how to remove stains from enameled cast iron - TheNavavgePatch.com

How to Remove Stains from Enameled Cast Iron

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There’s only one sure-fire way to remove tough stains from enameled cast iron, but it’s not the one parroted by most people online.

Nobody tells me nuthin‘!

How was I supposed to know that enameled cast iron shouldn’t go in the dishwasher?

And how on earth would I know that I should be giving my enameled cast iron Dutch oven a gentle loving bath after each use, with non-abrasive cleansers and soft spa music playing in the background?

Where does one learn such things? How is this knowledge distributed through society?

Come to think of it, I was perfectly happy with my Lodge enameled cast iron Dutch oven (no Le Creuset for me, thank you very much – I don’t want to pay double because it’s French). I mean, sure, it had some stains…but it’s a hunk of freaking cookware fer cryin’ out loud! It doesn’t need to look pretty – it just needs to hold food and make it hot!

stained enameled cast iron dutch oven

Ahhhh, but then my babes started showing me some cooking videos and blog posts from some famous food bloggers. (Remember, we have wild dreams of maybe someday starting a food blog.) And in the videos and blog posts, I saw many delicious meals cooked in enameled cast iron (Le Creuset, of course ?). The one thing in common with all those expensive French stewpots is that they were clean. Like, new clean.

Now, I suppose it’s possible that these bloggers are so famous and beloved that Le Creuset is routinely sending an Air France 747 loaded to the wings with fancy free cookware for all of their American shills. But more likely, these food bloggers knew something I didn’t about keeping enameled cast iron clean and free from stains.

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I looked again at my Lodge, and suddenly, I no longer liked what I saw.

Filthy. Unclean. Shameful!

stained enameled cast iron dutch oven

My blissful ignorance had been shattered by those yammering wooden spoon operators and their absurdly clean Dutch ovens.

I brought my disgusting Lodge to the sink and set to work on those stains with a green scrubby pad and some dish soap.

Nada.

Those stains were like California squatters – they weren’t going anywhere!

Okay. Fine. No problem. It wasn’t the first time I’d met with adversity, and it sure as hell wouldn’t be the last. I pulled out my phone and Googled how to get stains out of enameled cast iron.

I was greeted by the Usual Suspects – the Holy Trinity of Cookware Cleaning.

  • Baking soda
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt

I’ve come to view those who trumpet the miracles of baking soda with a jaundiced eye. I’ve tried it on all manner of greasy surfaces over the years, and I just can’t get the results that the Squeaky Sallies online seem to achieve with the barest amount of effort. (And always with a smile.)

Still, I figured since I let it go this long without proper care, these enameled cast iron queens probably knew best.

So like a dutiful subject, I followed their steps to achieve a sparkling white Dutch oven.

But the baking soda method was a total bust. And the lemon juice and salt did nothing but pucker my face in dismay.

Then I thought back to my cast iron pan restoration post.

I’d used vinegar to achieve astounding results on a rusty antique cast iron pan.

How to restore and season a cast iron pan - TheNavagePatch.com

Perhaps vinegar was my ticket to the Promised Land of Pampered Chefs.

I poured in enough to cover the stain.

pouring vinegar into an enameled cast iron pot
pouring vinegar into an enameled cast iron pot

Then I covered it, set it aside and waited for the sweet vinegary magic to happen.

enameled cast iron dutch oven

The next day, I had look and saw that it was a rousing…

stained pot

…failure!

The vinegar hadn’t budged that stain one tiny bit.

That left only one thing.

I should have know it all along, really.

I should have started with it!

Yeesh, after all, it’s the same method I use to clean Handan’s teapot! I added some water to the pot…

filling a pot with water

Then I got my secret weapon from the laundry room.

bottle of bleach

I added about a cup of bleach – maybe two. When it comes to bleaching stuff, I always go really heavy…unless it’s clothing, then I try to be a little more moderate. After adding the bleach, I topped up the pot.

bleach water in enameled cast iron pot

What I love about bleach is that it lets you know it’s doing something immediately. Ahhhh, bubbles – the universal sign that something good is happening!

how to remove stains from enameled cast iron - TheNavavgePatch.com

I placed the lid on the pot and put it in the sink for safe keeping. There was a lot of bleach in that pot – it wouldn’t do to have it in harm’s way.

how to remove stains from enameled cast iron - TheNavavgePatch.com

I had a look in the pot that evening and saw a big improvement. But it wasn’t perfect. I’m not sure if it was necessary, but I dumped out the bleach water and mixed up a fresh (and even more concentrated) batch just for the bottom. I left it to work its magic overnight.

how to remove stains from enameled cast iron - TheNavavgePatch.com

Success! a 24 hour bleach bath accomplished what all the other “tried and true” methods could not. After 6 years of neglect, my enameled cast iron post was as good as new!

how to remove stains from enameled cast iron - TheNavavgePatch.com
how to remove stains from enameled cast iron - TheNavavgePatch.com
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59 Comments

  1. So Greg after learning that bleach works how often would you recommend? And what you recommend for daily cleaning of the pot when it’s used? Thanks!

    1. For me, the bleach method is for anytime the stains get too bad to bear. I’m sure with proper cleaning (no dishwasher) between uses and proper cooking technique (apparently, high heat is a no-no), my dutch oven will stain less.

    2. Do not EVER use bleach! Are ya nutz?
      Pour hydrogen peroxide in pan to cover stains. Bring to simmer and add baking soda and it will bubble the stains off. Only simmer. Do not boil. Could run a silicone or wooden spatula over tough areas. If needed. Works every time.
      Keep bleach away from ANY cooking equipment.

      1. Bleach gets a bad rap, KT. People don’t think twice about cleaning clothes in it and slathering it all over their homes. Cookware (non-porous) is no different. The bleach will rinse right off. I have tried the baking soda method, but it doesn’t work on the baked-in stains…at least not for me. Anyway, I’ve used bleach for years to clean all sorts of cooking and food-prep equipment (non-porous), and I’m alive and kicking. It’s a restaurants best friend, too. No food service business can afford a single harmful microbe to survive in their kitchens, so bleach or ammonia) is used to clean pretty much everything. In the US, they are required to used chemicals to sterilize. Bleach, Ammonia and iodine are the three that are approved, if my memory serves (obviously not all at once, though!)

        1. Lodge actually recommends bleach to get stubborn stains out of their enameled cast iron, bleach is perfectly fine.

        2. YES this is SO True. I use Bleach Everywhere in My Home. I only use white dish clothes, so I aways use Bleach for them too. I CAN’T STAND A SMELLY, DINGY DISH CLOTHE!!!! I also use Bleach on My Dutch Oven as well, I cook with Turmeric sometimes, and those stains are the worst, but the bleach works everytime.

      2. Bleach is fine, in very dilute solutions it is even applied to wounds. Simmer water and white vinegar afterward in the pan to deal with any residual odor/basic ph, and it’s perfectly safe. I’ve been keeping my enameled cast iron immaculate that way for years.

  2. Awesome! I’m going to give this a try. Our fancy French pot looks like yours before the bleach cleanse. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Yup. Bleach is the only thing that really works for me too. And I’ve the Mr. Clean erasers work much better than steel wool or other scrubbing materials to get stuck on stains right after cooking!

    Also, I had to re-read to make sure you weren’t saying you added bleach to the existing vinegar solution! That wouldn’t have been good ?!

  4. Yeah, never ever put cast iron cookware enameled or otherwise in the dishwasher. Just handwash it and it will look pristine. I would have tried a Magic Eraser on those stains. They work wonders and if you don’t scrub too hard, will not damage the enamel.

    My Dutch oven is a Cuisinart one but I do lust after a Le Crueset. Luckily my company sell them so I can get an employee discount when I finally decide to buy one. (I really, really want a set of their stainless steel cookware.)

    1. I’ll have to try those magic erasers. Never thought to use them on pots! Le Creuset on discount? Perhaps. But definitely not full price!

  5. I have a friend who is Australian with a Brits love of tea and her tea pot used to get stained inside from holding all that tea goodness. She used Purex bleach in it to clean it but used Clorox bleach on her clothes. She said that Purex and Clorox weren’t the same in their bleaching powers on different surfaces. Her whites were white and her tea pot wasn’t stained at all, so she may be on to something!

    1. I’ve only used Clorox for clothes, teapots and (now) enameled cast iron. Can’t speak to Purex’s power, but Clorox has never let me down! 🙂

  6. Thanks for the great cleaning tips!!!! Does clorox cause any pitting. Does it remove the “non stick” feature? Do you need to “season” after.
    What other pan coatings can clorox or pures be used on?

    1. The enamel coating isn’t like a non-stick pan coating. It is a special coating that doesn’t require seasoning and won’t pit from any chemicals I’m aware of. I’ve used bleach successfully on enamel, stainless steel and glass. I’d not use it on cast iron though.

  7. Ok, I’ve been collecting LeCreuset for over 30 years and absolutely none of it was purchased at full price. LeCreuset Outlets (one very near you) will help you and bargain hunter Hayden join the “fancy French folk”. And now thanks to you and Clorox, I know how to return it to it original beautiful state.

    1. I’m not against Le Creuset on an principle other than price, so if I can ever find it at a discount…count me in! I’m sure it’s just as wonderful as everyone says – I’m just not willing to pay $160 for all that wonderfulness, lol!

    1. Oxyclean literally turns into hydrogen peroxide when it gets wet, so the person who commented above about hydrogen peroxide would have also had the same experience.

  8. We have Le Creuset pieces and LOVE them! Their hard anodized non-stick pans rawk, and we have one round dutch oven and one oval dutch oven ( the lid doubles as a grill). All of them were purchased on sale at the weirdest places, like Nordstrom Rack and a local dress shop that was going out of business. Worth the investment.

    Bleach is also great for coffee cups to remove coffee stains. Just a splash with some warm water and let them sit overnight, then drain and pop in the dishwasher. They look like new.

      1. Less toxic to the environment, I add baking soda to my cup and rub with my finger until stain is gone. I try everything before using bleach, it is so toxic. If bleaching a stain on a garment, I dip a Q-tip in bleach and apply. By the cupful, NEVER.

        1. Hi Bev, I understand your concerns, but there really aren’t any negative ecological impacts from using bleach in a closed city sewer system. Bleach diluted with water breaks down into salt water fairly quickly, and the reaction takes place naturally (and even quicker in sunlight).

  9. Oh, how I wish baking soda and lemon were as effective as everyone says they are. My go-to is Barkeepers Friend Soft Cleanser in liquid form. That and a little elbow grease gets rid of all manner of stains in the kitchen. Have a great weekend!

    1. I know, right? You’d think they an perform miracles based on what’s floating around the internet, lol! Yes, Barkeeper’s Friend is excellent.

      1. I love barkeeper’s also. But I certainly have to wear gloves or paper towel.certainly does a job on my fingers. But works really great. It’s an avid isn’t it?

    2. We have three Le Creusets (one was a $5 yard sale find). I use bleach, but I find that Soft Scrub applied to the bottom, swirled to cover the offending discoloration, works great as well. I let it sit for a few hours and then wipe it with a scrubby sponge. One thing that works wonders in our coffee cups is denture cleaner. We buy a box at the dollar store and pop a tablet and some warm water in the cup, let sit and the stains go away quite easily. I haven’t tried those on the Le Creusets, but that might work too…

    3. Yes – I second the Barkeepers Friend recommendation! Keeps the enamel stain free, with a minimum of scrubbing….

  10. Greg, did you know that Lodge is headquartered in South Pittsburgh TN? Quaint little town. And I believe around the first week of April the town has the famous Cornbread Festival. That you need to check out, it’s awesome. It’s not far from Chatt. TN and nearly to the Alabama line.
    Lodge also on their website offers a cleaner for enameled cast iron cookware for like $25.

    1. I did not know that, and the Cornbread Festival sounds amazing! Maybe next year, Handan and can take a little road trip there! 🙂

  11. I’m so darn excited! I have two huge Le Creuset pots that I received as a Christmas gift years ago. For the last 5 years I have researched and even written to the company trying to find a way to get the stains out. (I have never washed them in the dishwasher.) They were no help.
    I will be trying this tonight. I’m so happy! It’s like finding the missing link!!!
    BTW… I lived in the town you live in from 1991 to 2000. When we move there the population was about 1,800. Lol.
    I miss that place every single day.

    1. Oh, cool! (about Suwanee and your two pots) – please let me know how your pots turned out! You wouldn’t recognize Suwanee today, Lori. It’s growing like a weed, lol!

  12. Yeah I was wondering how to clean the le crueset vintage flame orange pots that I bought at a yard sale for 10 bucks for 2. I used them over a campfire yikes until I knew how expensive they were. I love lodge cookware as it is decent affordable and you support USA made. If you find la coustance pots they are the vintage version of le crueset and they are made even better then the ones they make today. I think the reason they are so expensive is that my grandmothers pot is still in use today in my kitchen. Like Le coustance it was made in 1940 and then the company changed its name to le crueset and got a fancy marketing campaign. Gastrolux of America makes one of the best cook ware on the market. William food equipment store online. Thanks for these tips. I love my after the campfire new looking both inside and out pots

    1. Great info, Chris! I’d never heard of La Coustance, but you can be sure I’ll be keeping my eye out for it at tag sales and thrift stores!

  13. ok everyone who reads this post lets get together and give Gregg a Le crueset pot instead of coffee donations put a little money asde and give him a pot for all his wonderful printables and advice. I love these posts funny and informative creative and interesting. What will you Navages come up with next. Keep it flowing greatly appreciated

    1. LOLOL, thank you, Chris! I’ll be keeping my eye out for that Cousances you told me about in the other post. Now that I know there is an even-better precursor to Le Creuset, I won’t be satisfied until I find one! 😀

  14. I foolishly used my enameled pot to humidify our house for a few days. I then foolishly soaked it in vinegar overnight to remove the mineral deposits from our hard water. The vinegar seemed to etch the enamel or something – it’s not smooth and shiny like it originally was, and now it has marks on it from my stainless steel cooking utensil (maybe that was a no-no, anyhow).

  15. Greg,
    I am beyond the moon excited to share with you that the recipe you gave to get rid of nasty stains in the LeCreuset was like a miracle cure! Thanks so very much for your humorous piece, but more practically, for the recipe which unlocked 28 years of “yuck” stains from my massive stewpot from France. It was such an embarassment to me (although I had tried many ideas before reading your post). I have a nice set of various sizes and shapes of these beauties, but none had sustained the regular abuse heaped on the stockpot. Thanks so very much for a now pristine French pot!

    1. It might, Teddee. I know people use it to get rid of tea and coffee stains from mugs, so it certainly might work for enameled cast iron too!

  16. Greg, you deserve big credit for creativity when it comes to cleaning. I was fortunate enough to get a large Le Crueset Dutch oven (brand new, still in the box) for a whopping $18 at a silent auction years ago, and it gets used all the time. I’ve always cleaned it with baking soda, some Dawn dish soap, and a spaghetti scrub thingy that is made from walnut shells. (Available online.) Works like a champ, every time, and the spaghetti scrub can be used on so many surfaces without scratching. I don’t like to use Magic Erasers on any cookware (even the enameled stuff) because it’s basically the equivalent of 3000 grit sandpaper–at some point, it could scratch. But I’ve hand washed the pan since I got it and it has always cleaned up beautifully. Thanks for your always entertaining articles!

    1. I think my problem, Deb, is that I cook with way too high heat, and that leads to awful staining. I only recently learned that enameled cast iron should never be used with high heat. I guess my days of searing chunks of beef and lamb in it are over. Well, maybe not, now that I know how to get the stains out! Congrats on your auction win – that’s a fantastic bargain! 🙂

  17. I would never use bleach to clean my enameled cast iron – I spend “double” because the French le creuset is far superior to lodge-(just saying) I use hydrogen peroxide and baking soda and let it simmer for 10 minutes and it’s perfectly clean. Bleach is too harsh for enamel and never intended for cooking vessels.

    1. I disagree, Katie. There is no functional difference between the coating on a Le Creuset and a Lodge. If you were not to care for your Le Creuset, it would end up looking like my Lodge after a time. There’s nothing magical about that brand, despite its lofty price – (just saying). And bleach is not too harsh for enamel. There is no science to back that up. Nor is there any science condemning the use of bleach to clean a non-porous cooking surface like enamel. I’m sorry, but bleach is perfectly safe to clean with, when used correctly – meaning, make sure it’s rinsed thoroughly.

  18. The bleach/water method worked on my pan in bad shape but didn’t get it entirely white and pristine. About half-way there. I was happy for that but still frustrated. I have tried many: magic eraser; baking soda/water paste; baking soda/hydrogen peroxide; cast iron/porcelain sink cleaner; vinegar. The bleach got me the farthest out of all of them but I’d like more.