How To Clean A Rusty Grill

How To Clean A Rusty Grill

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Got a hankering for a lovely “grill-up”, but can’t snack down because your grill looks like it was just salvaged from an 1800s shipwreck? No problem! If you use this simple method, you will be able to easily and quickly clean a rusty grill at home with only a few tools and supplies you already have on hand. 

We’re all guilty of letting maintenance schedules slide, but when you hear just how easy it is to keep your grill looking sharp, you’ll never let it fall into rusty disrepair ever again.

So, let’s quit putting it off, bite the bullet, and give our trusty old grills the TLC they both need and deserve. Stick with me, and you’ll be tucking into a delicious meal in no time at all. Let’s get to it!

Why Is My Grill Rusty?

If you’re dealing with rusty grill components, they’re most likely made of cast iron or enamel-coated iron.

While this kind of metal really is amazing in many ways and for many culinary endeavors, even a small amount of moisture or mistreatment can lead to some nasty rust eating through its surface.

So, when the orange scourge does appear, what are you supposed to do… just get rid of your expensive cookware and start from scratch? Of course not! But using it in its current condition isn’t an option, and here’s why.

Why Is A Rusty Grill A Big Deal?

It is recommended that you do not use any utensils or surfaces that are currently rusted when cooking. Rust consumption is warned against by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

According to the USDA, rusty utensils should never be used to cook with, and rusted cans should be discarded.

Although food that has had a minimal amount of contact with a rusty surface shouldn’t cause too much harm, it is not technically safe, as rusted surfaces can harbor lots of harmful bacteria.

To make matters worse, rust can compromise your food’s flavor. The smoky or charred flavor your grill imparts on your dinner is something that you really enjoy, so you don’t want anything to stand in the way of that.

Your food can absorb the bitter, metallic flavor from rusted grill grates as well as become speckled with inedible little orange and black flecks, and no amount of seasoning is going to mask their presence in your once hopeful meal.

Items You’ll Need To Clean A Rusty Grill

Salt and vinegar will work well to clean rust off your grill. You’ll also need to use an old dishcloth or rag to wipe down the grates after you’ve cleaned them with salt and vinegar. Don’t forget to wash your hands when you’re done! 

How much vinegar are we talking about and what kind? Well, I find that 2 cups of distilled white vinegar is usually sufficient. Oh, and you’ll need a couple of heavy-duty garbage bags, too.

Starting Off With Salt And Vinegar

Firstly, you’ll need to blend the salt and vinegar together. With salt added, the vinegar will become more acidic, allowing it to dissolve already oxidized metal.

The metal underneath and around the metal will remain unharmed. In addition, the salt acts as an abrasive to provide more agitation to really destroy the rust.

Soak your old dish towel in the salt and vinegar solution, then give your rusty grill a good once-over, scrubbing away as much of the surface contamination as possible. You can then try sprinkling some salt over the grill separately, and repeating the process.

This will remove any residual grease and no doubt some of the rust, but to get rid of the rest, we’ll have to take things a step further, but before we move on, rinse your grill off with some water and dry it with some fresh towels.

Soaking Overnight

Your rusty grill grates will need to soak overnight, so you should use those durable garbage bags to store them.

You can probably make do with a single high quality garbage bag in a pinch, but you don’t want vinegar, salt, and dissolved rust to leak everywhere, as the mixture will react and cause damage. 

Once bagged, you can pour the vinegar and salt mixture over the grates, making sure it covers them completely.

Find a flat surface where you can lay the bag down flat to soak overnight, so the salt and vinegar mixture will remain in contact with the rusty grill as much as possible.

This is an effective method in getting that rust off those grates and onto the bag. Although it takes time, the results will be worth the effort.

Removing The Grates From The Bag And Wiping Them Down

You should remove the rust from your grill grate by rubbing it down with salt and vinegar mixed together. Use the leftover salt to clean up the grill grate and then wash it off with water.

Further Stains

To remove rust stains from a gas grill, start by cleaning the grates thoroughly with soap and warm water. Then use a stiff-bristled nylon brush to scrub away the stain. You should also clean out the burners before using them again.

Further Stains

Other Alternative Grate Grill Cleaning Methods

Baking soda is a great natural cleaner that can be applied to many surfaces. When using baking soda, start by cleaning the rust from the grill first. Then sprinkle the baking soda generously on the grate and turn the grill on. 

Heat from the grill will cause the baking soda to bubble up. You can then (carefully) clean away the rust from the grill before turning it off to cool down. Once cool, use a soft brush to clean off any leftover baking soda and rust.

Wire brushes are the easiest way to remove rust from charcoal grill grates. You can place the grate on the driveway or patio, after removing it from the grill. Make sure the wire brush gets in between the grates so you can remove the rust.

Before you replace grates, make sure no wires have fallen onto them from the brush.

Grill Grate Maintenance 

Cleaning your BBQ grill after each use is essential to maintaining its appearance. If you have just finished grilling, clean the grates with water and dish soap.

It will be more difficult to clean the grates if burnt food grime remains on them for a long time. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to rinse the grates after use in the long run.

Grill grates can be prevented from rusting by shielding them with a fitted cover, and make sure you lubricate the grates before cooking. You should always oil your BBQ grill before use in order to prevent rusting. Vegetable oil is my go-to for this. 

Cleaning the grill regularly with a steel wool pad or brush will reduce the possibility of rust. Take care to remove any floating or loose debris from the grill surface.

Once the grill has been cleaned, allow it to fully dry, and make sure to keep your grill covered while not in use to ensure maximum protection.

Rust can be removed by commercial rust remover. These cleaners are effective, but they also contain toxic chemicals that you might not want around your food. 

You may wish to buy one that is designed especially for cleaning rusty grill grate grills on barbecues if you take this route. Most local home improvement or major department stores have a grill cover in their barbecue section.

A good way to prevent rust from forming on your grill grate is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Keeping it away from prolonged exposure to moisture is the best course of action.

Cleaning, scrubbing, and drying should be done routinely after and before you use your grill in order to achieve that.

Benefits Of A Clean Grill

Food tastes better when it is cooked on a clean grill. The smell of smoky, rancid grease is gone from a clean grill. Instead, enjoy the delicious aromas of cooking meat.

Having a clean grill also gets rid of harmful carcinogens and bacteria that can accumulate and be transferred to your food.

A clean grill keeps pests and their droppings at bay. Grills that are dirty can attract insects and other pests, especially in warm climates like Southern California. A clean grill won’t attract insects or other pests. Having a clean grill is beautiful.

Every service includes an exterior panel cleaning, so your grill will look brand new. You can extend the life of your grill by keeping your grill clean, preventing corrosion. Maintaining your grill regularly will help you get the most value out of your purchase.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Use Vinegar And Salt?

Once your grates are in the bag, pour the vinegar and salt mixture into the container and jostle it around to make sure it covers the entirety of your grate.

Should I Use A Professional Cleaner? 

It is of course possible to hire a professional cleaner if you wish to restore your rusty grill to its original state.

However, this can be costly, so you should only use it if you are unable to perform it on your own. If you have money or if your grill is in such a terrible state that you have no choice but to replace it, this is your last resort.

Can You Grill On a Rusty Grill?

You should avoid grilling your food on rusted surfaces. Loose rust particles stick to your cooked food and not only ruin the taste, but can also be harmful to your health if you continue to consume it.

What Happens If You Eat Rust Off Grill Grates?

Despite the fact that rust is not likely to cause harm to the body from ingesting one meal, continuous ingestion may be problematic. The grates need to be cleaned and inspected after being removed from the grill.

Wash them with soap, water, and steel wool, then wipe them down with a damp sponge, and dry them thoroughly.

What causes a barbecue grill to rust?

Grills are subject to all kinds of abuse: high temperatures, grease splatters while cooking, and constant exposure to the elements if left outside, unprotected. All of these factors can contribute to rusting.

Are Rusty Grates That Big Of A Deal?

Cast iron cookware is great because it heats evenly and retains heat well. However, if it gets wet, it can rust. You shouldn’t eat anything cooked on a rusty pan.

A rusty pan may also be unsafe to store food in. Stainless steel grills are better than those made out of iron. Iron can cause food to become bitter and inedible. Grills made of stainless steel won’t impart any bad flavors into food.

Final Thoughts

Following the steps in this guide successfully, you should now be able to remove all the rust from your grill and have yourself a lovely meal — hooray!

Depending on the state in which it was in when you last cleaned it, it might take some extra time and effort to get rid of the rust. If you’re not satisfied with the results after following this method once, try another couple of times. Your grill will then emerge from the bag looking shiny and new!