Mastering the Art of Cleaning Mortar and Pestle: A Comprehensive Guide

Whether it’s to prepare for a spell or you’re just unsure if you’re thoroughly cleaning yours or not, it’s important to learn how to clean a mortar and pestle. How you go about cleaning mortar and pestles will depend on the material. Certain materials such as plastic or steel can hold up well in the dishwasher, while stone and wood are often best hand washed.

For the sake of ensuring nothing negative happens to your mortar and pestle, we always recommend cleaning yours by hand, as dishwashers can ruin it. Even if it says it’s dishwasher safe, take the even safer route.

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How to Clean a Stone Mortar and Pestle

Stone, granite, and marble mortar and pestles all tend to have the same instructions as each other. They tend to need a slightly more aggressive clean compared to steel or plastic options. Follow these steps for the best results.

1. Scrape Off Leftover Food or Debris

Empty the mortar of any remaining contents, such as spices, herbs, or food particles. Use a spoon or brush to gently remove the debris. It’s best to scrape these off into the garbage bin to avoid water waste.

2. Rinse with Warm Water

Rinse the mortar and pestle under warm water to remove any loose particles and debris. Avoid using harsh chemicals or soap at this stage, as they can potentially leave a residue or affect the flavor of future ingredients. Plus, certain dish soaps may damage the mortar and pestle itself.

3. Mix Baking Soda and Water

Mix equal parts water and baking soda to create a paste-like consistency. Baking soda is a mild abrasive that can help remove stains and odors without damaging the stone surfaces.

4. Scrub the Mortar and Pestle

Apply the baking soda paste to the mortar and pestle surfaces. Use a soft-bristle brush, sponge, or cloth to gently scrub in circular motions. Pay particular attention to any stains or residue. Take care not to use any abrasive materials such as steel wool or scrub too vigorously, as this can scratch the surface.

While it may not look like it, those tiny scratches can lead to issues with mold and bacteria growing in them over time. This can lead to a safety concern when using your mortar and pestle to prepare food.

5. Rinse off the Mortar and Pestle

Once you have finished scrubbing, rinse the mortar and pestle thoroughly with warm water. Ensure all the baking soda paste and residue are removed. Inspect to make sure there’s also no food, debris, or stains.

6. Let the Mortar and Pestle Air Dry

Place the mortar and pestle on a clean towel or drying rack to air dry completely. Avoid using a dish towel, as it may leave behind lint or fibers. While not a huge issue to simply pick off this debris, certain colors such as gray or white will make it harder to see.

7. Cleanse the Mortar and Pestle (Optional)

If you’ve used the mortar and pestle for ritualist or spiritual purposes, it’s best to cleanse the mortar and pestle with cleansing incense. This ensures there are no negative energies carried over from the spell that could impact future ones.

8. Reseason the Mortar and Pestle (Optional)

Seasoning a stone mortar and pestle involves grinding rice or other grains to help remove any lingering odors or flavors from previous use. This step is optional but can be done occasionally to maintain the quality of your mortar and pestle for those who used the mortar and pestle for food purposes.

How to Clean a Wooden Mortar and Pestle

Wood mortar and pestles require a different approach, as the wood isn’t strong enough to withstand soap, water, or the previous baking soda mixture. This one will require extra effort to ensure it lasts for many spells or parties.

It’s also important to note that wooden mortar and pestles can absorb flavors or aromas over time. So if you’re constantly using rosemary in yours, don’t be too surprised if it ends up smelling and even tasting like rosemary all the time.

1. Remove Any Leftover Food or Debris

Empty the mortar of any remaining ingredients or debris. Use a spoon or brush to gently remove any residue. Again, use the trash bin rather than the sink.

2. Avoid Soap and Water Altogether

Wooden mortar and pestles are porous and can absorb water, which can cause the wood to swell, warp, or even crack. Avoid using water or soap during the cleaning process. Even a little bit of either can lead to negative effects on the mortar and pestle.

3. Use a Dry Brush, Sponge, or Cloth

Take a dry brush, sponge, or cloth and gently wipe the interior and exterior surfaces of the mortar and pestle. This will help remove any loose particles or residue. Scrubbing too hard may damage the surface, allowing for mold and bacteria to grow on food that sneaks its way in.

4. Remove Stains With Salt and Lemon Juice

If there are stubborn stains or lingering odors, you can use a mixture of salt and lemon juice to help remove them. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt onto the surface of the mortar and pestle, then squeeze some lemon juice over it. Use a cloth or brush to gently scrub the surface in circular motions.

The acidity of the lemon juice combined with the abrasive salt can help remove stains and odors. Once you’ve scrubbed, wipe off the salt and lemon juice mixture with a dry cloth. Lime juice also tends to work well.

5. Air Dry

After cleaning, allow the wooden mortar and pestle to air dry completely. Place it on a clean towel or drying rack in a well-ventilated area. Ensure that it is thoroughly dry before storing it to prevent the growth of mold or mildew.

6. Apply a Food-Safe Oil

To help preserve and protect the wooden surface, you can occasionally apply a food-safe oil such as mineral oil or walnut oil. Apply a small amount of oil to a cloth and rub it into the wood in circular motions. Let the oil soak in for a few hours or overnight, then wipe off any excess oil with a clean cloth.

How to Clean a Metal or Plastic Mortar and Pestle

Unlike the previous options, cleaning a metal or plastic mortar and pestle is relatively straightforward. You can typically treat these like any other piece of dinnerware.

1. Remove the Debris or Food

Just like the others, use a spoon or brush to remove leftover debris or ingredients from the garbage. Be careful not to scrape too hard, as it could scratch the metal or plastic.

2. Rinse the Mortar and Pestle with Warm Water

Rinse the mortar and pestle under warm water to remove any loose particles. This will help prepare it for further cleaning and minimizes your scrubbing.

3. Use a Mild Dish Soap

Apply a small amount of mild dish soap or liquid detergent to the surface of the mortar and pestle. Make sure to use a non-abrasive sponge or cloth to avoid scratching the surface.

4. Scrub the Surfaces

Gently scrub the surfaces of the mortar and pestle with soapy water, focusing on any stains or residue. Use circular motions and apply light to medium pressure. Avoid using abrasive scrubbers or steel wool, as they can damage the metal/plastic.

5. Rinse Thoroughly

Once you have finished scrubbing, rinse the mortar and pestle thoroughly with warm water to remove any soap residue. Double-check that all the detergent is rinsed off completely.

6. Dry the Mortar and Pestle

After rinsing, use a clean towel or cloth to dry the mortar and pestle completely. Moisture can lead to rusting on metal, so ensure that no water remains on the steel surface. On plastic surfaces, leftover water can lead to discoloration.

7. Store in a Dry Location

Once dry, store the steel mortar and pestle in a dry location to prevent moisture and humidity from causing rust. Your plastic mortar and pestle have more leeway and you can store it where you see fit.


Do you clean a mortar and pestle after every use?

To maintain a mortar and pestle, it’s important to clean it after every use. This ensures there are no food or ingredients that may rot and ruin the surface of the mortar and pestle.

Can you get a mortar and pestle wet?

Yes, you can wet a mortar and pestle, depending on the material though. Wood mortar and pestles should not come into contact with water for long periods of time. Other surfaces should be okay to wash them with water.

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