How to Clean a Carbon Steel Wok

Cooking vegetable stir-fry in a wok

Carina Tjarnlund / Getty Images

Cleaning your carbon steel wok properly will help it to last longer. The best habit is to clean it after you use it, no matter what you are cooking. This keeps the wok in the best condition and will prepare it for the next time you cook with it. Cleaning a wok is not a difficult process, does not require any special equipment, and should only take about 15 minutes. If you use a wok frequently, keep a nonmetallic scrubber on hand, so you are always prepared to clean your wok.

How to Clean It

  1. Rinse the wok in hot water.
  2. Gently lift off or scrub away food particles with a nonmetallic scrubber. If the food is really stuck on the wok, soak the wok in hot water for five minutes and then try to remove the food.
  3. Rinse the wok until all food particles are removed.
  4. Dry the interior and exterior of the wok with paper towels.
  5. To finish drying, place the wok on the stovetop and turn it on to medium to medium-high heat.
  6. Wipe the inside of the wok with a small amount of vegetable oil. This helps prevent rusting. This step may not be necessary if your wok is properly seasoned and gets a lot of use.
  7. Store until ready to use again.

How and Why to Season Your Wok

Seasoning a new (or unseasoned wok) will prevent against rust and create a patina. This will allow for a better cooking experience and prevent food from sticking on the wok. The easiest way to season a wok is to turn the stovetop heat to high and heat the wok until it is extremely hot. A drop of water should evaporate on contact. Then swirl in two tablespoons of vegetable oil. You can add 1/2 cup of sliced ginger and a bunch of scallions (cut into 2-inch pieces) if you want. With the heat lowered to medium, use a metal wok spatula and smear the ginger and scallions over the surface, for up to 20 minutes. Then, discard the solids and simply wash the wok with hot water and a soft sponge. Dry it over low heat.

clean a carbon steel wok illustration
The Spruce / Adrian Mangel 

Don't be alarmed if the seasoning process changes the wok's interior color. It may turn to a yellow, black, or blue tint. Each wok will react differently to the seasoning and heating process, but the color change just means that the seasoning has been successful.


  • Never scrub a carbon steel wok with an abrasive cleanser or a metallic sponge. These items can damage the seasoned surface.
  • Do not put the wok in the dishwasher.
  • If rust appears or the wok is accidentally cleaned in the dishwasher, simply re-season it, being careful to remove all the rust.