How to Easily Clean a Rusty Grill (Super Simple Guide You Can Follow)

When barbecue season hits, it’s important to clean your grill; no matter how much rust it is covered in, you want to flip burgers, not rust!

It is not healthy or sanitary to cook on a rusty grill! Fortunately, there are easy ways to ensure you cook on a clean grill every time. Keep reading for how to clean a rusty grill with simple rust removal techniques using common household products.

Equipment You’ll Need to Remove Rust From Your Grill

Salt and vinegar are the fastest methods for cleaning rusty grill grates. That’s right—they are simple products everyone has lying around at home!

Preparing all your cleaning supplies before taking apart your grill is recommended.

Don’t be alarmed. This may get messy, so you can always wear gloves. It’s like cleaning the dishes to remove food bits and grime, with more scrubbing and rust involved.

The following supplies you’ll need to clean your grill: 

  • 2 cups white vinegar 
  • 1 cup of table salt
  • Large mixing bowl 
  • Some warm water
  • Cloth or rag
  • Grill brush 
  • Paper towel
  • Durable and large garbage bag(s) 

How to Clean Rust from Your Grill in 6 Simple Steps

Once you have all your cleaning items, you’re ready to clean off the rust from your barbecue grill grates. Follow the 6 simple steps below, and your grill will be as good as new.

1. Create Your Cleaning Mixture

Pour the two cups of vinegar and one cup of salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir until the salt dissolves into the mixture. Studies show that table salt and vinegar are made from acid, as oxide metal diminishes in acid. 

Don’t worry; this will not damage the metal. It’s just a great way to scrub the surface, as other cleaning mixtures don’t contain acid to remove the rust.

2. Put Your Grates in a Large Bag

Once you’ve created your mixture, you can place your grill grates into a large garbage bag. To get the rust off, you must leave them overnight to soak the acid into the rust.

If one doesn’t hold the grates, you can double up. You might need to use two garbage bags; you don’t want the mixture and rust to come out of the bag.

3. Add Your Mixture of Vinegar

Give your vinegar bath a final stir, and pour it into a spray bottle to ensure you cover the entire grill grate. Putting it into a spray bottle allows you to access small spaces you otherwise may not be able to. 

If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can pour the mixture directly on the gates in the bag. Use sparingly so you can cover the entirety of the metal’s rust. 

4. Lay Down Flat and Leave For Overnight

It’s a good idea to lay down your grill grates somewhere flat so the mixture soaks into the metal. This is a vital step in ensuring its acid soaks into the rust. 

You wouldn’t want to lean it vertically as the mixture may drip down and come right off. 

5. Wipe Off Any Remaining Rust with a Cloth

The next day, you can scrub the remaining rust off your BBQ grill grates with a cloth or rag.

If need be, use a grill brush. Most of the rust would have already dissolved from the mixture. However, you want to clean everything off so your grates are polished.

You’ll notice some salt remains, which works perfectly as a scrub. If you notice a bit of rust left, you may have to repeat this process a few times overnight to see results. 

Nonetheless, there are always other options if the salt and vinegar mix isn’t for you. 

4 Other Ways to Clean Your Rusty Grill

There are four other effective ways to clean your rusty grill. They are listed below

1. Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar is made out of acetic acid, an excellent acid source.

This acid helps to clean rust off appliances. Baking soda is a mild Akali and a mineral abrasive (like salt), so it can clean dirt from just about anything. 

This baking soda mixture will be powerful due to its natural cleaning properties.

Add 2 cups of vinegar and 1 cup of baking soda into a large bowl and paste.

Take the thick paste, pour it on the grill gates, and leave it on overnight. Use a grill or stiff wire brush to scrub off the access the next day.

2. Rust Removers

Commercial rust removers may do their job. However, their chemical residue can be harmful to your cooking surface.

You also wouldn’t want to ingest chemicals if it gets on your food accidentally.

The natural properties and acids found in vinegar, salt, or lemon juice help clean and are safer, but they are just not as powerful as commercial rust removers.

You can purchase a safe rust remover for grill grates and rinse with soap and water. 

3. Lemon Juice and Detergent

Lemon juice is another acid source to clean off the residual rust from your BBQ grill.

The acid will seep into the rust overnight, and slowly dissolve rust.

Adding it with any detergent is a cherry on top as it will clean the surface dirt and food grime for an extra clean.

4. Using Soap and Water

Using soapy water may not sound as effective as other solutions. However, studies show that soap and water are just as effective as other antibacterial cleaning agents.

You can use the wire brush method with a grill brush using 1 cup of dish soap to clean the inside of the grill.

Note: You can try pressure washing your grill but you need to see if the model allows for it.

How Often Should You Clean Your Grill?

It’s recommended you clean your cooking grates every six months. If you are a regular griller, you don’t want your grill to develop stubborn rust when you can prevent it.

You can upkeep maintenance by taking apart your grill for a thorough clean using one of the following methods 

1. Clean your Grill Directly After Each Use

Cleaning your cooking grates immediately after each use reduces grime and prevents rust from forming over time.

This is because when burnt meat stays on the grill, it will take longer and harder to remove.

2. Should You Oil Your Cast Iron Grill Grates?

Coating your cast iron grill grates with vegetable oil can protect your grates against rust.

Be sure your grill grates is stored in a warm temperature environment. This helps the vegetable or cooking oil seep into the metal. 

3. Look for Ceramic Grill Grates

Germanic grill grates are naturally non-stick and also have a coating that stops water from getting to the metal. This means no more rust!

4. Invest in a Grill Cover

It is a common misconception that covering your grill causes it to rust after grilling. But the opposite is true.

Use a grill lid after every use (and also make sure you clean the grill lid) or when it’s out of use for a long period of time. 

Author: Justin Carrtington
Hi I’m Justin, I am one of the taste testers (hard job I know) here at Simply Meat Smoking! I have been grilling, smoking and cooking up a storm since I was young. I like use all types of fuel from charcoal to gas, wood and even electric!

When I not trying to perfect my ribs or brisket I am hanging out with my friends,mainly acting like a big kid.

You can read more on our About Us page.

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