Cleaning Cast Iron? Yes, You Can Use Dishwashing Liquid!
It’s funny how over the years times have changed and we as people have evolved. Over the last 100 years, we have invented cars, electricity, light bulbs, televisions, the radio, computers, ballpoint pens, detergents and the list goes on.
But one thing that still seems to be stuck in the last century is people’s belief of using dishwashing liquid to wash cast iron is wrong!
If you ask everyone what they use to wash up the dishes, 99.999 percent of the time the answer is going to be dishwashing liquid. Why don’t we use detergent in a camp oven then?
I use dishwashing liquid and have no dramas, I’ll get to the reason why soon but because I properly season my cast iron it does not actually affect it!
Because I see so many posts on Facebook like; Can you can use dishwashing liquid for cleaning Cast Iron, How do I season a rusty camp oven?, How do I clean a dirty camp oven?. And the answers from other people are always all over the place with everyone’s beliefs. I thought I would do some research to see how many people are against/for it and why.
Below is an image of the post I created and published it on our page Cast Iron Boys. I also shared it with these Facebook groups; Camp Oven Cooking in Australia, Camp Oven Community and Around The Camp Fire. Want the links to these groups, click here.
The results are in!
I have received answers from 513 people, and 330 people say no, 142 people say yes and 41 people say sometimes.
A comprehensive breakdown of yes, no and sometimes answers:
Why did you say YES or NO?
I asked some people why they commented with a yes or no, to help understand their beliefs.
- I find it easier and faster to clean it, remove food scraps and grease, using some soap. I know it’s against what most people say, that I should just wipe it out well. My steel and cast iron items still have a nice patina. I never use a scourer or steel wool though, nor those chain mail link type cleaning cloths. Just a regular nylon bristle washing up brush. Dry really well, preferably in an oven or in the BBQ. we use coconut oil or duck fat if there is some leftover in the fridge. (we don’t use vegetable or seed oils in our house)
- Every single time then rinse and re-oil have been doing it the same way for over 30 years same camp oven
- Yes, wipe then rinse but no scrubbing.
- Soap is good to get built up grime off and start a new season. I lightly oil mine again and flip it over on a stovetop burner a few times to harden the season. It has been like a non-stick for 6 months now without having to use soap.
- Yes, only when it’s necessary, doesn’t hurt it just keep it well oiled
- I was taught never to use soap in camp ovens years ago. But have to admit that I did sometimes cleaning cast iron because I would forget to clean them and the outback temperatures made it a real chore to clean. So I occasionally cheated *smile emoticon* I have since educated myself to the facts of polymerization which is the chemical reaction in the seasoning process and have realised that the soap thing is just a myth from another era and not based on fact.
- When I got my first camp oven I did a fair bit of reading online on cleaning cast iron to learn how to season and use cast iron properly. A good 95% of what I read said not to use soap. I’ve found that I don’t need soap to clean my cast iron so I’ll stick with what works for me.
- Season correctly before first use, cook in it, rinse with warm water only, lightly oil inside, store in a dry location, Repete when camping next.
- Never! Mine belonged to my dad who had it all his life. Now he has passed and it’s mine, I wouldn’t dare use soap for cleaning cast iron I fear he might be watching lol.
- No takes the flavour away…..
- If the cooking utensil is brought to a temp higher than 100%, not much can survive it. Definitely, no soap used in our camp ovens. Fill it with water and bring to a boil, wipe it out, allow to dry then oil it. That way no rust.
- Soap will break down the protective layer (patina) on the cast iron and Leech into the oven, only to release into the food when the oven gets hot again.
- Cast iron is porous and animal fat is best to use it to preserve, prevent rust and keep the metal in good condition. Don’t use vegetable oil as it goes tacky and goes off after a while and will taint the taste of the cooking. Wash with plain water, you can scrub them but don’t use soap as it strips the animal fat out of the metal and allows it to rust.
- Depending on what is cooked in it I fill it with hot water as soon as whatever I have cooked is taken out. Same thing in my pans at home. If something is stuck just heat it up again and it will usually come out without too much problem. I have bought some dripping to use when oiling my ovens instead of oil.
So can you use dishwashing liquid for cleaning cast iron?
Yes, yes you can!
Despite the results of 330 people saying that you can’t use soap, it’s just a myth. I think that it comes down to people not understanding what seasoning is or what it does to the cast iron, let me explain.
Myth: you use cooking oil to season cast iron and dishwashing liquid removes fat and oil. Won’t the soap remove the seasoning?
Fact – What is Seasoning?
Seasoning is not just a thin layer of oil that you bake onto the surface of cast iron to create that “non-stick like” coating. The seasoning is turned into a layer of polymerised oil in properly seasoned cast iron. This is a plastic-like substance that has adhered to the surface of the cast iron and is no longer an oil. Therefore the chemicals in dish soap should not affect it. If your cast iron is seasoned and looked after properly it’s fine to use dishwashing liquid.
Remember, many people get their cast iron clean without soap, just don’t soak your pan or camp oven in soapy water.
Thank you for reading our post, while I’m not out to change the way you clean your cast iron. I would like you to think about the information you pass on to others. Perhaps you share the link to this post so they can form their own opinion.
Feel free to leave a comment or subscribe to our blog below, cheers Mick – Cast Iron Boys
- The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away – Click Here
- Seasoning cast Iron – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia – Click Here
- Cast Iron Cookware Myths & Misconceptions – Click Here
Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning: A Science-Based How-To – Click Here