What To Do with Cast Iron After Every Use: A Complete Maintenance Guide

Proper care and maintenance are essential for keeping cast iron cookware in good condition. Cast iron can last for decades if used properly, becoming a beloved kitchen staple. Cast iron, on the other hand, can quickly deteriorate and lose its nonstick properties if not properly cared for and maintained.

In this blog post, we will discuss the steps you should take after using your cast iron cookware to keep it in good condition. If you’re doing a lot of camping, find our guide to caring for cast iron while camping complete with recommended tools and packing list.

Allow the cookware to cool before cleaning

It is critical not to clean your cast iron while it is still hot, as this can result in warping or cracking. Before cleaning, allow your cookware to cool to room temperature.

Allowing cast iron to cool before cleaning is critical because cleaning the cookware while it is still hot can cause warping or cracking. When one part of the metal is heated faster than another, it expands at different rates and becomes misshapen. When the metal is cooled too quickly, such as by running cold water over it, cracking can occur.

When metal cools too quickly, the surface contracts faster than the core, resulting in the formation of a crack. The cooling process of cast iron is critical because it allows the metal to contract evenly, reducing the possibility of warping or cracking.

Furthermore, cleaning a hot cast iron pan can result in burns to the person doing the cleaning. To avoid these problems, allow the cookware to cool to room temperature before cleaning it.

Remove any remaining food

Use a plastic or wooden scraper to remove any remaining food particles from your cast iron before washing it. Cleaning your cast iron will be much easier and more effective as a result of this.

Residual food particles left on a cast iron pan can degrade its seasoning over time by causing rust to form. Cast iron cookware is especially prone to rusting due to its high iron content. Food particles left on the pan can react with the iron, forming iron oxide, also known as rust. This rust can then spread throughout the pan, ruining its seasoning.

Use warm water and a mild detergent

Never use soap or abrasive materials on your cast iron as this can strip the seasoning and damage the surface. Instead, use warm water and a mild detergent to gently clean your cast iron.

Because it is less harsh and abrasive than soap, mild detergent is considered safe to use when cleaning cast iron. Detergent is gentler and less likely to remove the seasoning or damage the cast iron.

Detergents are specifically designed to remove grease and oils. Because cast iron cookware is frequently used for high heat cooking and can become greasy, a mild detergent can clean it better than soap. For more info, read our full article on why common dish detergent is safe to use on cast iron.

Dry the cookware thoroughly

After cleaning, dry your cast iron thoroughly with a clean cloth or paper towel. Make sure to dry all the crevices and corners to prevent rust from forming.

It is critical to thoroughly dry your cast iron after each use because cast iron is highly porous and can easily rust if left wet or damp. When cast iron is exposed to water, it absorbs it into the pores. If the cast iron is not completely dried, the water can become trapped in the pores and cause rust to form.

Rust not only degrades the appearance of cast iron, but it can also affect the flavor and quality of food cooked in the pan, and it can weaken and degrade the cast iron over time.

Re-season when necessary

It may be time to re-season your cast iron if it has become dull or has lost its nonstick properties. You can do this by rubbing a thin layer of oil onto the surface of your cast iron and then baking it at at least 425 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour. Check out our guide on choosing the best oil for seasoning cast iron!

When the seasoning on cast iron cookware becomes compromised or worn away, it should be re-seasoned. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including using high heat while cooking, using metal utensils on the cookware, or leaving the cookware wet or damp after cleaning.

When food begins to stick more to the cookware or the surface of the cookware begins to look dull or discolored, it is time to re-season. Another way to see if the seasoning needs to be redone is to perform the water droplet test: drop a few drops of water on the cookware surface; if it beads up, the seasoning is still good; if it absorbs, it’s time to re-season.

Keep your cast iron in a cool, dry place

To keep your cast iron in good condition, store it in a dry, away from moisture location. It can be stored in a cabinet or hung with a cast iron hanger.

Because cast iron is porous and rusts easily when exposed to moisture, it must be stored in a dry place. Cast iron can absorb moisture when stored in a damp or humid environment, causing rust to form on the surface. Rust not only ruins the appearance of cast iron, but it also makes it difficult to use and jeopardizes the seasoning of the cookware.

Cast iron can retain its seasoning when stored in a dry place, which will help protect the surface and prevent food from sticking.

Metal utensils should be avoided

Avoid using metal utensils when cooking or cleaning to avoid scratching the surface of your cast iron. Instead, use utensils made of plastic, rubber, or wood.

Metal utensils can scratch the surface of cast iron, weakening the seasoning and making it more prone to rust. Scratches can also form small crevices into which food can become stuck, making cleaning the pan difficult.

Metal utensils can also cause surface wear and tear on cast iron over time, making it more difficult to maintain seasoning and prevent food from sticking.

Do not soak your cast iron

Soaking your cast iron in water for an extended period of time can cause rust to form. If you need to soak your cast iron, make sure to do it for a short period of time and dry it thoroughly afterwards.

It is important to avoid soaking cast iron cookware in water as it can cause rust to form, strip the seasoning, warp the pan, and deteriorate the pan over time.


Following these steps after each use of your cast iron cookware will ensure that it remains in good condition for many years. Cast iron is a long-lasting and versatile cookware that will be a valuable addition to your kitchen for many years to come if properly cared for and maintained.

Furthermore, seasoning your cast iron with a high smoke point oil such as flaxseed oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil will help to prevent rust and improve the quality of your cookware.


An avid home cook and outdoor enthusiast. Sharing what I've learned in the kitchen and cooking outdoors to help you have a successful camping trip!

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