HomeBackyardHow-TosHow to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet: 3 Easy Methods

How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet: 3 Easy Methods

by Jim Casey
photo by Outsider

Cast iron skillets and pots have been household mainstays for hundreds of years. The versatile vessels can be used just about everywhere, from the oven and stove top to the grill and campfire. While durable and efficient, cast iron can be a lil finicky when it comes time for cleanup. You can’t just throw a piece of cast iron into the dishwasher, which can strip off the seasoning (thin layer of carbonized oil) or cause the cast iron to rust. In addition, you will be excommunicated from the cast iron community. And once you’re out, you can never get back in.

Instead, cast iron needs to be hand washed, thoroughly dried, and oiled after every use. And that age-old adage that you should never use soap on cast iron because it will damage the seasoning? Well, that’s not entirely true. Before we get to our three cleaning methods, a handful of notes.

Tools of the trade: scouring pad (1), plastic pan scraper (2), microfiber towel (3), and organic flax seed oil (4).
  • Never soak your cast iron in water. It will rust.
  • Use a nylon-fiber scouring pad (never metal/steel wool) or plastic pan scraper (never metal) to clean your cast iron.
  • Thoroughly dry your cast iron after cleaning or it will rust. We recommend using a lint-free microfiber towel, instead of a paper towel.
  • Oil your cast iron after drying. We recommend using just a few drops of organic flax seed oil. Use your fingers to work the oil all over the inside of the pan. Don’t use a paper towel, which can shed fibers and get stuck in the oil.
  • Don’t over-oil your cast iron, or it will become sticky and rancid.

Now, let’s get cleaning.

Method 1: Light Cleaning

  • Hot Tap Water
  • Scouring Pad (non-metal)

If, for instance, you’ve been frying bacon or chicken and are left with bits of stuck-on gristle and rendered fat (image 1), simply scrub the inside of the pan with a scouring pad (non-metal) and hot tap water (2). There’s no need to use steel wool or a metal scouring pad, which can damage the seasoning. Thoroughly dry with a microfiber towel (3) and oil (4).

Method 2: Medium Cleaning

Perhaps scrambling eggs or searing a steak has left some dried-on residue in your pan (image 1). Using hot tap water and a plastic pan scraper (never a metal scraper, which can damage the pan or seasoning), wash and scrape the pan until it’s clean (2). Thoroughly dry with a microfiber towel (3) and oil (4).

Method 3: Heavy Cleaning

  • Simmering Water
  • Organic Non-Scented Dish Soap
  • Scouring Pad/Pan Scraper

If you’ve got a real mess on your hands, like burnt-on remnants (image 1), fill the cast iron skillet halfway with water and bring to a simmer on your stove top for 5-10 minutes (2). Remove the skillet and let the water cool. Using a scouring pad or pan scraper, clean the skillet using hot tap water. If there are still stuck-on bits, add a drop or two of organic non-scented soap (3) and scrub (4). Contrary to the age-old adage, you can use soap to clean cast iron. It will not completely destroy the seasoning (it’s been carbonized, so a couple drops of soap won’t remove it). Use a dish soap that doesn’t contain synthetic dyes or fragrances.

Thoroughly dry with a microfiber towel (5) and oil (6).