Cast iron pans and skillets are a must have for any kitchen. Sturdy cast iron skillets will last a long time if you take care of them properly and can perform well in any conditions. Cast iron skillets have been called the work horse pan in the kitchen, and that is a pretty accurate description. But these pans only perform well if they are cleaned properly. If you don’t know how to wash a cast iron skillet, you can destroy it.  If you use chemical based soaps and other cleaners on these pans or put them in the dishwasher, you will ruin them. Not being washed properly is just about the only thing that can ruin a cast iron skillet. This is how to wash cast iron skillet without damaging it:

Start while the pan is still warm: don’t wait for the pan to cool off entirely. By that time, the food and cooking oil residue will have stuck to the pan, and that will make it harder to clean. Wait for it to cool down a little so it’s not uncomfortably hot. Then pour a layer of kosher salt in the bottom of the pan. You must use kosher salt that is coarse and not fine ground. This is not the salt that you use for seasoning. You can find coarse sea salt or coarse kosher salt in the seasoning aisle in the grocery store or in specialty food stores.

Scrub the pan: Use a folded kitchen towel or a clean washcloth to scrub the pan. Don’t get the cloth wet first or the salt will just stick to it. Rub the bottom and sides of the pan with the salt to loosen up all the debris. Keep scrubbing as long as it takes to get everything loose in the pan, but don’t scrub too hard or you can damage the skillet. If you can’t get all the residue up with the salt, add a drop or two of a natural detergent that is chemical free, like Rockin' Green, to the salt and keep scrubbing.

Rinse: Rinse the salt out of the pan with hot water. Make sure that you rinse all the debris and salt out of the pan. Never put cast iron pots and pans in the dishwasher. Rinse the skillet several times under the hot water to make sure that all the salt is rinsed away. Then dry the pan thoroughly with a paper towel or kitchen towel.

Season: Seasoning the cast iron skillet will make it non-stick and protect it from rust and other damage. To season a cast iron skillet you can use a fine oil like grapeseed oil or just regular vegetable oil. With a kitchen towel or washcloth rub the oil into the surface of the skillet with a circular motion. Cover the entire pan. Let it dry and then your skillet is seasoned.