How to clean a wok

A wok is a great tool to cook up a delicious stir-fry, and these tips will make cleaning a wok fast and easy, too!

Updated 24 June 2019

How to clean a wok

Woks are a great kitchen utensil, and essential for those times when you would like your vegetables to be well cooked, but at the same time to taste crunchy and fresh. Most woks are sturdy and long lasting as well – it’s certainly not the kind of kitchen accessory you will have to replace every couple of months. But in order to get the most out of your wok, it’s important that you know how clean it well. These tips will explain to you what to do in order to clean a wok, what not to do, and how to get rid of rust.

Unless you are removing rust, it is best to avoid using steel wool sponges to clean a seasoned wok. As with non-stick pans, seasoning forms a patina on your wok that can be scratched off by abrasive cleaning tools – stick to warm water and a soft sponge. 

How to Clean a Seasoned Wok

Cleaning a wok is simple; the most important thing to remember is to never use soap, detergent, or any other harsh cleaning product on your wok – while they might do an excellent job cleaning your pots and pans, a wok is a bit different, as soapy cleaners can easily damage the seasoned surface.

This also means that cleaning a wok in the dishwasher is unwise – while it can be tempting to save time and effort by using an appliance, you don’t want to take that risk if you value your wok.

So, how do you clean a wok? In order to clean a seasoned carbon steel wok, all you will need is access to hot water and a sponge. First, soak the wok in hot water, for however long it takes to loosen the food scraps stuck to the wok.

Then, use a sponge to wash the wok from the inside – if your sponge has a soft and a rough side, use the rough side to make sure you get rid of all the dirt. Afterwards, rinse the wok under hot water, and let it air-dry.

Watch this video for a step-by-step guide to keeping your wok clean:

How to Clean a Rusty Wok

Cleaning a rusty wok is a bit trickier, but there’s no reason to despair: rust is definitely not a reason to give up on your wok! Essentially, all you will have to do is clean it thoroughly and then re-season the wok. Chances are, it will stir-fry even better afterwards – it’s better to have a quality wok, which will gather rust from time to time, than a cheap wok you’ll have to replace every couple of months.

In order to get your rusty wok back to new, all you will need are a few pads of fine steel wool and liquid detergent:

  • Rinse the wok, and scrub the rusty area with the steel wool pad and soap until the rust finally comes off.
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  • Rinse the wok again, and let it dry.
  • Now that you have removed the rust, the next step is to re-season the wok. Put your wok on the hob on a low heat, and add some unsalted fat to melt. Swirl the oil around to coat as much of the inside of the wok as possible.
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  • Once it heats up, turn off the heat and let the fat cool.
  • The cold fat can then be rubbed into the pan, wiping off any excess – you should be left with a transparent sheen on your wok.
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Your wok is now re-seasoned and ready to use again! It might take a few stir-fries before it’s completely back to normal, but it will be cooking at its usual high standard again very soon.

Key Steps:

  1. Invest in a good quality wok, even if it gets rusty you can still remove the rust and have a wok that works efficiently. All you have to do is re season your wok to ensure it’s back to it’s old self and can make a great stir-fry once again!
  2. For everyday cleaning of your wok, it’s best to soak it in hot water first to loosen any food debris – avoid using any type of soap or detergent as these can damage the seasoned surface.
Originally published 19 July 2018