How to Clean and Care for a Mortar and Pestle

Do's and Don'ts to Help Your Molcajete Last for Years and Years

Nancy Lopez-McHugh

Have you recently purchased a volcanic rock mortar and pestle? After the seasoning process, the second most important thing about owning a mortar and pestle is proper cleaning and care. This part of ownership is much easier than the seasoning, and here is all you need to know. 

What's your mortar and pestle made of?

It is very important that you know exactly the type of material that your mortar and pestle are made from. Every type requires a different cleaning and caring technique. 

This guide is for mortars and pestles made from volcanic rock (also known as a molcajete). Read any instructions that may have come with your mortar and pestles. In them, you'll find the answer for proper and cleaning of that specific type of mortar and pestle. Ones made from wood and other rocks, like granite, may be the same as above, but ceramic types can be cleaned with soapy water. 

Tips for Keeping Your Molcajete in Tip-Top Shape

  • Warm Water: After each use, thoroughly rinse your mortar and pestle (or molcajete) with warm water. Repeat a couple of times. 
  • Never, Ever Use Soap: You know how you should never use soap to clean a cast iron skillet? Well, the same applies to this type of mortar and pestle. The reason is that since it is porous volcanic rock that is used in making this kind of mortar and pestle, those little holes will trap the scent and taste of soap.
  • The Only Tool You Need: A firm, and clean, kitchen brush is a rock mortar and pestle's best friend. Purchase a brush that you use only on your molcajete, this way you ensure that no soap will contaminate it. 
  • Air Dry: It is very important that your mortar and pestle be completely dry before putting it away. If you don't scrap away, properly rinse off, and thoroughly dry the molcajete, it can possibly grow mold. After properly cleaning it, use a towel to blot excess water off the surface. Flip it upside down, then right side up, and repeat if needed to ensure even air drying. 
  • Dealing With a Stinky Mortar and Pestle: One great thing about using a volcanic rock mortar is that over time, just like a cast iron skillet, certain flavors are absorbed into it; This can lend a nice taste to whatever it is that you are grinding. But there are times when those trapped flavors are unwanted or get to be too much. The solution is another round of seasoning -- fret not, as it won’t be as difficult the second time around. You should really only require one, or two, rounds with grinding of rice. After this, you should be all set again. 
  • Protect Your Countertop and Tables: The surface of this type of mortar and pestle are rough and it can scratch surfaces. Simply place a kitchen towel underneath the molcajete to prevent damaged surfaces.