Kitchn Love Letters

I Finally Found the Best Cleaning Tool for My Cast Iron Cookware — And It’s Amazing in So Many Ways

published Jan 18, 2022
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Credit: Andrea D'Agosto

As someone who covets, collects, and regularly uses cast iron cookware in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and vintages, I think it’s safe to say I have a lot of experience cleaning and maintaining cast iron. And based on my extensive experience, I can definitively say this: There is no better cast iron cookware cleaning tool than the Lodge chain mail scrubbing pad.

Credit: Danielle Centoni
See those silicone honeycomb-like holes? It helps this Lodge scrubber flex, perfect for getting into the pan's crevices.

I’ve tried all the scrubby sponges, the stiff brushes, the traditional chain mail scrubbers, and anything else you can think of. They all work when it comes to loosening stuck-on foods, but none offer the all-in-one combo of effective scrubbing power, ease of use, and longevity that this chain mail scrubbing pad does. It’s straight-up brilliant!

Allow me to elaborate. I use my cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens for pretty much everything. Most of the time, they clean up just as easily as a regular pan. But when I deploy my pans to sear steaks and roasts, or cook up a sticky stir-fry, they tend to get caked with stuck-on gunk that’s hard to get off. That’s when I reach for the chain mail scrubby. The metal rings easily dislodge the bits that seem cemented on, and because they’re smooth, they don’t damage my pans’ seasoning in the process. 

Credit: Danielle Centoni

The best part about this tool from Lodge (yes, the makers of cast iron cookware since 1896!) is that the chainmail wraps around a silicone pad with honeycomb-like holes that help it flex. The pad doesn’t absorb water or soap, so it’s not a sponge. It’s more like a cushion for your fingers and hands, something to grip to make it easier and more ergonomic to use the chain mail. I love how it elevates my fingers out of the hot and greasy water as I scrub and gives me something to push against. And the silicone pad gives shape and structure to the chainmail, allowing it to effectively scrub the corners of my skillets and the indentations of my grill pan.

Because it’s simply metal over silicone, the scrub pad will last forever — far longer than a stiff bristled brush — and I can toss it right in the dishwasher to deep-clean it. It costs about $20, which seems steep for a cleaning tool, but unless I lose it, I’ll never have to buy another one again. 

Credit: Danielle Centoni
Scrub-a-dub. It works like a charm.

Not only does it help preserve your hard-earned seasoning (it doesn’t scratch or gouge!), but it also actually helps it. According to the folks at Field Company, a cast iron manufacturer, one important fringe benefit of using chain mail to clean cast iron is that it can gently scuff the top layer of seasoning on your pan, which creates a lightly textured surface that makes subsequent layers of seasoning adhere better. It’s pretty cool to know I’m making my pans better with every scrub.

Credit: Danielle Centoni
Ta da! My clean pan after using Lodge's scrubber.

But as much as I love this tool for chiseling off stuck-on food, I have found one minor disadvantage to the scrub pad (this wouldn’t be an honest review if I didn’t mention it!): After testing the scrubber out plenty of times, I’ve found that it’s not fine-grained enough to slough off a greasy coating. After scrubbing and rinsing in hot water, I can see there’s still a layer of grease in the pan. 

It’s a super easy fix, though: I just grab my regular dishwashing sponge, add a tiny drop of dish soap, and give the pan a quick wipe to ensure it’s truly clean. After towel-drying and popping it on the stove to get it bone dry, I wipe the surface with a bit of grapeseed oil, and it’s ready to be tucked away until next time.

What do you use to clean your cast iron cookware? Share your cleaning strategies in the comments below.