How To Clean a Rusty Grill in 4 Easy Steps

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You've invited a few friends over and stocked up on hot dogs, burgers, veggies and beer for the first grill-out of the season. However, when you go to open your trusty barbecue grill for the backyard BBQ, you realize that it hasn't seen the light of day since last summer and has collected rust over the long winter. If this sounds familiar, not to worry. Here's how to clean a rusty grill in 4 easy steps. The BBQ must go on!

How to Clean Your Rusty Grill

Grilling out is one of the best parts of summer, and a little build-up of rust isn't going to change that. There are a few different ways to clean your grill, but one of the most common is with salt and vinegar. This is a great option if you have enough time, but the grates do need to soak overnight, which is something to keep in mind for last-minute grillers.

To clean your cooking grates with this method, you'll need 1 cup of salt, 2 cups of white vinegar, 1 heavy-duty garbage bag, and a grill brush. These amounts are for one grill rate, so you'll need larger amounts for more than one.

how to clean a rusty grill

1. Set Everything Up

The first step to remove rust is to mix the salt and vinegar, mixing until fully combined. Then, place your grill grates in a garbage bag. If it seems like one bag isn't enough, feel free to double up on trash bags to prevent leakage.

2. Pour Mixture In

Once your grates are in the garbage bag, pour the vinegar mixture in and jostle/shake the bag to ensure that your grate is fully covered.

3. Lay Flat and Soak

Lay the bag down flat in a safe place. You want as much of the mixture to soak your grill as possible, so the flatter the better! Leave the bag to soak overnight.

4. Remove Rust

The vinegar mixture will have dissolved much of the rust, but you'll still need to scrub some of it with a grill brush to get it completely clean. Give your grill grate a hearty brush down to take off the remaining rust. The salt can be used as a mild abrasive to help with this process; pour salt on any stubborn rust and the scrubbing should be easier. Your cooking surface should now be good as new and ready for grilling!

Expert Grill BBQ Grill Scrubber

how to clean a rusty grill

This Expert BBQ Grill Scrubber is perfect for this task, made for deep cleaning grill grates and griddle. The black polyester pad is perfect for cleaning stainless steel grills, gas grills, charcoal grills, cast iron grill grates and more. It also works great on oven grates, barbecue tools, patio bricks, and oil stains. At $1.57, this is as inexpensive and effective as it gets!

Other Cleaning Methods

If you don't have much corrosion and your grill isn't overly rusted, you may not need to do the whole process of soaking overnight. Soapy water is great for minor spots and a quick fix. Simply mix warm water and dish soap together, and scrub away with an old rag or your grill brush.

Another option to clean rusty grill grates is lemon juice and powdered detergent. This works in a similar way to salt and vinegar, by making an acidic solution that naturally dissolves rust. For minor rusting, this should do the trick! You'll still need your brush, but this solution should make the scrubbing easier.

The third solution for rust removal that uses household items is vinegar and baking soda. Make a thick paste with a 2-1 ratio of baking soda to vinegar. Use immediately, applying the paste to the grill and scrubbing away the rust.

Evapo-Rust Safe Rust Remover


Commercial rust removers are another option to be totally sure you'll be able to remove all the grime and rust on your grill. Some of these do use toxic chemicals, so it's important to make sure you buy a safe rust remover. Evapo-rust is a good way to go, as it's water-based, non-toxic, and biodegradable. Just soak, rinse and dry your grill grates!

Although these are all excellent methods for removing rust from your grill, preventing rust in the first place makes it even easier on yourself. To do this, clean your grill after each use, oil your cast iron grill grates, and use a weatherproof grill cover. Happy grilling!

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