7 tips so you can clean your cast iron skillet without stripping it

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Cleaning cast iron is a huge task. You can't simply take it and soak it in a sink of warm, soapy water. This removes the seasoning barrier between your food and cast iron. The seasoning of the cast iron helps prevent food from sticking and your pans from rusting when not in use.
These hints and tips help you to easily clean your seasoned cast iron without damaging it or requiring a lengthy re-seasoning. With a few old fashioned cleaning methods, you can keep your cast iron looking as good as new.
1. Bring in a ringer (h/t People)
Sometimes you need a bit of extra elbow power. The Ringer is a stainless steel mesh of rings perfect for gently scrubbing your favorite cast iron. Use warm water and the metal washcloth to gently remove food and grease from your pan. It cleans easily without stripping and leaves your cast iron perfectly clean.
2. Quick daily cleaning (h/t America's Test Kitchen)
Properly seasoned cast iron can be quickly cleaned in just seconds if food has not stuck to the surface. Simply rinse with warm water and use a scrub brush or non-abrasive scrubbing sponge to clean it. A small squirt of dish soap will not hurt the seasoning. Dry over the heat on your oven and then gently wipe with a paper towel and vegetable oil.
3. Scrub with steel wool (h/t The Pioneer Woman)
Stubborn food residue that simply won't budge often requires a bit of extra scrubbing power. Steel wool is the tried and true way to gently scrub a cast iron pan. Place a small amount of warm water in the pan and scrub using a stainless steel wool cleaning pad. Rinse, dry over heat and add a protective oil layer.
4. Use salt when the time is right (h/t Tasty)
Using salt to clean a cast iron has been passed down for generations. The key is to time the cleaning. If your skillet cools too much, the food residue will be completely stuck. If your skillet is too hot, you can damage it by adding cooler water to it. Clean a warm cast iron by sprinkling salt over the surface and scrubbing using your scouring pad or non-abrasive sponge. Rinse with warm water and dry as normal.
5. Get leverage with a potato (Southern Living)
Cut a potato in half and use it to help scour your cast iron skillet with salt. The potato helps work the salt into the surface of your skillet for easy scouring. This is an especially helpful tip for those unable to grip a scouring pad easily.
6. Ball up aluminum foil (h/t Cast Iron Book)
If you don't have a scrubber, you can make your own with a simple ball of aluminum foil. The foil gently scrubs your cast iron skillet without scratching the surface. Once you are finished, simply throw the foil away. No greasy sponge to deal with!
7. Recycle mesh produce bags (h/t A Real Food Lover)
Why buy scouring pads and sponges when you already bring them home in your groceries? The mesh plastic bags from produce make excellent plastic scouring tools for gently cast iron cleaning. Simply fold up and secure with a rubber band to create a DIY plastic scrubber.
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