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Chain Mail Scrubbers

Published July 2016

How we tested

The Knapp Made Classic CM Scrubber, a 4 by 4-inch square of interlinked stainless-steel rings (the “CM” stands for “chain mail”) that sells for $14.99, makes easy work of cleaning stuck-on food out of cast-iron pans. Recently, Knapp Made released a new model, the Small Ring CM Scrubber ($19.98), that is larger overall (it’s about 5 by 5 inches) and has smaller, thinner rings. To see which scrubber was better, we put the two models to the test, cleaning up a range of messes not only on plain cast iron but also on dark enameled cast iron, stainless steel, and heat-resistant glass—all types of cookware that the manufacturer claims the scrubbers can handle.

The good news is that both scrubbers did a stellar job of removing gunk from all of the pans. The bad news is that they both scratched and damaged the enameled and stainless-steel pans—we don’t recommend that you use either scrubber on those types of pans. But if you stick with plain cast iron and Pyrex, these scrubbers work very well for big messes.

Which is better? We prefer the newer scrubber to the original by a hair. Because of its larger size, the Small Ring CM Scrubber was easier to handle and covered more territory more quickly than the original, taking between 10 seconds and 2 minutes less to clean the same kinds of messes. And its smaller, narrower rings made it more agile and better at maneuvering around corners and detailing hard-to-access areas (like the grooves of our grill pan). These scrubbers are metal, so go easy—if you use excessive force, you can strip the seasoning from cast-iron pans and even scratch their surface.


We tested two chain mail scrubbers, priced at about $15 and about $20, evaluating their performance in cleaning dirty pans made of plain cast iron, enameled cast iron, stainless steel, and Pyrex. The scrubbers were purchased online and are listed in order of preference.

PERFORMANCE: We cooked a pound of bacon in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, scrambled eggs in an enameled cast-iron skillet, cooked hamburgers on an enameled cast-iron grill pan, burned teriyaki sauce in a stainless-steel skillet, and slow-cooked lasagna in a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish. Then we timed how long it took to clean each piece of cookware with each scrubber. We gave more points to the scrubber that took less time to clean up all the different messes.

MANEUVERABILITY: We evaluated how easily the scrubbers scoured the sides, corners, and grooves of the different pans in each of the cleaning tests. We awarded more points to the more agile scrubber.

CLEANUP: Between cleaning sessions, we cleaned the scrubbers themselves by hand, using 140-degree water and a teaspoon of our favorite dish soap, and timed how long it took to remove any trapped or melted food particles from the scrubbers. We gave more points to the scrubber that was easier to clean by hand.

The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.