How to Clean a Cast Iron Skillet (Tips for the Home Cook) is reader supported. This page uses affiliate links and when you click on an affiliate link, and make a purchase, we receive a small compensation at no cost to you. See our disclosure policy for more information.

If you are an avid cook, you most likely have a cast iron skillet in your collection of pots and pans. You may have purchased it for yourself, or it may have been a gift from a mother, grandmother, or mother-in-law. They are a staple in many kitchens, especially in the southern United States.

Known for producing even cooking heat and excellent for frying, cast iron skillets can last a very long time when cared for properly. The steps for cleaning and caring for your skillet are simple, and the products you need are minimal.

We’ll cover what makes a cast iron skillet special and the best way to care for yours so you can extend its life and get the most out of it. We will also go over the significant mistakes people make in cleaning and using a cast iron skillet that causes the opposite.

What makes a cast iron skillet so special?

Home cooks and professional chefs alike have been cast iron skillet lovers for a very long time. The reasons for this are pretty simple. When appropriately treated, these skillets are seasoned, allowing them to be naturally non-stick.

They also, once hot, stay hot. The heat retention makes them great for frying and perfect for dishes that are started in a skillet and then finished in the oven in the same pan. The weight of the pans makes them great for heavy-duty cooking.

One of their most significant benefits? They will last forever if appropriately cleaned.

Many people have cast iron skillets that have been passed down through generations. Whether your pan is new or a family heirloom, treating them as one of the family will serve you with some delicious results.

First, we will talk about seasoning, what it is and why it is essential for a cast iron skillet.

Seasoning a cast iron skillet pan?

Yes. You have to season a cast iron skillet. If yours has been around a while, it may already have been seasoned for you. When looking dry and dull, reseasoning can do wonders.

If you are reading this getting ready to use your cast iron for the first time, stop! Do not use your pan and clean it until you have seasoned it.

When you heat fat in cast iron over high heat, the fat molecules bond to the pan and turn into a hard non-stick surface. Heating more layers of fat improves the non-stick coating.

To season your pan, you will use a paper towel to rub your pan all over with a thin coat of oil like grapeseed or vegetable. Place upside down to prevent oil from pooling in a 500°F oven. If that happens, be sure to check out our guide for cleaning the bottom of your oven.

After an hour, it will have a matte finish. Let the skillet cool, and then rub it with another thin layer of oil before you store it.

By seasoning your pan initially and when it has become dry, it will perform its best. Now on to cleaning!

How to clean a cast iron skillet

Cleaning a cast iron skillet is simple. If done correctly, it will last you decades, and you can pass it on to some fortunate person who also shares a love of cooking.

With this process, your skillet will stay non-stick and rust-free. You may have heard different theories on how to clean your skillet.

The process below is tried and true. The products you need are few, and the process to follow is easy.

Products needed for cleaning a cast iron skillet:

Five products are all it takes. Four of these I am pretty sure you already have in your house.

You can find natural fiber scrub brushes online or at many retailers.

Next, we move on to the cleaning process and what to do if you develop a rust spot on your skillet.

3 steps for cleaning a cast iron skillet:

  1. Wash your skillet with hot water and a single drop of dish soap using the natural fiber scrub brush. No need to scrub incredibly hard. You just want to lift any stuck-on food bits and leftover cooking oil. 
  2. Wipe down the skillet and place on low heat on your stove. Doing this will help to get the pan fully dry.
  3. Once dry, use a paper towel or napkin to rub the pan with a thin coat of neutral oil before storing it.

Pretty darn easy. If you do ever get a rust spot on your skillet, it is easy to remove. Take an old toothbrush and dip it in distilled white vinegar. Scrub the rust spot off and then rub a bit of oil on the area after it dries.

What not to do when cleaning your skillet

Now that you’ve learned how to clean a cast iron skillet, let’s talk about some things not to do with your skillet. Avoid these to keep your skillet looking and performing its best. Do not:

  • Soak your pan in water. You are putting your pan at risk of rusting quickly and all over its surface.
  • Put your skillet in the dishwasher. Ever. Just don’t do it.
  • Leave foods caked on. Food debris can become lodged under the seasoning coats of oil and ruin the non-stick coating you have created.
  • Store your skillet until it is dry and has a final coat of oil.
  • Keep it in your refrigerator with leftovers. The moisture and acidity in your food can lead to breakdown and rust.

By not making the above mistakes, you can assure your skillet stands the test of time in your kitchen.

Cast iron skillets are an excellent kitchen staple. They are essentials that home cooks and chefs alike swear by, and for a good reason. Their ability to evenly conduct heat and stay hot for a long time allows thorough cooking and browning.

If you have purchased a Cast Iron Skillet or received one as a gift, follow the steps above to keep it clean and allow it to perform at its seasoned, non-stick best.

These trusty skillets will help you make delicious and easy meals that will wow family and friends. Make sure to treat yours well and take care of your cast iron cookware to ensure its longevity and efficacy.