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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
412 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best stainless steel cast iron cleaners

Last Updated July 2020

In recent years, there has been an upsurge in the popularity of cast iron cookware. The reason is twofold: a “back to nature” trend among younger age groups and growing research that shows there are numerous health problems associated with nonstick coatings on pots and pans.

Teflon is the worst offender but by no means the only one. When Teflon is scratched, it releases perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) into the food cooking in the pan. PFCs have been linked to brain, liver, and thyroid problems in animals, but their effects in humans aren’t completely understood. But because of the potential harm from nonstick pans, more people are buying cast iron. That raises the question of how to properly clean cast iron without scraping off the seasoning. And why is seasoning cast iron so important anyway?

We have some answers for you. Our buying guide explains why seasoning is important and why chain mail, similar to what knights wore in the Middle Ages, is the best solution to cleaning cast iron. We’ve also provided several of our favorite cleaners to make your decision easier.

Stainless steel scrubbers don’t rust the way cast iron can, but leaving the scrubber in water for days on end isn’t a good idea.

Key considerations

Seasoning cast iron

At the microscopic level, cast iron is rough and bumpy. It’s porous and full of tiny holes. Those pores and holes expand and contract as the pan is heated on the stove and then cooled. Over time, those pores gradually fill with grease or oil until eventually, the pores are completely filled, creating a smooth, nonstick surface inside the pan. This is the process of seasoning the pan. You can also pre-season a cast iron pan with cooking oil.

Cleaning cast iron

Soap: If you use dish soap to clean your cast iron pan, the soap will break down the oil and lift it away, removing the pan’s seasoning.

Plastic: Plastic scrubbers and sponges are poor choices for cleaning cast iron because the metal is stronger than plastic. Inevitably, the plastic catches on the imperfections in the cast iron (the pores and bumps) and is torn off. Those bits of plastic adhere to the pan and then to your food, or they leach chemicals into the food as they melt, or both. Either way, you can end up ingesting the plastic.

Steel wool: Despite your best efforts, food, particularly meat and fish, will stick to cast iron. Many people swear by steel wool for scrubbing food off cast iron, and to a certain extent they’re right. Steel is the best scrubbing material for removing stuck-on food from cast iron. Steel wool, however, is so thin that it can tear and wear out. You need something made of steel that isn’t flimsy like steel wool.

Chain mail: This is where steel chain mail scrubbers enter the picture. They are strong and durable, so they won’t fall apart when cleaning your cast iron cookware. If pan-seared steaks are high on your list of favorite foods, then a chain mail cast iron scrubber should be on your list of necessary kitchen utensils.

EXPERT TIP

Clean your cast iron scrubber in the dishwasher.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Material

All of these cleaners are made of stainless steel, but there are several varieties of food-grade stainless steel, most prominently grade 304. Two types that are similar to 304 in most respects are 316, and 316L. They have better corrosion resistance and are stronger at high temperatures. The difference between 316 and 316L is that the “L” stands for lower carbon. The lower carbon content means that it releases less carbide precipitation when the chain links are being welded during the manufacturing process. The result is less contamination, requiring less chemical cleaning before it leaves the factory. Overall, it results in a slightly lower price for the product.

Soldering

Some of the manufacturers go out of their way to mention that the links on their scrubbers are soldered by machine rather than by hand. The main advantage is that machine soldering yields more consistent links with less likelihood that they’ll break or come apart.

Shape

Rectangle: Many cast iron scrubbers are rectangular. They look essentially like metal washcloths of about 8 x 6 inches. They can be used flat or folded.

Circle: Some scrubbers are circular with a hole in the middle. It’s an interesting design, but it doesn’t change the effectiveness of the scrubber one way or the other. These are about the same size as the rectangular models, though there are some smaller ones of 4 inches.

Mitt: This is actually more of a pouch than a mitt, but you put your hand inside it for better control over the scrubber.

Storage

All cast iron cleaners have at least one ring that is larger than the rest so you can hang it up to dry. The hanging ring can also be used to store it on a hook near the stove or sink.

The earliest examples of chain mail were found in Slovakia and date to around 300 BCE.

Accessories

Kitchen gloves: Gayisic Kitchen Gloves
Protect your hands with gloves when you’re washing cast iron with a scrubber. These green gloves from Gayisic do the job while providing you with the dexterity you need. Don’t try to scrub cast iron without them.

Seasoning oil: Barlean's Fresh Organic Flax Oil
There isn’t a lot of research on the best seasoning oil for cast iron, but what there is suggests that flaxseed oil is the reigning champ. Barlean’s food-grade flax oil is just the ticket for pre-seasoning cast iron pots and pans.

Stainless steel cast iron cleaner prices

Inexpensive: The low price range for these cleaners is between $5 and $10. These are smaller scrubbers or ones made of a lower grade of stainless steel.

Mid-range: The middle price range is $10 to $15. This is where you’ll find most of the cleaners, including mitts. Any scrubber at this price will do the job and last a long time.

Expensive: Above $15 is where you’ll find the best cast iron cleaners made of the highest-quality materials.

EXPERT TIP

If properly cared for, cast iron pots and pans can replace all the other cookware in your kitchen.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Be gentle. Don’t use a lot of force when you’re scrubbing cast iron cookware or you could scratch the cast iron.
  • Use the cleaner on other cookware, too. These stainless steel scrubbers can be used on glassware, pizza stones, baking sheets, waffle makers, Dutch ovens, and a whole host of other cookware.
  • Don’t use soap. Scrub your cast iron pans under hot water, preferably while the pan is still warm.

Other products we considered

Don’t see what you need in our matrix? We also like the Efaithtek Cast Iron Cleaner. The links on the 8 x 6-inch scrubber are made with type 316L stainless steel. It has a hanging ring on one corner. After using it to clean your cast iron pots and pans, toss it in the dishwasher to clean.

We also like the Washieldz Cast Iron Skillet Cleaner. It’s handcrafted from food-grade stainless steel with machine-soldered links. It’s also 8 x 6 inches with a hanging ring for when it's not in use.

On a lighter note, one customer reported using a cast iron cleaner mitt as an eye-catching smartphone holder. Add one to your costume if you’re going to a Renaissance Fair.

FAQ

Q. Should I soak my cast iron pans before cleaning them?
A.
No. Cast iron is subject to rust. The scrubber will clean the pan without any presoaking.

Q. Will the cast iron cleaner scrub off the seasoning on my pans?
A.
Yes and no. If the seasoning is new or hasn’t hardened enough, it can be scraped off. If it’s older and bonded to the metal, the scrubber won’t harm it.

Q. Why is seasoning important to cleaning cast iron?
A.
Seasoning fills in the tiny pores in the cast iron that the scrubber can’t reach.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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