Are you cleaning cast iron the right or wrong way?

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Are you cleaning cast iron the right or wrong way? Did you know there is a right and wrong way? Apparently, I didn’t cause I do both.

Some I do the right way, but I do some steps that are wrong. But I don’t wanna be right!

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New vx old cast iron

The best cast iron skillet is an old vintage one. A cast iron with a slick smooth surface. I bought this skillet in our antique store about 11 years ago. Nothing sticks to it. Even my burnt cooking slides right out.

For 11 years I’ve cleaned the vintage cast iron following my “wrong” steps below.

The top skillet above is vintage.  The bottom is a month old from the Pioneer Woman. It’s preseason and I love it, but things can stick. My task is to get it the same as my old skillet. Smooth as glass.

Here are the steps I’m taking to get the smooth as glass, non-stick, slip and slide surface.

Cleaning and prepping cast iron

Regular cleaning

Yuck cleaning cast iron

While the skillet is hot and still on the stove…with the food removed 🙂 I add hot water with a drop or two of dish soap. YES! Dish soap.  That’s my “wrong” way.

Here’s why I will continue my wrong ways

The surface of the cast iron has the layer of oil that makes the slip and slide surface. The oil isn’t sitting on top of the iron. It’s embedded. The dish soap will not remove the embedded oil. What the dish soap will do is clean and remove any oil on top.  Without removing that dirty oil, it may become rancid. Yech!

Plus, my grandma using dish soap on all her cast iron for 60 years.

Rinsing and cleaning cast iron

I leave the soapy water for about 5 minutes. Then dump the water, add a sprinkle of kosher salt to act as a scrubber. But only if needed. Most times I can use a soft sponge or my rubber sponge to remove any bits.  Then rinse with hot, hot water.

cast iron scrubber

UPDATE: I recently received this scrubber to clean cast iron and I love it! It even gets MY burnt-on food off with ease. 

How to dry cast iron

Drying cast iron

I usually dry inside and out using paper towels.  Sometimes I turn the stove to high and let the skillet dry on the stovetop.

protecting and cleaning cast iron

Next, I coat the inside lightly using shortening.  I store all my skillets using hand towels between them for protection.  You may use vegetable oil or your favorite oil.  I tend to cook the light canola but use shortening for cookies and cast iron.

How to season cast iron

Texture of cast iron

Even if the pan says it’s seasoned, I re-season. I also re-season newly bought vintage cast iron.

First, turn the oven to 350 degrees. Clean the pan following the steps above. Except add shortening to the outside and the handles too. Then place upside down on a rack in the oven. Place a foil-lined sheet under to catch any drips. Heat for 1 hour. Remove from the oven. Let cool.

Wood handled cast iron

Do not place wood handles in the oven. If you’re cast iron has a wood handle, season on the stovetop.  Add a layer of shortening with a paper towel and leave on the stove at medium heat for about 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool.  Then repeat all the steps 3 times.

Cleaning old rusty cast iron

Cleaning antique or vintage cast iron the first time.

 Remove any rust using very fine steel wool pads. I use the same pads when making ironed vinegar. Clean with hot water and dish soap. Dry well.

Cleaning Cast Iron

Use it

The best way to keep your cast iron in great shape is to use it.  If you use your cast iron often, you may never need to re-season.  Note:  avoid cooking acidity foods like tomatoes in your cast iron.  Unlike dish soap, the acid may break down the oil embedded in the iron.


 To add farmhouse style to your organizing and cleaning, download these free farmhouse labels.

Make organizing easier and stylish!  Just don’t stick one on your cast iron skillet…it will burn!  😉


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Let me know in comments below how you clean your cast iron.  I’d love to know!

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2 Comments

  1. Andi Cacciatore says:

    I have my Mom’s old cast iron skillet in storage, but we used olive oil to season it. When you say “shortening”, do you mean something like Crisco? I remember your yummy chocolate chip cookie recipe using shortening, so I assume that’s the same stuff. When I was a kid, we used Oleo margarine most of the time for cooking and baking. Now I want some of those cookies!

    1. Yes, Crisco. We also used Oleo. I have recipes from my grandma that calls for Oleo. When I was much younger, I had to call and ask, “What is oleo?” Lol!

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