How to Clean and Care for Your Wok

Wondering how to clean a wok? Here's what you need to know to keep your pan in perfect condition.

Whether you’re whipping up pad Thai for Friday night dinner or making your favorite copycat Chinese takeout recipes, you’re likely using a wok. But because the round-bottomed pan isn’t something you use every day, you probably have questions, like how to clean a wok—especially if it gets rusty or crusty.

The two most popular types of woks are carbon steel and cast iron—and while they each require different cooking techniques, both kinds need to be cleaned and cared for the same way. These are the best woks for your kitchen, according to our experts. Below is our easy guide on how to clean a wok correctly.

How to Clean a Wok

First things first: Never use soap, harsh cleansers or metal scrubbers to clean your wok. Doing so will remove the patina. Instead, gently scrub the interior of the wok with hot water using a regular kitchen sponge or a wok brush.

Then, towel dry the wok before placing it on the stove over low heat until there are no more visible water droplets. Make sure the wok is completely dry before putting it away to prevent it from rusting.

How to Remove Rust or Hardened Food from a Wok

If your wok ends up with rust or burned-on food, soak it in warm water for about 5 minutes to loosen up the particles. Then clean it as you usually would (read: with a gentle sponge or cleaning pad).

You can also use steel wool for particularly difficult-to-remove rust or food, if necessary. However, scrubbing with an abrasive sponge will likely remove some of the patina in the process. That means that you’ll need to re-season your wok afterward to restore its nonstick surface. To do so, follow our simple guide to seasoning a wok.

Now that you know how to clean a wok, make sure you know how to clean your other kitchen gear, from a Dutch oven to a coffee maker to baking sheets.

Amanda Tarlton
Amanda has more than a decade of media experience, specifically in product testing in the cooking and lifestyle space. As a freelancer for Taste of Home, Amanda writes mostly about foodie finds, home and lifestyle goods and cooking and baking utensils that make life easier (and more fun!). Outside of freelancing, Amanda is the executive editor of commerce at Field & Stream.
When she's not working, Amanda is on the lookout for the best pizzas in town or testing out secret menu items at restaurants and coffee shops.