How to Clean Stained Enameled Cast Iron

Dear Home-Ec 101:

I have one of those pricey enameled cast iron Dutch, err…French ovens. One particularly rushed morning while doing laundry, entertaining baby and vacuuming the endless pet hair from my carpets I let a chunky ragu scorch onto said pricey French oven. After several days of soaking I gave in and scrubbed. Now my cookware is stained and lacks the original luster I paid for. Can the enamel luster be restored and saved?!

Signed,
Stained in St. Stephens

Heather says:

The website for Le Crueset used to recommend soaking stained enameled cast iron in dilute chlorine bleach for several hours or overnight (1 TBSP per pint of water). This is how I occasionally clean the interior of my enameled cast iron, too.

I suppose some brilliant folks out there decided that if a little bleach worked well that a lot would work even better. Le Crueset has now changed their site to suggest using their proprietary cleaner. My theory is that this is their idiot safeguard.

If you decide to use the bleach route do not do some of the things I have seen while perusing random cooking message boards:

  • Do NOT heat a mixture of bleach and water on the stove.
  • Do NOT use a straight or 50:50 mix of bleach.

We all do stupid things on occasion, but let’s learn from each other’s mistakes. We’ve talked about how to use chlorine bleach safely in the past.

I frequently cook black beans in my enameled dutch oven and they leave quite the interesting discoloration behind. I usually ignore it for a few months, telling myself that discoloration doesn’t hurt anything. And it’s true, the discoloration of the enamel is harmless. Maybe we should just call it a patina and move on.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this! I've been so frustrated by the stains on my cookware and, frankly, a little embarrassed they didn't look clean. Knowing that you live with the patina and the patina doesn't mean my pots and pans aren't clean, actually takes a load off my shoulders. However, if I *do* get the urge to try to clean off the stains, now I know how. Thanks!
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  2. I find most of the staining on my casserole can be cleaned with baking soda paste and a bit of elbow grease. it's gentle enough not to scratch the enamel. What little staining remains I haven't been motivated enough to clean off, but if it irks me nice to know there's a possible solution.
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  3. I soak with dishwasher detergent — works well on most stains and/or burnt on stuff.

  4. I'm glad to know this too, as my Le Creuset would benefit from this treatment. It's looking a bit stainy after all the times I've used it.

  5. I second the baking soda for scrubbing. Gentle enough not to scratch. For truly baked on or scorched foods, put water in the pot along with some baking soda and simmer it for 10-15 minutes, then let cool completely. Proceed with the baking soda scrubbing. This has always worked for me.

    Wondering if hydrogen peroxide would work to remove or lighten the stain instead of bleach. Bleach is so harsh.

    • Hydrogen peroxide may work, it wouldn't hurt. I would stick to the type intended for use with food contact surfaces. You can find it in some health stores.

  6. Katie W. says:

    Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I'm in love with this product. Cleans my enamel cookwear beautifully, no scratches.

  7. Barkeeper's Friend is my solution! I put some water into the pot with the barkeepers and let it sit – my le creuset pot looks great again! Depending on how bad the stain is, i let it sit longer.

    • Caroline says:

      I second that! I use it on everything that requires elbow grease now. It cleans like crazy, and is gentle enough not to scratch. Does an awesome job on soap scum too!

  8. The saleslady at Williams Sonoma recommended Barkeeper's Friend, and they sell Le Crueset. I've yet to clean my enamel cookwear though (Martha Stewart brand from Macy's–much cheaper! :) )
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    • I am a huge fan of BKF and recommend the product frequently. This is one case where it hasn't been as effective (for me) as usual which is why I didn't mention it. That product is probably one of the most used in my home.

  9. I actually like the patina and stains on my cookware. I consider a "badge of honor" of sorts as, unlike many of my friends, I am actually using my stuff! :)

  10. Pratski says:

    Hi.  I would not use bleach on anything that prepares food.   I used a solution of Nappy Cleaner (Napisan or cheaper alternative) and it worked quite well.    I have a spa which I use eco-friendly frog-friendly additives and on the occasion when the filter went mouldy the person who sells the products to me recomended a soak in Napisan would work and not upset the balance of the spa water.   I consider nappy cleaner to be a safe alternative to using bleach or other chlorine related products.