How to Clean Rusty Grill Grates

Who doesn’t love barbequing in their backyard on a hot summer morning? Watching the meat sear on the grill, and taking in its smoky aroma is more of a tradition for most people. But if you’re not a professional chef, your grilling machine probably spends more time in the storeroom than outdoors.

Sadly, like all steel appliances, grill machines tend to get old. With time, the grill grates start rusting, and before you know it, they’re unable to cook perfect steaks. However, rusty grates don’t necessarily make the grill unusable. There are certain ways to get rid of rust, and make them look as good as new!

Different Methods to Remove Rust

It’s always ideal to clean the grates after every use. Some of the food often remains on the grill, which can damage it over time. Most grill machines are made from durable materials such as stainless steel. No matter what type of metal it is, they are prone to rust.

Some professionals often use a stiff wire brush to clean the grates after cooking. This is an effective method, but it can ruin the metal’s finish. Thus, we have discussed a few techniques that will help you clean rusty grates and also retain their finish.

  • Lemon Juice with Detergent

You might know that lemon juice has acidic properties, and can easily dissolve the rust that settled on the grates. To create an even more effective concoction, you can combine it with some kind of detergent. Any detergent (powder) will work perfectly well when mixed with some lemon juice.

Mix them to a certain extent where the solution forms into a paste-like substance. Once it’s ready, apply the paste on the rusty grates with the help of a brush. All of the rusted areas should be covered with the paste. Allow the concoction to settle overnight before removing it.

After about 12 hours, gently clean the grates using warm water, and a sponge or cloth. Use the sponge to scrub the grates clean. Don’t apply too much pressure. Once you wash it with warm water, the grates will look as clean as new.

  • Vinegar and Salt

Vinegar is a versatile substance that has numerous applications. They add a different taste to recipes and are also good for preserving food. However, we are going to focus on its acidic properties. The vinegar and salt mixture is a non-toxic solution for cleaning grates.

Considering that you cook food on those grates, this is one of the most hygienic cleaning methods. Your body is capable of ingesting both vinegar and salt, so it won’t harm you in any way. To create the solution, you need two cups of vinegar, one cup of salt, and a large bowl.

Add the two ingredients to the bowl in the correct amount and stir. Next, place the rusted grates into a heavy-duty garbage bag. Pour the solution inside the bag, and let the grates soak for half a day. After a long wait, take the soaked grates out of the bag.

By then, the salt will have formed a gentle abrasive on the grates. Now you can use a towel or rag to easily wipe the rust away.

  • Sandpaper

If the rust on your grates is too stubborn to come off so easily, there is another method you can rely on. This abrasive piece of paper is the worst enemy of a rusty grate. If you want to get rid of rust in a hurry, you can rely on sandpaper to get the job done.

Keep in mind that this method can cause damage to the grates, and take away their shine. You should only consider this option when nothing else is working. To get rid of the rust using sandpaper, wrap it around the rusted part of the grates. Slide the sandpaper up and down rigorously until all the rust is removed.

  • Baking Soda

Baking soda is another edible ingredient that can help you clean rusty grill grates. They are also non-toxic like vinegar. Before you apply baking soda to the grates, you need to prepare them. You can do so with the help of a soft bristle brush. Gently rub the soft bristle brush on the grates to remove as much rust as you can.

Once that’s done, install the grates back on the grill so that it fits perfectly. This is necessary as you would need to turn on the grill in the process. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on top of the grates. When all the rusted areas are covered, turn on the grill.

The heat from the grill will cause bubbles on top of the grates. This is the baking soda bubbling up, which eventually eliminates the rust. After a while, turn off the grill machine and wait for it to cool off. The rust will be easier to remove now. Now use the soft bristle brush to remove the rust.

  • Wire Method

If natural remedies aren’t doing the job for you, there’s a rather unconventional method that might help. This might be a bit harsh on the grill grates but it’ll surely remove all the rust. Before you get on with this technique, you need to detach the grates from the grill and place them on an even surface.

Use a sturdy wire brush and slide it across the grill grates. You will notice all the rust comes off as you continue sliding the brush. Don’t forget to remove the rust the same way on the opposite side of the grates. You can also do this by placing the grates on their sides, and slide the brush between each rung.

Likewise, you need to keep in mind that this method is harsh on the cooking grates. If you are too rough with the brushes, the grates might lose their charm. Only rely on this method when you have limited time to clean your grill.

  • Rust Remover

Besides natural methods, commercial rust removers are commonly used for cleaning rusty grates. This is a more convenient method of cleaning as it barely requires any manual effort. There several types of rust removers available in stores, all of which are efficient and fast at their job.

It is recommended that you only choose a rust remover made for cleaning grill grates. Any other type of rust remover will leave a residue of toxic chemicals on the grates which can harm you if ingested. However, all types include a certain amount of toxic chemicals that shouldn’t be left around food.


These were some of the most efficient techniques to remove rust from grill grates. The method you choose should be determined by the amount of rust that has settled. If natural methods don’t do the trick, the wire brush surely will. Just follow the provided instructions, and you’ll be back to making hamburgers in no time.

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