How to Clean Rusty Grill Grates

Rusty grill grates don’t look appetizing. It’s also unsafe for food preparation as corrosion will cause contamination. If you want to enjoy your grill all year round, you have to ensure that you’re maintaining it well after every cooking session. Knowing how to clean rusty grill grates is easy with the methods we discussed here.

Best Ways to clean rusty gas grill grates

To clean rusty BBQ grill grates, you need the right materials. Using very abrasive substances may damage the grate or even contaminate it along the way. So to save you from the hassle, we’ve discussed the best way to clean grill grates in five different methods.

  1. Sponge and soap

For rust that is only in the surface level, using sponge and soap should do the trick. It’s safer and it’s less likely to leave dangerous residue on your grate.

Bbq cleaning tips

On a bucket, mix dish soap and warm water. Using the sponge, start washing the grill as you’ll usually do. If the rust doesn’t go off right away, you might need to do a little scrubbing with the sponge. You can use the rough side of the sponge to scrape off the rust. You can also use a nylon brush for further BBQ cleaning.

Safe BBQ Cleaning Grill Brush and Scraper
Safe BBQ Cleaning Grill Brush and Scraper
Stainless Steel Cleaner for Gas, Charcoal, Porcelain, Ceramic, Iron/steel grill Grates
Grillaholics Essentials Nylon Grill Brush
Grillaholics Essentials Nylon Grill Brush
Nylon Cold Scrub Technology Cleans Between The Grates

As much as possible, don’t use any detergent powders or soaps. Aside from being too harsh on the iron, it’s not made for food preparation items.

  1. Using baking soda and vinegar

If the first method didn’t work, you’ll need a deeper cleanse using baking soda and vinegar paste. Both of these ingredients can be found in your kitchen. Also, it’s environment-friendly and not dangerous to ingest in small amounts. Baking soda is widely used as a cleaning agent for various applications.

How to clean rusty grill grates

An easy grill grates cleaning technique

To prepare this BBQ grill cleaner, mix a cup of baking soda and add the vinegar little by little until you form a paste. Two parts of baking soda and one part vinegar is usually the rule of thumb.

Apply the paste on the grill using a scouring pad or an old toothbrush. Let this sit on the iron for at least half an hour. For deep-seated rust, some will let the mixture sit on the grate overnight. You can leave the paste-covered grates on the sink.

Once the paste has been absorbed, scrub it off using a brush or the rough side of a sponge. In case of tough stains, a tough-bristled brush is ideal to use.

SUMPRI Grill Brush Bristle Free & Scraper
SUMPRI Grill Brush Bristle Free & Scraper
Barbecue Cleaner for All Grill Types

Rinse the entire grate with clean water to remove any residue.

Another choice that you have is to use plain white vinegar. Rub it all over the grate and let it sit for around 15 minutes. As a weak acid, vinegar is an excellent cleaner. It’s also the safest option that you have. It’s totally fine if some of the vinegar is left on your grill even while cooking.

  1. Using a commercial grill cleaner spray

If you want to skip the guesswork, you can purchase a rust cleaner instead. These products work well in removing even the most stubborn rust stains. However, some would have toxic chemicals so you have to be careful with what you buy.

Goo Gone Grill and Grate Cleaner
Goo Gone Grill and Grate Cleaner
Cleans Cooking Grates and Racks - 24 Ounce

It’s best to get a cleaner that’s made for grill grates and other food preparation items. Most home stores will have this product on their shelves.

If you’re willing to go through the hassle of re-seasoning your grates, you can use an oven cleaner. Take note that most oven cleaners contain lye which will strip down the iron grates down to the bare metal.

Apply the oven cleaner and seal it in a large bag. Make sure that you do it in a well-ventilated area and while wearing a face mask and gloves.

Grill cleaner spray

After two days of letting the cleaner sit, wash the grates thoroughly using dish soap. Make sure that you’ve rinsed all the cleaner residues, you’ll have to re-season the iron grates. This method of removing rust will scrape off the grates as if you have a brand new one.

  1. Using steel wool and soap

One of the handy options for many households is the pair of steel wool and soap. It’s the best way to clean a gas grill grate mired with rust. Also, this is an ideal way to clean a propane gas grill grate that is in use every day.

This is perfect for grates with a moderate amount of rust. Mix water and dish soap on a bucket and start washing the grates. When the iron is soaked in soapy water, you can now start scrubbing it with steel wool.

For tough rust stains, you can use sandpaper in place of steel wool.

Take note that the soap will remove the seasoning of your grate. Anyway, re-seasoning it should be easy with the steps we’ve discussed below.

Also, to make sure that no moisture is left on the iron grate, it’s best to dry it inside a hot oven. You can also dry it inside the grill after re-seasoning.

  1. Using a Kosher salt paste

Kosher saltIn case the rust proved to be tough, you can use a stronger solution. Kosher salt is stronger than baking soda but equally safe for food preparation items like your grill grate.

Just like what you did with the baking soda and vinegar mix, dissolve Kosher salt in water until you come up with a paste-like consistency.

Rub the Kosher salt paste into the rusty grate using an old toothbrush. Make sure that you scrub it immediately (NO NEED TO LET IT SIT) using steel wool. If you don’t have one, a ball of aluminum foil should do. After that, rinse it with water and repeat the application until all the rust is gone.

Take note that letting the Kosher salt paste sit for too long will just form more rust which will defeat its purpose.

How to season your grill grate

Conditioning your grate first before using it for cooking is important to maintain its quality. It’s also a good way to prevent rusting.

Every new grate needs seasoning. The same goes for rusty grates cleaned using abrasive chemicals. You can skip the seasoning part but it will impact the lifespan of your grill grates. Besides, conditioning the iron is very easy using these three simple steps:

  • Wash it well

Always begin by washing your grates first. Use warm water for barbecue cleaning and make sure that you wipe off any muck and dust. You can use soap if you’re planning to strip off the previous seasoning of your grates. For newly bought grates, soap washing should be fine.

After washing the grates thoroughly, dry it off using a clean towel.

  • Apply oil

How to season your grill grateAt this point, you will cover the grates with a layer of oil. This will provide a non-stick characteristic which will make it easy to clean after cooking. Also, this will prevent rust from forming.

You can use any cooking oil that you want. It can be the typical vegetable oil, olive oil, peanut oil, and more. Use a clean bristle paintbrush to apply the oil in several coats. Let the first coat sit for a few minutes before applying another coat. You can do this multiple times.

For future use, you’ll only need to apply one layer of oil before cooking. This is unless you scrape off the seasoning layer all over again.

  • Expose it to heat

With the grates properly oiled, it’s now time to put it back to the grill and heat it. Set the temperature to 400F and let the grill inside it for an hour. After heating the grate, turn the grill off and let it cool naturally.

This process will lock in the oils and prepare your grates for cooking. If you want to use it right away, apply another layer of oil and enjoy grilling your favorite food.

Take note that you’d have to re-season your grill grate from to time. If you’ve washed it to remove the rust, you’d have to repeat this process all over again.

Aside from knowing how to clean your grill, it’s also important that you know how to maintain it. The frequency of re-seasoning is up to you. Basically, if you’re using your grill often, you’d have to re-season it just as much.

BBQ Disposable Aluminum Liners
BBQ Disposable Aluminum Liners
12 x 20 inch/Disposable Grill Grates

More tips to prevent grill grate rust

After removing the rust from your grill, you can do some simple steps to prevent it from building back. This will also lengthen the lifespan of your grate which will save you both time and money.

 – Don’t soak it for too long

When cleaning gas grill or any type of grate, avoid soaking it in water for too long.Prolonged soaking is the main culprit to corrosion. Also, leaving it inside the dishwasher for long will strip off its seasoning.

 – Always clean it

After every use, it’s imperative that you clean the grates properly. Food bits left sticking on the iron won’t just trigger rusting. It will also develop a foul smell and a perfect habitat for stomach-upsetting bacteria.

If you’re storing your grates outdoors, cleaning it will keep the iron safe from rodents and bugs.

Just imagine cooking on an iron grate with thick layers of burnt and rotting food bits. Not appetizing, right?

 – Cover the grates

When storing the grates – both indoors and outdoors – make sure that you cover it well. This will prevent moisture and other elements from getting into the iron. It’s a guaranteed way to prevent rusting, especially if you’re not using your grill for some time.

 – Take it easy on the glaze

Applying barbecue glaze will make your food even tastier. However, applying it too early and too much will result in a burned and cakey layer on the grill. If you don’t wash it well, this will result in rusting and contamination.

How to clean a propane grill

PRO TIP:  If you’re caught unprepared by a surprise BBQ party, just place a sheet of aluminum foil on top of your rusty grill grate. This will let you cook and deal with the rust later. Also, the aluminum foil will prevent the food from burning while spreading the heat all over.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is it safe to cook on a grill grate with rust?

A: Loose rust on your grill grate will stick to the food, which you will directly ingest. As much as consumption of small amounts of rust isn’t lethal, it can cause intestinal problems if consumed continuously.

Q: How do you maintain cast iron grill grates?

A: Keeping it clean, well-oiled, and seasoned is the key to prevent rust from damaging your cast iron grates. Also, you have to store it well to keep it away from moisture and other elements that may trigger corrosion.

Q: Should I oil my grill grates?

A: Definitely, more so if you’re using cast iron grates. This will keep the rust away while making it easy to cook food. The oil will prevent the food from sticking into the grate which makes it easier to clean.

Q: Can you get sick from a dirty grill?

A: Rust on grill grates is a sign that it’s not cleaned well. Experts found that dirty grill grates have bacteria that can make you sick.

Q: Why do grill grates rust?

A: Continuous exposure to heat can lead to rusting. Also, the moisture in the atmosphere can form iron oxide, the chemical name of rust. Cleaning the grates after each use is the key to prevent rust from forming.

Q: Is it a requirement to season a grill grate first?

A: If you want to retain the quality of your grate, seasoning it first is advisable. Sure, you can skip this part but doing so means your grate is more exposed to intense wear and tear. Also, rusting is more prevalent in un-seasoned grates.


Keeping your grill grates clean is important in preparing fresh meals. No one wants to eat something prepared in a rusty and unclean grate. Even if your grill has the toughest rust stains, there are simple DIY steps you can use to fix the hot problem.

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