Let’s be honest with ourselves- doing the dishes is a chore no one wants to tackle! Having to scrape off old food, using a worn-out sponge, and getting pruney hands is unappealing, to say the least. Owning a dishwasher eliminates the hassle, but unfortunately, you cannot put every piece of dishware in a dishwasher.

You can’t put cast iron in the dishwasher. Putting cast iron in a dishwasher will cause it to rust, which is one of the many reasons why cast iron should only be hand-washed!

In this article, I’ll be explaining why you shouldn’t put your cast iron in the dishwasher in more detail. I’ll also help you salvage a cast iron pan or skillet that may have accidentally been placed in the dishwasher and answer some additional questions you might have.

Why You Should Never Place Cast Iron in a Dishwasher

If you’ve ever purchased quality cast iron pots and pans, you know they cost a good chunk of money. You also know these pots and pans will last you for the rest of your lifetime, and probably the lives of your children and grandchildren too!

However, to ensure this cookware makes it through the generations, you first need to ensure you take proper care of it.

While the dishwasher may seem like the best option to quickly and effectively clean all your cookware, it will do more damage than good for your cast iron.

Dishwashers Cause Cast Iron to Rust

Yes, you read that right – putting your cast iron pot or pan in a dishwasher will cause it to rust. But why does this happen when other pots and pans in the dishwasher come out fine?

This happens due to the chemical composition of cast iron. A piece of cast iron cookware is chemically composed of 93 to 96.5 percent pure iron, 1 to 3 percent silicon, and 2.5 to 4 percent carbon.

The high percentage of iron in the chemical composition will cause the cookware to rust when left in water for too long.

And if you remember anything from your high school chemistry class, you also know that iron is susceptible to oxidation, which is caused by the metal being exposed to oxygen.

What to Do if Someone Accidentally Puts Cast Iron in the Dishwasher

If you’re a parent, you know that sometimes when your child tries to be helpful, they usually end up making a larger mess (or they are trying to butter you up for something).

For the most part, kids do not have the concept of what can and cannot be placed in the dishwasher. So they could accidentally put the cast iron in the dishwasher and think they did you a favor, not realizing they just ruined the skillet or pan.

While it is an honest mistake on their part, you might think the skillet or pan is ruined forever, and you have to dock their allowance to purchase a new one!

Before you do so, remember that you can salvage the pan you already have! I’ll tell you how:

Salvaging Rusted Cast Iron

To salvage a piece of rusted cast iron cookware, you will need something with light abrasion. You can use a non-scratch scouring pad, steel wool, or a stiff brush. Roll up your sleeves, turn on the cold water, and start scrubbing away the rust.

Once all the rust is removed and you have ensured that all rust flakes have been washed away, immediately dry the cast iron with a paper towel. It is vital to ensure the cast iron is completely dry to prevent more rust from forming.

Once your cast iron has been thoroughly dried, wipe down the pan. You will want to use a paper towel or rag that has been dipped into oil. Wipe down the pan until no more rust is visible.

Once the rust is gone, you can re-season your skillet however you choose. I recommend using a seasoning spray and heating it in the oven. Do as many rounds of seasoning as you need to get your skillet seasoned to your liking!

Related Questions

So now know how to salvage your ruined cast iron cookware. But your inquiries don’t stop here! You might have additional cast iron-related questions, and so do others! So here are some of the most frequently asked questions about these types of cookware:

Q: Are My Cast Iron Grill Supports Able to Go in the Dishwasher?

A: No, you should avoid putting them in the dishwasher as they will rust just as a skillet or pan will. However, if your grill’s manual specifically says you can safely put them in the dishwasher, then (and only then) you can do so. The grill supports are usually made from the same material as the cookware, so unless differently specified, you should always err on the side of caution.

Q: Can I Use Soap or Detergent on a Cast Iron Skillet?

A: The answer to this question will vary depending on who you ask. Most people will say using a small amount of dish soap or detergent on your cast iron is fine as it will help remove any grease buildup.

However, many professional chefs will tell you that using soap is a terrible idea. The soap will strip away the grease and the seasoning you have worked hard to build up! They will also say no to using soap as soaps contain chemicals, and they do not want to contaminate their cast iron with chemicals.

So whether you use soap or not is up to your personal preference. If your cast iron skillet does need to be cleaned, water and steel wool are excellent chemical-free options for removing grease.

Q: I Own an Enameled Cast Iron Pan. Can I Put That in the Dishwasher?

A: Enameled cast iron pans are the exception to the no-cast-iron-in-the-dishwasher rule. Enameled cast iron pans have a thick and durable protective coating that keeps them safe from rusting in the dishwasher.

However, this protective cover remains as long as the pan remains unchipped. Once the pan starts to become chipped, it becomes vulnerable to moisture. Once it starts chipping, I recommend treating it as you would an un-enameled cast iron pan.

Q: Can I Use My Cast Iron Skillet to Store Leftover Food?

A: I understand that leaving your leftovers in the cast iron skillet might be tempting instead of breaking out the Tupperware, but I do not recommend doing this.

Keeping your leftovers in the skillet could lead to iron toxicity, which is caused when we ingest too much iron. When the food is left in the skillet, moisture will cause the iron to stick to the food, and when you eat it, you will be ingesting iron.

While we can ingest tiny amounts of iron without issue, too much iron in our systems can cause health problems such as stomach pain, joint pain, and fatigue, to name a few.

So please never leave any food in the skillet for longer than it needs to prevent yourself and others from possibly experiencing iron poisoning.

Q: How Do I De-Season My Cast Iron Pan?

A: While accidentally running your cast iron through the dishwasher can solve this problem, this is not a method I would recommend, as salvaging your cast iron skillet can be quite a tiring arm workout!

If you’re looking to de-season your pan, you can use pure lye to do so. If you do not know what lye is, it is a metal hydroxide made from leaching wood ashes or strong alkali. It is safe to use, but I recommend wearing gloves and eye protection to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.

Mix the Lyle per the instructions on the bottle with water. Soak your pan in the water for at least 24 hours (you can let it soak longer if you wish). Once your pan has soaked for the allotted time, take it out and scrub it thoroughly.

Once all the seasoning has been removed, you can start over using the seasoning and method of your choice!

Another method you can try involves using a heavy-duty foam cleanser. You will want to wear gloves and eye protection when using these products.

Spray the product onto the pan and then place the pan in a garbage bag for at least 24 hours (you can let it soak longer if you wish).

Once your pan has soaked for the allotted time, remove it from the bag and give it a thorough scrubbing. Repeat this progress, and your pan should be a gunmetal gray color at the end. If your pan is this color, then congratulations, you have successfully de-seasoned your pan!

Once all the seasoning has been removed, you can start over using the seasoning and method of your choice!


So as you now know, putting anything cast iron in the dishwasher is a big no-no. Educate others in your household and let them know about this so you don’t have to deal with the hassle of salvaging a ruined pan or skillet.

I hope you have found the article helpful for keeping your cast iron clean and well-seasoned for generations to come!

Related: Can You Put Oven Racks in the Dishwasher?

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