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Can't get my Le Creuset interior clean

Hey there,
Hoping that one of you lovely people can help me out! I have a 7.25 quart enameled Le Creuset Dutch oven. I've been using it for almost 5 years, it's pretty much the first pot I ever purchased when my husband and I moved out on our own. It's the kiwi color, which is discontinued, and it goes so nice in our kitchen (I leave it out on the stove) that I'd hate to replace it.

I've attached an image of this white stain - no matter what I do, I can't get it out. It feels kind of scratchy when you touch it not smooth like the rest of the pan. I had burnt the bottom a few weeks ago, and used baking soda/water solution - my thinking was that it's baking soda, but wouldn't that come off with repeated washings? I also tried the whole boiling-vinegar thing (my sinuses didn't love it, and it didn't work). I also tried Magic Eraser, no dice. It also isn't as non-stick as it used to be, not just in that spot but in general. Could it be I damaged or eroded the enamel somehow? And, after all is said and done, is this pot still OK to use? I can deal with it not being a beauty queen, the food'll cover up the bottom, but I use it 2-3x/week, it's my favorite.

Would appreciate any and all thoughts- I'm driving my husband nuts obsessing on this pan but I love it and don't want to let it go! Thank you SO much!

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  1. Enameled interiors do discolor. It doesn't mean you can't use it. Looks like it was stained by the food you burnt. Try a plastic-net scrubby (or wad up a plastic mesh onion bag) and Bar Keeper's Friend or a cleaner made for glass/ceramic stovetops. Make a paste, use the scrubby, and leave the paste there for an hour or so. Scrub again and rinse. This should help. Use the pot repeatedly to boil things or make thin soups - each time, a little more of the stain will go away, but it will probably never look like new. You can certainly still use it for searing and thicker contents but those won't help lift the stain.

    6 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      Reply to anyone: From Le Creuset many years ago:

      Let stand with a 50% bleach solution until stains lighten to original color. Rinse.

      TO GET THE SHINE BACK, rub with a little vinegar.


        1. re: Rita1

          The shine may come back briefly, but I discovered too late that bleaching causes damage to the finish.

          I finally bought a Staub with a black interior instead.

          1. re: mcf

            I have been using diluted bleach intermittently for years and my LeC looks like new!

            1. re: josephnl

              my husband always bleaches our Le Creuset when we have a burn on or other persistent stain. Im talking 30 years. It works fine.

              1. re: jen kalb

                I wasn't that fortunate, maybe becuase I used the harsh and also useless LC cleaner first.

      1. I think the answer is you can't get it out. And I'd take a sizable bet that anyone here who has LC has stained interiors.

        Elsewhere on Chow is a review of Staub that presents its black interior as a disadvantage. I disagree.

        Happily, your LC will still be pretty sitting out and it will function just as well as ever.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rainey

          Thank you both so much! Honestly I was worried because it has a different texture over that spot than the rest of the pan... Was worried we somehow took the damn enamel off. I know people have LC for years and years, and it is supposed to be more on the side of indestructible vs. not, but I'm good at testing claims like that. Thanks again!

        2. I've had some success with a paste of peroxide and baking soda, depends on the severity of the stain. In essence, I have always expected staining on enameled pots after a time.however I've also had LC pots where the enamel has sort of eroded (for lack of a better word) and find I have to be more heat careful because stuff tends to stick in those spots.
          Now if LC could come up with a lighter pot with the same gr8 cooking ability. Sometimes I need a bodybuilder just to get that pot on the stove!!!

          1. well, I always put in water with a bit of bleach and let it sit. Always goes away and I haven't seen in harm to the interior at all, and I've been doing it for years with my five LC pots.

            There may be a good reason *not* to do this, but I haven't discovered one yet.

            1. There's a terrific thread on this exact topic over on Food52. See http://food52.com/hotline/4466-what-s...

              I will also note that, in my efforts to clean the polymerized brown spatters and drips on the exteriors and interiors of my two LC pots (Dutch oven and buffet pan), I bought a copper mesh cloth from Amazon made by German company Burstenhaus Redecker, solely on the strength of a commenter who recommended it for cleaning LC. I was loathe to try it, fearing it would scratch, but it absolutely doesn't, copper is softer than ceramic. It required elbow grease (and water, but nothing else) but got the pans sparkling like new (though interior bottom is still discolored, and I'm going to try the hydrogen peroxide-baking soda trick or enzyme dishwasher tablets for that).

              Copper cloth: http://www.amazon.com/Bürstenhaus-Red...

              1 Reply
              1. re: adean

                Thank you for the link! My concern is more the white spot vs. the rest of the pan - I was worried the white spot meant that I'd somehow went through the protective coating when I (and my husband, who isn't afraid of elbow grease) did try cleaning it, and had gotten at the enamel. I'll get that cloth for future scrubbing though!

              2. Bleach...just cover the bottom and let sit overnight.

                It won't get it all out, but it should help.

                1. A solution of Oxyclean has worked wonders in mine. Just rinse extremely well afterward. I seriously doubt that stuff is food safe.

                  1. ok, I have an un untested idea but I think it will work. I work for a coffee company and I use a product called Purocaf. It is used for cleaning espresso parts from coffee stained items. Of course it is food safe as it is made to work on portafilters and group heads. I use it at home on my porcelain sink and it takes all the stains out if it with just a light scrub and soak in really hot water.

                    1. Too bad the vinegar didn't work for you. One way to try this method without the strong smell would be to cook a dish that includes vinegar/acidic liquids.

                      I've had luck with cooking a vinegar based dish in my Le Creuset to clean it out - Chicken Adobo.

                      Mine wasn't as stained as yours, but cooking the Adobo did eliminate what stains I had.

                      1. I know LC sells a cleaner for its cookware. Have you tried it?

                        1. Try using soft scrub with bleach. Wet the stain and put a light layer of soft scrub around the entire stain. Let it soak for a little while. Then scrub with hot water. This always works for me.

                          1. Bleach (diluted) is probably the most effective household cleaning solution for stained enameled cast iron cookware. However, it also seems most damaging as well -- in term of roughing the enameled surface.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              The bleach really does help. As to wearing the enamel itself, we only use bleach every now & then (maybe every few months..."maybe"). The interior color of a cooking vessel really doesn't bother me that much. LoL

                              1. re: JayL

                                I have tried many things with my enameled cast iron. Vinegar overnight with low heat, baking soda overnight with low night, Bar Keeper Friends'....etc. Nothing was as effective as the diluted bleach in removing the stain. It was most effective. But it probably was most damaging too. The enameled surface while looked very white and clean, it also started to lose its gloss and evenly got roughen up.

                                I would advise anyone who resort to use the bleach to only do so occasionally, but not regularly.

                                I also agree with you that one should not worry too much about the interior color of a cooking vessel. If the interior appearance is very important, then enameled cast iron should not be the first surface. Try stainless steel interior surface.

                            2. I have 2 LeC Dutch ovens that I've had for about 25 years. I use 1 of them at least weekly. They look pretty much new…perhaps very minimally stained inside. There are 2 things that I think have kept them this way. 1) I never put them on a flame that is more than medium/low. If you are patient in allowing the pot heat up, it will get plenty hot enough to sear meats, etc. And once everything is cooking, I either put them on a simmer flame, or in the oven. A high and very hot flame will damage LeC. 2) About once a year, I put about a half inch of Clorox bleach into the oven, and let it sit overnight. This pretty much gets rid of any discoloration (I need to do it now!). I take Chemicalkinetics warning that bleach can damage the surface, but have been doing it ~1x/year for many years, and my ovens look pretty much like new!

                              1. Try using Dip-It, the product for cleaning coffeemakers, per the instructions on the package. It whitens the interiors of my Le Creuset dutch ovens.

                                1. Oven cleaner, but it is harsh, perhaps a unenameled as a result..

                                  1. For all my LC enameled cookware I use a cleaner made for cleaning ceramic/glass stove cooktops every time I clean them and after every use. Use that as directed, with a gentle scrub (type) kitchen sponge.

                                    Rinse thoroughly. Wipe dry to store.

                                    I have another idea if this doesn't work for you. Just Let me know.

                                    1. I would contact LC before doing anything else. Your description makes it sound like an abrasion not a stain.

                                      1. I put in about an inch of water and a dishwasher tablet and put it on the burner and allow to heat to near the boil. Stir to dissolve the tab and let that soak into the stain. I use a wooden spoon for stirring and give the stain a poke from time to time.

                                        1. A soak with strong solution of caustic soda will remove that discolouration. Been there, and it works.

                                          Read the instructions. Wear safety glasses abd rubber gloves. Do it outside. Very nasty stuff.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Robin Joy

                                            It may well be that caustic soda (lye, sodium hydroxide) can remove the stain...but saying that it is "very nasty stuff" may be an understatement. Lye causes the most serious and difficult to treat burns of the eye. Indeed, most ocular lye burns result in blindness of the involved eye. Please...if anyone decides to use lye to clean anything, use the utmost in extreme caution. To me, I would much prefer seeing if LeC will replace it, or even buying a new one rather than trying lye.

                                          2. Since you said that the white stain is a different, rougher texture than the rest of the enamel, there are only 2 possibilities:

                                            1. The stain is residue of something.
                                            2. The enamel has been damaged in that area.

                                            Unfortunately, number 2 is by far the most likely, considering that white (sand color actually) is the underlying color of the enamel. Le Creuset has 3 layers of enamel; the first is clear, the second, which is only applied to the interior of the pan, is sand colored (close to white), and the third is the exterior color, which is then vitrified in a high temperature (~1470 F) oven.

                                            As for the possibility of it being residue of something, I don't know of anything in this context that would leave a white residue stuck on that would be difficult to remove. Baking soda residue, for example, would rinse right off with water. I've only ever seen residue get stuck on a pan because it got "burned on", in which case it is always black or dark.

                                            1. I use a recipe of 1 cup bleach one cup water and one cup baking soda. Heat 15 minutes in ppot. It will be clean and nice. Also use to relab my non stick stuff. So it can be 1/2 c of all three things. But someone else said lower the heat on you LeC and I agree with that.

                                              1. I just tried katz66's suggestion of equal parts water, bleach, and baking soda with a couple of Le Creuset pots that contained some browning on the interior bottom. I tried one with the baking soda and one without and found that the pot without the soda cleaned the brown stain as well as the one with the soda. I did heat the 50-50 bleach/water solution to a bare simmer, and as katz66 suggests, 15 minutes did do the job nicely.

                                                I rinsed the pots and applied some white vinegar to help restore the shine. Next, I'll try not heating the bleach solution to see if that is as effective as the hot mixture.
                                                Now, HERE IS WHAT THE LE CREUSET WEBSITE HAS TO SAY:

                                                There are brown marks on the inside of my pot. How do I remove them?

                                                For normal wear-and-tear, Le Creuset offers cast iron and stainless steel cookware cleaners. To prevent staining, use only medium or low heat settings. However, stains will occur with use, and we recommend filling a pot with one part enzyme laundry detergent and three parts water. Boil for ten minutes, let cool and discard solution. Wash the pot with regular dish detergent, rinse and dry. To restore your pot’s sheen, apply a light coat of white vinegar.

                                                1. I don't know if this will work with enameled cast iron, and no one else has mentioned this, but it has worked magic with old stains in vintage coffee cups, for example, and seems completely harmless. I just put enough really hot water in any vessel to cover the offending stains, and add one or more Efferdent tablets . Leave overnight—stains are gone!

                                                  1. Most (but not all) of the replies, including mine, seem to have rather missed the point that it is the white patch the OP is concerned about, not the brown discolouration. I'd guess that the enamel is damaged, and sadly it's curtains for the pot.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                      1. re: Robin Joy

                                                        Agreed that the enamel is likely damaged but I would guess the pot has a long, if somewhat blemished, life ahead of it. Minor damage to the enamel is not so bad in an LC pot - its just porcelain and iron underneath - nothing toxic or dangerous. That area may stain more and be less than pretty, maybe stick a little, but the pot should still perform well. 2 of the biggest workhorses in my kitchen are battered old enamel cast iron Dutch ovens with worn stained and pitted enamel - they are ugly as sin but they do a great job and get more use than my pretty blue new LC mainly because there are no worries about "hurting" them with stains or burns. Kitchen equipment are tools just like those hanging in your garage - pretty is nice, but performance matters most. If LC wont replace the pot and it still works then keep using it.

                                                        1. re: JTPhilly

                                                          Agree completely, but I bet LeC will either replace the oven for free, or for a very nominal charge.

                                                          1. re: josephnl

                                                            Had a similar looking 5.5 quart round and it's 90 bucks for a new one.

                                                            Mine still works fine, but the paranoid part of me won't use it when cooking for my SIL with celiacs, just worried about those random gluten particles out there. But for us day to day, works just fine. And since I've already "ruined" it, the stick blender now goes in there for soups. Carefully

                                                      2. krystinamarie, this is from the Le Creuset website in their FAQs (http://cookware.lecreuset.com/cookwar...), and although it concerns a chip in the enamel, it might also apply to a possible manufacturing defect in the interior finish. You could contact them for further information:
                                                        If we determine the chip to result from a workmanship error, we will replace the piece free of cost; if it is the result of misuse, we will offer you a new piece at a discounted price. Send the piece to:
                                                        Returns Department

                                                        Le Creuset of America
                                                        114 Bob Gifford Blvd.
                                                        Early Branch, SC 29916

                                                        1. Tips from Le Creuset for the use of the Dutch/French ovens that run counter to current searing methods (I thought I would pass this on FYI). I received this information today from Customer Service after I asked about searing meats when they recommend only medium heat as the highest one should use. They replied:

                                                          "For searing, you would need to lightly coat the interior with some type of vegetable or high burn oil BEFORE heating the pan. If the pan is heated before adding the oil this will and can damage the enamel interior. Using medium heat is equivalent to using high with other cookware lines therefore this setting will be hot enough for this type of cooking." - Customer Service

                                                          I just now emailed a question about whether the Company has addressed Jim Lahey's no-knead-artisan bread technique where a proofed dough ball is dropped into a Dutch oven preheated in a 450°F oven and baked for 45 to 60 minutes with no oil whatsoever. Will let you know if I hear anything further.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Rita1

                                                            For those who bake bread in their Dutch ovens, from Le Creuset Customer Service (very nice people):

                                                            " If you want to use the cookware for bread recipes and have the Signature or stainless steel knob we would recommend at least placing water in the vessel while it is heating so that the pan is not being heated dried. Heating dry, will damage the enamel."

                                                          2. As others have said, it's likely that the enamel has been compromised. Send the pot back to Le Creuset and hopefully they'll take care of it by replacing it for you without forcing you to pay for a new one. I replaced a 6 3/4 LC oval dutch oven that developed a chip in it last year mysteriously, and they sent me a replacement, which actually turned out to be a slightly better upgrade than the original version that I had. Since I had a LC factory store near me, I asked if I could exchange the replacement for the color/style that I had originally. I ended up with about $100+ in extras (after shipping costs) because of the difference in price between the original and the newer version.

                                                            1. Try cooking some cranberries in it. It certainly has a great cleansing effect on stainless steel.

                                                              1. I have two Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovens. I wrote and asked them if Oxyclean was Ok and they said yes. I just fill it with water add a scoop of OC and put it on a low fire for a while. Let it cool and rinse in plain water.

                                                                1. I bought the LC cleaner from their outlet store yesterday. I just tried it and the stain doesn't look any better. And I used a LOT of elbow grease. The bottle of cleaner was $17. I asked the salesperson if I could return if the cleaner wasn't effective. She said no, but I decided to buy it anyway. Don't bother. I'm about to try the bleach solution as suggested on this thread.

                                                                  1. People insist on carmelizing meats for stews in the stew pot itself. This is what causes most staining. Sear in a pan (they're made for the job), cook aromatics, deglaze, and then transfer the whole kit-n-caboodle to your faitout for braising.

                                                                    The dark interior of the Staub is not a disadvantage. You don't need to look at the bottom to see if the fond is burned since the vessel should never be used for this task in the first place. Otherwise, a dark pan bottom is a distinct advantage when searing or browning since you can't see if you've burned the fond. One runs the obvious risk of deglazing and eating burned and bitter material if it is difficult to see it against a dark pan's background.

                                                                    In short, don't use your faitout in lieu of a sautoir/sauteuse. Sear meat, cook aromatics, deglaze, then xfer it all to a faitout to finish the braise.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: JustCharlie

                                                                      should have said that "...a dark pan is a distinct disadvantage....

                                                                      1. re: JustCharlie

                                                                        Is it really a "faitout," Charlie, if you can't "faire tout" in it?

                                                                      2. I would try denture tablets and soak over night.

                                                                        1. There's one big problem to not getting the "stains" out of your ECI (Enameled Cast Iron) cookware. There are small irregularities in the enamel of the cooking surface of the the cookware, and the stains are, at least to some extent, food residue. I found this out when I attempted to use my well-broken-in 8-qt dutch oven to make no-knead bread for the first time. As usual, I re-cleaned the pot before using, and pre-heated in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes, covered, before using. When I removed the pot from the oven I noticed that the whole outer surface was dark gray looking, and when I removed the lid, a big cloud of smoke and burnt grease and food odor came pouring out. Luckily I had a four quart, lightly used pot (non-stained) that I substituted and had no problems. Now my project is to salvage the 6-8 qt pot, and remove the gray stain and possible smell, taste from burning out all the micro particles of crud that usual washing/cleansing doesn't remove. I would recommend that if anyone is going to bake in their pot, buy a separate (possibly lower cost) unit and reserve it for baking. By the way the bread turned out fantastic! You can find the recipe in the NY Times archive under "No-Knead Bread"

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: samalyzer

                                                                            For those who bake bread in their Dutch ovens, from Le Creuset Customer Service (very nice people):

                                                                            " If you want to use the cookware for bread recipes and have the Signature or stainless steel knob we would recommend at least placing water in the vessel while it is heating so that the pan is not being heated dried. Heating dry, will damage the enamel."

                                                                            1. re: samalyzer

                                                                              FWIW, I've made great no-knead bread in a 4 quart heavy bottom stainless steel saucepan. it had excellent oven spring, looked and tasted really good. Cast iron is not needed, as I learned after reading a lot of articles on the technique.

                                                                            2. Hot water and Borax. Works like a charm!