide and tall enough to submerge your pan(s),
    2. Several gallons of the cheapest white vinegar you can find (depending on your pans you won’t use it all),
    3. An equal amount of tap water,
    4. A toothbrush or scrub brush that looks like either of these and has plastic (not horsehair or metal) bristles,
       or 
    5. Two heavy-duty rubber kitchen gloves that go up to your elbow.

  3. Clean the pan thoroughly
    Ingredients:
    1. Fine-grade steel wool embedded with soap,
    2. Dish soap (does not matter what kind),
    3. Several lint-free rags.

  4. Re-season the pan
    Ingredients:
    1. A polyunsaturated oil (see below for which kind) that has a medium-high smoke point (around 375°F (190°C),
    2. Several lint-free rags or paper towels,
    3. A roll of aluminum foil.

1. Methods of Seasoning Removal

There are many methods and depending on how rusty your pan is you may decide to choose one or the other. The methods I have seen include:

  • A potato and salt: Cut a potato in half the short way, add ¼ cup kosher salt to the pan, push the potato onto the salt, and sand the pan down until all the seasoning is gone (if your arms can handle it and you have the time, keep going to remove all the rust, too)
    • Pros: cheap
    • Cons: takes an enormous amount of effort and time

  • Fine-grit sandpaper rated for metal applications: Sand the pan down until all the seasoning is gone
    • Pros: cheap, somewhat faster than a potato and salt
    • Cons: still takes an enormous amount of effort and time, also has the possibility of leaving uneven spots

  • A wire wheel (a wheel fitted with short, thick wires that looks like a brush attached to either a hand-held drill or other hand-held tool): Run the wire wheel over the pan, being careful not to grind down the pan too much, until all the seasoning and rust is gone
    • Pros: fast
    • Cons: significantly expensive and there is the danger of damaging the shape and surface of the pan, not to mention yourself if you misuse the tool

  • Chemicals: There are a variety of products on the market that will chemically react with anything on the iron (including the rust) and dissolve it into solution, leaving the pan ready for step 3
    • Pros: almost no effort and very safe
    • Cons: expensive – you will need to immerse the pan which means you need at least two gallons; slow – the process takes days to complete; cost: at least $20/gallon unless you find it on sale

  • Oven cleaners: Place your pan in a large trash bag, wear heavy rubber gloves, spray the pan with the oven cleaner being careful not to inhale it or come in contact with it, close the bag with the opening under the pan, and wait 24 – 48 hours
    • Pros: almost no effort
    • Cons: hazardous to your health  these products use lye and are applied using a spray. Lye is extremely caustic. It will burn any tissues it touches if not washed off immediately. If you breathe the fumes or allow the cleaner to touch your skin, eyes, or mouth you may end up in the hospital and will definitely be calling your local poison control organization

  • RECOMMENDED - Your oven: seasoning is mostly carbon and carbon can be burned off by using your oven on its cleaning cycle. One hour should be all that is necessary, but some ovens have a minimum cleaning cycle time. The author’s oven, for example, has low and high cycles that default to 3 and 4 hours, but can be set to 2.5 and 3 hours, respectively. If you don’t have an oven, placing your pan in the coals of a fire pit or in your charcoal grill overnight will also do the job.
    • Pros: almost no effort
    • Cons: cost of energy to heat your oven and pan, but energy has to be expended somewhere and this is a relatively minor quibble

Cautions on using your oven to remove seasoning

An oven cleaning cycle will heat to around 900°F (482°C). If you were to open the oven door during that time you would be severely burned, and you may set your house on fire. Anything not burned in the oven already may catch fire, further increasing the hazard. For these reasons, and others,

  • Make sure you manually locked the oven, or verified that the oven will automatically lock,
  • Do not be tempted to open the oven until the cycle is ended, the oven is cool, and the door has unlocked (whether manual or automatic),
  • If you have a stove hood that absorbs smoke you may need to turn this on, or you can open your windows. (Author’s note: there doesn’t appear to be a smoke issue in my house.)
If you really need to examine the progress, the oven light will work. But, seriously, don’t bother looking because there’s nothing to see. It’s like watching grass grow.

2. Remove the Rust

None of the steps involved with removing seasoning remove all the rust. Fortunately, there is a cheap, safe, and easy method to removing rust from iron: white vinegar. After removing the seasoning, here’s what the test pan looked like:

 
Seasoning removed, top and bottom

Procedure:

  1. Put on the rubber gloves.
  2. Put the pan in the plastic container.
  3. Pour one gallon of vinegar into the container, followed by a gallon of water; if the pan is submerged completely, stop there, if not, add another half-gallon of vinegar and a matching half-gallon of water until the pan is submerged.
  4. Wait 10 minutes.
  5. Scrub the pan all over with the brush; you will see rust coming off the pan.
    Vinegar application and scrubbing (shown in sink for visual purposes)

  6. If there is still rust on the pan put it back in the solution.
  7. Wait 10 minutes.
  8. Go back to step 5 and repeat until all rust has been removed.

 

Here is what your hands look like if you do not use rubber gloves

You will know all the rust is gone when all you see is gray metal with no red anywhere.

3. Clean Thoroughly

We have all been taught to clean things with soap and water at the highest temperature we can withstand. Doing that with an iron pan will induce flash rust, necessitating a repeat of Step 2. Soap is not the enemy here: hot water is!

Procedure:

  1. Empty your sink and run the water until it is as cold as possible.
  2. Put the pan under the cold running water until it is also as cold as possible (a couple minutes will do).
  3. Stop the water, empty the pan, add a little dish soap, and use your scrub brush to thoroughly wash the pan of all vinegar and rust debris, then rinse with more cold water.
  4. The pan has been damaged by the action of rust and vinegar. That has created microscopic, jagged edges that will interfere with the formation of your seasoning and the non-stick properties thereof. The steel wool is used to smooth the jagged edges. Use the steel wool to scrub the pan using circular motions and plenty of effort. Do not worry about small pits; they will be filled in during the seasoning process.
  5. Rinse the pan using the scrub brush to remove any bits, then wash it at least twice with a little dish soap and the brush to make it is as clean as possible, then rinse with more cold water, scrubbing as you go; this excessive washing is to remove as much of the microscopic iron particles as possible
    Washing after using steel wool

  6. Dry the pan with a lint-free paper towel or cloth as fast as you can; if you see a significant amount of black on the towel, once more wash and rinse the pan thoroughly with the scrub brush, then dry again and examine for black particles. Repeat until there are none.
Result: clean pan!


4. Re-seasoning the Pan

First, we need to talk about the right kind of oil for this purpose. What we need is a polyunsaturated oil whose chemical bonds will open during heating to form the polymers we need. While the author has seen many oils and fats recommended, his experience shows that only a few oils work well. These oils are (in order of preference):

  1. Grapeseed oil
  2. Sunflower oil
  3. Safflower oil

Not recommended (just a partial listing):

  • Olive oil (not neutral smelling)
  • Canola oil (smoke point is too high, leading to excessive electric or gas use)
  • Lard (not polyunsaturated)
  • Shortening (not polyunsaturated)
  • Butter (not polyunsaturated)

Process

  1. Fold the corners of a long sheet of aluminum foil to create a tray and put in the bottom of your oven to catch any drips.




  2. Preheat your oven to 200°F (93°C) and place the pan in the oven for 10 minutes. This will expand the iron so it will more readily accept oil and evaporate any remaining water.
  3. Using hot pads, remove the pan and place it on the stove. (Put on a rack if you have a glass-top stove.) Raise the oven temperature to 300°F (148°C).
  4. Apply 1 teaspoon of oil to the pan and spread using a paper towel or lint-free cloth, moving in concentric circles, then take a fresh paper towel or cloth and wipe up all the residue. Repeat on the bottom and handle with another 1 teaspoon of oil. The pan will look nearly dry and that is exactly what you want – a microscopically thin layer.
  5. When the oven is at temperature put the pan upside down in the oven for 10 minutes, then remove and place on your stove. The oil will become more mobile when hot and this gives you the opportunity to remove any excess.
  6. Raise the oven temperature to 450°F (232°C); when the oven reaches that temperature return the pan to the oven (upside down again) and bake for one hour. If you wish, apply a second coat of oil and repeat baking for an hour.
  7. Turn off the heat and let the pan cure in the oven until all is cool.
     
    Seasoned pan, top and bottom
And, now that you're done, you can display your fine work!
Collection of pans on display in decorative rack

Final Notes

Cleaning

After using your pan, simply wipe out whatever is there while the pan is warm and store it.

If food is stuck to the surface the gentle use of warm (not hot) water and a non-abrasive scraping tool, scrub brush, sponge, or cloth will remove the food, then dry, coat the entire pan with ¼ teaspoon of your oil, and store it.

Soap will dissolve the seasoning, so do not use it unless absolutely necessary.

Storing

After the initial seasoning or after cleaning from use, wipe down the inside of the pan with ¼ teaspoon of the oil used to create the seasoning using a paper towel or lint-free cloth. Then, put it away.

Seasoning toughness

Initially the seasoning will be very thin, so the pan won’t look particularly dark. Used frequently and with extended periods of exposure to fat and heat, additional patches of seasoning will be laid down. As this process continues the pan will look a little splotchy, but this is what you want. Over time, each layer of seasoning will overlap the others, locking the seasoning into a hard, long-lasting layer. 

Using cast iron on glass cooktops

No matter how smooth the bottom of your cast iron pan is, do not slide it on a glass cooktop. If the bottom of the pan is not smooth and slick feeling, do not use it on a glass cooktop. Do not use a cast iron pot on glass cooktops because the weight will damage the surface. Some cast iron pots, with lid, weigh in excess of 20 lbs. (9.1 kg).