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How To Clean Your Grill: The Ultimate Guide To A Clean Grill

How many times have you grilled out over the past week? All that tasty BBQ probably has you feeling satisfied, but what about your grill?

It’s easy to put off cleaning your grill, especially if you’re not quite sure how to do it. You definitely don’t want to damage your grill because those backyard BBQs make everything better. 

Don’t worry. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to clean your grill, so you can keep those BBQs alive! 

Why You Need to Clean Your Grill

Maybe you’re wondering why you need to take the time to clean your grill. After all, you use fire to cook, so doesn’t that clean the grill every time you use it? Unfortunately, grills don’t work that way.

When you don’t clean your grill regularly, you invite a host of problems to your next BBQ. 

  • Grease overflow can cause fires and lead to stains on your deck or patio.
  • Leftover food lodged on your grill makes your next meal taste gross.
  • Speaking of leftover food, what happens when it sits in the heat for a while? That’s right. It makes a breeding ground for bacteria. Disgusting!
  • Mold loves moisture, darkness, and grease, so your grill is a perfect breeding ground if you don’t keep it clean.
  • Leftover food, grease, and debris in your grill attract rodents. Mice, rats, and squirrels carry diseases, and they have no qualms about leaving their urine and feces behind on your grill! 

When Should You Clean Your Grill?

As you can see, cleaning outdoor grills is crucial for several reasons. Figuring out when to clean it depends upon how often you grill out.

Ideally, you do a simple cleaning after every use to remove food particles from the grate. 

Every three to six months, you should do a thorough cleaning to remove buildup and inspect all grill components. It’s the best way to keep your grill functioning properly and prevent damage. 

How to Do a Basic Grill Cleaning

Performing basic cleanings of your outdoor grill after every use helps preserve the integrity of your next meal. Quick cleans also prolong other damaging effects.

Once your grill cools down, use a wire-bristled brush to scrub the grate clean. Make sure you remove any food debris you knock off the grate. You don’t want that debris drawing any rodents or bacteria! 

How to Do a Thorough Cleaning of Your Grill

Quick cleaning outdoor grills helps, but if you really want to keep BBQing, you need to clean your grill thoroughly. The in-depth grill cleaning process varies slightly for different types of grills, but you can expect to follow similar steps for every grill type. 

Supplies You Need for Cleaning Outdoor Grills

Just like when you’re grilling out, it’s important to start with the proper tools. We’ll talk about alternative cleaning methods later, but for now, let’s do a standard deep clean.

  • Grill brush or wired brush
  • Putty knife
  • Paper towels or cleaning rags
  • Grill cleaner or dish soap
  • Large buckets or sturdy containers
  • Warm water
  • Shop-vac
  • Optional: gloves to protect your hands

Step One: Prepping the Grill

It may be tempting to jump right in and start scrubbing away, but that’s the best way to make a mess. Instead, do a little prep work to make your job a whole lot easier.

For gas grills, fire up all burners on high heat. Close the lid and let it burn for thirty minutes or so to scorch away as much residue as possible. Turn off the gas and disconnect the tank from the grill. 

man creating fire on grill
Prep To Clean Your Grill By Turning Up The Heat. Get your Grill Hot So its Easier to Clean.

If you use a charcoal grill, dump the old briquettes into a container. Scrape off excess charcoal dust with a putty knife.

Let the grill cool completely. 

Step Two: Scrub and Soak

When the grill is cool enough for you to touch it, remove all washable components (the grates, racks, etc.). Remove anything you can take off with a scrub brush or knife that you didn’t see or couldn’t reach during the first step. Remove these components:

  • Grates – Scrub the underside of the cooking grates. The underside of the grates do not get brushed as often when you are grilling and can collect gunk and grease
  • Heat Plates and Shields – The purpose of the heat shield is to disperse heat and protect the burners from grease drippings. The heat shields are especially dirty and need a good scrubbing
  • Burners and Tubes – Take a picture of your assembled burners so you can see how to put it back together. You will see that much of the tube may have blockage from grease. Cleaning these free of debris will help your grill work better and cook more evenly.
  • Grease Tray – A new grease tray may be needed as these are usually made of disposable aluminum tins. However a good soak and scrub can make it brand new.

Prepare the buckets or containers with warm, soapy water. Submerge the washable components and let them soak for at least thirty minutes.

Remove the components and scrub them with a wire brush. Rinse away soap and grime then dry them thoroughly. Pay special attention to any cast-iron pieces to avoid rusting! 

scrubbing grates with a brush
Scrub in a Soapy Bucket

Step Three: Disassemble and Vacuum

You read that right, vacuum. Pull out your trusty shop vac for this step. Remove everything you can, including knobs and hoses. Set all pieces aside and vacuum out the interior of your grill to remove loose debris.

If necessary, squirt out your grill with the hose to make sure it’s clear of dust, dirt, and debris. 

Step Four: Clean Remaining Components

Clean up all items you removed. Make sure hoses are clear of debris. 

NOTE: When handling the grease tray, be cautious not to spill it. Dispose of grease properly! Do not dump grease down the drain because it can ruin your pipes and wreak havoc on the sewage system. 

Instead, pour excess into an empty disposable container. Allow the grease to harden, seal it with a lid, then toss it in the trash. 

Step Five: Carefully Reassemble

Make sure everything is 100% dry before reassembling. Carefully put the components back together and reconnect all hoses.

If you’re feeling especially motivated, you can wipe down and polish the exterior of your grill to leave it looking new again!

Make sure you heat the grill for fifteen minutes or so before using it again. This step may seem unnecessary, but it is a great way to make sure you hooked everything up correctly. 

A great Step by Step Video Tutorial For Cleaning Your Grill

Additional Option for Cleaning Charcoal Grills

Since charcoal grills have slightly different setups, you have some additional cleaning options. Make sure you dump the old charcoal and dispose of it properly first.

This method requires you to borrow, rent, or purchase a pressure washer. Set up your charcoal grill away from anything you could damage. Turn the pressure washer to a medium setting and go to work. Make sure you use downward motions to minimize the mess. 

Bonus Tips and Tricks for Cleaning Outdoor Grills

As promised, we assembled some additional tips and tricks for cleaning outdoor grills. From alternate quick-cleaning tools to additional grease disposal options, we’ve got you covered.


Alternative Cleaning Tools You Can Use

Don’t have a grill brush to clean your grates? No problem. You don’t need to purchase a grill brush or any type of wired brush with these grill cleaning hacks!

  • Drop your washable components in the dishwasher.
  • Slice an onion in half, stick it on the end of a grilling fork, and rub it over your grate while it’s still hot. The combination of onion and steam does a fantastic job of cleaning your grill grate.
  • Lemon and salt is a popular combination for many things, but did you know that they work wonders on a grill? Slice a large lemon in half and dip them in salt. Squeeze the lemon halves over the warm grill and scrub away the buildup.
  • Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Coat your grill grate and let it sit for ten to fifteen minutes, then scrub the grill clean with a sponge or cloth.
  • Soak the grate in coffee to remove dust and debris.
  • Pour half a beer onto your warm grill and scrub with crumpled up newspapers to quickly clean the grate.
  • Grab some aluminum foil and your tongs for an easy clean. Crumple up the foil and use the tongs to rub the foil over the grates.
  • Purchase a pumice stone. Since pumice stone is coarse and naturally anti-bacterial, it’s an excellent option for cleaning grills, especially charcoal grills. 
You can Even “Season” Your Grill Grates with an Onion

Optional Cleaning Tricks Any BBQ Master Can Use

Some steps aren’t necessary, but they add a little something to your grilling experience. Take what you need, leave what you don’t, but these cleaning tips could notch up your next BBQ.

  • Once your grill is squeaky clean, rub some vegetable or olive oil (or even an onion! See video above) over the grates for extra flavor and rust-prevention.
  • Annoyed by nicks or scratches on your grill? Try touching them up with paint or polish.
  • If you have a stainless steel grill, try using a stainless steel polish to leave your grill looking brand new. 

Alternate Grease Disposal Options

If you don’t feel good about tossing your excess grease in the trash, try these kitchen grease disposal options

  • Check with your local officials to see if they have community programs for grease and oil drop-offs.
  • If you compost, you can add a small amount of grease to your compost.
  • Pour the grease over crumpled up paper towels or cardboard to create a fire starter for later use. 

Keep Your Backyard BBQs Alive

Backyard BBQs allow you to connect with family and friends, explore unique flavors, and cook your meals just right. Now that you know how to clean your grill, you can keep safely, and tastefully, keep those traditions going.

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