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Cleaning enameled cast iron

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I have an enameled cast iron dutch oven that I just love, but the interior has taken on a stain from repeated red wine braises. Does anyone have advice on how to clean this? If it were ceramic or stainless steel, I'd probably just give it a good spray and sit with oven cleaner. (I know, aerosol oven cleaner makes the planet cry, but it breaks down things like this SO WELL!!) I'm afraid this might damage the enamel finish, though. Does anyone have any experience or advice?

Thanks so much!

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  1. Store it with the lid on and forget about it.

    4 Replies
    1. re: JayL

      Bleach

      1. re: JayL

        Be careful when using bleach. I have used plain bleach on my enamel cast iron cookware and it dulled the finish! Make sure you dilute it if your are going to use it and just let it sit longer. If you use the right solution, bleach is the best to make it look like new.
        Rinse it well and let it air dry and all the residue will be gone.

      2. re: JayL

        That was sort of my plan. It's just nice to have a super bright finish.

        1. re: JayL

          I'd choose this option too, however... I like to clean things. For what it's worth, I scrubbed a pot yesterday (pretty crusty, and from a thrift store) with baking soda paste (rubbing with fingers) and then goo-gone-orange stuff (with a plastic scrubby) and it worked wonders. Also, for the inside of the coffee carafe I use 2-3 denture tablets and it pretty much makes it look brand new. Before you do that though for enamel please do a test run on a similar surface. I don't want to be responsible. :) I think I may have read the denture tablet thing here somewhere a long time ago.

        2. Found on the Interwebs:

          We all love our Le Creuset Dutch ovens, but their light colored enamel interiors become discolored and stained with use. Check out this stain-remover solution!

          Can't get rid of stains on your Le Creuset-- check out this solution!
          Le Creuset's recommended stain-removal solution: 1 teaspoon of bleach per 1 pint of water.

          The outcome: The pots were slightly improved but still far from their original hue.

          Stronger, improved solution (ok'd by the manufacturer): 1 part bleach to 3 parts water. After standing over-night, a lightly stained pot was just as good as new, but a heavily stained one required an additional night of soaking before turning the stained pots back to blonde.

          Read more: http://www.slashfood.com/2008/11/03/t...

          30 Replies
          1. re: tanuki soup

            It seems to me that any person of a sound mind would rather have the residue of red wine in hanging around in their cookware instead of the residue of poisonous bleach.

            1. re: ToothTooth

              I wouldn't call residue of household bleach poisonous, only if you gulp it down straight out of the bottle. I like to clean with diluted bleach, it works well.

              I gave up trying to clean my Le Creuset anyway, used to use Barkeepers Friend but didn't do all that much to whiten really. No biggie.

              1. re: coll

                Well, bleach residue might not kill you immediately but I wouldn't want to ingest it in any amount if I had a choice. That bleach residue certainly won't help the taste or smell of the food you cook in that sparkling white vessel.

                1. re: ToothTooth

                  I guess that eliminates swimming in pools for you? (Not being perverse, just thinking of all the water I used to purposely swallow when I was a kid!) I also dip my fresh farm eggs in a weak bleach solution before cooking, just in case. For some reason, I love the smell of bleach, it smells clean. But pretty sure it dissipates very quickly.

                  1. re: coll

                    I think salmonella is in the entire egg, not just the shell, but only if the hen is infected.

                    I don't even rinse my hens eggs. The bloom keeps them fresh much longer.

                  2. re: ToothTooth

                    A dilute bleach solution is often used to sanitize kitchen surfaces, particularly in commercial kitchens (all those stainless counters, for example).

                    Bleach works by being a strong base. A bit of vinegar can used after the bleach to neutralize it.

                    1. re: paulj

                      I've been using vinegar to clean and disinfect lately too, especially on my floors, I know plenty of restaurants that do that to avoid the bleach smell. Works as good as expensive floor solutions I think.

                    2. re: ToothTooth

                      Clorine is basicaly a gas that disapates and does not last. A good rinse with water and allowing to air dry for a day or so and there will be no bleach (clorine) present.

                      1. re: Eric in NJ

                        I've noticed a lot of pinpoint pitting in the interior enamel of my beloved old Descoware Dutch Oven. Do you think that having used a bleach solution to clean it could have caused that?

                      2. re: ToothTooth

                        So how much residue to you think there is after washing and rinsing after a mild diluted bleach solution is used? Unfortunately the interior will seldom be sparkling white with use no matter how you clean it.

                        1. re: scubadoo97

                          There is nothing to worry about from the bleach, you rise it and neutralize it, and there isn't enough to do anything harmful. Think about the blind tastings where chlorinated tap water beats bottles water every time.

                          If you use a dilute bleach solution and leave it on a very low heat setting on the stove, the heat will make it work even better.

                          Main downside of bleach is getting it on your clothes.

                    3. re: ToothTooth

                      I'm with you, Tooth. I don't even want to breathe bleach in.

                      I used a bleach solution once, years ago, to clean a round oven, and IIRC, it made the finish less glossy. I wonder if bleach can get through enamel and cause some chemical change. I never did it again.

                      1. re: Jay F

                        I agree; I'd think bleach will degrade the enamel, however little. Between that and the fact that bleach is hell on the environment, why use it any more than you have to? I'd try baking soda and beyond that, just use the darn thing. Cooking stains mean cooking love!

                        Maybe a magic eraser?

                        1. re: Vetter

                          I haven't had bleach in the house in years. I remember leaving one of my newer LCs on the burner long enough to develop a nice crust of black, and I just soaked it in a mixture of Bon Ami and water. Between the two, that oven stayed nice looking--like new, really.

                        2. re: Jay F

                          I've ruined several LC pieces with bleach. If you look on their website they no longer recommend it as a cleaning solution. I would get a bottle of their own cleaner for stains. Bleach is highly alkaline and will etch the surface of the enamel. It might look whiter but over time it will become more porous and dull, and stain more easily with repeated use of bleach. I had used very strong solutions and boiled it and you could even see the iron under the enamel coming though in spots. I thought it was stain, but it was the actual darkness from the gray iron under the enamel I saw and they were just a few years old.

                          This was years ago and they were thankfully replaced by LC. Please be VERY careful with bleach as it does do damage. You do pay a dear price using it to get those interiors white again.

                          1. re: blondelle

                            Me too, I have also ruin one of my enameled cast iron Dutch Oven (not LC) with bleach solution.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              The inside of a washing machine is enameled steel, unless you have a plastic tub, and this sees bleach on a regular basis with no appearant ill effects. So do you think it's the concentration and or heat that is causing bleach to ruin the enamel on your DO? Just curious.

                              1. re: mikie

                                That is an excellent point about the washing machine. I don't know. I think that is a really interesting question. Obviously, washing machines are more than fine, yet it appears several people (including) has seen some problem with soaking their enameled dutch oven in bleach. I actually also heat the DO a bit too (yes, I know it is probably unsafe with chlorine gas release)

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  The dishwasher uses Lye. The active component in dishwasher detergent.

                                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                                    Just a point of clairification: when refering to a dishwasher, I will refer to that appliance as a dishwasher, when refering to a cloths washer, where chlorine bleach is commonly used, I will refer to that appliance as a washing machine. Sorry for any confusion with the clairity.

                            2. re: blondelle

                              blondelle, How many times did you use your bleach solution before you noticed damage? And was it just a gradual thinning of the enamel? I recently let a strong bleach solution sit overnight in my old Descoware oven and later I noticed a lot of pinpoint pitting in it. I wondered if I could have caused that with the bleaching. What do you think? Is that what you experienced?

                              1. re: Jungle

                                In my experience, I actually were doing low heating with bleach solution in my Dutch Oven. The Dutch Oven looked fine at first, but shortly later it depended hairline fractures. Very very minor visual fractures, they are so fine that when I run my fingers across it feels completely smooth. Then weeks later it depends a sandy surface.

                                I should also say that I have another enameled Dutch Oven made by the same company which I have never used bleach and that one never shows any sign like this.

                                1. re: Jungle

                                  It was over 20 years ago. Sorry, but I don't recall. I remember trying a more dilute solution but it didn't work so I used a really strong solution of almost all bleach not being aware of what it could do. I then heated it so as not to wait for it to whiten. A big mistake. I thought the stuff was impervious to everything. It wasn't!

                                  LC used to recommend soft Scrub with bleach and they do now recommend using an enzyme detergent like Tide. You call them for directions.

                                  1. re: blondelle

                                    "trying a more dilute solution but it didn't work so I used a really strong solution of almost all bleach not being aware of what it could do. I then heated it so as not to wait for it to whiten"

                                    Wow, I did exactly those steps.

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      I would think long and hard about heating up a chlorine bleach liquid. Chlorine is fairly safe to handle....UNTIL IT IS GAS FORM!

                                      As a gas the chemical Cl(Chlorine) gets into your lungs and eyes and mixes with the water (H20) and produces HCl which is hydrochloric acid. If strong enough, it will eat your lungs and a lot of the eye tissue.

                                      That and you don't want to mix it with ammonia. Ammonium Chloride in an enclosed space can kill you. Every once in a while somebody mixes the two to clean a toilet with, if not disastrous, then intensely uncomfortable results

                                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                                        Yes, I know. I wrote that it was a bad idea in hindsight:

                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7376...

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          I figured you knew. I just decided to make sure everybody knows since heating it would be logical next step if you were desperately trying to clean a badly soiled dutch oven.

                                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                                            Agree, agree. Thanks for getting this information out.

                            3. re: ToothTooth

                              You could literally drink 4 ounces of household bleach and it probably wouldn't hurt you. Not that I am recommending it.

                              Restaurants sanitize dishes on a daily basis with a light solution (1 tablespoon per gallon) of bleach and water.

                              I assume you are concerned about residual bleach taste but that is easily remedied with a water rinse.

                              I would be concerned about regular use with that strong of bleach. I would worry that the enamel could get damaged, eventually.

                              1. re: ToothTooth

                                Bleach quickly evaporates and leaves no residue.

                                Wikipedia:The toxicity of chlorine comes from its oxidizing power. When chlorine is inhaled at concentrations above 30 ppm, it begins to react with water and cells, which change it into hydrochloric acid (HCl) and hypochlorous acid (HClO).

                                So, to the guy below, no, you could not drink it and be fine. But, it does evaporate and leaves no toxin behind. I just leave the windows or doors open if I use it for cleaning.

                            4. You can lighten this stain by alternatiing wamring vinegar in the Dutch Oven and then baking soda solution. I would think warm vinear will be more effective for the kind of stains you mentioned.

                              The truth is that it is impossible to maintain a super bright white finish for these cookware. It will get dull. It will get stained.

                              1. I've killed a few I admit.
                                Usually it's Bar Keepers Friend.
                                A little water and it inside the pan, turn on and heat up, leave on the stove to loosen up crud and gently safely scrub with non ultra abrasive element.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: iL Divo

                                  BKF is a mild acid, oxalic.

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    I was delighted to find a 12" LC skillet at a thrift store this week - no chips, but lots of burned-on stuff both in & out. I managed to remove all the crud from the exterior (we're talking hours of elbow grease) yesterday. Looked like new, and I was feeling pretty smug. Today I tackled the interior, using BKF, warm water, and a soft scrubbie. It did a pretty good job, and as I rinsed and dried the skillet, I discovered that the underside (blue enamel) suddenly had matte streaks where the solution had run down over the edge. To say that I'm dismayed is a gross understatement.

                                    After coming to this board and reading the posts, I looked at the fine print on the BKF, which states that it may etch "older porcelain". This skillet is one of the earlier designs with the flat handle, but it has the black enamel interior, so I don't know the vintage. In hindsight, I probably allowed the drips to remain on the outside of the pan too long while I labored. Who knew? Hoping my experience will save others from making the same mistake.

                                    1. re: lottapots

                                      Lattapots, Barkeepers Friend can also dull the enamel if used to scrub too vigorously. You can't use too much pressure with it. I didn't know it could etch though. You might try a small buffing wheel on a drill instead of a bit, and some compound they use to polish up car paint or maybe some jewelers rouge to see if you could buff out the matte areas by hand. Of course all this might cost more than the pot :-)

                                      1. re: blondelle

                                        Thanks, Blondelle! I'll try one or both and report results. The etched streaks don't affect the cooking capabilities, of course, but I'd sure love to undo my goof.

                                2. At my other house I have a tub of English-made paste that was formulated and sold just for this purpose. I forget the name, but it works quite well (cleans well, with no discernible loss of finish gloss or depth of glaze. I think I got it at Sur la Table back when their one store was in Seattle. It has the feel of automotive polishing compound between the fingers, only thicker in viscosity. Undoubtedly a solvent+abrasive, but I have no idea what the grit size is

                                  That having been said, my experience with the light colored LC glaze is that, past a certain stage, stains don't really come all the way out, no matter what you do. But IMO, this paste makes it look as good as it's gonna get short of re-enameling.

                                  If anybody's interested, I'll report the brand, etc. when I'm at the other house.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    Would like the name of the paste, if it still exists. Am against using chemicals per se. Called the Pike Center Sur La Table and they didn't know the name anymore.

                                    The discoloration is just that. There is no harm to food (being cooked) or human health hazards, after the pot or pan is cleaned.

                                    It's psychological, we become aware or conscious seeing the discoloration and, "flag goes up," something's wrong!
                                    When we as humans perceive something (such as enamel staining) our emotions override rational thinking.

                                    So, since starting the quest of the name of the paste and being new to this site, have no idea where to look if you did post the name. I got here from googling "restoring cast iron enamel discoloration." Joined so could post.

                                    1. re: 1flaccidmember

                                      LC sells a cleaner that is specifically designed for cleaning their enameled cast iron. In my experience it gets the vast majority of stains out with light rubbing with a paper towel.

                                      http://www.amazon.com/Le-Creuset-12-O...

                                  2. Several people have mentioned using bleach, I'm assuming chlorine bleach (aka sodium hypochlorite), however there are a number of other bleaching agents available, hydrogen peroxide (the most common), sodium peroxide, calcium hypochlorite (aka bleach liquor), or sodium perborate (Borax) and dichlorodimethylhydantoin.

                                    I don't have a stained pot to try any of these on, but certianly the hydrogen peroxide and "Borax" is readily available. I only offer these as possible untested alternatives to what appears to be a problem with standard bleach.

                                    1. Everyone is talking about the interior, but what about exterior staining?

                                      I've made probably a hundred loaves of no knead bread at 500 degrees, and there are browned spots on the exterior that no amount of scrubbing with barkeepers friend (or the official LC brand clay polish) has been able to remove.

                                      Plus, I'm always a little concerned about using Barkeepers Friend on the external enameling. But hey, in the end, a spot is just a spot. As long as it keeps turning out perfect loaves of bread, I don't care if it develops zebra stripes.

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                        You can clean the exterior with spray on oven cleaner and a warm pan. I wouldn't really want to use something that strong on the inside.

                                        You could use a mixture of water and dishwasher liquid or powder on the inside. Keep in mind you are using lye so no overnight soaks. I don't think I would boil it.

                                      2. Just a thought. Has anyone tried using something like Oxiclean to clean the enamel? I don't know if it's toxic but it isn't clorine.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Eric in NJ

                                          Oxiclean- I miss Billy Mays. Very entertaining. I use the Awesome Auger he promoted all the time. The Mighty Putty, well that was just plain useless.

                                          I'm not sure how to clean enameled cast iron, all I know is I have a grill that has enameld cast iron grates on it, and me, not knowing any better used a steel spatula to scrape the grates clean like I do with my stainless steel grates on my charcoal grills....bad idea. eventually the enamel cracked and then the cast iron rusts. Wish there were away to get the rest of the enamel off. Guess I should have read the cleaning directions.

                                        2. Let it soak with baking soda and water for an hour or so then add vinegar. You could also use hydrogen peroxide.

                                          1. Last night I got my perpetually stained Le Crueset dutch oven out and tried soaking with water and a big squirt of dishwasher liquid made with Lye. I let it soak for 2-3 hours. It didn't help a bit.

                                            I then tried a 50/50 bleach water soak for 2-3 hours and most of the stains were completely gone. There were a few light stains left. I couldn't find or see any signs of the finish being degraded.

                                            I'm not sure I would want to do it on a daily basis but I plan to do it once every week or two.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                              Just wondering, has anyone tried denture cleaner? Just fill it up with water and drop in a couple of tablets?

                                              1. re: mikie

                                                That's a good idea. if you filled it you may need more than 2 tablets but you only need an inch of water to clean the bottom

                                              2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                Hank Hanover:
                                                having many colors of Le Crueset pots and pans, I do clean them with oven spray on the outside. have made the mistake of using it also on the inside for brief moment but damaged it way too much. the gentle enamel on the inside loses its' shine and then it's a bust. what I do mostly as I use my LC almost exclusively is to put however much water in the vessel as is needed. say you have [pasta sauce stained redness on the inner white] up to 3" of the top of the saucepan. you want all that stain out, so that's why that much water in to clean. in that case with that much water, I'd use about 2 T of liquid bleach. let it soak put a bit more heat/flame under the sauce pan just to boil the water turn it off and let it sit. most always, the stains are gone and I'm back to my white interior. that said, I'm sure LC reps would say that's a big no no

                                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                  Hank,

                                                  I use chlorine bleach all the time for my porous enamel/china and it works like a miracle. Your solution of 50/50 though is a bit strong as just a 1/10 solution will nicely do the job you are describing. By hitting it too hard you run the risk of embrittling the enamel and actually weakening the porous material to the point where it will start to "dust". A solution of 5% for china does a nice job without compromising any integrity. Kudos.

                                                2. I've had 3 Le Creuset pots for at least 4 years that I use regularly, and they still look brand new. When I'm done cooking and the pan is still warm, I pour water in it with some dish soap, heat it till the water is hot, and then clean the big stuff out with a kitchen sponge. If there is any discoloration or stains, they wipe out easily with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. The magic eraser also easily removes scorch marks on the outside of the cookware with scratching or etching it. I never use a scrubber on my LC because it can scratch the clear coating over the enamel, and once that is gone the cookware looks all dull and stains easily. Because I don't want to scratch the clear coat, I also make sure to only use silcone utensils. Another factor in keeping LC looking new is properly preparing the surface before you cook, it makes cleanup a lot easier. Before adding any food to my LC cookware, I heat the cookware over no more than medium heat until the pan is hot (if a drop of water dances on the surface, it is ready), then I put some oil on a paper towel and wipe down the interior of the pan with it. I've never had a problem with food sticking to the cookware, and like I said, my cookware looks shiny and brand new even though it gets used regularly.

                                                  1. The boiling baking soda method worked to remove the burnt on residue, but there were still stains. I used Oxiclean, one scoop in a few inches of water, then boiled for about half an hour. ALL the stains were gone . . . even the ones that had been there for years. My big dutch oven looks brand new inside and out.

                                                    1. Try using a paste of OxiClean powder and hot water. Apply to the inside of the pot and let it sit for about two hours, then rinse.

                                                      1. I just got my first enameled cast iron dutch oven. I look forward to years of use. I'd like to keep it in great condition. I read all the replies and here's what I gathered so far:

                                                        -one person used oven cleaner on the outside and that worked well and didnt damage it.
                                                        -using a WEAK solution of bleach to remove stains on the inside does not damage the inner enamel (according to one user)
                                                        -mr clean magic eraser has been used on inner and outer with no damage (scratching or dulling)
                                                        -oxiclean was used on the inner/outer with no damage
                                                        -preparing the inside with oil helps keep food from sticking

                                                        I would, additionally, like to know of any name brand cleaners that are good for removing stubborn stuck-on food, etc. Bon Ami is one of my faves but I'm not sure if its approprite for the glaze for the inside and outside of this cookware. I've also read that Demeyere cleaner is safe and works well. I'd like to hear from someone personally on their experience with Bon Ami and/or Demeyere.

                                                        7 Replies
                                                        1. re: appellativo

                                                          I try not to burn any food, and am generally successful. If I do, most things just soak off with water and dish liquid, even when it's pretty crusty. I use Seventh Generation unscented. I've not had to take any of the drastic measures you listed above.

                                                          I used to use Bon Ami, but I hated getting it in my eyes, which seemed to happen no matter how much I rinsed my hands. But it's definitely safe for LC. Oh, and you've reminded me: I use Dobie pads for my Le Creuset (and practically anything except stainless steel).

                                                          1. re: Jay F

                                                            What is wrong with Dobie pads for stainless steel cookware?

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              They scratch it. And as we have seen in other threads, that's an issue to some. It was to me the first time I washed an All-Clad pan, but it doesn't bother me anymore. It's cookware, not sculpture.

                                                              But the first time it happened, I was a little bummed out.

                                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                                What do you use to clean stainless steel cookware then? I assume something softer? Like just a sponge maybe? I just dish washer brush or sponge for stainless steel cookware.

                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  What happened is that I quickly stopped caring whether my SS was scratched. It's cookware, not sculpture. I now use a Scotch Brite pink pad with a sponge on one side and a scrubby thing on the other. Supposedly it's the least scratching of all possible sponge/pad thingies, but my new flatware has also gotten a little scratched. However, as with the All Clad, I'm like, "So what?" I think of it all as well-loved.

                                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                                    LOL. Just get a nice shadowbox frame and frame some immaculate flatware and hang a pristine pot on the wall to admire when you feel wistful for shiny utensils! ;)

                                                                    1. re: appellativo

                                                                      Mmm-hmm. That's about the size of it.

                                                        2. So what about a LCD Dutch oven that retains the smell of what you just cooked? I don't mind the stains so much - but mine is retaining strong odors/flavors even after scrubbing.

                                                          1. That was LC - damn autocorrect.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: debershell

                                                              Does LC mean Le Creuset? I've been using them for 30+ years, and I've never had one retain odors or flavors.

                                                              What did you cook that you can still smell and taste?

                                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                                Every time I use it, it smells like whatever I cooked last - I think I must have damaged the enamel? I've been using it for 10+ years - seems like the last couple of years it's been a problem... I have to do a serious baking soda scrub every time. I don't think that's normal, I don't have to on my other le creuset.

                                                                1. re: debershell

                                                                  <I think I must have damaged the enamel?>

                                                                  I doubt that. Yes, enameled surface is fairly nonreactive, but that does not mean favor cannot linger. I can read plenty inconsistency and frankly illogical assertions. What you have observed is not abnormal. It is entirely possible for favors to linger a bit on enameled surface, not as bad as bare cast iron though.

                                                            2. Try lemon juice and some salt and a little scrubbing with a plastic scrubber. That gets out over 95% of stains. As for stuck on food, soak the pan in hot water for about 15 minutes and use a sponge.

                                                              For the time and effort involved, trying to get out the last 5% of stains, which you could probably do with just the lemon juice, is not worth the effort.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: JohnJJ

                                                                Lemon juice !
                                                                I pressed half a lemon I had and I washed with my hands, it worked great. It was as you said maybe the last 3% where you can see slightly yellow residue. Worked like a charm.