10 Second How-ToDIYdiy projects

10 Second How-To: Cleaning A Cast Iron Skillet

by Maxwell Tielman

Today, we’re launching a brand-new series of super short videos called “10 Second How-Tos.” The series, which is pretty much what its name entails, aims to equip all you readers with simple, effective tips for daily life. From the proper way to cut flowers to how to create a simple household cleaner, we’ve got you covered!

It’s fitting that our first installment shows how to clean cast iron skillets, because as of recently, this task has become the bane of my existence. Although cast iron cookware cooks beautifully and is a non-toxic alternative to nonstick pans, they can’t be washed with traditional soap-and-water methods. After way too much head-scratching over the proper method of getting these guys clean, the lovely Sacha Dunn (co-founder of the eco-friendly cleaner company Common Good) was kind enough to help me out. Here are her simple, straightforward directions! All you need is some salt, olive oil, and water!

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  • I love this idea for a series! This is how I’ve been cleaning my skillet for years, and it works like a charm. I’m looking forward to more How-To’s!

  • For an old cast iron pan that has heavy build up, putting it through the cleaning cycle on an oven with burn it all off nicely. The pan will then need to be seasoned again. I had to do this when my mom gave me her old pans.

    • Hi Ms. Melissa,
      I’re reading upon how to clean cast iron pan, I’m aware of burning it but I never hear that it need to be seasoned again. My question’s how you seasoned it? Thank you for this info.


      • To reseason Cast Iron. Turn oven on 500 n bake in small amount of crisco. Just rub it down,leave a little excess crisco. Bake 1 hour, turn off oven n let cool in oven.

  • How about de-rusting a slightly mistreated pan?

    Also, many other abrasives will work in lieu of salt. Course coffee grounds work well but definitely make it seem dirty when you rinse it out. I took mine camping and used small rough pebbles from the stream nearby to clean it between meals. I have also come across the advice to avoid using steel wool unless as a last resort, as it will diminish the surface and make it more prone to rust.

    • for rusty pans, I use one of the non-scratchy scrub pads you can get at the grocery store, scrub using soap and water. Dry pan and then do the reseasoning shown above. That should take care of your pans. I actually make pancakes to get the non-stick back on my pan after washing it. The first pancake will stick but the next ones won’t.

    • I put Crisco on mind real heavy and put it in my grill and burned it .And only use salt and olive oil wipe it out add some more oil and wipe it again with just oil. It should be ok then.

  • I just want to say that I’ve been really impressed with all the new series you’ve been starting! I love looking at pretty things on D*S, but I have especially loved being able to LEARN from you guys the past few months! I’m excited for all the new content you have planned for us!

  • For de-rusting a slightly mistreated pan I’ve had great success using this method with a potato cut in two as my scrubber. It might take a couple of times, but thrift store finds turn out pretty good!

  • I greatly prefer vegetable oil to olive oil for my cast iron, but that’s just me. Also, in addition to the salt/oil/paper towel approach, I sometimes whip out my cast iron brush. Oxo and Lodge make cast iron brushes, but I actually use the Oxo Panini Press brush since it’s got a larger surface area.

  • My cast iron skillet is at least 25 years old and I wash it with dish detergent and hot water every time I use it. If anything has stuck I use a green scrubber. I’ve had no problem with rust or any other thing wrong. I do dry it off instead of letting it air dry.

    I do have an aluminum omelet pan that has never seen soap and water but it has also never cooked anything but eggs. That one I wipe with salt and whatever oil/butter is left in the pan. However the finish on that one is smooth and shiny, unlike the cast iron.

  • I love cooking with cast iron and especially that I DON”T need to look after it carefully. I scrub it like a gorilla with steel wool every time I use it. The base is now a shiny steel colour and provides a great non-stick surface for eggs etc.

    Am I missing something here though? I do use a bit of oil when I cook to help with the non-stick – usually grape seed.

    • I’ve only ever needed to use water and a brush also. When cleaning one that is in really bad shape I will spray with the yellow can easy off oven cleaner, put in a black plastic bag and sit in the sun for 5-6 days. Gunk then washes right off!

      • I just soak my cast iron fry pan overnight starting with some soap and hot water. By morning it’s ready for a soapy sponge and some water and it wipes clean….no scrubbing whatsoever!!
        Try it!!

  • I am looking forward to your short how-to tips. Knowing how to clean certain things, and more importantly, how to do it quickly, is a real time saver.

  • As a woman born and raised in the south, I have been using cast iron to cook my whole married life (34 years). If I use it for meat dishes I definitely use dish detergent ( I like Dawn) and steel wool. If it is dried out looking I just rub on some vegetable oil and stick it in a warm oven for about 30 minutes and this renews the surface. Maybe this works for me because ALL of my pieces have been used for deep frying at one time or the other. If it is for cornbread or sweet cakes I just wipe it out, same for vegetables. My mama taught me this when I was newly married, and now I have inherited all her cast iron and they all look great.

  • Yay! for this : )
    Love cast iron, but now and then, drying properly doesn’t happen like it should. Then, I have to figure out the best way to clean the poor, neglected pot. Now I know!
    Really like the idea for this series, too. thanks!

  • I use my cast iron all the time. I think I have had them like 40 yrs and they came from grandparents so they could really be easily 75+ yrs old. Hence they are REALLY seasoned.
    But the outsides are gross. Like thick with age. How do I get them back from this?

  • My mother cooked with cast iron and the outside would get built up and thick. Once in a while she would throw it in the coal furnace and it would take all that outside yukk off, then she would season it. Bet not too many of you have a coal furnace – I don’t either.

  • Hmmm. A furnace. So if I put them in a wood burning stove it should burn off. Need to visit my brothers stove this winter!

  • Cool. I do it differently where I heat up the dry crusty pan until crackling. Then I pour in a 1/4 cup water and let it immediately boil and soak into the crusties for a bit. From there it’s quick to scrub it off with a stiff kitchen brush. Sort of like deglazing.

  • We keep a shaker of Kosher salt by the sink and just scrub it out with salt and a damp dish scrubber (Dobie brand), rinse, and then the pan goes on the stove (flame on low for a couple minutes) to dry. Our pan tends to accumulate enough oil as we cook that I rarely need to add more. This year, my son moved into a house with ten guys from our church; he took the small cast iron pan and gave all roommates a lesson in proper cleaning the first week. Highly amusing.

  • Love your idea for the video’s. But all I have to use is a small tablet and it won’t play the video. I use cast iron all the time and would love to know what the video says about it. Could you please write it for me? The only way I was taught to clean them was to use hot water and a sponge or steel wool if things are stuck on and them wipe down with grease. I find that if I don’t rub them good with grease after washing things stick the next time I cook. And I NEVER use soap or harsh detergents in cast iron. It somehow takes away the good cooking surface built in to the pan and over a period of time it ruins them. My great grandma told me this and how to care for them. Just wash with hot water, dry, and rub it down good with a paper towel and grease. They still cook great and some I have from my great grandma.

  • Our dad was a super handyman at things! He would make a small campfire in the back and burn them clean then season with oil.

  • I have the cast iron skillet that my Portuguese great-grandmother had! It makes the most delicious and special food ever. I was told to always brush is it with oil after a simple soap & water cleaning. Leave the oil on and when ready to use, re-fresh the oil when cooking again. Repeat every time. The skillet looks brand new today after over 80-100 years of use!!!!! I make my other grandmother’s Irish bread in it… the best Irish bread ever!!!

  • When I washed dishes for my mother and grandmother, I would wipe the pan damp/dry (it was always the last thing to dry and the dishtowel was always wet/damp) then put it on the stove and turn the burner to medium/low or set it in the oven if it was still hot. It would finish drying the skillet. Never any rust!

  • splash–

    I usually de-glaze my cast iron first with water and a wooded flat spatula (i never use metal utensils on my cast iron;that could be why they get stickey)
    on high heat.once the stuck bits are loose wipe with paper towel or a cloth towel then place it back on the heat and get it really hot .now pour veggie oil or what ever you use and move it around to cover the bottom.
    it almost seems like the hot pan sucks in the oil,stickey pans will be less likely for you

  • Mom always washed hers as I do in dish soap and water. It pays to wash it hot off the stove or at least warm. You can pour dish water or warm soapy water while its on the stove to remove burnt on grime and food and then to the dish basin.
    I remember as a child my sisters and her friends collected the neighbor’s skillet’s and put them all in some Devil Lye and all that burnt on caked up erosion comes off and they look like new.
    You must put on protective eyeglasses and gloves and be very careful when using Devil Lye.

  • I have my MIL’s cast iron fry pan, 2 sizes, and a flat round pan. I scrape them of any debris, and then some oil, then the oven for a little while. I’ve had them for about 50 years, and I love them as much as the day she gave them to me.

  • I have 3 cast iron fry pans but the outside is really caked with built up and such, how do I get all that off so can be using them again. Love cooking in them.

  • the video won’t play on my laptop….would love for a printed version of your method for cleaning cast iron. thanx

  • When I finish cooking in my cast iron, I simply pour water from the kettle setting on the stove. The pan immediately boils the water (and softens any crumbs that may be stuck. By the end of dinner and the dishes, the pan is then rinsed out with hot tap water, sponge, dried with paper towel and I spray it with non-stick olive oil spray, wipe the excess off with paper towel and it’s ready for the next cooking day.

  • Thanks for all helpful tips, I wondered how to clean the outside of the pan, will try one of them! Just purchased a new cast iron pan (10″). And didn’t have a clue as to how to season it. Thank you all?

  • Baking Soda and a pot scrubber steel wool if burnt on crust needs removal it ok to let water sit in it to loosen the Crusties. spray with Crisco spray works well…if you use olive oil the pan will absorb the oil so be careful if you don’t care for olive oil should the pan rust clean well with elbow grease and then you can place in the oven on clean if absolutely needed. The reseason and bake in a hot oven… Place a pan under it to catch the Crisco drippings