Machine soldering makes it very durable. Can scrape off the grit without stripping your seasoning. Doesn't need to be oiled to prevent rusting. Works on the dirtiest pans without you having to bring out the soap. Can also work on a variety of other surfaces.
If you scrub too hard with this model, you can take off the seasoning.
8 x 6 inches. Affordable. Smooth chain mail links. Won't scratch cookware. Convenient hook for air-drying. Extra-sturdy design. Dishwasher safe. Great for cleaning up while camping.
Not intended for nonstick pans.
Handmade links. Constructed from a small weave chain mail. Does a good job of getting stuck-on food off your cast iron pans. Company offers a money-back guarantee.
The links on this scrubber have a tendency to start falling off over time.
7 inches in diameter. Works on glass and other non-coated pots and pans. Cleans off burned bits of food without ruining the pan seasoning. Produces better results than a nylon scrubber. Easy to use for cleaning and easy to clean when you are done using. Great for grills.
This scrubber can seem a little slippery in your hands when you are using it.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
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.
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.
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.
Clean your cast iron scrubber in the dishwasher.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If properly cared for, cast iron pots and pans can replace all the other cookware in your kitchen.
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.
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.
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