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The Soap Mistakes To Avoid When Cleaning Cast Iron Skillets

Collection of cast iron skillets
Collection of cast iron skillets - Michael C. Gray/Shutterstock

If you're a big cast iron pan fan -- or if you've been flirting with the idea of converting -- then you've probably heard any number of warnings against allowing dish soap anywhere near those precious skillets. As the cautionary tale goes, not only could soap strip the seasoning off of cast iron and cause food to stick, but destroying the seasoning would also expose the iron to the elements and thus promote rust. As it turns out, that advice expired along with the advent of modern dish soap.

Present-day dish soaps no longer contain active lye or vinegar, so they won't eat away at your cast iron's seasoning the way older versions did. That's great news for getting stuck-on food particles off and cutting grease! Of course, that doesn't mean you should go wild and leave that pan soaking in a sink full of suds. There are right and wrong ways to clean your cast iron with dish detergent, so you'll want to make sure you're following best practices to keep those pans in the best condition possible.

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The Right Way To Clean Cast Iron With Soap

Cast iron scrubbed with soapy water
Cast iron scrubbed with soapy water - SrideeStudio/Shutterstock

If your cast iron cookware can simply be wiped clean after cooking then obviously that's the best route. But if you're dealing with caked-on remnants of whatever you braised in that Dutch oven or fried in your skillet last then, by all means, break out the dish detergent. You'll want to scrape off as much as you can first. After that, a little bit of soap and a splash of water can be used to finish off the job. Just be sure to give it a good rinse afterward since you definitely don't want to leave any soap behind.

Always dry cast iron right away after washing or getting wet. Residual moisture can cause rust, no matter how thick the pan's seasoning is. And while rust is fixable with a little elbow grease, why put your cast iron through unnecessary abuse? After drying, you'll also want to warm your pan on the stove for a few minutes and wipe it down with some oil to maintain the seasoning. Considering how important it is to keep your cast iron clean, a little soap and water can be extremely helpful when used correctly.

What Not To Do When Soaping Up Cast Iron

Brand new cast iron
Brand new cast iron - Bloomberg/Getty Images

The key to cleaning cast iron with dish soap is to do so sparingly. The old adage "less is more" definitely applies in this case. So while it's fine to give it a quick soapy scrub, never allow cast iron to soak. And under no circumstances should it ever go in the dishwasher! Just because soap and water are fine in moderation, doesn't mean it will be safe in the long, steamy confine of the machine.

Another thing to keep in mind is the cast iron's age. While soap won't hurt cookware that has a nice thick patina, it's best to avoid washing your new pieces until they've developed some of their own. The seasoning on brand-new cast iron hasn't exactly established itself yet and the soap could strip what is still a pretty delicate layer on top of the iron. But once it's been used enough that it has a decent glossy black coating on it, it will be able to handle a soapy washing just fine. If by chance you do happen to overdo it on the soap or fail to dry and oil the pan properly afterward, just follow the manufacturer's guidelines on rust removal and seasoning and you'll be able to restore it to its original glory in time.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.