How to Clean a Rusty Grill? 3 Methods That Work!

May 29, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

You can clean rust off your grill with vinegar and salt solution, baking soda, and a wire brush. All these methods work like a dream—trust me, I’ve tried them all.

Opening your grill only to find rust staring back at you is heartbreaking. The sight of rust is enough to demotivate you from making your delicious barbecues.

Fortunately, you can easily remove these stubborn stains using any of the methods I'll share below. My father taught me these methods as a child, and I've been using them ever since. Continue reading to find out how I remove tough rust stains so your grill stays clean and pristine.

How to Clean a Rusty Grill

How to Remove Rust From a Grill?

Before you clean rusty grill grates, you must first know the material it is made from. For instance, cast iron grill grates are generally easy to clean, so you need not apply too much pressure when scrubbing them. On the other hand, stainless steel grates require a bit more effort when scrubbing. With that said, let’s look at three ways you can clean your rusty grill grates.

Method 1: Vinegar and Salt

What You’ll Need?

  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Bowl
  • Garbage bag
  • Clean rag

Instructions

It's important to learn how to clean rusty grill grates with regular, non-toxic materials since you'll be cooking on them. Fortunately, salt and vinegar are the ideal substances for cleaning stubborn stains from your grill. Here's how: 

Step 1

Get a bowl and combine one cup of salt and two cups of vinegar.

Step 2

Take out the rusty grill grates and place them in a solid garbage bag.

Step 3

Next, fill the bag with salt and vinegar, then tie it up.

Step 4

Set the bag aside and allow it to soak overnight.

Step 5

After soaking, use an old rag to remove the rust.

Step 6

The rust should scrape off thanks to the salt, which serves as a mild abrasive.

Step 7

Lastly, soak the rag in the salt and vinegar mixture and use it to clean the body of the grill grates. Once you're done, use a clean cloth to wipe the moisture off the grill and allow it to dry. It's advisable to place the grill in an airy location.

Rust Removal on the Grill Using Spiky Grill Brush

Method 2: Baking Soda

What You’ll Need?

  • Grill brush
  • Hot water
  • Baking soda
  • Mild dish soap
  • Large bucket

Instructions

Step 1

First, use a brush to remove all residue from the rusty grates. Next, pre-heat the grill on low heat (I usually set my grill to 200 degrees) for 10 minutes before cleaning it to scrub off even more debris. The heat will allow the food and oil residues to become more easily removable. Start scrubbing once the grill has cooled off a bit and is safe to touch.

Step 2

Get a large bucket and fill it halfway with hot water. Next, add 1⁄4 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of soap to the hot water. Because baking soda is a mild abrasive, it works wonders to remove the rust from your grill. Mix the baking soda and soap until it foams.

Step 3

Remove the grill grates, if they are removable, and place them in a bowl large enough to contain them. Pour some of the baking soda mixture on top and let it soak for about an hour. This way, the soap, and soda will penetrate the rust and loosen it.

However, if you cannot remove your grill grates or if they are too large, splash the soda and soap mixture on the grill and scrub lightly with a brush. Note that this might not be as successful as soaking the rusty grill grate, particularly if there is a lot of surface rust.

Pour some of the mixture into a spray bottle and spritz it all over the grill. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Then, spritz it again and start scrubbing all parts of the grill. If you don't have a spray bottle, use a wet rag to dab some of the mixtures on the rusty grates.

Step 4

Lastly, ensure you dry the grill and its components with a clean cloth and wipe away all moisture. This step will prevent rust from forming on your prized grill.

Man Getting Rid of Rust on a Grill Using a Red Wire Brush

Method 3: Wire Brush

What You’ll Need?

  • Wire brush
  • Olive oil or dish soap

Instructions

Using a wire brush is one of the quickest ways to remove rust from tough spots on your grill. I advise using olive oil or soap to help lubricate the stainless steel grill so it doesn't scratch your pricy equipment.

Step 1

Firstly, remove the grill grates from your grill and lay them on a flat surface. Then, slather the olive oil or soap on both sides of the grill grate and all over the grill. You can use a soft brush for this.

Step 2

Next, use the wire brush to remove the rust from all rusty parts on the grill. Remember to remove strands of wire that fall off the brush, so they don’t clog your grill.

Step 3

Lastly, use a rag to wipe off the remaining rust and clean your grill with a clean towel.

Man Wearing a Black Apron Cleaning a Grill with a Wired Brush

How to Prevent Rust on a Grill?

  • Avoid putting marinades or other sauces straight onto the grill's burners while using them. Instead, add the sauces away from the grill before grilling. Too much sauce can cause rust and clog the grill.
  • Cleaning your grill after use is perhaps the most crucial way to hinder rust from forming. I advise using soap and water to wipe away any food residue once you’re done cooking. Don't forget to dry the area once you're done cleaning with soap.
  • Ensure that you apply oil to your grill grates after each cleaning. Rub the grill grates with a few paper towels dipped in vegetable oil. Oil repels moisture (which causes rust) and prevents food from sticking to the grill grates the next time you use it.
  • When not in use, close your grill lid and cover it to prevent moisture from getting inside. Remember, moisture leads to the formation of rust, so protect your grill from moisture as much as you can.
  • My final effective tip for preventing rust is to place your grill indoors. A shed or garage works well for this purpose. This step is particularly crucial if you live in a wet climate. 

Safety Tips

  • Remember to use gloves while cleaning the grill. This will protect you from cuts, scratches, and long exposure to cleaning chemicals.
  • Don’t forget to unplug the grill before cleaning.  
  • Ensure water doesn’t touch any electrical components as that may damage them. In case it’ll be hard to prevent water from touching the grill’s electricals, I advise wrapping them in plastic film or nylon before cleaning.

Conclusion

Nobody likes a rusty grill. Not only is it unhygienic, but it can also be an eye sore. Luckily, these three easy solutions will have your grill looking brand new! Remember to follow the precautionary steps for preventing rust.

If you allow stubborn rust to sit on your grill for too long, it may eat into the metal and leave you with no other choice but to change the components or the entire grill. Remember, prevention is always better than cure!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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