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How to clean a grill

What is the best way to clean a grill?

As temperatures rise, many people begin preparing for another season of steak, hot dogs or burgers fresh off the grill. Even if you clean your grill after each use or cleaned it before you packed it away for the winter, it’s a good idea to give your grill a thorough washing before your first spring cookout.

The cleaning process can look different depending on what kind of grill you have, but whether it’s gas or charcoal, the routine is a cinch once you know what you’re doing.

Grill cleaning basics

What you’ll need

Wire grill brush: No matter what kind of grill you have, a wire brush is the number one tool you’ll need to clean it. With a good grill brush, the caked-on grease and food bits will come right off. 

Dish soap: Rather than using chemical cleaners, dish soap or degreaser usually has more than enough cleaning power to make your grill shine.

Hand or shop vacuum: Most grills, especially charcoal grills, collect burnt food pieces under the grates. A hand vacuum or shop vacuum can help you eliminate these burnt pieces without getting your hands too dirty.

Stainless steel BBQ cleaner: If your grill is made of stainless steel, you’ll want to polish it. Most stainless steel cleaners are fine to use, but if you decide to use one that isn’t specifically for grills, do some research to make sure it’s non-toxic.

Rubber gloves: Although they aren’t necessary, a long pair of rubber gloves will make cleaning your grill a much easier task.

How to clean a gas grill

  • Turn your grill’s burners on high and close the lid. 
  • Let the burners run for about 15 minutes to sear off the excess food burnt onto the grates. 
  • Open the lid and disconnect the gas.
  • Let the grill cool until the grates are safe to handle; be careful not to burn yourself.
  • Remove the grill grates and scrub them thoroughly using a wire brush and soapy water.
  • Remove the flame shields and give them a thorough scrubbing with your soap and wire brush as well. 
  • Use a hand vacuum to suck any remaining debris out of the firebox. If possible, it’s a good idea to use your workshop vacuum or one specifically designed for cleaning your grill since you’ll be sucking up gunky material.
  • Using your soapy dishwater, scrub the inner firebox of your grill.
  • Scrub the exterior of your grill with a dish sponge and some fresh soapy water. Be careful not to use scouring pads or other course materials that may leave scratches.
  • Wipe down and dry your grill’s exterior, as well as the grates and flame shields if need be.
  • Replace the flame shields and grates.

How to clean a charcoal grill

  1. Build a fire in your grill and use the scraper end of your grill brush to scrape off the debris. Ensure the fire is small enough that you don’t burn yourself but large enough to heat the grates adequately.
  2. After it cools, remove your grill’s grates and scrub them with a wire brush and soapy water. 
  3. Empty your ash catcher. Use a hand vacuum to clean up any remaining ash.
  4. Scrub the exterior and interior of your grill with soapy water and a dish sponge.
  5. Replace the grill’s grates.

How to clean a stainless steel grill

Although you’ll use the same process to clean a stainless steel grill as a regular one, there are some rules that you have to follow to keep your steel nice and shiny. 

Make sure to use a grill cover while you aren’t using the grill. Your cover should allow moisture out, but not in — if the cover traps moisture inside, your grill may rust.

Stainless steel scratches easily. Never use steel wool or wire brushes to clean a stainless steel grill; if you do scratch your grill, you may be able to buff them out, but it’s better to avoid overly-course materials altogether.

Grill cleaning considerations

  • Wiping the grill grates down with vegetable oil will help prevent rust and burnt-on food.
  • Charcoal grills often require more cleaning than gas grills; It’s ideal to clean them after each use.
  • Double-check your grill’s manual for considerations specific to your model. Some grill materials may be sensitive to certain cleaning products.
  • If you don’t have a grill cleaning brush, using a piece of wadded-up aluminum foil can help clear debris from most grill grates. If you don’t have aluminum foil handy, cut an onion in half and pierce the round end with a fork — rub the onion along the grates while they’re hot, and the steam from the onion will help loosen burnt-on food.

Best grill cleaning supplies

Kona 360 Clean Grill Brush

This grill brush has an extra-large cleaning surface with a unique design that ensures you get the entire grill grate clean, rather than just the top. The plastic handle can be flimsy, and Kona’s 360 brush doesn’t have a scraper. Still, the heavy-duty steel bristles and convenient design make this brush an excellent choice.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Powersmith 10 Amp 3 Gallon Ash/Shop Vacuum

Powersmith’s 3-gallon ash vacuum has a metal-lined hose that can safely suck up cool or warm (but not red-hot) ash. The hose on this vacuum is sort of short, but it’s an excellent shop vac for the money as long as it’ll reach into your firebox.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Grillbot Automatic Grill-Cleaning Robot

If you want to take a more high-tech approach to clean your grill, Grillbot’s automatic grill-cleaning robot is a genuinely impressive way to do it. This device works on any grill with a lid while cold or warm. Place the Grillbot on your grates, set the timer, close the lid and wait for it to do all the work for you.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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