Can I Use Steel Wool on Cast Iron Cookware?

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If you’ve recently bought a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, congratulations! These are some of the most versatile pieces in your kitchen. But you want to make sure you know how to take care of them properly for years to come. One question that often pops up is whether it’s safe to use steel wool on cast iron cookware. Here are a few points to keep in mind before making the decision.

Can you use steel wool on cast iron for cleaning?

You can use steel wool on cast iron, however there are a couple of things to keep in mind when using it to clean your cast iron cookware, such as pressure and frequency of use.

Steel wool if used incorrectly will strip that seasoning straight off your cast iron, especially if it’s a weak layer of seasoning.

To avoid this, you can use the following practices.

Frequency

The first best practice is to use it occasionally. Every time you use steel wool to clean cast iron, regardless of how harsh you are with it, you will strip some of the seasoning off. However, if you only use steel wool occasionally, then the seasoning will rebuild faster than it gets stripped off when you cook fatty type foods.

So as long as you are cooking around 5-10 fatty type meals in-between each use of the steel wool, your seasoning should be fine.

In the worst case scenario, you would just have to re-season again, which isn’t too much effort.

Pressure

I see so many people using steel wool incorrectly when cleaning their cast iron cookware, they always put some elbow grease into it.

Applying a lot of pressure when using steel wool is guaranteed to take your seasoning clean off.

The best way to use steel wool to clean cast iron is to use it lightly, just on those stubborn spots that won’t come off. Everything else should be cleaned with a sponge.

Alternative products for cleaning cast iron

If you’ve come to the conclusion that it’s probably best to avoid using steel wool on your cast iron to clean it frequently, you are right.

So I have compiled a list of some good alternatives to use to clean you cast iron pan

Dish soap and sponge

This method is my favourite, and that’s for a good reason, it’s cheap, it’s easy, and it doesn’t damage my seasoning.

All you need to do is apply some dish soap to the cast iron cookware, rub it in with a drop of water and a sponge so the entire cast iron pan is coated, and leave it for 5 minutes.

Leaving it to soak in dish soap for 5 minutes will NOT cause it to rust, I do this all the time. It’s when you leave it for an hour or so that it begins to rust.

After 5 minutes, simply scrub it with a sponge. Normally everything comes off, if it doesn’t I may pull out the steel wool depending on how good my seasoning is at the time.

Chain mail scrubber

This is a good alternative to using steel wool, they are specifically designed to clean cast iron pans (since cast iron is prone to food burning onto it).

The only thing to note with a chain mail scrubber is that it can be quite harsh if you apply a lot of pressure.

So to avoid stripping your seasoning with this, just avoid scrubbing to hard, if you see your seasoning begin to come off, then scrub lighter.

Why do people use steel wool on cast iron?

So if people don’t tend to use steel wool to clean their cast iron, what do they use it for? Well they typically use it to strip their seasoning.

Steel wool is a very good abrasive material, and if you ever need to strip your seasoning, this will do the job quickly.

Which again, is why I don’t use steel wool to often on my cast iron.

Can you use steel wool to clean rust off your cast iron?

You can use steel wool to clean rust off cast iron, in-fact steel wool is the most sought after tool when cleaning rust of cast iron, it does an amazing job at it, especially when combining it with a soak in vinegar.

Brillo pads are another form of steel wool that can be used too, so if you have any brillo pads laying at home then feel free to use them to clean rust off cast iron. –

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