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Cleaning cast iron: dos and don'ts

Get to grips with cleaning cast iron with our list of dos and don’ts.

Updated

Orange wok on a wooden table

Key steps 

  • Make sure cast iron cookware is properly seasoned before use.
  • Never use a dishwasher to clean cast iron.
  • Always clean cast iron immediately after cooking.
  • Never leave cast iron wet as it could get rusty.
  • Re-season cast iron cookware when needed.
  • Use a metal scouring pad to remove rust, clean, and re-season.

Cast iron kitchenware is effective and versatile but it needs the right care to perform at its best. Using the right method to clean as part of your cast iron pan care is crucial and that’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to clean cast iron pans that covers the main dos and don’ts.

Cleaning cast iron isn’t something to be scared of – just avoid the dishwasher and always dry thoroughly to prevent rust. If it’s not cast iron kitchenware you want to clean, check out our other pan tips and tricks including can you use a dishwasher to clean pans and how to remove grease from pans.

How to clean a cast iron skillet, pan and other cookware

The process of cleaning cast iron skillets and pans is relatively simple.

  1. First, remove any excess cooking oil or fat. Read our article on disposing of cooking oil  to ensure you get rid of any waste responsibly.
  2. Wipe the surface with a paper towel or cloth. This will remove any lingering oil residue.
  3. Rinse under hot water. Do not soak. 
  4. Scrub to remove food traces. Use a good washing detergent and a non-metal brush or non-abrasive cloth or sponge.
  5. Dry thoroughly. Make sure there are no traces of water to prevent rust. You may want to heat the pan over a low heat for this. You can help maintain the seasoning on your pan by wiping the surface with a paper towel or cloth that has been lightly oiled.

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Cleaning a cast iron pan: dos and don’ts

Whether you’re looking for a guide to cleaning a cast iron skillet or tips for reviving second-hand cookware, here are all the dos and don’ts you need to get the process right.

  • DO be sure to season cast iron pans and cookware before use.Even if they are advertised as non-stick or pre-seasoned this is an important step. Read our guide to seasoning cast iron to learn how to do this yourself.
  • DON’T use the dishwasher to clean cast iron cookware. Harsh detergents, abrasive scrubs and the dishwasher are certain ways to remove non-stick coatings and layers of seasoning. To avoid damage, always wash by hand.
  • DO clean your skillet or other cookware as soon as you’ve finished cooking. Cast iron should never be left to soak. It is important to ensure you remove cooked-on food. An old credit card is a great way to remove cooking residue without damaging the seasoning layers and non-stick qualities of your cookware.
  • DON’T leave cast iron wet. Iron, including cast iron, will rust if exposed to water for long periods of time. Wet cooking such as boiling water should be left to other cookware. Reserve cast iron for searing, frying and other non-water-based cooking. Always dry your cast iron cookware immediately after washing.
  • DO re-season your cast iron cookware. Times you may need to re-season include:

a.    If your cookware begins to feel sticky.

b.    If your cookware loses its non-stick properties.

c.     If your cookware looks grey.

  • DON’T throw away a rusty cast iron pan. Although cast iron is susceptible to rusting, it can be fixed and reused! Clean off any rust with a metal scouring pad. Next, wash the pan thoroughly with water, soap and a soft-bristled brush. Ensure you rinse all soap residue away. Re-season the pan.

Cleaning a cast iron pan is easier than you think - simple scrubbing and re-seasoning can almost always give cast-iron cookware a new life, so whether you're trying to revive second-hand pans or clean a new purchase, you've got everything you need right here!

Originally published