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If you *must* clean your cast iron...

How should you do it? The pre-dishwash cycle is my house is AKA 'the dog tongue cycle' - obviously just rinsing after this isn't going to cut it. I generally wash these licked CI pans the way I wash most other dishes (soap, scrubbie/cloth) - is there a method that would be kinder on the pans?*

*not giving the pans to the dogs is not an option, they would be heartbroken and I love them more than my pans

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    1. There's nothing wrong with using soap on cast iron pans. You just won't get that perfect layer of seasoning that most people are after.

      Scrubbing it under very very hot water will probably remove most of the tongue slime :-)

      Or forget about cast iron altogether. The point of using bare cast iron cookware is to build a layer of seasoning that consists of fat build-up, along with all kinds of flavors along the way, which may more or less include the drools from your babies.

      1. I have a pretty nice layer of seasoning built up on my cast iron pan, which I use every few days. I generally swipe with a slightly soapy sponge after using and rinse a few times until there's no odor on the pan. I dry the pan immediately over an open flame on the stove and then reseason when the pan is still warm with a light drizzle of olive oil, wiped over all surfaces with a paper towel. The system works well for me. The time spent heating on the open flame should kill any unwanted bacteria.

        1. If it's greasy I have no qualms with using dish detergent and hot water.

          1. Having had a few dogs over the years, and observing where the tongues went, I would never allow them to lick my pans...It isn't cute, it isn't being a loving pet owner, it's just plain disgusting. Agree with michelleats on a sane routine to maintain ci

            1. I, like just about everyone else out there, get the occasional crusty stuck on food in my cast iron.

              For normal cleaning, it's a quick wipe with maybe some course salt. But there are times where I need to really get it cleaner and smoothed out again for it to perform it's best.

              What I do, in this case, is put about half to an inch of water into the CI pan (maybe more for your situation), put it on the stove on high heat and bring it to a rapid boil for a few minutes. This helps loosen up the crusty stuff on the bottom without damaging the seasoning. Dump the water out, and immediately wipe it down with a thin coat of lard or bacon grease to reseal it. ready to go!

              Perhaps this method will help sanitize them without the worry of scrubbing off the seasoning?

              1. As a dog lover and owner I can understand. My dogs would be heartbroken too, if they didn't get to lick the peanut butter spoon after it was used.

                With regards to the cast iron, if it's well seasoned you shouldn't worry about damaging it with soap. I rinse my pans under very hot water (as hot as it gets from the tap, at least), rub as much gunk as I can off with the soft side of the sponge and use the green side with a little bit of dish soap to scrub the stubborn areas. I seldom have to rub hard and never to the point that seasoning comes off. After that, I dry it on a low flame and wipe it with an oily paper towel.

                You shouldn't worry too much about bacteria on cast iron pans. Rinsing with plain water will remove any surface toxins that may have been produced and all the bacteria itself will be killed the next time you put it on the stove to heat up. If any bacteria can survive that, it deserves to live, as far as I'm concerned.

                1. I would just continue to wash with hot soapy water. Rinse and dry. I wash mine with soap and water all the time. Though not every time, it just depends. If the dog had been licking it, I would wash with soap and water. LOL

                  As for hard crusty stuff, if you didn't want to let the dogs scrub it for you, just put some water in the pan, but on the stove to simmer with a top on it to steam up the pan good. In a short time, all the crud will be soft enough to wash out. I sometimes will still use a SS scrub pad to get some of the subborn stuff off. Then depending on how much scrubbing I did, I might re-coat with lard a put it in the oven for a short time on high heat. If the scrubbing was minimal, I just dry it off and put it away.

                  Love the dog thing. Reminded me of my dad letting our dog lick the grill after he cooked out. The dog got all the gunk off, then he would clean the grill with soap and water. All the scrubbing in the world would not have gotten it as clean and shiney as that dog did.
                  Dog slobber is much easier to clean off than cooked on grease.

                  Thanks for the memory!

                  1. Soap removes the seasoning from your pan. Over years of use, cast iron pans become seasoned and are virtually non-stick. If you have to work hard to clean your cast iron pan, it is not seasoned properly. All you should have to do to clean a cast iron pan is at the least wipe it with a paper towel or at the most use hot water and a nylon scrubbie.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: vafarmwife

                      Soap should leave seasoning wholly intact. Dish detergent works on a molecular level by attaching itself to oil or grease on one end and water on the other, allowing the oil to run off of your dishes and down the drain with the dish water. Seasoning is carbon and if applied properly should be about as easy to remove with soap as baked on grease is from your oven. If soap could remove seasoning, there'd be no need for self-cleaning ovens. This has been my experience, but if someone knows the science in more detail please chime in.

                      1. re: hardline_42

                        I think you have given the best answer. The seasoning on my cast iron skillet is going nowhere unless I take a Brillo pad to it for an hour. All you need to do is use a green scrubber sponge and LIGHTLY wash the oil and food residue off the surface with dish detergent and warm water. Rinse thoroughly, dry it and put it away. The seasoning is still there unless you had nothing to begin with. Besides, all you need to do is fry something to get it back -- chicken, anything, with cooking oil. Good as new. I wouldn't be afraid of soap, and soap and water, with good rinsing, do remove bacteria left by Fido.

                        Actually, if the surface of the pan is so uneven and goopy that you are worried about that, what you have is a dirty pan, not a seasoned pan. At that point, I would be worried about other kinds of bacteria left behind by decaying bits of food. No need for neurosis though -- just wash it and rinse it well.

                      2. re: vafarmwife

                        Soap does not remove baked on seasoning, only the oil that was just used for cooking.

                        If soap and water would remove the baked on seasoning, we would be using that to clean off the old seasoning instead of baking it off, then scrubbing, or using oven cleaner or lye to remove it.
                        Baked on seasoning does not come off that easy. It can be worn off over time and scrubbed off if you have the elbow grease and time to do it. Sandblasting will work too. Cooking acidic foods will remove some of the layers as well. But soap won't even put a dent in the baked on layers.

                        No matter how great your pan is seasoned, some things will just build up on the pan during the cooking process. And it will take a little more than just wiping to get it off. Simmering water in the pan usually does it for me. But I often get impatient to get the kitchen cleaned up and I grab the SS pad to hurry it along. Sometimes I will reseason after the scrubbing. It just helps to keep the seasoning layers smooth and even.

                      3. Fanks, all. I am going to try the boiling-water-on-stovetop then drying it method. It is about halfway seasoned right now, although my parents have a perfectly seasoned 30+ year old pan that had/has regular dog-treatments. maybe i've run across some kind of magic seasoning solution? Ah, probably not.

                        The good thing is, there is never *any* gunk on the pan when the dogs are done with it - not a speck, not an atom, I just need to get the slobber off it.

                        Don't worry, Biscuitboy, I've now lived to 30 with no ill effects from letting dogs lick the pans. They get a treat, I get to skip the gunk-scrubbing phase. It's win-win.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: montrealeater

                          Healthy animals have less bacteria in their mouths than do humans.

                          1. re: vafarmwife

                            urban legend...dogs lick other dog's arses, and love to eat horse poo...hard to rationalize their mouth is cleaner than mine (well, I guess mine IS a bad example)

                            1. re: BiscuitBoy

                              It's not that dogs' mouths are always clean. Just that people, as mammals go, have exceptionally dirty mouths. I'd rather be bitten by a dog than a human any day, at least if it's a comparably deep bite. Deep human bites are a recipe for a long stay in the hospital on IV antibiotics.

                              Not that any of this is more than idle talk, since we're talking about pans that will be washed and heated before anyone eats off it again. (right?)

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                I don't particularly think dog's mouths are "cleaner." Like a previous poster, I've seen where their tongues have been. The thing is that the type of bacteria found in a dogs saliva is more likely to pose a threat to other dogs than it is humans (rabies being one obvious exception). Conversely, you're more likely to find harmful bacteria in the mouth of another human, but not necessarily more bacteria in general. Bottom line, be careful who you make out with, regardless of species.

                                1. re: hardline_42

                                  Fair enough. I don't know whether dogs' mouths actually contain any fewer germs than a human's mouth does (and it stands to reason that if the dog just got finished eating something especially dirty, his mouth will be dirtier at least for the immediate future). There's also the general fact that dog bites tend to be tearing, open wounds that are comparably easy to clean and don't encourage the growth of anaerobic microbes.

                                  My point was really just that humans have surprisingly dirty mouths, if by 'dirty' we refer to the likelihood of infecting other people.