How To Clean and Care For a Mortar and Pestle

The do's and don'ts to help your mortar and pestle lasts for years and years.

How To Clean and Care for a Rock Mortar and Pestle. Nancy Lopez-McHugh

*This guide is for mortars and pestles made from volcanic rock (also know as a molcajete). For other materials see the tips at the bottom of this article. 

Have you recently purchased a volcanic rock mortar and pestle? Make sure to follow my guide on seasoning it before you begin using it. 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 is made from. Every type requires a different cleansing and caring technique. 

• Warm Water: After each use, throughly 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. You really don't want that scent and taste leaking into your spices, salsas, and curry pastes. 

• The Only Tool You Need: A firm, and clean, kitchen brush is a rock mortar and pestle's best friend.

I highly suggest purchasing a brush that you only use 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 throughly 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. 

• What To Do About 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 flavours are absorbed into it; This can lend a nice taste to what ever it is that you are grinding. But there are times when those trapped flavours 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 the 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. I have a kitchen towel that I place the molcajete on top of to prevent damaged surfaces. 


*It is important to 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.