*This post may contain affiliate links. Purchases made from these links help with any costs associated with running this site, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and believe in! You can find my full disclosure here.
SCREAMING HOT water, a good stiff brush, and a little bit of soap…is the best way to clean a cast iron skillet; without destroying the seasoning you worked so hard to build up!
Yes, that’s right…I said SOAP.
- To Soap, or Not to Soap…
- What is “Season” & “Seasoning”?
- A Labor of Love
- My Absolute Favorite Tool For Cleaning Cast Iron!
- A bit more on the Bubble Up Brush Set…
- Dirty, Dirty Pan
- Final Dry & Quick Stovetop Season
- “Tools” That Can Harm The Season on Your Cast Iron.
- Metal Utensils
- Steel Wool
- Chain Scrubbers
- Scrubbing With Salt
- Plastic Utensils
- The Best Utensils to Use With Cast Iron!
- And Then I Found This Guy!
- And There You Have it
Okay, I promise you soap WILL NOT ruin the season on your cast iron! Speaking from YEARS of experience here.
I know that some folks are set in their ways. Granny said never, ever use soap on cast iron, that’s the way she did it and that’s the way I’m gonna do it!
To Soap, or Not to Soap…
That is the question.
I have to start here because I know I have already in my first sentence ruffled quite a few feathers. Cast iron users are some of the most passionate people on the planet. Especially when it comes to cleaning and caring for their pans. Rightly so. There is a lot of time, care, and effort that goes into getting that perfect, super slick non-stick surface. The last thing anyone wants to do is destroy that surface in one cleaning!
Using soap as daily maintenance is really just a personal preference. If you want to do it the way your Granny did, that is completely 100% okay!! Also, it is 100% okay if you decide that you want to use soap!
my personal preference is to use soap. I will say that I don’t use it with EVERY cleaning. There are times that it is just not necessary. For example, after cooking biscuits.
Typically I just wipe it out with one of these blue shop towels. Which I also use to season my cast iron. No lint!
Before I discovered how well these work for cast iron, I would just use a dry washcloth. It left lint, a real pain in the, you know what! These are great for all sorts of things around the house. But my favorite is cast iron.
When you make biscuits there is nothing to scrape or even rinse off. Some people swear that making biscuits and cornbread in cast iron helps build the season up nicely. I am one of those people!!
I use soap because I have found that in some cases if I don’t there is food residue left on my pan. I personally am grossed out by that. Plus it looks ugly.
See what I mean?
Some argue that the pan gets hot enough to kill any bacteria that might be present the next time you cook. My thoughts are, maybe so but…mmmm, no thanks.Whatever butters your biscuit. Click To Tweet
That said, again…Controversial statement of the day: Soap will absolutely in no way harm the season on your cast iron. Click To Tweet
However, there are things that WILL harm the season. More on that later, all based on my experience and attention to detail.
What is “Season” & “Seasoning”?
The two terms are generally used interchangeably. I do that all the time. But technically they have two different meanings.
“Season” is the black coating on cast iron that makes the surface non-stick. It is NOT a Teflon coating! It is simply polymerized oil. Polymerization of the oil happens when the oil is heated to a certain temperature for a certain amount of time and then cooled. The oil bonds to the cast iron creating a hard, durable, non-stick coating.
“Seasoning” is the act of adding “season” to your cast iron. The most common method of seasoning cast iron is baking it with a thin coat of oil.
A Labor of Love
Cast iron is not something that you can just throw in the dishwasher. You can’t leave it soaking too long. Cast iron does not like to be put in the fridge with leftovers. It really likes oil. It’s heavy. And a little high maintenance. But, it will never die! It will reward you with some of the best tasting food to ever grace your palette. My oldest piece is about 130 years old. A well maintained cast iron skillet will never let you down!
People who are committed to using cast iron understand that most pieces are really old. These people have old souls and appreciate all the meals once cooked in a 130-year-old skillet. Most often these people are fascinated by old things and history.
I’ll share my collection another time but this one here is a family favorite. It is a 3 notch lodge. The raised ring on the bottom along with the notches was for proper placement of the skillet on the old wood cook stoves.
Everyone cares for their cast iron in their own way. I am going to show you step by step what works for me. ♥
There are a few things you will need. Personally, I have a few items that are my favorite for cleaning cast iron. I’ll share what you definitely need and what I love to use! 🙂
- A stiff nylon brush – Buy them at the dollar store! It is absurd to pay $4-5 dollars for something that you could pay $1 for and will last just as long. Make sure you get one with stiff bristles! Some of them are softer for washing drinking glasses. Those will NOT work for this.
- Lodge Plastic Scrapers – These are AMAZING! Use them to scrape any bits that might stick. It happens occasionally when cooking meat. They also work great in the arts and crafts department! 🙂
- Green or Blue Scotch Brite scrubbers – These are vital for getting that little bit of food residue off your skillet. If you don’t get it off it may interfere with your seasoning.
I like to buy the generic version at Kroger. Two reasons for that. They are cheaper and they don’t seem to be as abrasive as Scotch Brite.
- Crisco! – Or the seasoning oil of your choice. Crisco shortening is my go to. I don’t cook with it, it is strictly for cast iron seasoning! I have found it to be the best for a nice shiny black surface. The polymerization is second to none!! Polymerization is the hardening of the oil when it’s heated, creating the non-stick surface.
So the Crisco isn’t part of the actual cleaning process. It’s more for care and regular maintenance. That said, a quick stovetop seasoning after every wash will build up a fantastic non-stick surface! Making all future cleanings easier and faster.
My Absolute Favorite Tool For Cleaning Cast Iron!
THIS little cutie! It makes super quick work of the process.
It’s the Bubble up Brush set from Grove Collaborative!
Which, by the way, you can get FREE along with 5 other FULL SIZED Mrs. Meyers cleaning products!!!! A $30 value! Free with a $20 purchase on things you buy at least once a month! Yes…FREE! Oh AANNNDD, FREE shipping!!
Seriously, who doesn’t love free stuff?! Especially good quality products that smell amazing, are cruelty-free, and better for the environment!! In case you missed the first three links above; to get your FREE package of awesomeness… 😉 …Click HERE!
A bit more on the Bubble Up Brush Set…
I love it for so many reasons. But just to name a few…It uses less soap. It looks nice. And is super useful! I use it to clean everything that can’t go in the dishwasher.
I think it’s time for a replacement brush head. This one has been in use for months. It’s even been run through the dishwasher a few times. The kiddos aren’t allowed to use it anymore because they leave garbage all over it. :/
Anyway. There are three parts to this insanely useful tool. The brush, of course, the ceramic dish., and the little spring thingy.
That spring thingy is what creates that bubble up action.
Put some dish soap in the ceramic dish. A little dab will do ya.
Add a little water to the dish.
Lastly, place the spring thingy in the dish and give it a few springs. Thus, creating the bubble up action I love!
Want one?! Get one HERE for FREE!
Dirty, Dirty Pan
You can’t clean something that isn’t dirty. So whip up some yummy sausage gravy to top those flaky buttery biscuits! Drool.
Sausage gravy always makes a pretty good mess of my cast iron skillets.
The NUMBER ONE best tip I can give you when it comes to cleaning cast iron is; don’t let it sit too long! It just makes life easier. I get right to it after everyone is done eating. The pan is usually still a bit warm.
The first thing you’re going to do is get all that garbage off the pan. Use screaming hot water and your stiff bristled dollar store brush to brush off all that gunk.
Letting is soak for a bit if fine, but why not just get it done?
During this pre-wash process, if there is stuck on dried food you can use a lodge plastic scraper.
SUPER helpful for any stuck-on residue. Also, it will not harm your seasoning like some of the metal scrubbers on the market. Or like a metal spatula can harm it. No biggie you can just re-season, but this mama ain’t got time for that! Might as well take preventative measures.
Once again…personal preference.
However, see the scratch in this pan? That is from some kiddo using a metal spatula. 🙁
This is typically the point in which I grab my Bubble Up Brush and give it a quick cleaning. However, I knew this pan would need a bit more on account of cooking breakfast sausage in it. The sugars in the sausage tend to leave some stuck on residue.
Therefore, a bit of soap and my trusty green scrubby was my tool of choice. You DON’T have to scrub hard at all! In fact, DON’T! You could potentially scrub your season right off! I hardly apply any pressure at all when I use the green scrubby, and I ONLY use it IF after I use my Bubble Up brush; it looks like this:
Next, give it a good rinse and towel dry really well!
Final Dry & Quick Stovetop Season
After a good towel dry, place your skillet on the stove top over medium heat. This will ensure the skillet is good and dry. You don’t want to leave water as it could rust. Although, if you have a good layer of season on your skillet you won’t have to worry about rust at all!
Now that your skillet is dry and nice and hot, it’s time for some Crisco.
Now is when I grab my blue shop paper towel. Fold it up and dip it into the Crisco. Just a dab.
You can use the blue towel quite a few times before tossing it out.
Smear the Crisco over your hot pan. It will smoke a tiny bit. You want this! This is when the magic of polymerization happens.
Once you have the sides and bottom all oiled up, let it sit on the heat for a minute or two. Turn off the heat and let your pan cool on the stovetop.
And now you have a perfectly clean and seasoned skillet!
By the way, Lodge is a great brand if you’re looking to get started cooking with cast iron! Many unique pieces to choose from. Made in the good ol’ USA and super affordable!! They are pre-seasoned so when it arrives it’s ready to use! This 10 inch Lodge skillet is a great starter piece.
For under $15 you get a piece that will become a family heirloom!
“Tools” That Can Harm The Season on Your Cast Iron.
Cast iron is virtually indestructible. However the season…not so much. You saw the scratch in my pan above. That one scratch didn’t make food stick. But if I kept scratching it up with metal it wouldn’t be long and I’d have to give it a few rounds of oven seasoning. Which is fine but seriously, I just don’t have time for that!
Now I’m NOT saying you should NEVER use metal utensils on cast iron. I still use these…
But only occasionally. Now that I have stopped using metal utensils I haven’t had to re-season my cast iron in the oven for over a year! The only seasoning they get now is on the stove top. And not every use. Usually just when I make something that causes a big mess. Like sausage gravy.
This is huge. Before I was seasoning at least once a month! Oven seasoning is a two-hour process, at the very least! Now I’m saving time and money on propane. Ya’ll know I love saving time and money.
Metal utensils are especially destructive to the season on pans that have a rough or bumpy surface. With every scrape of the metal, you chip and scrape off that precious non-stick season.
And can I just say…a rough or bumpy surface has nothing to do with non-stick. It’s all about the season!
Okay unless you are refurbishing an old rusty pan, just don’t! Do not use steel wool! You will completely ruin the season on your pan.
Brillo pads and regular old steel wool are extremely effective at removing rust, carbon build up, AND SUPER SLICK SEASON!
I mean, if you want to spend your weekend seasoning your cast iron in the oven; by all means use one. People swear by these things. I am certain that they are indeed effective at removing stuck on gunk. But I can’t help but wonder if taking precautions and protecting that first season would prevent that sticking.
I really don’t have any problems with major food stickage. The worst I get is what you have seen in this post. Even frying burgers and steak. Believe me, I used to when I was all willy nilly scrubbing and scraping with any tool I could get my hands on.
The stiff nylon brush and the lodge scrapers take care of anything that might stick. WITHOUT harming the season! I promise!
Scrubbing With Salt
Oy! Once again effective but also killer on your season.
I will say that scrubbing with salt is better than using metal utensils. In my humble opinion. But let’s save the salt for making yummy food!
Look, if that’s all you have to work with go for it. But keep in mind you WILL have to re-season your cast iron regularly. I’m telling you from my own personal experience. I really don’t have time for all that. We have beautiful lives to live!
NO! They will melt and cause a big mess. And you will have to refurbish your pan. 🙁 You might get lucky with a couple uses but eventually you will either eat plastic or mess up your pan and have to strip and re-season.
The Best Utensils to Use With Cast Iron!
If you’re going to use the best way to clean cast iron, you may as well use the best tools too!
When I decided that I was going to stop using metal on my cast iron, I wasn’t sure exactly where to start. I knew wooden utensils were a good choice. I was already using them but only for certain things. Scrambled eggs, ground meat, stuff like that.
These are dollar store buys except for the big spatula. I got that on Amazon. I like it okay. It works, but I was wanting something to flip an over easy egg without breaking the yolk. You can do it with this but not without a bunch of finagling. Moving the pan around just right and all that.
I basically wanted a fish spatula. All I could find was plastic and silicone. Both of which had not so great reviews.
And Then I Found This Guy!
What a stud muffin! ♥
On Amazon! 787 reviews with 5.5 stars!! I LOVE THIS THING!
It’s super thin and has a bend in it so that you can easily flip delicate foods like an over easy egg or fish.
The core is flexible stainless steel covered in high heat resistant silicone!
I purchased mine on February 5th, 2018 and as you can see it has held up very well! Some of the reviews showed some separating and tearing of the silicone away from the stainless steel core. I think that could happen if you’re using it to scrape food in the pan. After all, it’s called a TURNER.
When I first got it I informed the fam that it is a TURNER…ONLY!! Not to be used for ANYTHING but “turning” eggs and fish. 🙂 They have been busted scraping with it a number of times to my dismay. And still no problems.
It is dishwasher safe but I have only run it through the dishwasher a handful of times since I have had it. With the idea of prolonging its life.
By far one of the BEST Amazon purchases I have EVER made! They have a bigger size too!
As well as a slotted pancake turner!!
And There You Have it
The best way to clean cast iron and not destroy the season.
If you have any favorite tools or tips for cast iron, I’d love to hear about them! Comment below!
Have a wonderful day!
🙂 Leigh Ann