How To Clean A Wok – Step By Step Guide

Today, a lot of people own woks, either because they're used in the kitchen or because they look nice on display. However, cleaning a wok is important if you want to prevent food-borne illnesses and keep your pan healthy.

Have you ever wondered how to clean a wok? Are you tired of scrubbing that stubborn residue from your wok after every use? We have the answer for you. Here's a step by step guide on how to clean a wok.

Carbon Steel Or Cast Iron Wok:

Although both woks are made from the same material, carbon steel has a lot of advantages over cast iron. Usually, you can clean them regularly and use it for many years. On the other hand, when using a cast iron pan, make sure to remember that some brands (especially high-end ones) leach chemicals into your food. Let’s discover more below:

Heat Tolerance:

When it comes to heat tolerance, carbon steel can withstand a slightly higher temperature. However, cast iron is the best for high concentrations of heat. Because it doesn't lose its shape like other pans that are made from lesser quality materials. Also, it has some thermal capacity (enough strength or ability to work under such intense conditions).


Cast iron wok doesn't need any specialized cleanser to get rid of unwanted substances. You can use only water or a little bit of white vinegar for deglazing and cook in the same pan until it gets shiny. Try not to scrub away cooking residues as that may scratch your bowl/pan surface (and void good workmanship). Some high-end cast iron will require applying a neutralizer before cleaning. This means rub some food grade mineral oil into the pan surface. Now it's ready for food (although use very little oil and always remember to wash out with scalding hot water).

No stickiness:

While using carbon steel wok, it is often necessary to clear away the sticky flavoring after cooking as some particles of food cling onto its surface. However, this isn't a problem with cast iron because they are usually very smooth. Hence won't leave any unwanted residue on your utensils or into your food as other common cookware can do.

Cast Iron Wok is, of course, the top choice among woks. Unlike carbon steel pans – cast iron pans are made from solid block material. Although it's heavy when compared to aluminum-made woks and has little dishwasher-friendly surface. But at least you don't have to worry about scratching your gongs with abrasive cleansers.

How To Clean A Wok? (New Wok)

Follow the steps to clean a wok.

  • Step 1: Using a plastic scrubber, wash out all collected food particles from its surface. You might also have to pass over the hole at the bottom of the cast iron pan with hot water and vinegar mixture. It's quite unlikely you will ever notice any build up in such large holes.
  • Step 2:  Its cooking bowl – usually, the wide end is used for draining off excess oil or fat. A thin coating (~1/8 ") of oil is required after cooking to help the food retain its taste and texture. Using aluminum foil, lay a piece over the hole at the bottom of the wok. This will snug it in place, preventing any water from leaking out into your sink/ whatever vessel you have prepared for washing.
  • Step 3:  Use clear vinegar and hot water mixture as a cleaning agent. Pour enough amount (do not put so much that you risk damaging the bowl) through the hole at the bottom of a wok into the cooking vessel. Carefully lift up the vat and rinse out with water (a heavy scrubbing will damage your cast iron pan). To finish wash-off, make sure that the same side of your bowl is fully wet; use clean dish soap or liquid detergent for the final wash. You can use paper towels to wipe off any residual salt and oil from your wok.

How To Clean A Wok After Cooking?

Cleaning a wok after cooking is a process requiring attentive care and timing. Follow the steps:

  • Step 1: The best way of cleaning a wok is to use the same method that you used for washing it: water, vinegar and dish soap or liquid detergent (or other commercial product). If necessary - repeat the procedure with cool running water only.
  • Step 2: To wash off any remaining oil, completely wipe both sides out of your wok with dry paper towels/kitchen napkins/ an absorbent cloth. This will prevent rusting on its surface.
  • Step 3: In the case of wooden ware, wash it by hand if you have time. Otherwise, use dish soap and running water (which will not damage even the softest wood's grain) to clean utensils that come into contact with food. Keep some vinegar-water mixture ready nearby should the need arise. Always remember, steel cooking surface reacts negatively to acids, so never put any acidic cleaning solutions that contain acids where they might attack the alloy.

How To Remove Rust Or Hardened Food From A Wok? (Used Wok)

It is difficult to remove rust or hardened food from a cast iron wok surface. But, the most effective way of cleaning it is by passing vinegar-water mixture in. Repeat with cool running water later after wiping off all traces of oil.

  • Step 1: Treat both sides carefully and dry gently when done - taking care not to crack/damage/weaken these very delicate surfaces. Over time anodized aluminum may develop microscopic pits due as a result of heating and it could wear out if neglected.
  • Step 2: Wipe off any free pieces of food that you might find stuck to the fine surface details with a damp cloth. Be extremely careful not to allow sharp-edged particles to become embedded underneath or go under your fingernails since tiny scratches would only speed up the corrosion process on their surface.
  • Step 3: For aluminum-bearing woks, do the same but use acid only if vinegar brings no relief. Planter's ones require more attention since they will react with any acidic solution/acid and eat away at their structure as noted below.
  • Step 4: If all these steps don't make salty junk food taste sweet again or even improve its flavor quality, then it is time to call a professional! Wok Scrubbing Machines are available, especially for this purpose. Also, stainless steel scrubbing pads for special tools that remove insect stains or other odors from your kitchen, as well as fabric care products, are available.

What You Should Not Do When Clean A Wok?

  • Do not use steel wool because it would scratch the cast iron or aluminum surface and leave light rust.
  • The scratches will also release metal oxides into the food, which contain colored salts/metals. This means that particles of metallic oxides with different colors are always present in burnt oil, fat, soup grease, etc. But they usually settle down to form small globules at the bottom of woks resulting a large amount of leftover odor remains into the product.
  • Do not use abrasive chemicals such as cleansers, detergent etc. Because they will also leave these metallic particles in it, which might lead to an allergy or cancer if they are ingested. In this case, try washing with more water and a wet cloth instead of ammonia/bleach-water mixture and boil it for a few minutes on high.
  • Do not use soap because that would strip away the impermeable layer between the wok's surface and their foundation, corrode their structure over time or even remove silicone coating if present outside of the ideal amount like from chai tea teapot.


Q: Are You Supposed To Wash A Wok?

In order to get the best results, it is advisable to wash a wok after every use.

Q: How Do You Clean Grime Off A Wok?

The first thing you need to do is put the wok in a pot of water and boil it for about 10 minutes. After boiling, use a cloth or sponge to wipe off the grime that has been boiled away.

Q: How Do You Clean A Cowboy Wok?

The best way to clean a cowboy wok is by using a scrubber or wire brush that has not been used for anything else. You will have to make sure that there are no rust spots on the metal as this could cause damage to the wok during use.

Q: How Do You Clean A Burnt Non-Stick Wok?

An effective method of cleaning a burnt non-stick wok is by using vegetable oil or butter instead of water and vinegar. It must be followed by scrubbing with a brush after cooking is finished.

Q: How Do You Clean A Burnt Wok?

The best way to clean a burnt wok is by using a degreaser or any other strong detergent. 


The wok is a great cooking tool for stir-frying, steaming and deep-frying. You will find your Wok is easier to use and clean as well. Be careful not to be carried away by the hype of dry pans, nonstick cookware or sticks, though, because they also have their limitations. The step-by-step wok cleaning tricks will contribute to cleaning your wok easier than what you would achieve within a few minutes.

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