Cleaning Cast Iron Skillet With Salt

Below are a couple of tips for cleaning a cast iron skillet.

The first tip deals with using salt, which is a very popular method, but there are other ways to do it as well which are listed further down the page.

I don't know about you, but my husband loves to cook corn bread in his iron skillet but I have always been totally afraid to mess with it afterward, to clean it, because I don't want to mess up "the seasoning."

I put that in quotes because he gets really aggravated when "the seasoning" has been disturbed and the cornbread sticks to the pan.

So, below is a quick video tip for how to clean this pan without having to reseason it again afterward.

Use salt to clean it.

As you know you can't put cast iron cookware in the dishwasher, or use dishwashing liquid on it, because it takes away some of the oils which keep it seasoned properly.

That is where I got scared before. How do you clean something when you can't use soap?

Well, you put coarse salt in the bottom of the skillet (kosher or sea salt, or any other coarse salt works best) and use it as a natural abrasive to remove food particles.

The salt will also soak up all the extra oil in the bottom of the skillet.

Then, you can quickly rinse out the salt in the sink with water (again, without dish soap).

Of course, after you wet cast iron you need to dry it thoroughly so it doesn't rust.

To do this set it back on your stove top on low to medium heat which will help quickly and thoroughly dry the cast iron skillet and evaporate all the water to prevent rust.

The last step in the process is to then wipe down the skillet with oil to restore any seasoning which has been lost.

(Be careful when doing this if the skillet is still hot from drying it on the stove so you don't burn yourself.)

I now do all these steps after my husband cooks cornbread, when doing my nightly kitchen clean up, and he hasn't had any problems with the cornbread sticking.

Watch the video for full details and a demonstration of this process:

I'd love to hear from you about how you clean cast iron here, or read other tips already submitted by others.

In addition, you can submit your tips for uses of salt around the home here, or read other ideas for how to use salt for cleaning that have already been submitted.

Photo courtesy of cbertel

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Washing With Soap & Water Works For Me

by Virginia
(Oregon )

Virginia says:

I use my cast iron skillet my mom gave me soon after I was married almost every day.

I wash it with soap and water every time I use it too.

I sometimes rub oil on it and place it in my oven if it was on and still warm and it never sticks.

Taylor says:

Thanks for sharing your experience Virginia.

I have noted that the older the cast iron, and the more often it has been seasoned and used, the less it is likely to have food stick to it, even if it is washed in a "rougher" way, such as using soap.

I would assume this is because the seasoning has had more time to set up, and you are actually replenishing it now and then when you add more oil and place it in the oven.

I will share a personal story here that I think may help people who are confused about what will work, and what won't, because there is actually a lot of controversy about using dish soap on cast iron.

A while back we bought a brand new iron pan (we wanted a smaller one, not just the huge one we already had) and it was crazy how much the food stuck to it at first, despite its claims that it was "pre-seasoned."

As we've used it more and more it has gotten better though, presumably because the seasoning we've now done to it has actually stuck at this point.

I will say that at the beginning I wouldn't have dared to wash the new pan we'd bought with dish soap -- it would have made a huge mess of the food we cooked in it the next time, with everything stuck to it.

Perhaps, therefore, the age (and use) of the cast iron cookware you're using has an impact on whether you can use soap to clean it, or not.

Anyone else have any thoughts and ideas. If so, make sure to share your thoughts and experiences here.

***Update: I got this comment from a reader, Connie, which seems to confirm my theory of using dish soap. She said:
The age of your skillet does matter, when cleaning. I have my grandmothers and use dish soap and water, dry on the stove, then occasionally wipe with mineral oil. Because of the age, and baked in seasoning from decades of use, I have no issues with this old skillet. A newer one, I never use...EVERYTHING sticks! Thanks for the salt tip!
Therefore, if you decide to use dish soap, I would suggest only doing this after your seasoning is well aged, and definitely religiously reseason after each washing with soap! ***End Update

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Use Water For Cast Iron Skillet Cleaning

by Shannon
(Concrete, WA)

Shannon says:

Here's a very simple way to clean your skillets: immediately after use fill the pan with water and set back on the warm burner.

You can even turn the burner back on.

As the water steams use a wooden spatula or wooden spoon to gently remove the stuck on food.

Then rinse and dry on the warm burner.

Taylor says:

Thanks for this simple but effective tip Shannon!

I would note that after you do this, you should again add some seasoning to the skillet by rubbing it with some more vegetable oil.

Scraping Is Especially Essential When Only Using Water

As I've heard from even more readers who use the water only method for cleaning their cast iron, many echo the same thing. Scraping is vital!

Readers seem to have different favorites for scraping, with some using wooden utensils, others metal, some scrubbies and scrubber sponges like Dobie, and then finally, there are actually scraper tools made for this purpose. Some of just pan scrapers, while there is also a chain mail type product used to scrub and scrape cast iron.

Here's what one reader, Renee said:

"I use a Pampered Chef plastic scraper that you use on their stoneware with hot water. Always comes clean. Then put it on the stove top with a small flame, then rub Crisco on it.

If by chance something is burned in it, I put water in it and and boil it and use a metal spatula and scrape it.

The salt sounds like a great idea. One of the reasons you don't use dish soap is because the cast iron absorbs the soap, besides taking the oil out of it. So, the residue of the soap leaches into your food."

Here's some scraper tools you could try if you want a tool just for this purpose:

Taylor says: Here are links to buy this or related products. If you make a purchase I receive a small commission which helps support this site and my family.

I'd love to hear how even more people clean their pots and pans made of this metal.

You can check out even more tips for cleaning pots and pans of all types here, or share your own methods as well.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Tayse

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Comments for Use Water For Cast Iron Skillet Cleaning

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easy method I use
by: Melissa

Just scrub with water only, no soap, dry with a rag or paper towel and then rub with vegetable oil before putting away. Easy.

every time after using I always reseason
by: Beth

I do use a little soap and water and scrub with a brush once in a while. But every time I use my pans I dry them well, put them on the stove, heat them to hot to make sure they are dry, add a little oil, take a paper towel, fold it into a small square and use tongs to drag it all over the interior of the pan then discard it (a trick I learned in a restaurant kitchen) . I wipe out any residual oil after the pan has cooled.

spray with Pam afterward
by: Olivia

I squirt some Dawn in it, run water in it, clean with my dish rag, dry it, and then spray Pam type spray in it, and then wipe with paper towel. Good as new.

wipe out with scrubby
by: Karen

One of the best things to remember is to wipe it out with scrubby right after you finish using it! Can warm it up with burner and a little water-- pay attention!

humid where I live so I always dry in oven
by: Carol

I always after washing my pan place in oven to dry, warm oven then turn off. It is humid were I live. It feels cleaner to me since I don't use soap on my cast iron.

Salt for Cast Iron
by: FullHaus5

I had just about convinced myself to donate my entire cast iron collection because I couldn't keep it seasoned. Who knew all I needed was the salt of the earth?

boiling water + scraping clean
by: Anonymous

I heat mine on the stove with water. Bring it to a boil and use a metal spatula to scrape it clean, then rinse in the sink and then season it.

How to keep cornbread from sticking in cast iron skillets
by: Cindy

In order to make sure your cornbread does not stick in a cast iron skillet, even if you have messed up the seasoning a bit, there is one simple trick. While you are mixing up your cornbread batter, put a little oil in the skillet (about 1 tbsp) and put it in the oven while your oven is preheating. Once the skillet is hot...take it out of the oven and pour your batter into the skillet. You will hear a slight sizzle as you pour it in. Then return the skillet to the oven. As soon as the cornbread is done, simply turn it out onto a clean plate; it will pop out perfectly.

it's all about reseasoning and knowing how to cook in one
by: Anonymous

I use my dishwasher....and then, reseason it with spray. Works just have to know how to cook in one....and it doesn't great!

Mam-maw's cast iron
by: StacyLynn

I have my grandmother's cast iron skillets, hot water and a plastic scrub brush does the trick. Nothing sticks to those bad boys! I love them!

I've always used soap!
by: Michelle

I've always cleaned my cast iron pans with soap and water, then put them on the stove top to finish drying, and rub some canola oil in it while still warm. They've worked for us for years! There is no way I would use something to cook in and then not wash it :)

if skillet is well seasoned using soap is no problem
by: Snunk

If the skillet is well seasoned using soap is not a problem. I have always used dishwashing soap and warm water, rinsed the skillet right away and put it back on the stove for a short warming to dry well. No problems in 47 years of cooking. I also use warm sudsy water on Henn crockery and Pampered Chef crockery, without a problem.

seasoning cast iron pans
by: Phil

I used to season my pans in the way you are describing, and I still had problems with food sticking in (hot spot) areas.

I have since went one step further. I now clean my pans with the salt, and put it on the stove and oil (I use original Pam, as directed from the manufacturer), and then while the pan is hot, with a small amount of oil in the pan, I take a piece of crinkled up waxed paper and rub the oil into the pan. It puts a shiny finish on the pan and I have no more sticking in my pans. I can put butter in my egg pan and slide my eggs around in it like they were in a teflon pan.

Also if you are going to store your cast iron pans for a period of time, heat them up and coat them with bee's wax. Then when you are ready to use them again, you can start cooking right away and the bee's wax will melt right off and you are good to go.

Dobie Pad + Hot Water
by: Melissa

I clean my seasoned pans with a 'Dobie' scrubby pad and a bit of hot water (made by Scotch, but it is just sturdy nylon over a sponge). The pad scrubs better than a brush. I have not had too much luck with salt, as it seems to squidge all over and not scrub I always heat it to dry-easier than holding and drying with a towel- and rub a little oil on.

season with bacon grease
by: Jack Smith

Cook a lot of bacon and let it set over night, then use soap and water. The grease soaks deep into it and is not harmed by soap.

Rinse with water while skillet is still hot
by: Crystal

I used to stress over cleaning my cast iron until I learned a secret from my Aunt. I rinse my skillets with water while they are still hot and scrub with brush. You need to be careful, but it works every time and is easy. I use them more now.

Heat, shortening & salt
by: L Frye

After scraping I heat my cast iron to open the pores, melting a bit of shortening in it. Sprinkle in a little kosher salt and use a clean rag (a few are set aside for this purpose) and scrub. I then rinse as I am scrubbing the last of it. Turning it over to dry is sufficient since it is still warm and dries quickly.

pot scrubber
by: Anonymous

Never soap! Just water and a pot scrubber!

what my dad used to do
by: Anonymous

My daddy used to put the skillet in a bed of hot coals after he got through cooking on the charcoal grill. It would burn all the food off. He let it cool down and then removed it. It looked like a new one, just brought from the store.

How to clean old cast iron frypan?
by: Mary

I am trying to find out how to clean the interior of a very old cast iron frypan: it has pink, blue, and green metallic (somewhat shiny) stains or residue inside and I really need to best clean it. Thanks for any info you might have.

Coarse salt and potato
by: Kiera

I've used a coarse salt and a potato. Sprinkle the coarse salt along the bottom, cut a potato in half and scrub the salt. I came across this tip when I noticed rust on mine (probably because I didn't let it dry properly). Once I scrubbed everything off that I didn't want left behind, I spread some Crisco shortening on it and stuck it in the oven. I can't remember the temperature or for how long, but haven't had a problem since.

how I rescued several pieces of heavily rusted cast iron cookware
by: Anonymous

I wash my cast iron in the dish pan, suds and all. I also dry it immediately. If it becomes "unseasoned" I throw some shortening on it and bake it a few minutes. It's cast iron. It won't deteriorate from misuse.

I also bought some ugly misused, heavily rusted pans and Dutch ovens. After trying salt, in toilet cleaners, sanding pads, and steel wool, the simple solution I found in a book about cooking in a Dutch oven was a solution of apple cider vinegar. After soaking overnight, we rinsed all rust off, lightly polished with steel wool, reseasoned for "new" pans.

I agree, soap and water works great!
by: Anonymous

Have been using them forever and never heard of not using soap and water. Always have and always will use Dawn and a scrub pad. No problems yet.

Heating the pan 1st...
by: Bonnie

Does your husband heat the pan in the oven and then melt bacon grease or butter in it before putting the cornbread mixture in it? That has been passed down the generations in my family and it never sticks.

how I've done it for 46 years
by: Sam B.

I've been cooking in and cleaning cast iron for 46 years. I've always used hot water with a little dishwashing liquid to clean and a towel to dry with no problem. Does not rust and doesn't bother the "seasoning". Just wipe with a little vegetable oil before using again and you are good to go.

What type of oil?
by: Louise

What type of oil should I use? I've been told vegetable, and that is what I've been using. Does it matter if it's olive or corn or etc.?

what I do
by: Des Kruger

After washing with water only I use spray and cook to oile and use bunched up newspaper to store it.

It's the flavor, not the non-stick - so don't use soap!
by: Anonymous

No matter how old it is you should not use soap on cast Iron skillets. The metal takes on the flavor of whatever you put into it. Perhaps some people are used to that nasty chemical taste, but personally I can't stand to eat food that tastes like soap. You can never rinse it away. Why do you want to use soap anyway?
When use my pan I add water while it is hot and let the food soften. Then I rinse it and scrub it good if there is food stuck. Once it looks clean I rinse it and place it back on the stove to dry it. The heat will kill the germs, that's why we cook food anyway. Add some oil when its warm to let the oil sink into the pores. Metal expands when hot and contracts when cooled. Use this to your advantage. It's about the flavor, please don't use soap!

I use baking soda
by: Anonymous

I use baking soda to clean my cast iron. Same idea as the salt, but maybe cheaper? It's good for scouring off stuck on food, and doesn't seem to harm the seasoning.

Salt and a Half of Lemon
by: Nadine

My tip is similar to the other salt method, however, I sprinkle the salt in the bottom of the pan and let it sit for a few minutes to absorb some of the oils, and then I use a half of lemon to 'scrub' the pan. Simply rinse with water and dry as usual. I have never had any loss of seasoning. The key is to clean it soon after cooking. If the pan is slightly warm, even better. If you have cooked bacon in the pan, you may need more salt, and an entire lemon. With bacon, I do the process as usual, rinse and repeat.

Tuffy scrubber
by: Carina

i use a Tuffy Scrubber and hot water. It works wonderfully!

add enough grease and no need to clean afterward
by: Dana W.

If he would use enough grease there would be no use for cleaning afterwards. Just wipe with a paper towel. You have to pour a lot of oil in skillet and have it hot before pouring in batter.

How can I clean an old skillet I bought used?
by: Anonymous

I bought an old iron skillet. It had build up, caked, never cleaned mostly on sides. I know you can't sand it. Could you use salt and vinegar?

I use baking soda
by: Beverly

I use baking soda, it works like salt. It absorbs the grease quickly and rinses out nicely.

Soap on cast iron
by: Kim H

You don't have to use soap on cast iron, but it's a wives tale that you can't or should never. Even Lodge cast iron manufacturers say its fine. You should quick season it every time you use it too, not just every once in a while. It doesn't take much. Just give it a swipe or two of oil/grease and put it on a burner for a couple minutes on each side to make sure it's really dry.

cast iron seasoning
by: Sonja

Using lard to season these skillets has worked best for me.

removing stuck-on food
by: Susana

If food does stick to cast iron, heat the skillet over a medium flame. As it warms up, pour in a small amount of water--tablespoons at best. Food particles can be easily scraped loose with a spatula. Wipe up food particles with paper towels and discard. Continue with wash and dry.

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