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man showing how to clean rusty grill grates

Since the grill is an outdoor cooking element sometimes, it gets the short end of the stick when it comes to cleaning. Unfortunately, we tend to leave our grill alone and give it a quick brush off before we put a steak down.

This can lead to some long term issues, and it is best to give your grill grates a bit more attention than this. Knowing how to clean your grill grates is essential, and luckily it is not all that difficult. Let’s look at how to clean rusty grill grates and some ways to keep that rust off for good. 

Best Ways To Clean Your Grill

We always try to give you some options for cleaning your grill in a natural way and for cleaning it with a commercial cleaner as well. Having both options will help to ensure that you can get your grill back to its original condition. 

Want more cleaning tips? Here are some easy ways to clean your microwave and your oven.

How to clean your grill with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar and baking soda mixture is something that you will always want to keep in the house. When you use vinegar and baking soda, the cleaning will happen for you with very little effort on your part. Vinegar and baking soda are easy to mix together and will work on most rusty grill grates. 

With this method, you will combine equal parts of vinegar and baking soda. If you find that the solution is a bit more liquidy, add some extra baking soda. You will want to create something that is like a paste. 

The paste is then applied directly to your grill. When we clean our grill grates, we usually move them off of the grill and put them on a surface that won’t get stained by the rust or ruined with our cleaners. Paste the baking soda and vinegar all over the rusty grates, and then give it some time. 

In about thirty minutes, you should notice that the rust has removed itself. You can rinse the grates and place them back on your grill when dry. If one round of this process did now work, it could be helpful to repeat it a few times. 

How To Clean BBQ Grill Grates With Vinegar

If you don’t have baking soda on hand, you can still clean your BBQ grill grates with just vinegar. Vinegar will act against the rust and start to neutralize it. If you are going to use vinegar, we recommend putting it in a spray bottle. 

When you put vinegar in a spray bottle, you can spray it across your entire bbq grill grate. When it is covering the entire grate, you can wait and watch it start to bubble up. Let this vinegar sit for a good half an hour or so, and then rinse and repeat if necessary. 

If the smell of vinegar bothers you, you can mix in some lemon juice as well. The lemon works to clean and to mask the smell of the vinegar as it does its job. 

How To Clean Your Grill With Soap And Water

Many people wonder if good old fashioned soap and water will do the trick to clean grill grates. The good news is that it absolutely can work; the bad news is that it may take a bit more labor on your part. 

Grill grates that are covered in rust are going to sometimes need a bit of scrubbing. You can scrub using a brush and some soap and water. This will make sure that the dirt and grime come off, and the grates are clean and ready to use. 

When we do this, we look for a large flat tub of water to clean the grates in. You can use something like a large storage container, fill it with warm water and soap, and then submerge the grates. As you clean, you may need to rinse the water and add more soap at times. Although this process is a bit more labor-intensive, it should get the job done. 

How To Clean Rusty Grill Grates With Rust Removers

A rust remover is a manufactured chemical that can remove rust from a grill. When you remove rust from your grill with a rust remover, there will be very little work to do on your part. Most of the time, you spray the remover on, rinse it, and the rust should be gone. 

The major issue with this is that many rust removers are not made for human consumption. In other words, if there is a residue left on the grill, it can be very dangerous for people to use the grill. 

Make sure that any type of remover that you choose to use is safe for surfaces that prepare food. There are several out there that can be effective, but keep in mind baking soda and vinegar can be just as effective. 

How To Keep Your Grill From Getting Rusty

Now that you know how to clean your grill, you will want to keep it from getting rusty again. Keeping rust away is a lot easier than removing rust. If you follow some simple tips, you should be able to keep the rust away from your grill in the first place. 

Stick With Stainless Steel

When you purchase your grates for your grill, you must make sure that they are a material that will not rust easily. When you choose cheap grill grates, you will notice quite a bit more rust. The stainless steel grates will be much less likely to rust, and you will notice that they last longer as well. 

Instead of stainless steel, you could choose porcelain-coated cast-iron grates for your grill as well. These are also less likely to rust, and the cast iron is again durable and long-lasting. 

Clean Periodically 

Although rust can happen to any grill user, you will want to make sure you are periodically taking care of your grill. Don’t wait until the grates are caked in rust before you start to clean them. You should be taking care of your grill all along. 

After each use, try and scrape any excess food off the grill. Never leave the grill unattended with the top open. You don’t want unnecessary water and moisture to end up inside and on the grates causing even more rust to develop. 


Do you oil the grates on your grill? You should be oiling your grates when you cook. The oiling helps to make sure that the grates are not going to get stuck with food. When food sticks to the grate, it can break down the finish and potentially cause rust long term. 

The oil works as a way to coat the grate and have it last longer. The oil will end up making it easier to keep the grate rust free. 

Grill Cover 

If you don’t have a good grill cover, you need to invest in one. The grill cover is put over the grill when it is not in use. When you put the grill cover on, it will help to make sure that the grill does not get wet in a rain or snow storm. 

When it rains, and the water seeps down into the grill area, it will have no way to dry and get out. This water will turn to moisture being stored under the cover, and eventually, it can lead to rust on your grates. 

A grill cover does not need to be expensive, and it doesn’t even need to match the grill you have; it just needs to be effective. This is very important for those that store their grill away from any type of an overhang where it would get some protection. 

Not only is the grill cover going to help keep your grill grates looking like new, but it will also keep your entire grill in better shape. The outside frame of your grill can get rust on it as well, and you can avoid all of this by using the cover. 

Treat Immediately 

If you notice a tiny bit of rust starting on your grill grates, don’t wait to treat this. You will need to handle the situation immediately if you want to make sure the rust does not spread. Rust, unfortunately, tends to spread fast, and you will just create more work for yourself. 

If this is a common problem that you have, make sure to use a grill cover, and keep a bottle of vinegar spray near your grill so you can treat it from time to time. 

Store Indoors

Obviously, you will need to cook with your grill outdoors, but if you have the ability to store the grill indoors, you should do so. Storing your grill indoors is a great idea if you can do it. Even if you have a way to get the grill in a shed or a garage after you use it, you will save yourself a lot of money in the long run. 

When a grill starts to deteriorate, it can be very frustrating. Chances are it is still functioning just fine; you just will have issues keep the structure and the grates from rusting and falling apart. Storing the grill indoors, especially if you live in an area where there is saltwater, is going to make a huge difference. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

By now, you should be feeling great about the ability to get rust to leave your grill and to keep it away for good. Here are a few common questions that we often see about how to clean rusty grill grates. 

Is it OK to grill on rusted grates?

If you are serious about your grilling, you know that food safety is extremely important. The last thing that you want is for your or someone else to get sick after eating on your grill. The problem with leaving rust on your grill is that the rust can ruin the food. 

Not only is it bad for the rust to cook into the food, but actual flakes of rust can end up in the food as well. This is a dangerous situation and not a good idea. You should clean the rust off of your grill and then invite the friends over for a BBQ. 

Plus, if everyone sees that you are cooking on a rusty grill, they may suddenly lose their appetite!  

Can you burn rust off?

Some people will tell you that as long as you get the temperatures up on your grill, you can clean it. When the grill is hot, it can certainly help to remove some residue, but it is not going to help you remove rust. 

When the grill is hot, using a wire brush will help you to get the excess food off, but rust will probably still be there. You may get some of the flakes of rust to fall off, but you need to treat the area with something that will help eliminate corrosion. 

Burning off your grill before cooking to remove excess food is fine, but it will not eliminate the rust built up on the grill. 

Final Thoughts 

Hopefully, you now feel as though you can clean your rusty grill grates without much trouble. Although this process can be a bit messy at times, it is usually quick and effective.

Ensure that wherever you decide to clean your grill, grates are in an area that you are not worried about ruining or staining. Rust can stain a deck, and you won’t want the rusty vinegar and baking soda water running all over your deck. 

As long as you follow our steps above, you should have no rust left on your grates when you are done. Taking care of your grill grates will help to make sure that you prevent rust in the future.

Remember, prevention is more manageable than treatment, so do everything you can to prevent the rust, to begin with.