How to clean a mortar and pestle is important to know in order to help them last a long time. However, even if you know how to use this traditional kitchen tool, it’s still possible to ruin them. Therefore, learning how to clean them is essential!
Here, you will find our research-based and time-tested advice about how to clean a mortar and pestle. Cleaning them the right way will ensure that they last for years to come.
Types of Mortar and Pestle
There are four main types of mortar and pestle:
All four types are excellent for crushing and grinding food and spices. However, how to clean a mortar and pestle and how to maintain it depends on the type you choose. The type also determines how to season the mortar and pestle.
A granite mortar and pestle is one of the most popular styles of grinders made from rock. When you think of the nature of stones, you can understand how well it works for grinding food.
Their hard surfaces make it easy to crush ingredients quickly. Plus, they’re sturdy enough to withstand years of relentless pounding.
Use the weight of the pestle to crush spices against the mortar with rapidity and ease. It’s also an excellent choice for mashing together ingredients for pastes, guacamole, or even hummus.
Keep in mind that granite is a porous material. Thus, it’s easy for liquids, oils, and even food particles to seep into the surface. So, before we even think about how to clean a mortar and pestle, consider seasoning it first.
Seasoning the surface can help repel anything than would otherwise permeate it. It can also prevent stone grit from finding its way into your food.One way to season a granite grinding tool is to pulverise a handful of unsalted nuts to spread their natural oils over the surface. Discard the nuts, rinse with water, and air dry.
Researching how to season a Cole and Mason mortar and pestle yields a very different seasoning method. Grind three separate handfuls of dry white rice. After discarding, follow up by grinding a garlic clove and a teaspoon each of cumin, salt, and pepper. Then, discard the mixture, rinse with water, and air dry.
Learning how to clean a mortar and pestle can help keep it in perfect shape for years.
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Everything true about a granite grinder is true about a marble mortar and pestle. It’s going to last a long time and be able to withstand years of grinding action.
However, marble doesn’t hold up as well to chips, staining, and scratches as granite does. So, you will want to treat marble more delicately than its granite counterpart. That includes learning how to clean a mortar and pestle of this type.
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Like granite, marble is an excellent choice for macerating spices and smashing ingredients for pastes and sauces.
Because it’s porous, you’ll need to start by seasoning it. Use a handful of nuts or the dry rice and spice method like for granite. Then, rinse with water and air dry.
Learning how to clean a marble mortar and pestle after each use will keep it functioning at its best.
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A glass mortar and pestle won’t stand up to the intense smashing action that granite and even marble can withstand. Consider the fragile nature of glass before deciding on a glass grinding tool.
If seeing through the bowl is important, and you’re mixing softer items, it can be a good choice. However, it’s also prone to chipping and breaking if abused.
Considering glass’ fragile nature, you’ll want to use it for combining softer items like flavoured butter, pastes, and sauces. However, it’s not appropriate for grinding spices.
The beauty of a glass mortar and pestle is that you don’t need to season it and can wash it the same way you wash any other glass in your house.
The instructions for how to clean a mortar and pestle are easier for glass since you can use soap and water.
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A wooden mortar and pestle is another excellent choice for hand-grinding. Its hard surface can withstand some pressure and friction from smashing food items together. However, wood is very porous. Thus, it’s important to cure and season it to avoid wood particles in your food and food flavours in the wood.
We would also need to consider its porous nature when thinking about how to clean a mortar and pestle of this kind.
Dry ingredients are best for wooden mortars. If the ingredients are wet, the food may absorb some wood taste. In this way, a wooden mortar can be like a wooden whiskey or wine cask that transfers flavour.
Season your wooden mortar and pestle by grinding three batches of dry white rice. After dumping out the rice and wiping it, clean the surface with lemon and coarse salt. Then, coat with food-grade wood wax or food-grade mineral oil.
Seasoning isn’t a one-time event with a wooden mortar and pestle. You’ll want to go through the whole seasoning process once every few months. Season more often if you notice that the wood looks dry.
Are you wondering about how to clean a mortar and pestle made of wood? Avoiding soap and using the dry rice method is best.
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Removing Dark Stains
Even if you know how to clean a mortar and pestle, removing dark stains can present a challenge. So, how do you get rid of them? The key to successfully treating dark stains depends on the material.
Granite and Marble
Are you wondering how to clean a mortar and pestle made from stone if it has a dark stain? According to the Natural Stone Institute, different cleaners work better for removing different types of stains from stone materials like granite and marble.
- Oil-based stains - Liquid cleanser, detergent, ammonia, or food-grade mineral spirits
- Food stains - 12% hydrogen peroxide, plus a few drops of ammonia
- Inorganic metal stains - Poultice scrub
- Biological stains (algae, mildew, etc.) - ½ cup ammonia, bleach, OR hydrogen peroxide diluted with a gallon of water
- Water stains - Buff with 0000 steel wool
Removing dark stains on glass also depends on the type of stain.
- General stains - Scrub with a paste of baking soda or toothpaste.
- Paint stains - Razor blade with soapy water and vinegar.
- Hard water stains - Soak with one part distilled white vinegar (or lemon juice) with one part distilled water for 30 minutes. Wipe mineral deposits with a soft-bristled brush.
- Hard water stains - Spray on vinegar. Let sit for 30 minutes. Scrub with a paste of one part water and three parts baking soda. Spray with vinegar, wipe, and rinse.
The problem with removing dark stains from wood is that the process can often also remove wood layers and leave you with mismatched colouring on the wood. So after learning how to deep clean a mortar and pestle made of wooden material, be sure to re-season the wood after deep cleaning. By doing that, it helps to restore colour and waterproofing qualities to the wood.
- Water stains - Non-gel toothpaste and a soft cloth
- Water stains - A paste of equal parts water and baking soda and a soft cloth
- Heat stains - A paste of non-gel toothpaste and baking soda rubbed into the wood until it feels warm. Wipe clean, dry, and repeat several times.
- Other dark stains - Sand with 100-grit sandpaper. Blend and feather the edges with 150-grit sandpaper. Feather edges with #0000 super fine steel wool.
Using Soap Detergent
When learning how to clean a mortar and pestle, it’s important to know that you can’t use soap on every type. It’s fine to wash a glass or stone pestle or mortar with soap detergent. However, using soap on wood comes with risks.
If you add soap to the bowl of a wooden mortar, you will remove the oils keeping it seasoned. Using soap on wood also risks letting the soap flavour seep into the pores of the wood. Removing ingredients and smells with several rounds of dry rice grinds is a better strategy for wood.
When asked about how to clean a mortar and pestle on Reddit, a geologist said granite porosity isn’t an issue. The rock was in the ground for millions of years, with all sorts of groundwater surrounding it throughout time. Thus, a little soapy water isn’t going to hurt it.
It’s also fine to use soap detergent on marble, even though it’s more porous than granite.
If you’re concerned about transferring the smell of the soap detergent to the stone, try an unscented soap.
Can you put a mortar and pestle in the dishwasher? Most glass versions are fine to put in a dishwasher unless the packaging says otherwise. However, it’s not a great idea to put a stone set in the dishwasher. The soap isn’t so much an issue, but the steam can expand and cause the stone to crack. It’s also not a good idea to put a wooden one in the dishwasher because it will absorb too much dishwasher soap flavour.
Oil can be a great way to season a wooden mortar. Food-grade mineral oil is the best option. However, you can use some cooking oils as well. Just keep in mind that not all oils have the same shelf life and can go rancid.
Always choose a food-grade oil for seasoning, and consider its shelf life. Oils that are shelf-stable for 2-3 years after opening are the best choice:
- Olive oil (2-3 years)
- Macadamia nut oil (2 years)
- Peanut oil (2 years)
Avoid oils that are only shelf-stable for a few months after opening:
- Walnut oil (3-4 months)
- Hazelnut oil (3 months)
- Grapeseed oil (3 months)
- Avocado oil (6-8 months)
- Sesame oil (6-8 months)
How To Clean a Mortar and Pestle
Learning how to clean a mortar and pestle the correct way is easy. If you have a glass mortar and pestle, you can simply clean it with soap and water.
The following steps show how to clean a marble mortar and pestle made of wood or stone.
Step 1 - Water Rinse
Start by rinsing both the pestle and the mortar with water. This step removes solid particles. However, it may not remove non-water-soluble ingredients like garlic and oils. The hotter water you use, the better.
You should pour out any excess water, but there’s no need to dry it. The next step will take care of any excess moisture.
Step 2 - Rice Grind
Add enough dry white rice to cover the bottom of the bowl. Then, use the pestle to grind the rice to a powder. When you clean a mortar and pestle with rice, you are soaking up any excess liquids and oils. The rice also serves as an abrasive agent to remove solid residue from the bowl.
If the bowl still has residue in it or a strange smell, you might need to do additional rounds of rice grinding. Simply dump out the rice powder and repeat until you remove all food residue, liquids, and oils from the bowl.
Step 3 - Final Water Rinse
After you pour out the rice powder, it’s time for another hot water rinse. Then, you can allow it to air dry.
Step 4 - Oil Seasoning (Wooden Only)
If you have a wooden mortar, you should season it with food-grade mineral oil a few times a year. Alternate oil types are listed in the “Using Oil” section above.
Seasoning prevents the wood from drying, warping, or cracking. You’ll know it’s time to season when the wood starts to look dry and lacklustre.
How To Clean a Mortar and Pestle
- Hot water
- Rinse loose debris and liquid with the hottest water possible.
- Use the pestle to grind dry white rice into a fine powder inside the bowl.
- After removing the rice powder, rinse with hot water again and air dry.
- Wash glass pestles and mortars with soapy water instead.
- Don’t use soap on porous pestles and mortars.
- Re-season wooden pestles and mortars several times a year with food-grade mineral oil.
Knowing how to clean a mortar and pestle without ruining it can help you get more mileage from it. If you’ve been cleaning it wrongly before, you can always start fresh now.
Now that you know the cleaning process, owning isn’t as daunting. So, go ahead and buy your favourite. And if you have friends who don’t know how to clean a mortar and pestle properly, send them this article!
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