How to Clean a Carbon Steel Wok

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

See this wok? It just made a delicious batch of chicken stir-fry and now it needs to be cleaned. Like cast iron skillets, carbon steel woks require some TLC when it comes to cleaning. Fortunately, this special care boils down to nothing more complicated than “rinse, scrub, dry.” Here’s a step-by-step guide on to how to clean your carbon steel wok.

Over the course of many stir-fries, carbon steel woks develop a seasoned coating that makes them nonstick and improves the flavor of dishes. To protect this coating, you should avoid using anything abrasive when cleaning, like steel wool or any cleaner stronger than dish soap.

In fact, you shouldn’t even need to use dish soap. Most of the time, simply running the wok under hot water and giving it a quick wash with a cleaning pad will serve to clean the pan. Stubborn bits of food can be removed by soaking the wok for a few minutes to loosen the food.

Once clean, the last step is to dry the wok. It’s best to place the wok over low heat on the stove to make sure all the water has evaporated before storing the pan. Woks stored before they are completely dry can start to develop rust spots and will need to have a wok facial! (See how to give a wok a facial here.)

See our earlier posts in this series for more
on wok cooking and stir-fry basics:

How To Stir-Fry Chicken
How To Stir-Fry Vegetables
How To Make Fried Rice
Need a wok? Here’s our guide:
How To Buy & Season a Wok
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Grace displaying her favorite sort of sponge. She uses the yellow part to wash out a wok with hot water. (Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

How to Clean a Carbon Steel Wok

What You Need


  • Hot water
  • Sponge


  • 14-inch flat-bottomed carbon steel wok


  1. Wash with a Sponge: Woks cool very quickly and can be cleaned while still a bit warm but make sure it’s no longer screaming hot before washing. Soak the wok in hot water for a few minutes—or as long as 30 minutes. This helps to loosen any food debris that’s stuck in the wok. Wash the interior of the wok with a sponge until all the food debris is gone. If any food remains stuck gently use the green scrubber side of the sponge.
  2. Rinse the Wok Under Hot Running Water: Then rinse the wok under hot running water.
  3. Dry the Wok on the Stove: Set the wok over medium-low heat on the stove until there are no longer any visible water droplets. Cool before storing.
  4. More From Grace Young

    Visit Grace’s Website

    Find Grace’s Books
    Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories
    The Breath of a Wok: Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore
    The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen: Classic Family Recipes for Celebration and Healing

    Want to Learn More About Wok Cooking?
    Join Wok Wednesdays, a group of enthusiastic cooks working their way through Grace’s book, Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge

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    (Images: Faith Durand)