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Grill Cleaning Tips: How To Clean Grill Grates, Degrease & More

When you bite into a burger, you want to taste that smoky flavor—not leftover grease hanging around on a sticky grill. That's why our team put together these grill cleaning tips to help you keep your barbecue working perfectly. Proper maintenance can help your cooker last for years to come. Learn what to do after every use, once every few months, and once a year for a deep clean.

But Why Scrub At All?

It's more about what happens if you don't clean your grill. This is a place where you make food, like your stove or your skillet. And if it's not clean, you're not eating food that's safe to eat. There are other dangers, too, like a bacterial breeding ground, an overflow of grease, your food tasting "off". You potentially face uninvited visitors like dust, mold and even mice. We know, it's disgusting. To combat these unwanted guests, it's important to clean after every cook, once every few months and perform a deep cleaning at least once a season.
Some masters of the flame might contest that any leftover food and grease will simply burn off if you cook at a high enough temperature. Others still might say that all you really need to do is brush your grates once at the end of every cooking session to keep your grill clean. Don't believe it: they'll spend a lot of money replacing parts or replacing the entire barbecue. That's because the key to keeping any appliance alive for long is proper maintenance. With BBQs, that means you're going to need to use a bit of elbow grease—and you'll get a little greasy in the process. Your barbecue will thank you with better performance and a longer lifespan. Learn how to clean grill grates, exteriors, interiors and even burner tubes below the grates. Keep in mind that your barbecue's manual supersedes all advice given below. And if you'd rather have experts take care of the job, Abt does offer barbecue scrubdowns too. Give us a call at 800-860-3577 to schedule yours!

Step 1: The Prep

Things You'll Need For Everyday Cleaning

  • Wire grill brush

Things You'll Need For A Deep Clean

  • Wire grill brush
  • Dish soap
  • Bucket or container large enough to soak your individual grates
  • Scouring sponge, hand brush and rags
  • Paper towels
  • Empty spray bottle
  • Water
  • Heavy-duty rubber gloves
  • Stiff, wide paintbrush or whisk broom and dust pan
  • Stainless steel cleaner and microfiber cloth (if your BBQ is stainless steel)
  • Paint scraper (for deep cleanings, if necessary)

How To Clean Grill Grates: After Every Cook

Hand brushing a grate with a grill brush

Pull Out That Brush

This is one you should do every time you use the barbecue. Otherwise, your grates will get real gunky, real fast. A stiff wire grill brush is a basic must-have.

Turn Up The Heat, Then Scrub Every Time You Cook

Not sure how to clean your grill grates? It's simple: after you're finished grilling and your surfaces are still warm (but not blazing hot) get out your brush and start scraping off any visible residue. That residue should fall down into the cookbox, drip tray or ash pile. If your brush has a scraper attached to it, use that scraper to help remove any stuck-on residue. Daily clean-ups are that simple, but you'll need to do a scrubdown every month or so to get a thorough clean.

How To Clean Grill Grates: A Monthly or Quarterly Scrub and Soak

Deep Scrubbing Grill Grates

The Real Way: How To Clean Grill Grates

Not sure how to clean grill grates for gas or charcoal models? While wire grill brushes can do a lot, they can only go so far. A deeper scrub is required every month (or if you don't barbecue often, every few months) and especially right before you start your BBQ up for the season. Make sure you have all the equipment listed in our deep clean supplies list above, including dish soap and a sponge.
  1. Make sure your barbecue is off, then use your wire brush to scrape any remaining refuse from your last cooking session off the bars.
  2. Fill your large bucket or container with hot water and dish soap, enough to create a mix with generous suds.
  3. Add the grates to the bucket, letting them soak for a full hour.
  4. Pull each grate out and lay it on a sturdy, clean surface like a table. (Pro Tip: place a plastic tablecloth beneath the grates. You'll keep the table and the grates clean.) Wash and scrub any stains and remains with your scouring sponge, hand brush and rags.
  5. Pat dry with paper towels and dry rags. Once it's dry, place these grates right back in your grill where they belong.

How To Clean Grill Grates: An Annual Degreasing and Deep Cleaning

Wiping Down the Exterior

Just because you know how to clean grill grates until they're spotless doesn't mean you're finished. Frequent barbecuers and even those who only occasionally cook outdoors will know that the exterior of your barbecue can lose its luster after a few months outside. Stainless steel as well as porcelain enamel will need a wipe down at least once a year. If your cooker, side tables and cabinetry are made of stainless steel, use a special cleaner to take care of visual stains and spots. Otherwise, mix 80% water and 20% dish soap together in your spray bottle and spray as needed. Wipe away with dry paper towels or rags. If you're sick of seeing spots and blemishes on your lid, make sure you find the protective cover that's right for your outdoor appliance.

Degreasing the Interior

If you're like most barbecuers, cleaning off the interior will be a much bigger task than the exterior. Whether you cook tomahawk steaks or veggie burgers, greases and fats will always spatter on top of the hood and drip beneath the grates. As part of your annual scrub, it's time to tackle these layers of grease and grime. Keep in mind that it's a good idea to disconnect the gas line while scrubbing and spraying around your barbecue's burners.
For the inner side of your lid, grab your spray bottle of dish soap and water and coat the surface. If your stains are stronger or have been there for several seasons, add more dish soap to your spray bottle. After five minutes, it's time to grab your sponge and wipe the grease away. NOTE: Be careful not to spray any burner tubes or fuel sources. If your cookbox is stainless steel, use a non-abrasive microfiber cloth instead of the sponge and wipe along with the grain.
To clean the burner tubes on a gas-fueled model, you'll need to take your grill brush and very gently push any debris off the tubes. Move from side to side to ensure nothing falls into the burner tube. Otherwise, you'll clog up the gas flow and create problems further down the line. If your gas barbecue has V-shaped heat deflectors or flavorizer bars as well, take these out and give them a good scrub with soapy water before drying.
For the lower cookbox and sidewalls, you'll see lots of stuck-on drippings and burnt spots. This is where all the drippings find their end unless they make it all the way to the grease tray. Spray all non-burner surfaces with your soap and water mixture and let sit for fifteen minutes, then scrub gently with a hand brush and sponge. Stuck-on stains may need a longer soak or more attempts. Alternatively, look for tougher hardware like a paint scraper to chip off any difficult grease. Whisk any leftover debris into the drip tray.
When it comes to the grease tray, throw away any disposable liners. Make sure to remove any dry debris, then spray the tray with your soap and water mix. Scrub if necessary and let dry.

Make Maintenance Part of Your Schedule

While no one really wants to spend an afternoon doing annual maintenance, knowing how to clean your grill grates and scrub out the cookbox is key when it comes to safe operation. Getting this done in the spring leaves you ready to enjoy the rest of summer worry-free on the patio: throw barbecue bashes, have pool parties and invite everyone on the block over. You'll be able to feed them—and they won't be picking any weird gristle from their kebabs.