How to Wash Cast Iron Pans

Techniques for Cleaning and Restoring old Cast Iron Cookware

How to Wash Cast Iron Pans

Care for your cast iron cookware so that you have them for a lifetime. Learn our tips and techniques for washing cast iron cookware.

I am writing to ask your advice about a Thanksgiving recipe I prepared earlier today in my mother’s 10″ Wagner cast iron skillet.  This was my first attempt at cooking in cast iron, and I was not aware of all the necessary procedures in cooking with and cleaning cast iron pans.  Instead of using a heavy saucepan to prepare my cranberry dish, I used her skillet, which appeared to be well maintained prior to today.  After cooking the sauce and cranberries in the skillet, I removed the ingredients and placed the skillet in the sink filled with water to let it soak.  After approximately 1 hour, I washed the skillet and was surprised to find the washcloth and sponge covered in black after wiping out the pan.  Even now, if I rub a paper towel inside the skillet, it turns black.  Do you have any advice as to what I did wrong, what can be done to correct the problem and whether the cranberry dish is still edible or needs to be thrown away?  I truly appreciate your assistance in this matter. – Kelly (11/28/05)

The major mistake was leaving your cast iron skillet soaking in water.  That is a NO, NO!  I clean mine out with soap and water but never let it sit in it.  You can save you skillet!  What you need to do is to re-season you skillet. You might have to re-season it several times to get it back in working condition.  Check out the different seasoning techniques on this web page.

Not knowing what your cranberry dish looks like, it is hard for me to tell you what to do.  If it turned black, I would indeed throw it away.  Cranberries are very acidic and should be cooking in a stainless steel cooking pot.

Hello, I have luckily found your web site and could use some help.  I bought three Griswold iron skillets for a wedding shower.  The man said the sticky stuff on the outside was peanut oil. They were terribly sticky.  I came home and washed them, dried them, and put a light coating of vegetable oil on them.  They are still very sticky.  I have baked them in the oven for 6 hours on 225 degrees F.  Still sticky.  I am now baking them at 300 degrees for 1 hour.  Should I start over with the washing?  A friend who uses iron pans says she never uses soap on hers.  Help, I have too many different views coming my way.  What do I do with these pans? – Kay Smith. (8/24/03)

Your problem does puzzle me.  I have never seen old or new cast iron pans with sticky stuff like you described.  It sounds like you purchased old pans with a greasy buildup.  I know that most people say not to wash them in soapy water, but in your case, I would do just that.  Make sure that all the sticky stuff is removed before re-seasoning them.

Everytime, after I use my cast iron skillet, I do the following:

(1)  Wash it with dishwashing soap and water (do not soak)
(2)  Lightly oil inside of pan.
(2)  Place on hot burner of stove for a few minutes.  Remove from stove and wipe excess oil off the pan with a paper towel.
(3)  Store.  If you need to place another pan on top of your season cast iron pan, place a paper towel between them.  I hang mine from my pan rack.

Linda, thank you so much for writing back.  I will now be able to keep these pan nice and clean.  I took the easy way out and put the pans back into the oven, turned it up to 400 degrees F. and bake them for a little more than a half hour.  Hurray, they were dry.  Not sticky at all.  Hope I didn’t ruin them, but they sit even on the stove.  I Cannot  wait to cook in them and see the results.  Thanks again, have a good day.

PS. These were suppose to be fairly new Griswolds

Check out all my web pages on cast iron pots, kettles, and Dutch ovens:

Main Page:

The Irreplaceable Cast Iron Skillet

Question and Answer Pages:

Ceramic Top (Flat Top) Electric Range and Cast Iron Pots

Hot Fire for Curing & Cleaning

Iron and Carcinogens in Cast Iron

Misc. Questions & Answers

Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Pots

Salt for Cleaning Cast Iron

Sanding Cast Iron Pots

Self-Cleaning Oven for Cleaning & Seasoning

Warped or Cracked Cast Iron Pots

Comments and Reviews

3 Responses to “How to Wash Cast Iron Pans”

  1. Paul Keim

    I would NEVER use oven cleaner or any other chemical on cast iron. Cast iron is a metal sponge and anything you put on it when it is not well seasoned, or to remove the seasoning will soak right in. Later, it will leach out into your food. Don’t put anything into your cast iron that you wouldn’t put in your mouth!
    I also don’t use dish soap on them as it tends to soften the seasoning and make them stick. Use hot water and a plastic scrubber, then put on stove on low heat and wipe with a long free cloth. Once completely dry and hot, wipe on a thin film of bacon grease or Crisco and let cool.

  2. Carolyn Riddle

    I am a vegetarian, and I love tofu nice and crusty outside and soft inside. For years I tried to fry it in stainless steel with olive oil, but I had to keep adding oil and scraping it from the skillet. Then I tried my mom’s Wagoner cast iron skillet with coconut oil. Wow! Two important steps: 1.) press as much liquid as possible out of the tofu; 2.) don’t overheat, as coconut oil has a fairly low flash point.

  3. lila

    If I seasoned the cast iron 3 to 4 times with drying flax seed oil & don’t cook any acidic foods on it, will it still leaches mineral on my foods?


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