Cleaning 101: How to Clean Cast Iron

This post shows how to clean cast iron the easy way, using just salt, water, dish soap, and oil. This method is great for griddles, pans, and skillets!

This post shows how to clean cast iron the easy way, using just salt, water, dish soap, and oil. This method is great for griddles, pans, and skillets!

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Next up in this summer's Cleaning 101 Series is how to clean cast iron!

I'll be the first to admit: I'm not a big fan of things that have to be hand-washed. I'm way too dependent on a dishwasher. But there are a few select items items in my home that will be put in a dishwasher over. my. dead. body. My cast iron is in that collection. (As is my beloved Le Creuset dutch oven…but that's about it.)

I have both a cast iron skillet and the cast iron griddle you see above (which I highly recommend if you have a gas stovetop – we seriously use it everyday!). I don't show the skillet in this post, but the cleaning process for it is basically identical.

The #1 rule to remember when cleaning/caring for cast iron is that water is the enemy. Of course you have to use water to clean – but you'll want to get rid of it quickly. Water leads to rust on cast iron, which can damage the cast iron and make it very difficult to salvage.

This post shows how to clean cast iron the easy way, using just salt, water, dish soap, and oil. This method is great for griddles, pans, and skillets!

Once you've cooked with your cast iron and made it all dirty, you will want to put in the sink and give it a good wash-down to get all of the gunk off. Using hot water (which helps break down gunk and grease), wash it off, then…

…give it a quick scrub. I absolutely love Scour Daddies for this (and for general everyday cleaning, for that matter – these are the best sponges!).

Once you finish the quick first scrub, pull out the absolutely best cleaning tool you can use on cast iron:

This post shows how to clean cast iron the easy way, using just salt, water, dish soap, and oil. This method is great for griddles, pans, and skillets!

Plain old coarse salt. I keep a big box under my sink just for cleaning and scrubbing tough messes. It's perfect for keeping cast iron clean and seasoned.

Sprinkle your (still wet) cast iron down with the coarse salt and scrub it in really well.

This post shows how to clean cast iron the easy way, using just salt, water, dish soap, and oil. This method is great for griddles, pans, and skillets!

Again, the Scour Daddy is perfect for this!

Rinse the remaining salt off and give it a quick wash. Once you wash it down, do not let it sit in the sink. Instead, take it right back to the stove.

You'll want to get the water off of this as quickly as possible. The most effective way to do this is the put some heat under it to evaporate and moisture off. I put some heat on it for maybe 5-10 minutes…don't forget about it though! Turn the stove off and allow the cast iron to cool before moving on to the next step.

Once it is dry and cools off, it's going to look a little funky and dry – almost like it's damaged. Don't be worried! At this point, put a little bit of oil over the top to season it. This will eventually help your cast iron to not only look glossy, but cook into a non-stick surface.

I use olive oil to do this, but really any cooking oil works (vegetable oil, canola oil, coconut oil, etc.). Just pour a tablespoon or two and polish it in with a paper towel. If you have a cast iron skillet, make sure to get the outside of the skillet too!

This post shows how to clean cast iron the easy way, using just salt, water, dish soap, and oil. This method is great for griddles, pans, and skillets!

See? Nothing to it! I feel like cast iron is such an intimidating thing, but I promise – if you learn how to care for it, it will become on of your favorite things to use in the kitchen.

Catch up on the rest of the Cleaning 101 series with the links below!

How to Clean a Microwave

How to Clean Cast Iron (you're here!)

How to Clean a Top Loader Washing Machine

How to Clean Stainless Steel Appliances

How to Clean a Dishwasher

How to Deep Clean a Dryer

How to Clean Upholstered Furniture

How to Clean an Oven

How to Clean a Mattress

How to Clean Grout

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3 Comments

  1. Please do NOT use any kind of soap on cast iron unless you intend to bake a new layer of oil into the cast iron! Cast iron is porous. It has a seasoned seal created by layers and layers of baked oils which create a non-stick surface. When soap is used on cast iron, it removes the seasoned non-stick surface. Most gunk on cast iron is easily removed with the salt and hot water method mentioned above. If salt and hot water aren’t enough, you will need to create a NEW layer of baked oil after the soap wash.
    To re-season your pan, I follow The Lodge’s recommendations. They are a US manufacturer of cast iron. This is the gist of it… After completely drying it, add less than a tablespoon of oil to the pan. Using a paper towel, spread the oil over the entire surface of the pan, inside and out, including the handle. If your pan feels greasy or has any drips, wipe the oil down again. Place the pan upside down in the oven and heat it up to 400 to 450 degrees (depending on the type of oil). Once at temperature, heat for an hour. Leave the pan inside the oven to cool. You may need to re-oil and bake again depending on how much seasoning has been removed.

    1. Thanks for the recommendations, I updated the post to reflect this!

    2. Read elsewhere that toliet bowl cleaner can destroy the grout.