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  • Writer's pictureSame Day Dumpster

REAL SIMPLE: How to clean a gas or charcoal grill like a pro.

Updated: Jul 13

How to Clean a Grill With Household Items

Here are some tried and true tips for cleaning your grill—without chemical cleaners.

It's important to learn how to clean a grill to stop food from sticking and prevent grill flare-ups. Grills inevitably get dirty from cooking on them and if sitting around waiting to be used.

It's good to know both quick cleaning methods—for when you're in the middle of cooking—and how to deep clean a grill between uses (or seasons). But there's no need to turn to chemical grill cleaners. Follow this guide for cleaning your grill with household items.

How Often to Clean a Grill

It's best to clean your grill after each use to avoid stuck-on food. You can quickly clean the grill grates and cooking surface, leaving it ready for the next backyard barbecue. Then, at least once a year, give your grill a deep clean. Depending on how often you use your grill, you may need to clean it deep every few months.

Considerations Before You Get Started

While these grill-cleaning methods should work on both gas and charcoal grills, we recommend checking your manufacturer's manual to be sure. (You don't want to damage the cooking surface.)

When cleaning your grill, try the easiest, least harmful cleaning method first before working your way to the more involved techniques. This could save you some time and effort.

What You Need:

To Clean With an Onion

  • Stainless steel grill brush (optional)

  • Onion

  • Grill fork

To Clean With Aluminum Foil

  • Aluminum foil

  • Tongs

To Clean With Coffee

  • Pot of coffee

  • Large bucket or container (to hold the grill grates)

  • Towel

To Clean With Dish Soap

  • Grill brush

  • Dish soap

  • Large buckets or containers (to hold the grill grates)

  • Garden hose

  • Work gloves

  • Paper towels

  • Vegetable oil

  • Stainless steel polish (optional)

  • Microfiber cloth (optional)

How to Clean a Grill With an Onion

Step 1: Heat Grill

If not already hot, turn on the grill and get it piping hot. This helps loosen debris and remelt stuck-on BBQ sauce, making it easier to scrub off.

Step 2: Scrub Grill

Once the grill is hot, reach for your trusty stainless steel grill brush and scrub the grates. If you want to avoid the potentially dangerous bristles from getting into food, grab an onion instead.

Step 3: Rub With Onion

Cut the onion in half, and using a grill fork, rub the onion cut-side-down on the grates to remove stuck-on residue. Because this grill cleaning method may impart some onion flavor to the grates, reserve it for when grilling savory dishes rather than when grilling fruit, like peaches, for dessert.

How to Clean a Grill With Aluminum Foil

Step 1: Make an Aluminum Ball

If you're grilling packets of fish or wrapping up corn, you likely already have a box of aluminum foil next to your grill. When it's time to clean the grill grates, tear off a piece of foil and roll it into a ball.

Step 2: Scrub Grill

Hold the aluminum foil ball with tongs and rub it over the grates to knock off any debris and cooked-on food. You may want to rinse the grill surface clean to avoid leaving aluminum foil behind, which can contaminate food.

How to Clean a Grill With Coffee

For a deeper cleaning (and if you aren't worried about removing any "seasoning" on grill grates that have built up over time), turn to the coffee cleaning hack. Here's how it works.

Step 1: Brew Coffee

Brew a pot of coffee—any kind will work. Pour the coffee into a large bucket or container.

Step 2: Remove Grill Grates

Remove the grates from the grill. (Only do this after the grates have cooled down.)

Step 3: Soak Grill Grates

Submerge the grill grates in the coffee. Let them sit for one hour. The acid in the coffee will help break down stuck-on sauce and grease.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

Thoroughly rinse the grill grates to remove the coffee. Dry the grates before replacing them.

How to Clean a Grill With Dish Soap

Step 1: Heat Grill

Fire up the grill so that it's hot. This will help loosen stuck-on food bits and sauce.

Step 2: Scrub Grates

Using a grill brush, scrub the grates. You can also dip the brush into a container of soapy water. The steam created by the water will help remove stubborn residue.

Step 3: Cool Grill

Turn the grill off and let it cool down. If it's a gas grill, disconnect the propane tank from the grill.

Step 4: Wash Grates

Once the grill has cooled, remove the grill grates and burner shields (if it's a gas grill). Dunk them in a bucket filled with warm, soapy water. Scrub them with a grill brush, then rinse with a hose.

Step 5: Clean Drip Pan

If your grill has a drip pan (aka grease tray) or grease cup, disconnect it from underneath the grill and empty it. Then, wash it in soapy water and rinse thoroughly.

Step 6: Clear Cook Box

Place a bucket underneath the grill to catch debris. Wearing gloves, clear out the cook box (if your grill has one) and push the debris out so it lands in the bucket below.

Step 7: Scrub Grill Lid

Give the inside of the grill lid a quick scrub with the grill brush, then wipe with a damp paper towel. If you see what looks like peeling paint on the underside of the lid, it's a harmless buildup of carbon that can be scrubbed away.

Step 8: Reassemble and Season Grill

Replace the burner shields and grill grates. To reseason the grates and prevent food from sticking, apply vegetable oil to the grates using a paper towel.

Step 9: Clean Grill Exterior

If you have a stainless steel grill, apply some stainless steel polish to a microfiber cloth and buff it onto the surface, working in the direction of the grain. For ceramic or painted steel grills, wash the exterior with soapy water.

How to Keep Your Grill Clean Longer

To help your grill stay clean, try these tips:

  • Clean your grill after every use. It doesn't have to be a deep clean. A quick scrub of the grates and lid after cooking on it can keep the grill clean between uses and save you effort in the future.

  • Use a grill cover. If you're not planning to use your grill for a few months (e.g., during the winter months), invest in a durable, waterproof grill cover that prevents rust and protects it from the elements.

  • Clean grill tools. It's just as important to wash and clean your grill tools. Keeping the grill brush, tongs, and other grilling supplies clean will avoid spreading food debris and other dirt onto the grill grates.


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