How to Clean Stained Enameled Cast Iron

Dear Home-Ec 101:
I have one of those pricey enameled cast iron Dutch enameled cast iron Dutch, err…French ovens. One particularly rushed morning while doing laundry, entertaining the baby, and vacuuming the endless pet hair from my carpets, I let 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

 

clean stained enameled cast iron

Heather says:

Le Creuset’s website recommended 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 Creuset has now changed their site to suggest using their proprietary cleaner. My theory is that this is their idiot safeguard or a way to make a little more money. Who can blame them?

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 also occasionally make a paste of Bar Keeper’s Friend and use that to clean up my enameled cast iron. Y’all know how I feel about BKF. This stuff is the real deal. I use it frequently.

keeping the kitchen clean
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I frequently cook black beans in my enameled dutch oven, and they leave quite the interesting discoloration behind.
*2021 update – this is no longer true. I now use an Instant Pot to make my black beans because times have changed!

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 call it a patina and move on. (This part has not changed, I still call it a patina and only address the staining on occasion.)

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

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23 thoughts on “How to Clean Stained Enameled Cast Iron”

  1. I just used my Tramontina dutch oven for the first time to attempt to cook some peas. Steam from the simmering beans condensed and ran down the outside of the pot and left what looks like hard water stains. No amount of scrubbing will remove them. Any advice on what to do would be highly appreciated.

    The inside was another story. It cleaned up beautifully. Bar Keepers Friend was used on the inside and outside.

    Reply
  2. Baking Soda and White Vinegar has removed just about every stain from my Le Cruset Dutch oven. I learned this trick while working at a German cafe where everything was kept spotless, but no chemicals were used.
    Wet the inside of the pot and shake all of it out, then sprinkle with baking soda. Using a bamboo or plastic brush, swirl it all over the inside and give a gentle scrub. Put the pot in an empty sink with the drain open and pour in white vinegar. It will froth. Pur in about an inch and swish it around wit the brush. When you’ve given it a thorough rub, let it sit for about an hour. Scrub and wash. Anything that didn’t come out right away will probably come off with a repeat or when boiling water.

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  3. 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.

    Reply
    • Chemist here: You can use bleach safely (with common sense). they use bleach in professional restaurants and bars too to keep everything sanitized. It reacts quickly becoming innocuous sodium chloride (table salt) and oxygen that does the cleaning. A rinse and nothing is left to harm you. If there would be any left you would smell it immediately. Your nose is a magnificent tool. Napisan used to contain potassium monopersulfate (KHSO5).that produces…. bleach! It was changed due to the damage to the pipes that the excess of per-sulfate that would go down the drain. Now they use per-carbonate that ultimatelymakes hydrogen peroxidant (the same used for disinfectant and to bleach hair).

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  4. 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! 🙂

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  5. 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.

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    • 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!

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  6. 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.

    Reply
    • I just read that hydrogen peroxide & baking soda will remove the nasty mess I made a few days ago. The mixture is boiling in the pot as I type. I hope this works – I have tried everything listed above, to no avail. I have yet to use the bleach method – that seems a bit too toxic. Keep your fingers crossed.

      Reply
  7. 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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  8. 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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