How to Clean Rusty Grill Grates


What’s better than a BBQ on a sunny summer day? Maybe not much. But it might just be getting your grill clean enough to prepare your next meal. That’s because rusty grills are a real drag — literally.

They can marinate difficult foods, and post-cooking cleanup requires more elbow grease than most griller pros want to exert.

Add these grimy grill grates to your list of things that need cleaning, but don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll have to resort to intensive measures.

You can get your grill grates looking like new in no time, and with common household items and time investment — instead of the considerable effort typically required.

Removing Rusty Grill Grates With Common Household Items

Cleaning rusty grill grates is a challenge for almost everyone who uses a charcoal grill. Whether it is rust from your cookware or an uncleaned grill, cleaning rust from these grates can be a task you may want to tackle yourself.

There are several ways to remove rust from your grill utensils, like brushes, scrapers, and sharp objects. The first step is to clean the grates with hot, soapy water.

If this doesn’t give you the desired result, try different methods before moving on to the next one.

Vinegar and Salt

Follow the steps below to clean your grill grates with vinegar and salt:

  1. Fill a large heavy-duty garbage bag with about 1/2 cup of vinegar and 1 cup salt.
  2. Place your rusty grates inside the bag and seal it.
  3. Let it sit for 24 hours.
  4. Remove from the bag, rinse off and scrub off any residue using a brush. You should now have clean, rust-free grates ready to cook on.

The acid from the vinegar will dissolve the rust and the salt will absorb it. Leave the grates in the bag for 24 hours to ensure all the rust has been removed. Rinse with water and dry.

Baking Soda

If you want to remove rust from your grill grates, scrubbing with a wire brush is not recommended. Doing this causes the metal to become scratched and the rust to be ground in.

Instead, remove as much of the rust as possible by brushing it with a soft brush then place your grate on an indirect heat grill or barbecue.

Sprinkle some baking soda onto the grate, turn on the grill or barbecue and watch as the baking soda bubbles, lifting away the rust.

Turn off the grill or barbecue when the bubbling dies down and let it cool. Then use a soft brush to scrub away any remaining rust.

Vegetable Oil

You’re probably interested in grilling because you’ve heard there’s a lot of fat in the meat. And it’s true. Unfortunately, the fat is where the rust comes from too.

When the fat drips onto the surface of the cooking grate it changes into a vapor. The grease hits the hot metal and hardens into a flake, causing rust to form on your grill grates.

But this can be prevented by seasoning your steel grates with vegetable oil. Vegetable oil is a great substance to use for preventing grease from sticking to your grill grates because it can’t burn off like cooking oil.

Vegetable oil is made of fatty acids and natural waxes. It does not burn as easily as non-vegetable oils like small hydrocarbon chains found in mineral oil.

Vegetable oil also blocks moisture and oxygen from getting to the rusted metal.

Commercial Rust Remover

The most popular commercial rust remover is Evapo-Rust The Original Super Safe Rust Remover, which removes rust in minutes without scrubbing or sanding.

It is environmentally safe, biodegradable, non-toxic, non-corrosive safe on skin and eyes. It is odorless and contains no acids, bases, solvents, or VOCs.


The method of using sandpaper to clean rusty grill grates is uncomplicated, requiring only some sandpaper and elbow grease.

Wrap a piece of sandpaper around each rung of the rusty grill grate, rub the sandpaper firmly up and down. This will remove the rust effectively, but proceed with caution because it will also scratch the surface of the grate.


One of the least expensive ways to enhance your grilling experience is to ensure that you have well-maintained grill grates.

By following a process of proper cleaning and then oiling, you will keep your grates lasting longer and not rusting out prematurely.

By keeping your grill clean, your grill grates will perform better, won’t be a hazard to the food quality, and allow you to maximize your enjoyment of the grilling season.

Final Thoughts

There is no question that grilled food tastes wonderful. Almost anything tastes better cooked on the grill. As a bonus, grilling food also makes it healthier because the fat drips off into your grill.

However, most of us would not enjoy the charred or blackened food that comes from a rusted grill or grill grate.

Rusty grill grates are a common problem in patios and gunite or steel-sided outdoor kitchens. Having rusted grates will affect how good your food looks, smells, and tastes when you cook.

Bobby Johnson

When he's not writing about barbecue, you can find Bobby smoking meat for friends and family. He's been a backyard pitmaster for roughly half his life, and has worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands-on guide to teach them BBQ, but that's what Bobby hopes to do with Electric Smoker HQ. He wants to help people create amazing food that they can be proud of.