How to Clean a Dutch Oven the Right Way

A Dutch oven is a versatile cooking vessel that can be used for everything from soups and stews to breads and desserts. However, like all cookware, a Dutch oven needs proper care and cleaning to keep it in good condition. With the right techniques, cleaning a Dutch oven doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to clean a Dutch oven the right way.

Supplies You’ll Need

Before getting started, make sure you have the following supplies on hand:

  • Mild dish soap
  • Warm water
  • A soft sponge or cloth
  • A plastic scraper or brush with stiff bristles
  • Vinegar or baking soda (optional)
  • Dry towels

Avoid using steel wool or other abrasive materials on enameled Dutch ovens, as they can damage the finish over time. For heavily soiled Dutch ovens, you may also need a non-toxic oven cleaner.

Handwashing vs. Dishwasher

While most Dutch ovens are dishwasher safe these days, handwashing is still recommended to preserve the seasoning and prevent damage over many washings. The heat and harsh detergents in a dishwasher can gradually break down the seasoning.

However, for enameled cast iron Dutch ovens that don’t require seasoning, the dishwasher is generally fine if the manufacturer approves it. Avoid putting uncoated cast iron in the dishwasher, as this will quickly lead to rust.

When handwashing, make sure to use mild dish soap and warm water. Harsh detergents can be abrasive and deteriorate the seasoning. Extreme temperatures can also damage the metal or enamel.

Step-by-Step Handwashing Instructions

Follow these steps for effective handwashing of a Dutch oven:

1. Allow the Dutch Oven to Cool

It’s important to let the Dutch oven cool completely before washing. Hot metal and water can warp the metal or crack the enamel. Allow at least 15-30 minutes for it to come to room temperature after cooking.

2. Remove Any Stuck-On Food

Check the interior and exterior of the Dutch oven for any leftover food or debris. Use a plastic scraper or brush with stiff bristles to gently remove any stuck-on bits without damaging the surface. Avoid abrasive scrubbing.

For food burned onto the bottom, you can fill the pot with water and let it soak for 15-20 minutes to loosen the food, then use the scraper.

3. Wash With Dish Soap and Warm Water

Fill the sink or a large tub with warm water and add a couple drops of mild dish soap. Use a soft sponge or cloth in gentle circular motions to clean the inside and outside of the Dutch oven.

Make sure to get into the crevices and underside as well. Avoid steel wool or abrasive cleaners.

4. Rinse Thoroughly

Drain the soapy water and rinse the Dutch oven several times with clean warm water to remove all the soap residue. Wipe the inside and outside with a clean wet cloth or sponge.

For enameled cast iron, double check that there is no soap left on the enamel, as residual soap can damage the finish over time.

5. Dry Immediately and Completely

Moisture is the enemy of cast iron. Thoroughly dry all surfaces of the Dutch oven immediately after washing with a dish towel. Allow the lid and bottom to air dry separately if needed.

Leaving moisture behind can lead to rust or soap residue building up in the seasoning.

6. Apply a Light Coating of Oil

Once fully dry, use a paper towel or cloth to massage a thin layer of vegetable oil, shortening, or cooking spray onto the inside of an uncoated cast iron Dutch oven. This helps replenish the nonstick seasoning.

Enameled cast iron doesn’t require seasoning, but you can apply a light oil coat for protection. Fully wipe off any excess.

Extra Tips for Stubborn Residue

For tough, stuck-on residue in cast iron Dutch ovens, try these extra steps:

  • Soak in hot water – Letting the pot soak 30-60 minutes in hot water can help soften stubborn residue. Avoid soaking enameled cast iron.
  • Baking soda scrub – Make a paste of baking soda and water. Gently scrub problem areas, then rinse thoroughly. The abrasiveness cuts grease without damaging seasoning.
  • White vinegar rinse – The acidity in undiluted white vinegar cuts through grease and food residue. Pour a little vinegar in, let sit several minutes, then scrub and rinse.
  • Salt scrub – For enameled Dutch ovens, mix salt with a little water to form a paste. Gently scrub stains, then rinse thoroughly.

Avoid using these methods excessively, as they can damage the seasoning or enamel over time with repeated use.

Maintaining the Seasoning

Seasoning is crucial for uncoated cast iron Dutch ovens to prevent rust and provide a natural nonstick surface. Here are some tips for keeping the seasoning intact after washing:

  • Avoid excessive scrubbing, steel wool, and abrasive cleaners that can remove seasoning.
  • Dry immediately and apply a very light oil coat after each wash. Fully wipe off excess.
  • “Re-season” occasionally by coating in oil and baking upside down for 1 hour at 350°F. Let cool in oven.

With gentle care and proper drying and oiling, the seasoning should last for many years. If it starts looking patchy, follow the re-seasoning process.

Storing Properly After Cleaning

To maintain your cleaned Dutch oven in optimal condition after washing:

  • Store in a dry place, avoiding moisture.
  • Place a paper towel inside the Dutch oven to absorb condensation and odors.
  • For stacking, put parchment paper between the pieces to prevent scratching the enamel.
  • Ensure cast iron lids are stored upside down or propped open slightly for air circulation.
  • Avoid putting heavy objects on top that could dent the metal.

With proper storage habits, your Dutch oven will avoid damage between uses and have a long lifespan.

Signs It’s Time to Reseason

Over time with repeated use and washing, the seasoning on uncoated cast iron can start to wear down. Signs it’s time to reseason include:

  • Food sticking to the surface more easily
  • Rust spots developing
  • A blotchy or dull cooking surface
  • Metallic tastes in food
  • Visible scrub marks or flaking from washing

Catching these early and re-seasoning will restore the nonstick properties. Avoid washing excessively or with harsh chemicals to prevent seasoning loss.

Benefits of Proper Care and Seasoning

Caring for your Dutch oven properly, including seasoning care for cast iron, provides many benefits:

  • Nonstick cooking surface – Well-seasoned cast iron is as slick as a nonstick pan, meaning easier cooking and less scrubbing.
  • Rust prevention – Seasoning seals the pores of cast iron, preventing oxidation (rust).
  • No harsh chemicals needed – The natural nonstick of seasoning means you can cook worry-free and clean with gentler methods.
  • Improved flavor – Seasoned cast iron imparts a subtle flavor into food, especially when used for cooking meat, soups, and stews.
  • Heirloom lifespan – With proper care and maintenance, a Dutch oven can be passed down for generations.

Common Cleaning Mistakes

It’s important to avoid these common cleaning mistakes that can damage Dutch ovens:

  • Not allowing to fully cool before washing
  • Using abrasive scouring pads or scrub brushes
  • Letting soap or moisture sit for prolonged periods
  • Placing in the dishwasher (for uncoated cast iron)
  • Failing to reapply oil after washing (for cast iron)
  • Using harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia
  • Storing while damp or wet

Following the proper cleaning and drying methods will help your Dutch oven last for many years of cooking. With some basic care, keeping a Dutch oven clean doesn’t have to be a chore.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I clean my Dutch oven?

  • Clean your Dutch oven after every use. Don’t let food residue sit for prolonged periods.

Can I use steel wool or oven cleaner on my Dutch oven?

  • Avoid steel wool and abrasive cleaners, as they can damage the seasoning on cast iron or enamel finish over time.

What is the black on my Dutch oven?

  • On uncoated cast iron, the black patina is the seasoning, which is essential for rust prevention and nonstick properties. Don’t scrub this away.

Why does my cast iron have rust spots after washing?

  • Make sure to fully dry cast iron immediately after washing. Leaving moisture can lead to rust. Reseason to repair light rust damage.

How do I clean stuck-on food in my Dutch oven?

  • Soak in hot water for 15-20 minutes to loosen stuck-on food, then use a plastic scraper or non-abrasive brush. Avoid scraping aggressively.


Caring for a Dutch oven properly doesn’t need to be intimidating. With the right gentle cleaning techniques and maintenance, your Dutch oven will last for years and years of cooking delicious family meals. Be sure to allow cast iron to cool fully before washing, use mild dish soap and warm water, dry thoroughly after each use, and maintain the seasoning. With just a little care, your heirloom Dutch oven will only get better with age.

How to Clean a Dutch Oven the Right Way

Cleaning a Dutch oven properly is important for maintaining its quality and lifespan. Here are some tips on how to clean a Dutch oven the right way:

Cleaning a Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Cast iron Dutch ovens require some special care to keep the seasoning intact:

  • Allow to fully cool before cleaning – never wash cast iron when it’s still hot.
  • Clean with mild dish soap and warm water using a soft cloth or sponge. Avoid abrasive scrubbers.
  • Towel dry thoroughly and coat with a very thin layer of oil to maintain the seasoning after each use.
  • For stuck-on food, boil water in the pot for 10 minutes to soften, then use a plastic scraper to gently remove residue.
  • Avoid bleach, abrasives, and the dishwasher which can damage the seasoning.

Cleaning an Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Enameled cast iron is easier to care for than traditional cast iron:

  • Allow to fully cool before cleaning.
  • Wash by hand or dishwasher using mild detergent. Avoid abrasive scrubbers.
  • Towel dry thoroughly after washing.
  • For stubborn stains, fill with water and boil for 10 minutes, then use a non-abrasive plastic scrubber.
  • Avoid metal utensils which can chip the enamel.

Tips for Stubborn, Stuck-On Food

For food really stuck on either type of Dutch oven:

  • Simmer water for 15 minutes to loosen residue.
  • Use a plastic scraper to gently remove food debris without damaging enamel or seasoning.
  • Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply to stubborn spots before scrubbing.
  • Soak overnight in hot water to help loosen burned on food.

Maintaining Seasoning on Cast Iron

To keep cast iron seasoning intact:

  • Handwash only with mild detergent and warm water.
  • Always dry immediately and coat with a thin oil layer after washing.
  • Avoid abrasives like steel wool that can rub off seasoning.
  • Re-season occasionally by coating in oil and baking upside down for 1 hour at 350°F.
  • If seasoning starts to look patchy or food sticks, it’s time to re-season.

Storing Properly

To store any Dutch oven:

  • Fully dry and wrap in a towel before storing to prevent moisture damage.
  • Avoid stacking without protection between pots to prevent scratching.
  • Store lids upside down or propped open for air flow.
  • Ensure cast iron pieces are protected from moisture to avoid rust.

Proper storage between uses will keep your Dutch oven looking its best for years.

Signs Your Dutch Oven Needs Re-Seasoning

Re-season cast iron when:

  • Food starts sticking more when cooking
  • Rust spots develop
  • There is a loss of the slick black patina
  • You notice scrub marks and flaking
  • Food has more of a metallic taste

Re-season right away at the first signs of seasoning loss to restore the natural nonstick surface.

How to Clean a Dutch Oven the Right Way

As a versatile pot used for all types of cooking, knowing how to properly clean a Dutch oven is important. Here are tips for effective cleaning to maintain your Dutch oven in optimal condition.

Supplies Needed

Having these supplies on hand will make cleaning easier:

  • Mild dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Soft sponge or cloth
  • Plastic scraper
  • Stiff brush
  • Vinegar or baking soda
  • Dry towels

Avoid abrasive materials that could damage the finish.

Cool Fully Before Cleaning

It’s crucial to allow a hot Dutch oven to fully cool before cleaning – at least 15-30 minutes. Hot metal exposed to water can damage the pot. Residue is also easier to clean when cooled.

Pre-Cleaning Stuck-On Food

Check for any burnt on food, especially on the bottom. Fill the pot with water and let soak 15-20 minutes to loosen stuck-on debris. Then use a plastic scraper or brush to gently remove food without damaging the surface.

Wash With Mild Dish Soap

Fill your sink or tub with warm water and add a small amount of mild dish soap. Gently scrub the interior and exterior with a soft sponge or cloth using circular motions. Ensure you clean all surfaces.

Rinse Thoroughly

Drain the soapy water and rinse several times with clean water. Wipe all surfaces with a clean wet sponge or cloth to remove soap residue. Repeat rinsing if needed.

Dry Immediately and Completely

Thoroughly dry all surfaces of the pot and lid with a dish towel immediately after washing. Allow pieces to air dry separately if needed. Any moisture left can damage seasoning or lead to rust.

Apply Light Oil Coat

Rub a thin layer of oil over the inside of cast iron Dutch ovens with a paper towel or cloth. This helps maintain the seasoning. Fully wipe off any excess.

Re-Season if Needed

Over time, seasoning may wear down. Re-season by coating the cast iron in oil and baking upside down for 1 hour at 350°F. Allow to cool in the oven before removing.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Don’t use steel wool, oven cleaner, bleach, or ammonia on a Dutch oven as these abrasives can remove seasoning and damage the finish.

Proper Storage

Always store fully dried and avoid stacking without protection between pans. Store cast iron lids upside down. Ensure moisture is fully wiped away before storage.

Follow these steps and your Dutch oven will provide delicious meals for years to come! Let me know if you have any other Dutch oven cleaning tips.