How to Clean Rusty Grill Grates: Keeping It Clean and Rust-Free

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Has this ever happened to you?

It’s the beginning of summer and you want to bust out the gas grill for an idyllic BBQ. But on closer inspection, you notice that your grill grates are covered in rust. Turns out, you didn’t store them properly throughout winter.

You might think that the only solution is to trash them and buy new grates. After all, rusty surfaces aren’t appealing to cook on, and rust can cause serious problems if accidentally consumed.

But the good news is that you can transform your rusty grill grates into sparkling clean, brand-new looking ones with just a bit of patience and legwork. The best part? Most of the things you need can be found in your pantry, and cost pennies!

If you want to learn how to clean rusty grill grates, this article has all the details you need to know. So let’s get you started on the path to clean and rust-free grill grates.

How to Remove Rust from Grill Grates

how to clean rusty grill grates

To remove rust from grill grates and other parts of your grill, you need something that cuts through the rust and breaks it down. While you can choose professional rust busters for your grill, using more natural products is seen as safer, as they lack overly strong chemicals.

Removing Rust with Salt and Vinegar:

You may have seen people clean old jewelry by soaking them overnight in acidic solutions like white vinegar and Coke. The idea to remove rust with vinegar is simple as the acid in vinegar dissolves the rust. Salt speeds up the process and helps break down rust.

Combine two cups of vinegar with one cup of salt in a bowl. Put your rusty grill grates in a big heavy-duty garbage bag. Pour the vinegar-salt mixture into the bag and tie it shut. 

Lay the bag flat and let the grill soak in the mix overnight. Then, wipe the rust off with a cloth. The salt acts as a mild abrasive that scrapes off the rust.

Removing Rust with Baking Soda and Vinegar:

Like salt, baking soda can also be used as an abrasive. Add enough vinegar to the baking soda to form a sort of loose paste. 

Then, apply the paste to the areas covered in rust. Let the baking soda and vinegar do their thing for 30-40 minutes. After that, rinse off the paste with warm water and wipe down the grates with a dry cloth.

Removing Rust with Lemon Juice:

Mixing lemon juice with detergent powder is also a good way to clean rust from your grill. Combine the two until a kind of soapy paste is formed and apply it to the grill grates. Leave the grate overnight and then rinse to remove the paste.

Removing Rust with the Wire Brush Method:

If you don’t mind a little elbow grease, using a wire brush is a good way to get rid of rust on your grill grate. Take the grate off your barbecue and set it flat on the ground on a concrete patio or driveway.

Use a stiff wire brush to brush the rust off. Start with one side of the grill grate and then turn it over and brush the rust away from the other side. 

Prop the grate on its side and then brush between each of the metal rungs. When you’re done, wipe the extra residual rust off the grill with a rag.

Removing Rust with Store-Bought Rust Removers:

If you want something that works quickly and effectively, go for a commercial rust remover. These usually work well but contain toxic chemicals that need to be rinsed thoroughly afterward.

It is important to choose a commercial rust remover that is meant for cleaning grill grates. A safe rust remover can be used on cooking tools without damaging surfaces and won’t contain harsh acids or solvents.

Removing Rust with Vegetable Oil:

This is a good way to remove tiny bits of rust that can be removed quickly. Brushing on some oil to these areas and letting it rest will get rid of the rust. This can be combined with a wire brush to spot treat rust.

Removing Rust with Sandpaper:

Sounds pretty shocking, right? While unconventional, the method definitely works. Wrap a sheet of sandpaper around the rung of the rusty grill grate, rub the sandpaper along the length of the grate. 

While this will remove the rust effectively, it can also scratch the surface of the grate, so keep track of how much you are sanding off.

Removing Rust from Grill Grates Quickly

Removing Rust from Grill Grates

The important thing about removing rust, regardless of the method used, is to give the grates time. The cleaning material needs to reach all parts of the grates, and get to work dissolving the rust.

However, if you don’t have time, you can apply the vinegar/salt or vinegar/baking soda (or any other solution) to the grates and place it back in the grill. The turn on your grill. The mixture will start bubbling. This bubbling will dissolve the rust much more quickly.

It also gives your grates a more thorough cleaning. If you don’t want to wait 12 hours to let the rust break down, this is a good alternative. However, make sure you are wearing heat-resistant gloves when handling the hot grate.

Maintenance Tips for Your Grill Grates

Preventing rust from taking over your grill grates is much easier than getting rid of rust once it has set in. These tips will keep your grates working well and keep them in good shape for years to come.

  • When not in use, protect your grill and grates with a grill cover to prevent moisture from seeping in and starting the process of rusting.
  • Use a good grill cleaner to lean your cooking grates after each use. Moisture from food left on a grill can speed up the formation of rust.
  • Try to use porcelain-coated grill grates, as they are less likely to get rusty.
  • After cleaning and drying your grill grates, brush a tiny bit of oil on the grates. This forms a barrier between the surface and the moisture in the environment around it, preventing it from rusting.
  • Before putting away your grill for the winter, inspect it carefully and clean it. This will allow you to treat any rust starting out, instead of allowing it to fester and grow throughout the winter months.
  • In winter, periodically take out your grates and other grill parts and then check them for rust. This will also allow you to treat minor spots of rust quickly, instead of dealing with a grate that is mostly covered with rust and needs a whole day to clean.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have more questions about eliminating rust from your grill grates? You might find the answer here.

01. Can I Pressure Wash My Grill Grates?  

Gas or electric power washers can be used to pressure wash grills and get rid of caked-on grime and debris. It can even clean smaller spots of rust from grill grates.

02. Can I Use Steel Wool on My Grill Grates?

While you can use steel wool to clean grill grates, this can be too abrasive and should be used as a final measure. If power washing, overnight soaking, and high temperatures don’t clean your grill grates properly, you can use steel wool to scrub off dirt and rust.

03. What is the Easiest Way to Remove Rust from Grates?

Soaking your grill grates in a tub or container of undiluted white vinegar may be the easiest and most hands-off approach to cleaning rusty grill grates. Just leave the grate to sit in the vinegar for 12 hours and the rust will slowly dissolve.

04. Can I Use Acetone to Remove Rust?

Acetone can be used to remove rust quickly, and acetone evaporates quickly, requiring minimal cleanup afterward.

Closing Thoughts

It can be disheartening to expect a delicious grilling exploit, only to be thwarted by rusted grill grates. But on the bright side, knowing how to clean rusty grill grates will just delay your BBQ instead of putting it off indefinitely.

Besides this, you will also understand the importance of protecting your grill grates and preventing rust from forming in the first place. In short, you will be able to enjoy a cookout any time you want without being held back by pesky rust. Happy grilling!