Can Cast Iron Go In The Dishwasher? No – Here’s Why

Cast iron cookware is prized for its durability, versatility, and ability to retain heat and create a non-stick surface. However, many people are intimidated by its cleaning process, considering it requires special care and attention compared to regular kitchenware.

Some may be tempted to take the easy way out and put their cast iron pans in the dishwasher, hoping it will do the job for them. But is this a good idea? Can you really put cast iron in the dishwasher without damaging it?

The short answer is no. Cast iron pans are not dishwasher safe and should never be washed in one. Doing so can ruin the seasoning, cause rusting, and shorten the lifespan of your beloved cookware.

Continue reading as we explain why that is and give you tips on how to wash them properly and what to do next if you accidentally put them in the dishwasher and they rust.

Why Are Cast Iron Pans Not Dishwasher Safe?

Cast iron pans are not dishwasher safe for two reasons: the seasoning and the rusting.

The seasoning is the thin layer of oil that is baked onto the surface of the cast iron pan, creating a natural non-stick coating that also protects it from corrosion. This gives cast iron its unique flavor and performance, and it needs to be maintained regularly by applying a thin coat of oil after each use and heating it until it smokes.

However, the seasoning can be easily stripped away by the high temperatures and the harsh detergents often used in dishwashers. Dishwashers are designed to remove grease and food residue from dishes, but they also remove the beneficial oil from cast iron pans. This can leave your cast iron pan dull, dry, and prone to sticking.

Moreover, your cast iron pans may soak for an hour or two in the dishwasher, which can cause them to rust. Being made up of approximately 93–97% iron, 2.5–4.2% carbon, and a few amounts of other elements like sulfur, silicon, and manganese, it’s considered a porous metal that absorbs water and reacts with oxygen to form rust. When it rusts, it can damage the surface of your cast iron pan, making it rough, uneven, and unsafe for cooking.

Is Enameled Cast Iron Dishwasher Safe?

Enameled cast iron is a type of cast iron cookware with a shiny layer of enamel coating on the surface. Enamel is a glass fused to the metal at high temperatures, creating a smooth, colorful, and durable finish.

Generally speaking, enameled cast iron is dishwasher safe, as the enamel protects the metal from rusting and does not require seasoning. However, some low-quality enameled cast iron pans may have exposed rims that are not coated with enamel, which can rust from the edges.

As such, it’s best to check with the manufacturer if your specific enameled cast iron piece is dishwasher safe before putting it in one. Alternatively, you can wash it by hand using warm water and mild soap, as this will keep it looking and working great better than a dishwasher.

How To Wash Cast Iron Cookware Properly

The best way to clean your cast iron cookware is by hand and with warm water and a soft brush or sponge. You want to avoid harsh soaps or steel wools, as these can damage the seasoning or scratch the surface of your pan. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Rinse your cast iron pan with warm water while it’s still warm or hot. This will help loosen any food particles or grease in your pan.
  • Use a soft brush or a non-abrasive sponge to remove stuck-on bits. You can also use coarse salt or baking soda as a natural abrasive if needed.
  • Dry your cast iron pan thoroughly with a clean cloth or paper towel. To remove excess moisture, you can also warm it up on low heat on the stove or in the oven.
  • Apply a thin layer of oil to the entire surface of your cast iron pan, including the handle and the bottom. Use a paper towel to wipe off any excess oil.
  • Heat your cast iron pan over medium-high heat until it smokes slightly. This will help polymerize the oil and create a stronger seasoning.
  • Let your cast iron pan cool completely before storing it in a dry place.

Cleaning your cast iron cookware is not as hard as it may seem. By following these simple steps, you can keep your pans in tip-top shape and enjoy their benefits for a long time. 

For more detailed instructions and tips on how to clean your cast iron cookware properly, check out this guide.

What To Do If Cast Iron Rusted In The Dishwasher

If you accidentally put your cast iron pan in the dishwasher and it rusted, don’t panic! Your pan is not ruined beyond repair. Remember, you’ve got a tough slab of iron, and it can still be saved by removing the rust on the pan and putting a fresh coat of seasoning on it afterwards. Below are the basic steps you can follow:

  • Scrub off the rust using steel wool or a wire brush. You can also soak your cast iron pan in a solution of vinegar and water for an hour to loosen the rust.
  • Rinse your cast iron pan with warm water and dry it thoroughly.
  • Take the time to reseason your bare cast iron pan.
  • Repeat the process until your cast iron pan is restored to its original glory.

If you want to learn more about how to fix a rusty cast iron pan, read this comprehensive blog next so you can restore your cast iron pan in no time!

Keep Your Cast Irons in Good Shape—Without the Dishwasher!

Cast iron cookware is a valuable investment that can last for generations if cared for properly. And one thing you should never do to it is put it in the dishwasher, as it’s a sure way to ruin your pans by stripping away the oil coating, making them rusty, and damaging their surface.

While it’s true that cast iron pans need a leveled-up TLC when it comes to maintenance, they’re not impossible to clean. All you need is warm water, a gentle scrubber, and some oil. And if you ever put it in the dishwasher by accident and it rusted, simple tools and techniques on rust removal and reseasoning can restore its beauty!

Cast iron pans are a wonderful addition to any kitchen; they’re a joy to use and a pleasure to own. So, follow these notes to keep your favorite cookware in terrific shape and ready for your next cooking adventure!

If you want to know more about how to care for your cast iron cookware or discover new recipes, tips, and tricks, you can check out our other blogs on the Cult of Cast Iron. It’s your one-stop shop for everything cast iron, whether you’re a beginner or a pro.

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