A dash of salt, a pinch of chili powder, and one large glass of wine...maybe two

How To Clean a Cast Iron Pan – Step by Step Guide

How To Clean a Cast Iron Pan – Step by Step Guide

Things you will need:

  • Sponge or brushcast-iron
  • Soap
  • Kosher salt
  • vegetable oil or shortening
  • Clean drying towel


There is a widely accepted myth out there that you should not use soap on cast iron as it may remove the seasoning that you have worked so hard to create. And it is just that – a myth. The seasoning, which started out as fat, has been polymerized by the heat of cooking and so the only way to remove it would be to scour the pan with steel wool or some other abrasive material.

With that being said, go ahead and scrub the pan with soap and a sponge. If you have particularly stuck on food you can make a paste out of kosher salt and water and give it a good scrub. As I stated above, steel wool could possibly remove the seasoning, so try to avoid that. It won’t be the end of the world if you have to use it, though. You will just have to re-season your pan.


Next, you really want to make sure you dry the cast iron completely. If it is left to dry in the sink, the water will cause rust and you will have to start all over again. An extra step you can take to insure it is completely dry is to put it over heat on the stove, so the remaining water evaporates.

Oil and heat

The last step to cleaning your cast iron pan is to apply a little bit of vegetable oil or shortening with a paper towel or your hand. Buff out any excess oil. Once again, place the pan over heat on the stove for a couple of minutes. This step helps prevent any possible rusting and primes the pan for the next use. Be sure to apply heat for this step so the oil does not turn into a mess before the next use.

A few things to keep in mind

  • Cleaning the pan while it is still warm will help prevent super stuck on food.
  • Do not soak in water to remove stuck on food – this will cause rust
  • The more you use it, the more seasoning it builds up. This creates a nonstick surface and also makes it easier to clean

Cast iron takes a little bit of maintenance, but when done properly, it can be the best cookware you will ever use.

How do you clean your cast iron? Please let me know in the comments.

26 thoughts on “How To Clean a Cast Iron Pan – Step by Step Guide”

  • Interesting, I have a cast iron wok that I use primarily for stir frying a lot and had been told for years that if you use soap on it the iron will absorb it and taint your food ongoing. Now that you mention it here I did some additional research and found that it was totally inaccurate and a bit of soap should be totally fine!

    Just curious, does the same myth apply to pizza stones?

    • Hi Craig! That is a great question. Pizza stones are a whole different story. They actually do absorb the soap and will cause your food to have a soapy taste. Best to use a scraper and water to clean those. Baking soda is also fine to use as a cleaner. Thanks for commenting!

  • Interesting article, I also thought we shouldn’t use soap on cast iron pans. Can I use this method for the horrible stains on the bottom of my pan? I think it is a mixture of food and heat from the gas fire.

    I usually always soak my pots and pans. Won’t be doing that now! Thanks for the tips.

    • Yes! You can use this method on the bottom, too. I would even use steel wool on the bottom if it is really stuck on. No need to worry about the pan seasoning there. Good luck!

  • Thanks for the education site. I really like cooking in my cast iron skillets. Sometimes they dirty and trying to get them clean is difficult at best. I will try your technique and let you know how things go.
    Will this method also help with seasoning the skillet?

    • Yes! In fact, you can apply oil to the skillet and pop it in the oven for an hour to season it. Repeat that a few times and you’ll have a perfectly seasoned pan. Thanks for commenting!

  • I use cast iron to cook hamburgers all the time and have not really found cleaning them a big chore. Drying them properly after cleaning is a really big deal. Your article is very easy to follow and should help a lot of people who buy new cast iron pans. They have become very popular again.

  • Hello Craig
    I have a caste iron pan and large spoons too. Prior to using it, i did not realize or know that i had to maintain them, so I left them in my sink after use and when I washed them I did not dry them which caused rust. Atleast now I know what to expect and how to maintain them. Thanks for sharing.
    Best regards

  • Thank you for sharing such a nice article. Cleaning iron pots is always an issue and you have given such a nice tips. Thank your for sharing such a good info…

  • Hey, thanks for the tips. I’ve always found it difficult to keep my pans clean without ruining them. Really informative article, great value.

  • Great post.
    We use cast iron alot in Australia, especially camping.
    The only difference we do, is dry it in the oven, then oil and re-bake in the oven, then let it cool down.

    Keep up the great posts, I look forward to more.


  • Great article. Iron pans and pots are very difficult to wash. You have provided a good information about its washing and maintenance tips. Thank your so much for sharing this awesome information with all of us…

  • Hello Kayla, First off I love the name of your site!
    I am so happy to read this information. I always wondered how to truly clean a cast iron pot. And now you solved my dilemma.
    So many thanks, Great post and wonderful information! Best wishes for great success. ariel

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