The 4 Best Brushes, Scrubbers, and Scrapers for Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware

updated Nov 7, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Cleaning a cast iron skillet with a brush in the sink
Credit: Joe Lingeman

The debate over how to properly clean cast iron cookware can get heated — and is one that spans generations. Should you use soap? Can you just wipe it out with a paper towel? Should you use a bristle brush or a sponge? If you use a brush, is one better than the other?

While we spend a lot of time trying to come to a final answer for these questions, today we’re here to talk about the best cast iron brushes and cleaning tools. (And yes, we like a brush over a sponge!) Here’s what our testing has led us to recommend.

1. Lodge Scrub Brush

It should come as no surprise to learn that one of our favorite brushes comes from Lodge, one of the top names in the cast iron biz. This one has nylon bristles, which are effective yet gentle — they won’t ruin the seasoning you’ve worked so hard to build up.

2. Tenacious C Cast Iron Brush and Scraper

The bristles on this cast iron brush are a bit more stiff, compared to the Lodge brush, so it’s great if, say, your style of cooking results in a decent amount of burnt-on bits. Don’t worry, though, the bristles are still gentle enough that they won’t disturb your seasoning.

3. Lodge Pan Scrapers

Lodge makes these fun polycarbonate scrapers that can be used to chip off those stubborn, bigger baked-on bits. Plus, as our Lodge pan scrapers review says, none of the other cast iron cleaning tools is “so effortless to clean and put away.” Try heating the pan up a little bit before you scrape in order to make less work for yourself.

4. The Ringer Original Stainless Steel Cast Iron Cleaner

This wacky-looking chainmail scrubber doesn’t seem like it’d work on your cast iron, but it totally does. It folds and bends to get into the pan’s crease (between the wall and the bottom) and it chips off all sorts of bits, again, without scratching up the seasoning.

A Few Other Notes About Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware

  • No matter what, cast iron cookware should never be put in the dishwasher.
  • 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, making 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.)
  • Soaking is not necessary. If residue remains after cleaning, reheat the pan and use a silicone scraper to remove.
  • Always dry immediately and season the cast iron skillet by rubbing it with oil (Rust is your biggest enemy).
  • Avoid strong detergents and metal scouring pads unless restoring a rusted piece.

What do you use to clean your cast iron skillet?