How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

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This post features everything you need to know about how to clean a cast iron skillet, including a step-by-step guide, shopping list, and FAQs.

skillet carrot cake

My cast iron skillet is one of the most beloved pieces in my kitchen. I use it for everything, from baking cakes to making Southern hoecakes and my favorite dinner recipes. But when it comes time to clean cast iron cookware, you need to follow some simple rules to keep your cast iron pan cooking for many years to come.

Follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll know how to clean a cast iron skillet like an expert in no time. I’ve also included some FAQs down below, so all bases are covered. Alright, let’s learn how to clean a cast iron skillet!

What You Need to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet

  • Sponge or non-abrasive scrubbing brush
  • A clean, dry cloth or paper towels
  • Vegetable oil or vegetable shortening
  • Kosher salt (optional)

Cast iron skillet

How to Clean A Cast Iron Skillet

Clean immediately after every use

The best time to clean cast iron skillets is immediately after use when it’s still hot or warm. You don’t want to soak the pan or leave it in the sink as that’s how it rusts.

Wipe the skillet’s interior with a paper towel to remove any excess food or oil. Then rinse under hot water and clean using a sponge or non-abrasive scrubbing brush (any stiff brush will do, just don’t use a metal brush). While you can use a small amount of mild dish soap if you can avoid using the soap I’d do so, as it can strip the pan’s seasoning. This is also why you should always clean your skillet by hand and not in the dishwasher.

If there are stubborn stuck-on bits of food you can’t remove, scrub the pan with a paste made from kosher salt and water. Boiling water and a wooden spatula or a pan scraper may also help loosen stubborn pieces of food.

Dry the skillet thoroughly

You don’t want to drip-dry your skillet, so towel dry it thoroughly and then heat it over medium-high heat on the stovetop until every last drop of water is evaporated. This makes sure it doesn’t get rust.

Season your cast iron skillet

This is when you season your cast iron skillet. I have a whole post dedicated to how to season cast iron right here, but here’s a quick version. You want to apply a light coat (about 1/2 teaspoon) of vegetable oil (I recommend refined coconut oil) or melted vegetable shortening to the inside of the skillet, using a cloth or a paper towel. Continue to wipe the skillet’s surface until it’s dark, smooth, and no excess oil residue remains.

Store the skillet in a dry place

You want to store your completely dry and seasoned cast iron cookware in a dry place. You can also store it with a paper towel covering its surface to ensure the seasoning remains inside the skillet and doesn’t transfer to other surfaces.


How do you remove rust from cast iron?

There are a couple of ways to remove rust from a cast iron skillet. First, you can use steel wool. Otherwise, rub it with half a raw potato and a sprinkle of baking soda. It sounds ridiculous, but I’m here to tell you it works! Once you remove the rust, ensure you re-season the pan.

Can I put my skillet in the dishwasher?

No, don’t put your cast iron skillet in the dishwasher. This will remove the seasoning and likely cause rust – two things we definitely don’t want!

Can I use steel wool when cleaning cast iron pans?

I only recommend using steel wool or a metal scrubbing brush to remove rust from your cast iron pan. Using them regularly will remove the pan’s seasoning.

Can I use soap to clean my skillet?

Yes, you can use a small amount of mild dish soap to clean your cast iron skillet. Excessive soap use can remove the pan’s seasoning, but just re-season as instructed and you’ll be fine.

Should I soak my cast iron pan?

No, you shouldn’t soak your cast iron pan as it will inevitably lead to rust. Follow the cleaning instructions above and you won’t need to soak your pan.

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  1. The cast iron skillet’s surface is not as smooth as ceramic pans, and sometimes it is difficult to remove the stuck food from it. So, can I use the dishwasher or metal utensils to clean it?

    1. Hi Nellie, you want to avoid using the dishwasher or steel wool as those will remove the seasonings. I usually boil water in the pan to loosen the food that is stuck, then with salt water scrub it out with a paper towel and rinse.
      Hope that helps 🙂

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