Iron nails in the kettle - does anyone know anything about this old folk tradition?

I often read about the importance of iron for health and how lack of iron is often a factor for those with thyroid issues. It reminded me of something. When I was a child my grandparents kept an old rusty nail in the kettle. I was told it was for iron. Does anyone know anything about this and does it work?

9 Replies

  • Yes, my grandparents did that. I remembering asking why as a child because we never had one in ours at home. Both of them lived well into old age - 94 and 85 - and I never remember them being ill at all. Guess it didn't do them any harm!

  • Hi, thank you foeversummer. My grandparents lived to 82/84. Perhaps it was quite normal to put nails in the kettle in the past... I'm glad it's not just me imagining things! I think perhaps the metal used in nails may have been purer in the past - but check out Rod's answer below. It's not to be recommended today!

  • I have no idea about the amount of iron that would introduce to the water - and hence, to you. Many people do have at least some iron pipe somewhere in their water supply (whether on your property or in the network). And some water simply has iron dissolved in it anyway. So a little bit of iron in the water is OK.

    However, I suggest that you do NOT drop any old nail into your kettle. Lots and lots of nails are, or have been, anything but pure iron. Some will be "contaminated" with any of: cadmium, zinc, lead, nickel, chromium, or other elements and could be very much the wrong thing to do.


  • Thank you Rod. I'm sure many of those other elements would not be very good. I'm not going to do this myself, I just wondered if it was something anyone else had come across in the past.


  • They also used to use iron cooking pots which was believed to contribute towards good health, heavy old things mind you!

  • So they did - I had a small one a long time ago and it was always rusty. Food tasted horrible in it! I wonder if the nail in the kettle thing came from this.

  • For anyone north of the border, Irn Bru (and its imitators) contains so little iron it is utterly forgettable as a source of iron.

    Made from girders? Not even hair-grips and pins. :-)


    (Yes - I know Irn Bru is nowadays readily available in much of England, at least. But in my head it is always in Scotland.)

  • Don't risk the nail-did you know there's more iron in parsley than a piece of liver? Sprinkle it on your salads the supplements-although they make me constipated.

  • I wasn't going to do the nail thing - I just wanted to know if anyone else had come across this - it seems they have and its not just my crazy family!

    I didn't know that about parsley and am starting to grow some in the garden. I'll be sure to use it often! I'm a veggie and wouldn't touch liver anyway - sounds vile!

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