How to Clean Grill Grates

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on April 07, 2022
4 min read

After you use your grill, grease may build up on the grill grates and form gunk. This gunk in your grill may be combustible when exposed to high temperatures. This means that it might cause a lot of smoke, fire, or other burning fumes. 

For this reason, it may not be a good idea to wash the grates in a dishwasher or your oven’s self-clean cycle. The smoke and fire produce soot that causes permanent stains.

The first step in cleaning grill grates is preheating the grill for 15 minutes. Preheating may help to soften the grease that’s collected on the grates. This makes it easy for the grease to come off. It may also reduce the amount of elbow grease you’ll have to use. After 15 minutes, brush the grates using a stainless steel grill brush.

The drip tray. After cleaning the grates, don’t forget to empty the drip tray. The drip tray collects excess fat. It helps to avoid making a mess and lighting up a grease fire when you are grilling. Consider using a putty knife (plastic) to scrape off the grease if there’s an excessive build-up. Do this when the grill is still warm to make it easier.

The lid. Inspect the inner top of the lid to see if there’s any flaking going on. If that’s happening, don’t confuse it with paint. It may look like flaking paint, but it’s actually a mixture of grease and soot (smoke deposits). Try scraping it off with a stainless steel brush. This may help to prevent soot from falling off onto your food when you are using the grill.

You can also try cleaning the lid when it's warm—not hot. Use a damp sponge or a ball of foil to clean the inside of your lid. A brass brush may also do the trick.

A gas or electric power washer may also do a great job of cleaning your grill. Make sure your power washer produces at least 1.3 GPM (gallons per minute) at 2,000 PSI (pound-force per square inch) for it to clean well.

If you are using a gas or propane grill, start by disconnecting it from the gas line or propane tank. Unplug the power cord and move any lines or tanks out of the way to avoid inflicting damage with the water jet. If you use a charcoal grill, remove any remaining coals and detach the grill.

Consider doing the washing away from your house or other things that might get in the way of flying gunk. To protect furniture and plants, try using a paint drop cloth, table cloth, or a tarp to cover them.

To get all the grease off your grill grates, you may need to clean it with a pressure washer-safe degreaser detergent. Load the detergent into the washer and clean the grill. Make sure you read the instructions on the detergent bottle and washer’s manual before using it.

Attach the soaping nozzle and apply the degreaser. Try to do the spraying parallel to the ground to clean more effectively. Also, avoid spraying the heating elements directly. Wait for three to five minutes after applying the degreaser and then rinse from the top down. Use a 15- or 25-degree nozzle to rinse the grill.

If you are not happy with the results, repeat this process to get better results. You can also try switching to a turbo nozzle when rinsing. When you are done cleaning your grill, leave it open in the sun to dry. Only begin using it once it dries completely.

It’s crucial to keep your grill grates clean and safe even when you are not using the grill. When the grilling season comes to an end, clean your grill thoroughly. Wash your grill grates and firebox with soapy water. Use a multipurpose cleaner to wash the exterior of your grill. Take care not to forget to disconnect the propane tank—if you use one. Then, cover and store your grill.

Cover your grill with a waterproof, breathable cover. A cover made of heavy-duty polyester material may do the job just right. Try to find a cover made for your specific grill model. 

If you live in a humid place (like by the ocean), don’t cover your grill except when there are extended periods of stormy weather. This may help to prevent trapping moist or salty air that may cause your grill to rust. Also, try wiping your grill at least once a week to remove built-up moisture and salt deposits.

If you’ve cleaned your grill grates, let it dry before grilling and then oil it down. Olive or canola oil may be good options. Applying the oil on the grates helps to make it a non-stick surface. This also makes it rust-resistant. After oiling the surface down, you may go ahead and grill.

Making the grill grates non-stick may also make it easier to clean afterward. If you are using a charcoal grill, always make sure you let the coals burn out completely (for 48+ hours) before you discard them. If you can’t wait for them to cool, you can soak them with water and then dispose of them. Dispose of the burnt-out coal and ash in an aluminum foil and clean the grill.

It's also important that you don’t forget to clean your grill brush while cleaning the grill. It may be time to change it if you notice flattened or loose bristles. Also, avoid leaving your grill brush exposed to the elements (rain, snow, sunlight, or humidity). Treat the grill brush the same way you treat your grill.