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Soap in cast iron pans

Help settle an argument for me and a friendly bet....

My friends says its ok to use soap in a cast iron pan.

I say no way...

Any thoughts?

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  1. Mine are extremely well seasoned. I always use detergent and hot water and dry over a flame

    7 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      me too. I have never had a problem with "ruining the seasoning" by using soap.

      1. re: Candy

        I have no problems with this method either. I only use soap on my cast iron when the last dish was particularly "stinky" in some way, as I have found if I don't use a little soap, the flavor/scent of that stinky food will show up in the next dish (old salmon or cumin flavored eggs - BLECH!)

        Note I don't soak the pan in soapy water, I just use the soap on a sponge. I also oil the pan after drying (over a flame) from time to time to keep up the seasoning.

        1. re: lisa13

          Me, too -- I just put my cast iron in the regular dishwater and I've never had a problem. I know you don't need it to clean the pan (I used to be a salt-only purist), but I just had too many onion-y pancakes.

          I also make sure to totally dry it, and rub it down with a little oil.

          1. re: lisa13

            I too have never had a problem cleaning my cast iron in hot soapy dishwater. I don't see how 'just hot water' is going to clean the skillet properly. I've had my skillets for at least 20 years and they're still beautiful!

            1. re: Candy

              Me, too. My pans love a little hot water and dish soap, as long as it is followed up with drying on the burner or in a warm oven.

              1. re: Candy

                I too wash my cast irons in soapy dishwater. Follow the directions for seasoning your pans and repeat whenever needed. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in disregarding the manufacturer's recommendations.

              2. Lodge Mfg.'s use and care page:
                http://www.lodgemfg.com/usecare1.asp

                Salient quote:
                "After cooking, clean the utensil with hot water and a stiff brush. Never use a harsh detergent, as it can remove the seasoning."

                7 Replies
                  1. re: PDXpat

                    Yes, never use a "harsh detergent", liquid dish soap isn't a "harsh" detergent.

                    1. re: cdavis

                      A long, long time ago this (never use soap) was good advice. Soap at one time was home made or store bought LYE soap. Lye soap is fairly caustic and will degrade the seasoning on a pan. So, if you are still using lye soap I would advise against it. However if you are using modern day dish soaps like Dawn, Joy etc...used properly they will not cause any problems. ~~ Lodge is just doing a little CYA.

                      OP ~ your friend wins!

                      1. re: Uncle Bob

                        Back when soap was made with homemade lye it was caustic. Modern cold process soap is in no way harsh. It is made with sodium hydroxide, and can be more or less moisturizing depending on what the recipe was intended for.

                        There is also no lye remaining in the soap, as it is used up in the saponification process.

                        That said, I use soap to wash my cast iron. I find that after seasoning using the flax oil method, I rarely even have to oil them after.

                        1. re: Becca Porter

                          I was under the impression that lye IS sodium hydroxide?

                          1. re: LaureltQ

                            It is. It's a pure chemical form though. It's not made by soaking wood ashes like in the old days. The strength of that was quite variable. It made the soap caustic.

                            1. re: LaureltQ

                              Well, I think lye can refer to a few different strong alkaline substances
                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lye mentions a few

                              I can accept that using modern dishwashing soap on cast iron isn't the end of the world, but I guess I don't see the point. I usually just use water or salt (and sometimes one of those bristly brushes people use on woks).

                    2. Cast iron is porous. If you use soap on a cast iron pan that is not completely sealed by seasoning, the soap will get into the cast iron and impart that taste to your food. Once the pan has been thoroughly seasoned and has a hard, impervious coating, using a mild soap to wash it will do no harm.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JoanN

                        Cast is only porous if the outer crust is compromised, the core is porous the crust is not

                      2. I can use biodegradable soap with few problems, if I use dawn I have to reseason. Depends on the "grease cutting" ability of the soap.

                        1. The nature of black cast iron is that it does absorb chemicals more than any other cooking surface. But, you asked about soap and some posters replied about detergent. They are 2 different things. Soap mostly is a natural animal/vegetable based product - and very gentle. Detergent is god knows what and not something you want to be ingesting. So, I say play it safe, yes it is perfectly OK to soak your cast iron in hot soapy water for an hour. Not longer because that patina is so precious you don't want to risk losing it. But a short soak with hot soapy water will help remove difficult burned on stuff. Avoid detergent - why mess with nasty chemicals getting into your food on a microscopic level if you don't have to. Then, after the pan is clean, dry it, place it over a low flame for a few moments until it's completely dry, then oil with veg. oil and place in a dry area of your kitchen to store.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: niki rothman

                            I'd never soak a cast iron pan. I wash it quickly and dry it quickly. Soaking is a good door opener to removing the seasoning and opening it up to rust.

                            1. re: Candy

                              I hear you. But what do you do when like everyone else, you're human and the phone rings and you burn something? I say soaking for under an hour loosens the crud and does less damage than the hard scrubbing that you'd have to do otherwise. I'm always careful to do a quick re-seasoning by drying over a low flame, rubbing with veg. oil and storing in my oven where it's always warm and dry. And it should be added only scrub with a plastic scrubbie and never with anything metal like steel wool (God forbid).

                            2. re: niki rothman

                              Soap vs. Detergent: good observation/comment. Thanks.