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!
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.
I looked again at my Lodge, and suddenly, I no longer liked what I saw.
Filthy. Unclean. Shameful!
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.
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
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.
Perhaps vinegar was my ticket to the Promised Land of Pampered Chefs.
I poured in enough to cover the stain.
Then I covered it, set it aside and waited for the sweet vinegary magic to happen.
The next day, I had look and saw that it was a rousing…
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…
Then I got my secret weapon from the laundry room.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!