The Best Ways to Clean Cast Iron, According to Our Readers

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Gina Eykemans)

We have all sorts of tutorials about cleaning and caring for cast iron. Our methods are tried and true, tested constantly by our experts who are working with both brand-new skillets and ones that have been handed down for generations.

We like to think that our methods are the best (they’ve been working for us!), but we realize that cast iron is a highly personal thing for people. (Just read this story to see what we mean.) And so, we recently asked you guys on Facebook to share your best tips for caring for cast iron.

For the most part, your answers fell squarely within two camps.

(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

Use Soap!

We’ve always been told (and have preached) that soap is bad for cast iron. Unless you’re restoring a rusty piece of cast iron, soap should be avoided. That’s been our motto, but many of you were all for soap!

  • “Clean well … yes, with soap and water. Dry by placing on stove and turning on heat. Oil while still hot and on stove … this is the way my Southern born and raised mother taught me to do it.” —Lucy La Hurreau
  • “Scrub with soap and water, bristle brush. Rinse and dry with a paper towel. Put a drop of oil in and rub the oil in with a paper towel. If you have time, put over high heat after you rub the oil in to set it. The whole ‘you can’t use soap on cast iron’ thing is a myth nowadays. It came from back in the day when soap had lye in it which would strip the seasoning. No dish soap is made with lye today. To not clean leftover food and grease out of your pan is unsanitary and you’ll make people sick.” —Greg Thomas
  • “Never soak a cast iron pan! Use a non metal scrub with a bit of soap. Dry with paper towel. Put on stove and shake salt into it. Heat pan to hot and then let cool. The salt will soak all moisture out of pan. When cooled to warm, empty salt and rub with some oil and store.” —Renate Murray
(Image credit: Cambria Bold)

Don’t Use Soap!

On the other hand, there were plenty of you who agreed that soap was the worst thing for a cast iron skillet.

  • “Never use soap. Season monthly. Always rub oil on pan when heating to dry and put away. That’s all we cook on is cast iron. Love it.” —Alice Lucius
  • “Just rinse with warm water. If food is stuck use some baking soda and vinegar with a plastic brush. This will release the bits without removing the seasoning.” —Mel Tidwell
  • “I don’t use any soap or detergent only hot water and a natural bristle brush. Occasionally, a bit of shortening on a paper towel to reseason. Oh the meals they have been a part of over the years/decades.” —Margaret Drahaus
  • “Wipe the grease out with towels. Add a generous amount of salt, scrub with non-steel wool scrubby sponge, rinse, place pan on hot burner to aid in drying, then oil all over.” —Deirdre Zabawa
  • “Never use any soap products. As soon as you’re done cooking put hot water in the pan and let it sit while you clean up. It can be wiped out with a towel.” —Georgene Bleiler

Other Tips We Loved

  • “We have a little square of ‘chain mail’ to scrub out any grunge that may happen during use. It works like a charm.” —Judy Moseley
  • “Lodge makes a square plastic scraper to clean with. I recently noticed Pampered Chef sells a very similar version. These little scrapers are awesome!!” —Laura Luckey
  • “Bring it coffee in bed and tell it you love it frequently.” —Tony Walton
  • “Fry bacon (often) to build up your seasoning.” —Holly Frost
  • “Give it a name.” —Charlotte Sarah Shinefield

Our Best Cast Iron Tips

Which camp do you fall under? Soap or no soap?