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

When barbecue season hits, it’s important to clean your barbecue grill, no matter how much rust it is covered in. As a barbecue fanatic, you want to be flipping burgers not red rust! It not healthy or sanitary to BE cooking on a rusty grill!

Fortunately, there are easy ways to ensure your cooking on a clean grill every time. Keep reading for quick rust removal techniques with common household products.

Things You’ll Need to Clean Your Grill

The fastest method to clean your rusty grill grates is salt and vinegar. That’s right, simple products everyone has having laying around at home!
Before cleaning, it’s recommended to prepare all your cleaning supplies before taking apart your grill.

Don’t be alarmed, this may get messy so you can always wear gloves. Its kind of like cleaning the dishes to take off food bits and food grime, just more scrubbing, and rust involved.

The following supplies you’ll need with salt and vinegar 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 your Grill with Salt and Vinegar

Once you have all your cleaning items, you’re ready to clean off the rust from your barbecue grill grates.

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 out of acid as oxide metal diminishes in acid. 

Don’t worry this won’t pose any damage to the actual metal. It’s just a great way to scrub the surface as other cleaning mixtures don’t contain acid to take off the rust.

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 bag, you don’t want the mixture and rust coming out of the bag.

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 get into the small spaces you otherwise may not have access to. 
If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can simply pour the mixture directly on the gates in the bag. Use sparingly so you can cover the entirety of the metal’s rust. 

Lay Down Flat and Leave For Overnight

It’s a good idea to lay down your grill grates somewhere on a flat surface 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. 

Wipe Off Any Remaining Rust with a Cloth

The next day, you can use a cloth or rag to scrub the remaining rust off your bbq grill grates. 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 of the salt remains, which works perfectly as a scrub. If you notice there’s still 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. 

Other Ways to Clean Your Rusty Grill

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar is made out of acetic acid, meaning it’s an excellent source of acid. This acid helps to clean rust off appliances. Baking soda is a mild Akali, and a mineral abrasive (like salt) so it can clean off the 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 baking soda into a large bowl and make a paste. Take the thick paste and pour it on the grill gates and leave on overnight. The next day, use a grill brush or stiff wire brush to scrub off the access.

Rust Removers

Commercial rust removers may do their job, however their chemical residue can be harmful to the your cooking surface. You also wouldn’t want to accidentally ingest chemicals if it gets on your food.
Natural properties and acids found in vinegar, salt, or lemon juice help clean and are safer; but are just not as powerful as commercial rust remover.
You can purchase safe rust remover made specifically for grill grates and just rinse with soap and water. 

Lemon Juice and Detergent

Lemon juice is another source of acid to clean off the residual rust from your bbq grill. The acid will seep into the rust overnight, and slowly dissolve the 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.

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

How Often Should You Clean Your Grill?

Its recommended you clean your cooking grates every six months. If you are a regular grilling user, as you wouldn’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 

Clean your grill directly after each use

By cleaning your cooking grates immediately after each use, you reduce grime and prevent rust from forming over time.
This is because when burnt meat stays on the grill, the harder and longer it will take to remove.

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 any type of cooking oil seeps into the metal. 

Look for Ceramic Grill Grates

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

Invest in Grill Cover

It is a common misconception that covering your grill causes it to rust after grilling. But the opposite is true. After every use, use a grill lid or when it’s out of use for a long period of time. 

Author: Justin Cartington
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 coffee rub brisket I am hanging out with my family, well mainly acting like a big kid with my boys.

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