The Easiest and Most Effective Way to Clean Your Grill Grates

updated May 29, 2020
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Open grill, heating up
Credit: Joe Lingeman

It’s officially grilling season! We’re so happy it’s here! We’re less happy, however, to see the state of our grill grates. Whether they’ve taken a beating during the off-season, or they’re just already filthy somehow, we’ve got the steps to help you clean your grill grates. Give them a deep-clean now, and then the rest of the time you can get away with just using a grill brush.

It may take a bit of time and elbow grease, but cleaning your grill grates doesn’t have to be an overwhelming job. Luckily you probably already have everything you’ll need to clean your grates. And you can burn off a lot of the grossness and soak them in a simple solution of dish soap and vinegar, so a bulk of the work will be done for you — hands-off.

Note: Keep in mind that even if they make fast work of cutting through cooked-on debris, a heavy-duty oven-cleaner type product might not be the best for cleaning your grill. Unlike with your oven, you put food directly on your grate and you don’t want to transfer any residual chemicals to what you’ll eat. 

One more note: The following instructions apply to cleaning cast iron or stainless steel grates. Porcelain grates require extra care and you should clean them with a nylon brush, closely following manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning. 

Here’s what you need to clean your grill grates — and how to do it, safely.

Credit: Joe Lingeman
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Loosely wrap your grates in aluminum foil: Once they're wrapped, put them back on the grill and heat the grill up. The heat will help loosen up burnt-on food and the foil will heighten the effect of heat.

How to Clean Dirty Grill Grates

What You Need 

  • Aluminum foil 
  • Grill brush
  • One large garbage bag or an empty under-bed storage bin that will fit your grates
  • Dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Rubber bands (if you’re using a garbage bag)
  • Baking soda
  • Rag or towel for drying 
  • A few paper towels
  • Cooking oil 


  1. Loosely wrap your grates in aluminum foil: Once they’re wrapped, put them back on the grill and heat the grill up. The heat will help loosen up burnt-on food and the foil will heighten the effect of heat.
  2. Scrub the grates with a wire brush: Let the grill cool enough so that you can handle the grates (you might want to put on a pair of grill gloves!). Carefully unwrap the foil and use your grill-cleaning brush to dislodge whatever you can.
  3. Make your soaking solution: Mix warm water, a couple cups of white vinegar, and a few squirts of dish soap in your storage bin or garbage bag. 
  4. Soak grates: Place your grates in the solution. If you’re using a garbage bag, secure the end with a rubber band. Allow grates to soak for a few hours. 
  5. Scrub again: Remove your grates from the solution and scrub any remaining residue off with your grill brush or scrub brush.
  6. Attack stubborn areas: Use a baking soda and water paste to tackle really stubborn areas. 
  7. Rinse and dry: Rinse your grates thoroughly and pat them dry with a rag or towel. (We used a hose and didn’t care if they sat in the grass, but you can also bring them inside and rinse them in your sink or your bathtub if you want.) When they’re dry, apply some oil to a folded paper towel and rub your grates; this will help keep food from sticking and preserve all your hard work. 


  • We know what you’re thinking: Cast iron soaking in water for hours? While we wouldn’t tell you to soak your cast iron skillet overnight, a seasonal deep clean (for grill grates, which are certainly going to be well seasoned!) for a few hours is totally fine — and effective, to boot!

When was the last time you gave your grill grates a deep clean?