how to clean salt and pepper grinders

If you own a salt and pepper grinder, it’s time to remove surface dust, prevent the contents from sticking together and improve its performance by keeping it clean and presentable. Check out our recommendations and steps on how to clean salt and pepper grinders.

Guide for Beginners

Follow these procedures to keep your salt and pepper shakers in tip-top condition.

Step 1: Wipe Them Down

Using a damp cloth, wipe down your ceramic grinders to remove any old salt crystals, surface dust, or bacteria lingering outside your mills. If you have a wooden grinder, just use a dry, soft cloth to prevent water damage while removing the remaining salt and pepper build-up.

Step 2: Turn Your Mill Upside Down

Next, you need to remove the grinder housing to reach the inside. You usually won’t need any kitchen tool to do this, as you can simply twist the grinder mechanism to release the lid.

Step 3: Use Water and Vinegar

Combine four parts of water with one part of white vinegar in a spray bottle. Then, spritz the solution onto both grinders, using a clean cloth to wipe away any residue. At this point, there might be a strong scent of vinegar, but this is effective at keeping surfaces clean and removing any stubborn stains.

Step 4: Remove Any Salt and Pepper

It’s quite common not to remove any old salt and pepper from grinders. But, over several years, this can build up and mix in so that you’re then consuming old ingredients. We recommend removing any old salt and pepper from the mills when washing. You can then top up the grinders with new ingredients later.

Step 5: Clean the Interiors

spice shakers

Now it’s time to clean the interiors of your salt and pepper shakers. Give them a quick rinse with water to ensure that no more old salt and pepper remain at the bottom of the grinders. Then, add washing-up liquid with water and place the lid on. Shake the grinders, ensuring that the mixture hits every corner. Pour everything out, and rinse well with clean water to remove any traces of washing-up liquid. If old spices are still present, use a dry brush to reach deep inside and remove the stuck herbs.

Moreover, a brush is an effective way to scrub the interior of your pepper and salt shaker. After this point, you should rinse the salt and pepper mill individually with hot water. Then, position them upside down on a drying rack. This action allows excess moisture to run out so that your salt and pepper grinder won’t be wet inside when you fill it. If you have a wood salt or pepper grinder, keep it away from direct sunlight while it dries.

Alternatively, you might want to use a cotton swab to wipe away any stubborn ingredients stuck inside your shakers. This process will also remove any grime built up over the years.

Maintaining and Protecting Wooden Grinders

If you have a wood grinder set, you must keep them away from direct sunlight, as the sun’s rays can cause the grinders to crack and even split. One effective way to protect your mills is to mix mineral oil with vinegar to create a solution. Then, coat your mills in this liquid, allowing it to dry before use. You’ll only need to do this twice a year to keep the wooden surface moisturised and less likely to scratch, break or split.

Additionally, you might want to properly store your wooden mills on top of a tray on a hard surface. Doing so will protect your countertops from any grinding residue.

Caring for Your Pepper and Salt Grinder

Here are some tips to keep your salt and pepper grinders lasting for an extended period and make them look presentable on your kitchen counter.

1. Clean them out regularly.

Our first tip is to disassemble your mills, often removing any salt or pepper remaining deep inside. This should also be your go-to tip if they aren’t working as well as they used to.

Tap out any old spices that might be clogging the grinding mechanism, complete the steps above, and add new salt, fresh pepper or other spices.

If you choose to clean your salt and pepper mills during this stage, ensure they dry completely before adding new filling ingredients.

2. Only choose a suitable spice.

You can use salt and pepper mills for any spice you like, but you must check that your choice is suitable for spice grinders. In particular, Himalayan pink salt might not always be compatible since it’s not always thoroughly dried. The moisture can cause a build-up inside the mills. If you’re concerned about your ingredients sticking together, fill the mill just halfway to allow optimal air circulation and prevent any moisture from building up inside the grinder.

3. Don’t pour directly into a hot pan.

You’ve likely added spice from the grinder directly into a steamy pan when cooking. But the moisture from the pan can seep into the grinder and clog the mechanism, resulting in a poor grind. Instead, pour the salt and pepper directly into your hand and then add them to the pot to prevent this from happening.

4. Grind the shakes with intention.

adding a seasoning to a salad

The direction in which you grind sea salt and pepper matters. A high-quality salt and pepper mill will have a built-in burr system that allows spices to pass through two burrs. This creates an even coarse grind and releases a delicious spice aroma.

For a coarse grind, twist your grinder counterclockwise. This is great for dishes like salads and meats. Ensure that you pay attention to a coarser grind first because you can then adjust the grind settings underneath the grinder.

Alternatively, for a fine grind, twist your ceramic grinder clockwise. This is ideal for use when flavouring chips or for mixing in curries. Keep in mind that you might encounter a reduced flavour with a smaller grind. Serving pepper and salt with a fine grind means releasing the spice quickly.

A Word of Caution

Be mindful that tightening the top of your grinder too much might result in it not grinding any of your peppercorns or salt. This is because there’s little room for the ingredients to move down the internal mechanisms in the grinder, so it won’t be able to release anything. If you find that this is the case, unwind the top nut slightly and remove it slightly.

5. Replace them if they are worn.

If your mills are looking a little worse for wear, it might be best to buy a new one rather than trying to salvage them with solutions.

Caring for Your Salt and Pepper Grinders

Overall, washing might be an effective way to clean your mills, but you’ll need to use a mixture of vinegar and water to keep your salt or pepper mill hygienic and in great condition. Clean out your salt and pepper mill regularly and replace the ingredients after several months. You might also wish to use a cotton bud to remove any build-up from the years.

Do you have any cleaning tips for your mills? Let us know in the comments.

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