How To Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

updated Oct 4, 2022
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Instructions for cleaning a cast iron skillet often include a lot of don’ts: Don’t use soap, don’t use steel wool, don’t put it in the dishwasher. It’s almost enough to scare a cook off from cast iron completely!

Here’s one do: Do follow these steps and you’ll be able to keep your skillet clean, rust-free, and well-seasoned.

If your skillet’s smooth seasoning, you can always re-season the skillet after cleaning. It’s not a big deal and not hard at all.

The Best Brush for Easily Cleaning Cast Iron

Don’t be scared of cleaning your skillet! The brush is key to foolproof easy cleaning. If your pan is sporting stuck-on food, there’s no better tool to remove it than a good, sturdy scrub brush. This one’s designed specifically for cast iron.

How To Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

What You Need


  • Cast iron skillet
  • Sponge or stiff brush
  • Clean, dry cloth or paper towels
  • Vegetable oil or shortening
  • Kosher salt (optional)


  • Stove (optional)


  • Get right to it: Clean the skillet immediately after use, while it is still hot or warm. Don’t soak the pan or leave it in the sink because it may rust.
  • Add hot water: Wash the skillet by hand using hot water and a sponge or stiff brush. (Use tongs or wear gloves if the water is extra hot!) Avoid using the dishwasher, soap, or steel wool, as these may strip the pan’s seasoning.
  • Scrub off stuck-on bits: To remove stuck-on food, scrub the pan with a paste of coarse kosher salt and water. Then rinse or wipe with a paper towel. Stubborn food residue may also be loosened by boiling water in the pan.
  • Dry the skillet: Thoroughly towel dry the skillet or dry it on the stove over low heat.
  • Oil it: Using a cloth or paper towel, apply a light coat of vegetable oil or melted shortening to the inside of the skillet. Some people also like to oil the outside of the skillet. Buff to remove any excess.
  • Put it away: Store the skillet in a dry place.

Additional Notes

  • Using soap, steel wool, or other abrasives is not the end of the world, but you may need to re-season the skillet. If the skillet is well-seasoned from years of use, a small amount of mild soap may be used without doing much damage — just be sure to rinse it well and oil it after drying.
  • Remove rust from cast iron by using steel wool or by rubbing it with half a raw potato and a sprinkle of baking soda (seriously, it works!). Again, it may be necessary to re-season the pan after cleaning.

More on Caring for Cast Iron Skillets

Is this how you clean your cast iron skillets? Share your own tips and tricks in the comments.

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