A dirty gas grill sits open.

How to Clean Your Grill

A soft scrubber is used to clean a gas grill grate.

Grilling season is upon us, and you may have just opened the cover to your grill to find you forgot to clean it last fall before storing it away. Or maybe you want to ensure you’re always staying on top of keeping your grill looking spotless. Either way, the process is generally the same, no matter when cleaning a grill.

There are several types of grills out there, and they’re not all created equal. Figuring out how to clean your specific grill can feel like a daunting task. Some grills are harder to clean than others based on the type of grill or the type of grill grates. Our trusty guide will lay out how to clean several types of grills and have your grill looking as good as new.

Grill Cleaning Brushes

For the longest time, a wire brush was the gold standard for cleaning a grill. They’re strong material brushes that work great for cleaning grills, but they should be used with caution. It was found the bristles could break off over time and get lodged in grill grates causing them to end up in food and leading to injury. If using a wire brush, be sure to check your grates after cleaning to ensure there aren’t any stray bristles stuck in them. Also, double-check your brush frequently for damage. Replace the brush immediately if any loose bristles are found.

Now there are several alternatives to the traditional wire grill brush, such as palmyra brushes with all-natural bristles that soften and burn away if they fall out. You can also use a nylon or stainless steel grill brush. For bristle-free cleaning, there are wood grill scrapers that have notches in them that will contour around grill grates over time, so they’ll work perfectly with any setup you have.

How to Clean a Charcoal Grill

Charcoal grills are one of the easiest cleans but require cleaning after every use. Charcoal bricks need to be replenished each time and naturally block the vents at the bottom of the grill as they turn to ash. Eventually, this will increase the chance of a fire and lead to fluctuating cooking temperatures. Here’s how to clean a charcoal grill after each use:

  1. Dump any leftover bricks and ash into a metal container. (Be sure you wait until the bricks have cooled down considerably)
  2. Use a grill brush to remove any excess charcoal dust and debris from inside the bowl.
  3. Clean the grates with a grill brush. A ball of aluminum foil and a pair of tongs can also be used if you don’t have a brush.
  4. Apply vegetable oil to the grates with a rag or paper towel. This will help prevent food from sticking to the grates and rust build-up.
  5. Clean the exterior and interior of the grill bowl and lid with mild dish soap and a steel brush.

As long as you keep up on the regular maintenance mentioned above, cleaning the grill before and after each season is rather simple.

  1. Wipe down the entire grill inside and out with soap and water. A grill cleaner can be used instead.
  2. Towel dry to prevent any rust during storage.

How to Clean a Gas Grill

A grill brush is used to clean a gas grill.

Gas grills, considered either natural gas or propane-fueled, are much more involved when it comes to cleaning before and after grilling season. The main reason for the intense cleaning is the number of parts on a gas grill. Cleaning after each use is very similar to cleaning a charcoal grill.

  1. Scrape with a grill brush to remove any larger pieces of food.
  2. Coat the grates with vegetable oil using a rag or paper towel.
  3. Clean the inside of the grill lid with soap and a steel brush.
  4. Use either a grill brush or grill degreaser to clean heat shields that sit over the burner tubes. If the shields are ceramic, avoid using a degreaser.
  5. Dry everything thoroughly with a rag to prevent rust.

Cleaning a grill at the beginning or end of the season is much more involved and intended to remove everything built up inside the grill over time. 

  1. Remove the grates and heat shields and lightly scrape them with a grill brush to remove any larger pieces. (If you have porcelain grates, use a nylon brush so you don’t scratch their surface)
  2. Put the grates and shields in either a large tub or sink filled with soap and water and let soak for one hour.
  3. Use a grill brush to clean the burner tubes. Be sure to scrub horizontally versus vertically, as you could risk getting debris inside the tubes. (This can be done either by removing the tubes or leaving them in place. Removing them will make the next step easier)
  4. If there is a drip pan under the base of your grill, place a bucket underneath the opening.
  5. Use a grill scraper or putty knife to remove any caked-on grease and food from the bottom of the grill. Then vacuum it out with a shop wet-dry vacuum.
  6. Clean up any leftover grease with a grill brush and a rag.
  7. Remove the grates and shields that have been soaking and scrub them thoroughly to get any of the caked-on grease.
  8. Use soap and water to clean the exterior of the grill. For tougher grease and stains, you may need to use a combination of baking soda and vinegar as a cleaning solution. Degreaser can be used as well, but check your owner’s manual to ensure it’s safe to use on the material of your grill.
  9. Dry everything off as best you can and reassemble all the parts of the grill.

How to Clean a Pellet Grill

A pellet grill is cleaned with a grill brush.

Pellet grills have been smoking the competition lately, so you probably need to know how to clean your brand new grill. Whether you have a Traeger, Pit Boss, Weber, or one of the many other pellet grills, this method applies to all of them.

  1. Start by cleaning the inside of the lid with a putty knife and nylon brush.
  2. Take out any removable parts inside the grill, such as grates, drip pans, and the deflector plate. Scrape them thoroughly with your putty knife, then place them in a tub with soap and water if you have one large enough.
  3. Scrape every inch of the inside of the barrel, especially any areas where any smoke escapes, such as a chimney or exhaust system. Ensure any blocked vents are as clear as possible.
  4. Scrub the grates with a nylon brush after they’ve soaked. You can also use a ball of aluminum foil and tongs.
  5. Clean the internal thermometer. This is important as it dictates a lot of what makes the grill work properly. Scrape out the grease chute to prevent a potential grease fire.
  6. Use a wet-dry vacuum to remove any debris you’ve removed inside the barrel.
  7. Use either a degreaser or stainless steel wipe to wipe down the exterior of the grill.

How to Clean Flat Top Grill

A scrubber is used to clean a flat top grill.

Flat top grills have been more common in restaurant settings but have become a hot item for the home market. Due to their design, they have a much different cleaning process than a traditional grill.

  1. Turn the grill on as high as it will go to loosen any food and grease.
  2. Scrape all the larger bits off the grill into the grease trap.
  3. Cover the entire grill with water and scrape again, and use tongs and paper towels to clean it off.
  4. Spray your preferred cleaning solution on the grill and let it sit for a moment, then use a scouring pad to scrape off any remnants. 
  5. Wipe up any leftover debris with a paper towel. 
  6. Season with oil again.

Different Ways to Clean Grill Grates

A grill brush is used to clean grill grates soaking in soap and water.

There are several ways to clean the grates of your grill that range from an inexpensive, quick option to a deep clean that is a little more time-consuming. Depending on how often and how well you’ve cleaned the grill grates will determine which method is best for you.

Quick and Easy Method

  1. Remove the grates.
  2. Using a spray bottle, cover the grates with vinegar and let sit for about 10 minutes.
  3. Use a rag to scrub the grates. It may require a grill brush and a little elbow grease, depending on how long it’s been since they’ve been cleaned.

Steam and Clean Method

  1. Heat the grill as hot as possible, then turn off the gas supply.
  2. Dip a grill brush in water and scrub the grates. (This will produce plenty of steam, so be careful. Dish soap can be added to the water to remove any stubborn grease)
  3. Once the grates are cool, wipe them down with a damp cloth.

Everyday Method

  1. Scrub the grates with a bristle-free grill brush.
  2. Wipe clean with grill wipes.

Deep Clean

  1. In a tub large enough to fit the grates, mix two parts vinegar and 1 part baking soda. Mix enough to fully cover the grates.
  2. Let the grates sit for at least an hour, but the longer, the better.
  3. Remove them from the tub and scrub them clean.
  4. Pat dry with a rag.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a Traeger pellet grill, check out our overview of the many features and styles of grills they offer.

Shop all of our grill options from Traeger, Weber, Pit Boss, Blackstone, and more at Acme Tools.

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