To clean stoneware, Pampered Chef instructions say not to use soap and water on your stones. You use the little plastic scraper they send with the stone to scrape off any food, but soap will remove your seasoning which gives it the non-stick surface you work so hard to give it when you first purchase it.
My stones 'live' in the oven at all times, even though they are not being used, they are always 'clean' and ready to be used from the high heat but of course, they are dark from seasoning and use.
This is probably what your stones look like too - if you truly are a cook/baker and use them, and didn't just buy them for looks. And although my stones are old enough, and well seasoned enough that I do actually use soap and water to quickly clean them if I've made something like fish on them.... for real cleaning, I still use my self-cleaning oven cycle to clean the stones.
Yes... to clean them, I simply keep them in the oven when I clean it. The stones are left in the oven, the oven is set to run one of it's automatic self-cleaning cycles (in which it cleans itself with high heat) and my stones come out looking brand new.
*updated to answer the question in comments: NO steps missing. Self cleaning ovens clean spilled food and grease using high temperatures to burn it off. That's what cleans your stones. The high temperatures burn off the food and spills. When you take them out after the self-cleaning cycle they may have a thin layer of ash to wipe off depending on how dark and 'used' your pans were.
|Before cleaning: a typical, well and often used baking stone right before I clean it|
|After 1 self-cleaning cycle in the oven.|
These are the same two stones I bought in 2005.
UPDATED: This post is from 2007, updated in 2009 and now again in 2015 as I had a great question from Joy in the comments regarding finding her old stone in storage and it having mold on it.
First off; I have no doubt Pampered Chef would tell you not to use it, as they legally don't want you to do anything that could possibly come back and harm them in any way. It's the world we live in today. Having said that, of course I will say the same thing; you have to do what you feel comfortable doing. I can't tell you what to do but I can tell you what I would do personally.
First off; Yes I would try to clean it and use it. Here is why; mold is easily killed by either bleach or heat.
Yeasts and molds are heat sensitive and destroyed by heat treatments at temperatures of 120°F - 160°F. They are also killed by bleach. Considering the oven cleans at 500°F and the entire stoneware is completely 'baked' at 500 all the way through and no moisture is left after 3 hours in a 500°F oven, I (personally) would be comfortable doing so.
If it were me (and this is only me speaking for myself) I would scour it clean with a scrubby. I would then wash it in hot, soapy water that I've added a strong dose of bleach to. (I love using a bit of bleach in my dishwater anyway; my Grandmother always did this until the day she died at 94 yrs old, my father does, and I do too.) I would let it dry at least overnight because you don't want extra moisture in the stone to expand in a hot oven and crack it - and then I would clean it when I cleaned my oven like I did in the photos above (and like I do every time I clean my kitchen oven).
After that your stone will need something fatty baked on it to season it again but simply baking something greasy/oily like store bought canned croissant rolls is usually enough oil to re-season it.
If you bleached it and baked it at 500 degrees and still didn't feel comfortable with it, then you can toss it.
UPDATE: It's now October of 2015 and I STILL HAVE AND USE THESE SAME PANS.
Yes. Same pans. They are now almost 11 years old - used often - and cleaned in the self-cleaning oven about once or twice a year. I never need to 'season' them - even when they come out of the self-clean process and are back to clear gray stone - I can bake on them immediately and nothing sticks as they've been used for so many years.
**Note - if YOU are not comfortable cleaning your stones this way, then please don't do so. This is just how I do it - and have cleaned them this way at least twice a year for over a decade and will continue to do so as long as I own them. But I'm not telling anyone else to do it this way. Just sharing what works for me and I'm glad that years and years (and years) ago I got this tip from someone else.