Easy Step-By-Step Guide on How To Clean A Grill (Charcoal, Gas, and More)
Get your grill summer ready with our complete cleaning guide.
Whether you’re an easy-does-it propane enthusiast or an old school charcoal purist, everyone can agree – grilling season is the best season. But when you crack open that lid for the first cookout of the season and are greeted with last year’s grime on the grates, it can be anything but appetizing.
Our advice? Don’t wait until you’re ready for regular cookouts. Clean your grill now — and often — with our helpful tips to make the most of it all summer long. By following a simple routine of cleaning and maintenance, you can get the most out of your grill and lengthen its life, guaranteeing years of great patio parties.
While cleaning your grill sounds like way more of an annoyance than marinating the meat, shucking the corn and carving the watermelon combined, it really isn’t that daunting. And as with any chore, the more often you do it, the less tedious it will be. Grill cleaning is, however, a bit messy. Ash and grease and gunk, oh my! So we recommend not wearing your favorite clothes while grill cleaning. Save that cute sundress and your fresh new sneakers for the actual BBQ.
We broke down our grill cleaning guide into categories based on which type of grill you own, including a helpful list of grill cleaning accoutrements and some bonus suggestions on how to maintain a clean grill year-round and in between uses.
Supplies for cleaning a grill
How to clean a charcoal grill
Charcoal grills are easy to use (if you’re patient) but quick to build up with grime. Before you start cleaning, be sure the grill is completely cooled down. Treating a burn will add way more time to your grill cleaning regimen, and you’ve got burgers to prep!
- Remove grates from inside the grill.
- Remove all the old ashes. (Hint: Ash is messy.)
- Make sure the ashes are completely cooled before doing this! Do not add water to the coals to cool them, since this creates a chemical reaction that will erode the metal of your grill.
- Some charcoal grills have ash catchers beneath the bowl, so be sure to check for ashes there, too. If you want to go analogue, use a garden trowel to scoop out the ashes. A more effective and modern solution for the ashes is to suck them out with a vacuum hose attachment (shop vacs work perfectly for this).
- Carefully dispose of ashes in a metal trash can or plastic bag.
- Hose out your grill and its lid to remove any residual ash (think: dusting before you deep clean).
- Time to put on your gloves. In a bucket, mix a squirt of dish soap like Dawn with some hot water and start scrubbing the interior of your grill with a scouring pad.
- If the interior of your grill is still super gross after your initial hot water and dish soap scrub, spray the degreaser all over the inside of the grill and let it sit for about 20 minutes to soften any accumulated grease.
- While the degreaser is setting on the grill, use said degreaser to clean your grill grates, using your scraper tool if you need to.
- Use your dish soap and hot water solution to wash the outside of the grill.
- When the grease has loosened from the inside of the grill, wipe the cleaner off with a paper towel or rag.
- Rinse all grill surfaces with clean hot water.
How to clean a gas grill
Cleaning your gas grill correctly is essential to keeping it functioning at peak performance. It’s as easy as burn, soak, vacuum and scrub. Then you’re good to sear, cook roast and broil.
- Turn your grill on high for about twenty minutes with the lid closed. Crank the heat as high as it’ll go to burn off and loosen any grime or food build up.
- Dip your wire grill brush into a solution of dish soap such as Dawn and hot water and scrub the grates from front to back. Watch out for the hot steam this could create, mind your face and forearms.
- Turn off the grill, unhook the propane and let it cool. But seriously, let it cool all the way down. Go have a sandwich or something while you’re waiting.
- If the grates are still gunky, you can remove them and soak them in your dish soap and hot water solution for about thirty minutes. Even if you want to skip the soaking step, remove the grates and get them out of your way so you can access your grill’s interior.
- Most gas grill parts are removable and the more of them you remove before cleaning the grill’s interior, the easier it will go. For example, burner-control knobs, warming racks, grease trays and burner tubes can all be gently removed and individually cleaned with warm water and dish soap. You can carefully unclog gas ports with a toothpick, if necessary.
- Use your scraper tool to chisel off any caked-on debris from the inside of the gas grill.
- Take your shop vac or vacuum hose attachment and suck out the remaining loose debris from inside the belly of the grill. Rinse out the inside with a hose, but be careful around any electrical attachments and filaments.
- Once the grates are done soaking, replace them and scrape off any remaining build up with your wire brush. If they’re still bad (and now we’re impressed), try a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Durable which cuts tough grease. Alternatively, a DIY paste of baking soda and white vinegar should dissolve any more stage five clingers still on the grates. Rinse mixture off with warm water.
- Wipe down the outside of the gas grill with soap and water, making sure to rinse off soapy residue with clean water.
- Fire up the gas grill once you’re done cleaning to ensure you’ve reassembled everything correctly (don’t forget to replace the grease trap!) and to burn off any lingering soap or cleaning products before cooking on it.
How to clean a stainless steel grill
Congratulations on having the easiest grill to use and clean, period. You can clean this type of grill with nearly any solution. Pick whatever works best for you.
- Clean your flat top, stainless grill while it’s still hot for best results.
- You can clean a stainless steel grill with either a mixture of dish soap (like Dawn) and hot water, ready-made degreaser or a DIY baking soda solution. Whichever you choose, spray or pour directly onto the hot grill’s surface and use a soft bristled brush or rag to scrub off any debris.
- Try using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Durable for tricky grease spots or tough stains.
- Rinse grill top with clean warm water to remove residue from soap, degreaser or baking soda. Wipe dry with a clean rag.
- Never use abrasive cleaning solutions, metal brushes or steel wool on stainless steel. It scratches easily. Also, avoid using stainless steel polish on your grill, since polish will often become discolored under extreme heat.
How to clean a cast iron grill
Cast iron is super tricky. Like, how are you supposed to clean something without using soap? Quite the riddle.
- It’s best to burn off any food built up on your cast iron grill by cranking the grill’s heat way up with the lid on.
- Once the grates cool, you can use a bristled grill brush to scrub the grates.
- Use minimal water on cast iron, otherwise it can develop rust.
- Coating your cast iron with a light layer of vegetable oil after and in between uses helps to protect the grates against rust.
Now you’re all set to fire up the grill, without having to worry about the grimy ghosts from last summer’s burnt bratwursts coming back to haunt this week’s grilled romaine and black bean burgers. So set the clocks ahead an hour, pour yourself a Moscow Mule and bust out the bug spray. Spring has sprung, baby.