The Best Tools for Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware

Maker Tours

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The great debate of how to properly clean cast iron cookware continues to span generations. Should you use a bristled brush or a sponge? Or simply wipe it clean with a paper towel? Soap or not, the right method and tools can help keep your hard-earned seasoning intact.

Here are some tips from the pros on the best tool for cleaning your cast iron skillet, and for keeping them in great shape.

Mark Kelly, Public Relations and Advertising Manager for Lodge Manufacturing, showed off a few of Lodge’s favorite accessories for keeping cookware, and cooks, perfectly happy. "There’s as many ways to [clean cast iron] as there are people," Mark said.

No Dishwasher!

First things first: no matter how you like to clean your skillet, everyone can agree that cast iron cookware should never be put in the dishwasher.

Wash or No Wash?

Some cooks prefer not to wash their skillets at all, and only wipe them out. To clean a skillet in this way, wipe out the skillet while it is hot, using a thick pad of paper towels or a kitchen rag to protect your fingers, being sure to remove all food debris. Apply some oil when the skillet has cooled, and put it away. If you're concerned about food safety, know that the skillet will be sterilized once it is heated again to 212ºF. (A skillet will probably go far over that in the course of cooking; it will reach 400ºF in 4 minutes on medium heat.)

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The Best Tool for Washing a Skillet

If you prefer to actually wash the skillet with water or soap, use a mild detergent and nylon-bristled brush like this one sold at Lodge stores. Stiff-bristled brushes work fine too (Faith is a big fan of this brush from Full Circle). But do avoid metal scouring pads and harsh detergents.

Residue from bacon and other meats is my biggest aggravation with cleaning cast iron. Kelly suggested reheating the pan and using this polycarbonate scraper to remove residue. The rounded corners help manage the interior edges of the skillet well.

5 Pro Tips for Cleaning Your Cast Iron Cookware

Here are a few more well-seasoned tips from Lodge on keeping your cast iron cookware in heirloom-worthy condition.

Soaking is not necessary. If residue remains after cleaning, reheat the pan and use a silicone scraper to remove.
• Always dry immediately and rub with oil. (Rust is your biggest enemy).
• Place in warm oven after oiling to help the oil absorb.
• Never put cast iron in the dishwasher.
• Avoid strong detergents and metal scouring pads unless restoring a rusted piece.

More posts in this series

Maker Tour: The Lodge Cast Iron Skillet Factory

(Image credits: Erika Tracy)